Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel 2024’ has ranked County Donegal in Ireland, renowned for its wild and rugged landscapes, as the fourth best region to visit in the world in 2024.
Highlighting its stunning coastline, unspoiled landscapes, rich heritage and musical traditions, the best-selling travel guide ranks Ireland’s northernmost county as one of the best regions for travelers in 2024.
County Donegal has Ireland’s longest coastline, with over 100 golden sandy beaches, and boasts Europe’s highest cliffs at Slieve League. It’s a hiker’s paradise, with miles of trails along the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as inland to Glenveagh National Park and the imposing Mount Errigal, one of the the most photographed in Ireland.
Praising his character “wild, but with a big heart and a warm welcome”Lonely Planet cites some of the county’s best-kept secrets: the pink sands of Ballymastocker Bay, the wild Kinnagoe Bay at Inishowen, the magnificent Silver Strand beach near Glencolmcille, as well as Ards Forest Park, where the trees grow to the water’s edge.
Lonely Planet also concludes that“no visit to Donegal is complete without a trip to Ireland’s northernmost point, Malin Heada rocky cape where you can sometimes see the northern lights”.
Donegal has become an ideal location for slow tourism on the island of Ireland and opportunities for sustainable and responsible activities abound. From kayak tours on Lough Swilly to slow, scenic electric fat bike rides, sea safaris and maritime heritage tours, there is an emphasis on respecting nature and wildlife, and about taking the time to appreciate the magnificent landscapes and the special atmosphere of the place.
Donegal is also the surfing capital of Ireland and Lonely Planet highlights the “vast expanse of Rossnowlagh Beach“, renowned for being one of the best surfing beaches on the island. Further along the coast, Bundoran is an essential surfing spot, attracting surfers from all over the world who come to brave the Atlantic swell.
But it’s not just outdoor activities: Donegal also offers a range of excellent restaurants “focused on local products and affordable prices, with a friendly atmosphere”.
The Olde Glen Bar, near Carrigart, is one of them. Dating back to the 1760s, it is the oldest bar and restaurant in Donegal. Recently, under the direction of chef Ciarán Sweeney, it was awarded a place in the Michelin guide.
Lonely Planet also cites Fisk Seafood Bar in Downings and Nancy’s Barn Bistro in Ballyliffin on the Inishowen Peninsula, where the award-winning seafood chowder, served with wheat bread, offers true Donegal flavors.
Parts of County Donegal are Gaeltacht areas, where Irish is spoken as a first language and traditions of Irish song, dance and culture flourish. According to Lonely Planet, this allows the curious visitor to experience a “immersive experience”.
The curious will also enjoy exploring the archaeological gems such as portal tombs, castles, cylindrical towers and Celtic crosses that dot Donegal’s landscapes.
Donegal has something to delight visitors at every time of year, but outside of the summer months, you can discover the joy of walking on a deserted beach, watching migratory birds or warming up next to ‘a fire after an invigorating winter walk.
The “Best Region” category is one of five categories featured in the “Best in Travel 2024” from Lonely Planet. To mark your 50th anniversary, the guide added two new categories, Best Value Destinations and Most Sustainable Destinations, which add to the top 10 cities, countries and regions, recognizing a total of 50 locations across the world offering amazing experiences to live in 2024.