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Your Are Here - Home > Counties > Donegal County
County Donegal (Irish: Contae Dhún na nGall. Sometimes unofficially known in Irish as Tír Chonaill) is a county located in the west of the Province of Ulster, in the northwest of Ireland. It is one of three counties in the Province of Ulster that does not form part of Northern Ireland. It is the most northern county in all of Ireland, and is part of the Republic of Ireland. County Donegal is the fourth largest county in Ireland and the largest county in Ulster. The name 'Donegal' comes from the Irish, meaning 'The Fort of the Foreigners'. The county was named after the former administrative centre of Donegal Town, the old stronghold of the O'Donnell royal family in the south of the county. When first created, it was sometimes referred to as County Tyrconnell (Irish: Tír Chonaill), after both the old original Tír Chonaill kingdom and the Tyrconnell earldom that succeeded it. Calling the whole county Tír Chonaill is technically incorrect as the Inishowen Peninsula (Irish: Inis Eoghain) is historically distinct from Tír Chonaill.

Uniquely, Donegal shares a border with only one county in the Republic of Ireland, County Leitrim in north Connacht. The rest of its land border is shared with Northern Ireland (the counties of Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh). This apparent isolation has led to Donegal people and their customs being considered distinct from the rest of the state and has been used to market the county with the slogan Up here it's different. Much of the county is seen as being a stronghold of the Irish language and Gaelic games within Ireland. The people of County Donegal are famous for their accent (or more correctly accents), which is very much an Ulster accent. Despite Lifford being the County Town (and there also being a Donegal town), the largest town is Letterkenny.

County Donegal has always had a very strong and close relationship with the City of Derry, the unofficial regional 'capital' of the North-West of Ireland. Before circa 1600, Derry was considered part of the Inishowen Peninsula. Derry has acted for centuries as the main economic and transport hub and seaport for both County Donegal and West Tyrone. This was especially so before the rapid growth and development of nearby Letterkenny from the late 1960s. Huge numbers of people from County Donegal work - and often live - in Derry. Likewise, many natives of Derry City also work - and often live - in County Donegal. In addition, large numbers of young Donegal people attend secondary schools in Derry and/or study at the city's third-level institutions, especially Magee College (part of the University of Ulster) and North West Regional College (popularly known as Derry Tech). Both Donegal County Council and Derry City Council co-operate closely with each other on many projects and initiatives.


History
County Donegal is famous for being the home of the once mighty Clan Dálaigh, whose most famous branch were the Clan Ó Domhnaill, better known today in English as the O'Donnell Clan. Until around A.D. 1600, the O'Donnells were one of Ireland's richest and most powerful Gaelic (native Irish) ruling-families. Within the Province of Ulster only the Clan Uí Néill (known in English as the O'Neill Clan) of modern County Tyrone were more powerful. The O'Donnells were Ulster's second most powerful clan or ruling-family from the early thirteenth-century through to the start of the seventeenth-century. For several centuries the O'Donnells ruled Tír Chonaill, a Gaelic kingdom in West Ulster that covered almost all of modern County Donegal. The head of the O'Donnell family had the titles An Ó Domhnaill (meaning The O'Donnell in English) and Rí Thír Chonaill (meaning King of Tír Chonaill in English). Based at Donegal Castle in Dún na nGall (modern Donegal Town), the O'Donnell Kings of Tír Chonaill were traditionally inaugurated at Doon Rock near Kilmacrenan. O'Donnell royal or chiefly power was finally ended in what was then the newly created County Donegal in September, 1607, following the Flight of the Earls from near Rathmullan. The modern County Arms of Donegal (dating from the early 1970s) was influenced by the design of the old O'Donnell royal arms. The County Arms is the official coat-of-arms of both County Donegal and Donegal County Council.

The modern County Donegal was shired by order of the English Crown in 1585. The English authorities at Dublin Castle formed the new county by amalgamating the old Kingdom of Tír Chonaill with the old Lordship of Inishowen. However, the English authorities were unable to establish control over Tír Chonaill and Inishowen until after the Battle of Kinsale in 1602. Full control over the new County Donegal was only achieved after the Flight of the Earls in September, 1607.

County Donegal was one of the worst affected parts of Ulster during the Great Famine of the late 1840s in Ireland. Vast swathes of the county were devastated by this catastrophe, many areas becoming permanently depopulated. Vast numbers of County Donegal's people emigrated at this time, especially through the Port of Derry. Huge numbers of the county's people who emigrated were to settle in Glasgow in southern Scotland.

Geography
The variant of the Irish language spoken in Donegal is distinctive, and shares traits with Scottish Gaelic. The Irish spoken in the Donegal Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area) is of the West Ulster dialect, while Inishowen, which became English-speaking only in the early 20th century, used the East Ulster dialect. Ulster Scots is sometimes spoken in the Laggan Valley and Finn Valley of East Donegal. Donegal Irish has a strong influence on learnt Irish across Ulster.

Like other areas on the western seaboard of Ireland, Donegal has a distinctive fiddle tradition which is of world renown. Donegal is also well known for its songs which have, like the instrumental music, a distinctive sound. Donegal musical artists such as the bands Clannad and Altan and solo artist Enya, all from Gaoth Dobhair, have had international success with traditional or traditional flavoured music. Donegal music has also influenced people not originally from the county including folk and pop singer Paul Brady. Popular music is also common, the county's most famous rock artist being the Ballyshannon born Rory Gallagher, Kilcar based indie band The Revs also had some good success in the Irish charts. A well known fiddler from Donegal is P.V. O'Donnell, though he currently lives in Manchester, Connecticut in the United States.

Donegal has a long literary tradition in both Irish and English. The famous Irish Navvy-turned novelist Patrick MacGill, author of many books about the experiences of Irish migrant itinerant labourers in Britain at around the turn of the 20th century, such as The Rat Pit and the autobiographical Children of the Dead End, is from the Glenties area. There is a literary summer school in Glenties named in his honour. The novelist Peadar O'Donnell hails from The Rosses in west Donegal.

Modern exponents include the Inishowen playwright and poet Frank McGuinness and the playwright Brian Friel. Many of Friel's plays are set in the fictional Donegal town of Ballybeg.

Attractions
With its sandy beaches, unspoilt boglands and friendly communities, Co.Donegal is a favoured destination for many travellers, Irish (especially Northern Irish) and foreign alike. One of the county treasures is Glenveagh National Park (formerly part of the Glenveagh Estate), as yet (February 2008) the only official national park anywhere in the Province of Ulster. The park is a 140 km² nature reserve with spectacular scenery of mountains, raised boglands, lakes and woodlands. At its heart is Glenveagh Castle, a beautiful late Victorian 'folly' that was originally built as a summer residence.

The Donegal Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking district) also attracts young people to County Donegal each year during the school summer holidays. The three week long summer Gaeltacht courses give young Irish people from other parts of the country a chance to learn the Irish language and traditional Irish cultural traditions that are still prevalent in parts of Donegal. The Donegal Gaeltacht has traditionally been a very popular destination each summer for young people from Northern Ireland.

Scuba Diving is also very popular with a club being located in Donegal Town.

 
 
Donegal Town
Letterkenny
Ballybofey
Buncrana
 
 
     
     
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Donegal County
Donegal
Place: Ulster
People: 146,956
Speak: English, Irish
Area: 4,841 km²
GPS: -8, 54.916667