Whether you’ve come to Donegal for an active golf holiday, a relaxing girls’ spa weekend or to explore the multitude of inspiring hikes and coastline drives that the region has to offer, expect fine cuisine and views for days from its top-notch hotels.
Slap bang in the middle of Donegal, check into the Abbey Hotel and you’ll be minutes from the town’s coastal drives, uncrowded beaches and awe-inspiring discovery points of the Wild Atlantic Way. As a certified member of the Donegal Food Coast Initiative, a meal at its popular Market House restaurant is a must – order the famous steak on a stone for a prime Irish beef fillet that cooks at your table. It’s also one of Donegal’s most popular wedding venues, having held thousands of nuptials over the years.
A family-run guest house marrying hotel facilities with the attention-to-detail of a quaint B&B, Gateway Lodge Donegal is a home away from home, just two minutes’ walk from town. Resident Blas restaurant is famous for its award-winning breakfasts, where you can tuck into everything from pancakes topped with syrup, berries and bacon to a traditional Irish feast of pork sausages, fried eggs, black pudding, toast and fried tomato. All menus are prepared by the Michelin-award-winning chef Rory Carville, so you’re in good hands.
Tucked away amongst 40 acres (16ha) of mature woodland and gardens, hotels don’t come with more privacy than the much-lauded five-star Lough Eske Castle. Grand staircases, sculptures and baronial furnishings all pay homage to the castle’s rich history, while bedrooms are delightfully modern with smart bathrooms and 40-inch flatscreen TVs. Don’t leave without passing by Spa Solis, where you can relax to views of the hotel’s sprawling gardens. Itchy feet? Surfing, horse-riding, golf and more can be arranged nearby.
A lakeside retreat set among the magical shadows of the Blue Stack Mountains, Harvey’s Point Hotel has won countless awards for its stellar accommodation and tantalising cuisine. All of its 81 spacious suites offer views of the lake and surrounding hills, and if you’re celebrating a special occasion, treat yourself to the Lakeside Suite with a sitting room, kitchenette, Victorian-style baths and private lakeside veranda. Elsewhere, the bar boasts a welcoming open fire and is the perfect place to rest your feet with a G&T.
If you’ve come to Ireland to celebrate the great outdoors, you’ll be hard pushed to find a location more fabulous than Sandhouse Hotel. Originally a fishing lodge back in the 1830s, this sanctuary of relaxation is perched right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, so be sure to pick a sea-view room where you can enjoy the views – the higher you go, the better the vista. Golf and fishing are available in the immediate area, but if you’re looking to relax, try a seaweed soak at its Marine Spa.
Not just for golf lovers, although Redcastle Hotel does boast its own nine-hole parkland golf course, this seaside hotel on the western shores of Lough Foyle is within easy reach of shops, historical landmarks, beaches, walks and pubs galore. Ask for a window table when dining on locally sourced cuisine at Edge – it’s the best spot to take in those sprawling sea views, rivalled only by the hotel’s pool.
Having been on the scene for more than 80 years, Highlands Hotel is a favourite with locals, and it’s considered the best place to stay if you’re looking for a true Irish experience. Decor is traditional rather than fashionable, and service is impeccable – a member of the Boyle family, who owns the hotel, is almost always on hand to help with any special requests. The best bit? Dogs are welcome, so you can take your furry friend along for the ride.
Set amidst the spectacular Northern Headlands of the Wild Atlantic Way, Lake of Shadows Hotel is right on the beach of Lough Swilly should you dare to brave Ireland’s icy yet refreshing waters. Following a snooze in its cosy rooms, tuck into a cooked-to-order breakfast made from local seasonal produce, before heading out for a round of golf and exploration of the area’s scenic routes.
While its prime location, just a short drive from Donegal town, is a huge draw for visitors to the Mill Park Hotel, it’s the homely rooms that are the real stars of the show: sprawling six-foot beds, modern flatscreen TVs and walk-in showers and bathtubs are the norm. Unlike many hotels in the area, there’s a fully equipped gym, duo-level heated swimming pool, sauna and steam room on site, along with a hot tub overlooking the hotel’s private gardens.
From the lobby’s relaxing open fire and grand piano to its plush suites, everything about this elegant hotel screams sophistication. Famous nationwide for its exquisite cuisine, its popular restaurant is housed in a 150-year-old converted old church, with many of the natural features still intact. From locally caught salmon to Irish beef, almost all produce is sourced within a few miles from the hotel, so it’s extremely fresh. Feel like feasting? Add the mammoth five-course Sunday carvery to your agenda.