When we think of County Donegal, tweed immediately comes to mind. This county in the northwest of Ireland is the home of some of the most popular Irish gifts for men – the timeless tweed cap. Irish men in every county – and every country – wear flat caps. The earthy tones and distinctive cut make this a signature look. Donegal tweed is also used to make other Irish gifts including stunning capes, and Donegal is also home to other fashion creations such as throws and shawls. So what is it about Donegal that inspires such beautiful and classic design? Is it the delightful beaches and dramatic cliffs? The ancient stone forts and castles? The way the light touches the land here, making the soft shades of field and forest glow?
Whatever it is, it is profound. The shoreline of County Donegal inspired Englishman John Newton to write the song Amazing Grace. Newton had a tragic and complicated life. After deserting the Royal Navy, he went to work on a slave ship. His outrageous behaviour continued, and his shipmates deserted him. They left him Sierra Leone, where he was himself enslaved for some time. He was eventually rescued by his father, and he resumed his slave trading career.
Throughout this period of his life, he had an on-again, off-again relationship with Christianity. A storm struck as Newton’s ship was passing the west coast of Ireland, and he narrowly escaped being swept overboard with a shipmate. Newton began to pray, and miraculously his ship made it safely to the shores of Donegal. There he was overwhelmed by the sense of God’s grace and the natural beauty of this amazing region. Thus began a spiritual journey that saw him write the lyrics to Amazing Grace and eventually renounce the evils of slavery, express great remorse for the harm he had done other people by participating in the slave trade and become an abolitionist.
More than Tweed
Not everyone who visits Donegal has such an extreme reaction, but it is a place of transformative beauty. County Donegal offers more than charming Irish gifts. It is an ideal place to see all of the things that make Ireland such an incredible destination. Here are a few of the highlights.
- Bundoran Beach & Castle – Bundoran is an eternally popular spot for Irish families to vacation. The beach is stellar and offers the best surfing in Ireland. The town offers all the amenities, including cozy traditional pubs and a real castle built in the 15th
- Doagh Famine Village – Visitors can literally walk through history visiting a thatched cottage and witnessing a wake and an eviction. It’s a great way to make history come alive for all ages.
- Kilclooney Portal Tomb – Donegal is home to one of Ireland’s best-preserved dolmans. This 4,000-year-old structure sits north of the village of Ardara near the ruins of another dolman.
- Glenveagh National Park & Castle – This gorgeous park features some of the best of Ireland. A castle rests on the shores of Lough Veagh surrounded by beautiful woodlands crisscrossed with walking trails. It’s a perfect combination of natural beauty and human history.
- Malin Head – The northernmost point of the island of Ireland is the start of the Wild Atlantic Way. At the tip of the Inishown Penninsula, this breath-taking spot includes rugged cliffs and sweeping dunes.
It isn’t a surprise that so many gorgeous Irish gifts come from Donegal. The landscape exudes inspiration, and the natural beauty encourages us to relax and create – free of the pressures of urban life. This remote corner of Ireland might be hard to reach, but it is worth the journey to experience so many classic Irish experiences in one beautiful place.