Northwest Ireland

We are planning a long-antcipated trip to Ireland’s northwest region. Could you suggest any unique places to visit and stay?

Northwest Ireland brings to our mind three distinct regional products, woolen goods, pottery and Irish whiskey. Visit Magee’s to learn the story behind handwoven Donegal tweed where a fourth-generation weaver uses centuries-old tools to spin lichen, gorse and bits of colorful flora into local wool. They offer custom jackets as well as traditional rack items sure to invoke fond memories long after your visit. Shoppers will love the tour of the Beleek Pottery factory. Afterwards shop for fine glazed parian porcelain which ranges from precious mementos to exquisite gifts suitable for royalty.

Established in 1608, Bushmills is the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery. To appreciate their craft take the guided tour and wet your whistle in the tasting room. Nearby Bushmills Inn is so inviting and cozy we can’t imagine a more perfect retreat from the ordinary. Also along this northern coast are the cliffs and mysterious basalt formations of the legendary Giant’s Causeway.

Two other unique choices for dining and lodging are the 22-room Rathmullan Country House in Letterkenny and intimate and gracious Danny Minnies of Annagry. These family-run inns are a delight for a lavish meal or an overnight stay. Cavanacor House, near Lifford, is the ancestral home of U.S. President James Polk. Artists and preservationists, Eddie and Joanna O’Kane, graciously share this home and gardens while developing a renowned art gallery. The reception area with long, rough-hewed tables encourages friendly conversation while you sample tea and lovely breads.

Should you need lodging after a Dublin arrival consider the Great Southern Hotel Dublin Airport. Light, bright and airy it is one of those rare airport hotels which is refreshing and comfortable. They have several fine properties throughout the Emerald Isle. For more ideas visit

Publication: The Express-Times, June 19, 2005

My grandmother came from Ireland’s County Donegal. We hope to discover the sense of time and place that was so strong in her and would appreciate any suggestions you might offer.

County Donegal features lush landscapes, a rugged coastline and the opportunity to meet total strangers who become fast friends before you finish your first pint. Irishmen are great hosts and storytellers, sharing legends of magical lands, colorful characters and profound irony, all delivered with a twinkling eye and sparkling wit.

Many towns have museums depicting Ireland’s people, struggles and glories with compelling presentations. The folk village of Glencolmcille presents furnished thatched-roof homes typical of the 18th, 19th and 20th century showing the evolution of their harsh lives. County Museum in Letterkenny, housed in the 19th-century workhouse, charts three centuries of Donegal life. While the Lifford Heritage Center illustrates the 1607 Flight of the Earls when they futility fled to Europe seeking support against the English, never to return.

In County Fermanegh, the Manor House Resort Hotel’s Lady of the Lakes cruises the Upper and Lower Loch Erne with visits to the 12th-century Augustinian Abbey on Devinish Island and provides a timeless sense of life on and along the loch. On Boa Island make a wish to the ancient Celtic figures Janus and Lusty Man at Caldragh graveyard.

Northwestern Ireland is less developed and crowded than it’s southern neighbors. Strikingly symbolizing this is Glenvaugh National Park’s mountains, lakes and bogs. Trekkers can be rewarded with sightings of red deer and a multitude of birds and native flora. Less strenuous is a guided tour of Glenvaugh Castle with its lush, themed gardens.

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