Ballyshannon, the oldest town in Ireland is steeped in history. Inis Saimer, the little island situated in the Erne Estuary is said to be the spot where the first inhabitants of Ireland landed. Parthalon, a chieftain from Scythia (near modern Macedonia) is said to have landed here around 2700 B.C.
Ballyshannon is a vibrant town – the gateway to County Donegal, which makes the town an ideal base from which to tour the county as well as the neighbouring counties of Sligo, Leitrim and Fermanagh.
Rich in terms of drama, music, sport and business Ballyshannon is twinned with Sene in Brittany, France since 1991 and with Grenay, Pas de Calais, France since May, 2008.
The town is birthplace of the well-known poet William Allingham (1824-1889) and one of the world’s greatest Rock guitarists Rory Gallagher (born 2nd March 1948).
There is archaeological evidence for settlements around the town dating back to prehistoric times including the remains of round forts and other defensive earth works. St. Patrick was captured by raiders from the Clans in this region, but did return to the region of Donegal later on.
Donegal Town itself is famous for being the former centre of government of the dynasty of O'Donnell of Tyrconnell, who played a pivotal role in irish history, and whose original homeland lay further to the north in the area of Kilmacrenan. From the 15th to the 17th century, they were an important part of the opposition to the colonisation of Ireland by England. The town itself contains Donegal castle, on the banks of the River Eske and the remains of a Franciscan abbey which dates back to the 15th century on the southern shore of the bay.
Donegal sits at the mouth of the River Eske and Donegal Bay, which is overshadowed by the Bluestack Mountains ('the Croaghs'). The centre of the town, known as the Diamond, is a hub for music, poetic and cultural gatherings in the area.
The drive takes you through a lonely, mountainous region into the little village Clencolmcille at the end of the valley. In the 'Folk Village Museum' you can join a guided tour (every hour) through three Cottages from 1700 to 1900 that are kept true to original: a school, a pub and a handcrafts store, as well as a tea house complete the historical village ( 56km west of Donegal Town).
On the way back and especially with nice weather an excursion to the over 600m high Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs not only in Ireland, but in the whole of Europe, is well worthwhile. From the car park a narrow, steep path leads to the crest. It is advised to walk that one only in dry weather, as it can become rather slippy in wet conditions.
The surrounding area of Coolmore Manor House and County Donegal offer many interesting places, beautiful scenery, stunning coastline, clean sandy beaches, mountain ranges, the highest sea cliffs in Europe, castles, charming towns, craft villages, a great national park, little islands, and many more.
For decades, the Irish public house has been a social and community hub for the people of Ireland. It functions as both a place to have a drink at leisure as well as a place in which to meet and greet the people of a locality.
In many cases, irish people will have one (or more) pubs which are referred to as 'the local' which is the pub which they go to most often. There is generally a very close and mutual understanding and informality between the customer and the barstaff and - in many cases - particularly in country pubs, virtually all of the regular customers will know each other very well.
The world famous Marble Arch Caves are extensive, subterranean caves and part of the 'global geopark' close to Enniskillen in a beautiful mountainous landscape, that 'opens a window' to the 650 million year old history of this area.
These caves are also called river-caves and a boat trip on the subterranean Claddagh River belongs to the tour.