Donegal, a stunning county in the northwest of Ireland, has recently garnered international acclaim, being named [source] the fourth best region in the world to visit in 2024 by Lonely Planet’s “Best in Travel 2024”. This prestigious recognition shines a spotlight on Donegal’s remarkable attributes: its unspoiled landscapes, rich heritage, and vibrant musical traditions.
Donegal is another (a story about The Dark Hedges) famous nothern region in Ireland, attractive for tourists from all over the world.
Nestled in the historic province of Ulster, Donegal is Ireland’s most northerly county, boasting the longest coastline in the country. It’s surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and north, and it borders the counties of Tyrone, Derry, Fermanagh, and Leitrim. With over 100 golden beaches, including the stunning Silver Strand and Ballymastocker Bay, and home to Europe’s highest sea cliffs at Slieve League, Donegal is a paradise for nature lovers.
What to do and to see in Donegal
Donegal is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering miles of hiking trails along the Wild Atlantic Way and in scenic locations like Glenveagh National Park and Errigal Mountain. For those interested in water sports, Donegal is the surf capital of Ireland, with renowned surfing beaches like Rossnowlagh Beach and Bundoran. Beyond its natural beauty, Donegal is rich in cultural experiences, especially in the Gaeltacht areas where Irish is the primary language and traditional Irish culture thrives.
The Donegal International Rally
The Donegal International Rally, a pivotal event in the Irish rallying calendar, is an annual car race held in County Donegal, Ireland. Established as one of Ireland’s most challenging rallies, this event, organized by the Donegal Motor Club, typically begins and concludes in Letterkenny.
The rally’s inaugural event was won by Cahal Curley in 1972, initially based in Downings before moving to Letterkenny. Over the years, the Donegal Rally has evolved to become an integral part of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, drawing competitors and spectators from across the globe. In 1985, the rally witnessed an exceptionally close finish, with just a one-second difference between the top two cars. These moments of high competition and suspense have contributed to the rally’s reputation and allure.
The Donegal Rally is not just a sporting event; it’s a significant economic driver for the region. Annually, it brings an estimated €20 million to the Donegal economy and attracts around 120,000 spectators, highlighting its importance beyond the realm of motorsports.
The latest event featured 301 kilometers over 20 stages, with a cap on the number of competitors. This year’s rally was a part of both the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and the Celtic Rally Trophy, reaffirming its significance in the rally calendar.
So, the Donegal International Rally is a storied and significant event in Ireland’s sporting landscape. It’s a celebration of motorsport that brings economic benefits and international recognition to Donegal, while also reminding us of the inherent risks and need for safety in high-speed racing events.
The Rally Incidents
The rally, while celebrated, has also been marred by tragic incidents:
2002 Accident: In 2002, two marshals were fatally injured when a car crashed into spectators. This tragic event led to the cancellation of the remaining stages.
2008 and 2010 Incidents: Further incidents occurred in 2008 and 2010. In 2008, a spectator was fatally injured, and in 2010, a co-driver lost his life during the rally. These incidents led to cancellations and reflections on rally safety.
Fascinating Facts about Donegal
- Donegal is the only Irish county that borders only one other county (Leitrim), while also bordering three Northern Ireland counties: Tyrone, Derry, and Fermanagh.
- It houses Errigal, the highest mountain in the county, and the Erne, the second-longest river in Ireland.
- The town of Ballyshannon in Donegal claims the title of the oldest town in Ireland.
- Unique to Donegal is Tory Island, which has its own king, a singular tradition in Ireland.
- Killybegs, located in southwest Donegal, is the largest fishing port in Ireland, while Bunbeg hosts the smallest fishing harbour in Europe.
- Donegal has a rich sporting history, having won the All Ireland Sam Maguire Cup twice.