Glenveagh National Park lies in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains in north-west Donegal. It is a remote and hauntingly beautiful wilderness of rugged mountains, deep glens and pristine lakes.
The Park, over 16,000 hectares in extent consists of three areas. The largest of these is the former Glenveagh Estate, including most of the Derryveagh Mountains. To the west are the quartzite hills around Crocknafarragh and to the south, the peatlands of Lough Barra bog, Meenachullion and Crockastoller.
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Glenveagh is the haunt of many rare and interesting plants and animals and is famous for it’s fine herd of red deer. The Park contains the peaks of the two highest mountains in Co. Donegal, Errigal (752m) and Slieve Snaght (683m). The steep sided valley of Glenveagh holds the 5.5km-long Lough Veagh.
Much of the land which comprises modern Glenveagh National Park was originally consolidated into a single holding in the 19th Century by John George Adair, a wealthy land speculator from Co. Laois. The holding was managed as a private deer forest until 1975, when it was sold to the state and placed in the care of the Commissioner of Public Works to become a national Park.
A fine Victorian castle surrounded by beautiful gardens is picturesquely located on the eastern shore of the lake and provides the focal point for visitors to the Park. The last private owner Henry P. McIlhenny donated the castle, including much of its contents in 1983. The Park and gardens were officially opened to the public in 1984 and the Castle in 1986.
The network of mainly informal gardens displays a multitude of exotic and delicate plants from as far afield as Chile, Madeira and Tasmania, all sheltered by windbreaks of pine trees and ornamental rhododendrons.The park now has the largest herd of red deer in Ireland and golden eagle, formerly extinct in Ireland, were reintroduced into the park in 2000.
Glenveagh Castle is a 19th century castellated mansion and was built between 1867 and 1873. Its construction in a remote mountain setting was inspired by the Victorian idyll of a romantic highland retreat. It was designed by John Townsend Trench, a cousin of its builder and first owner, John George Adair, with whom he had been raised in Co. Laois. The designer appears to have imitated the style of earlier Irish Tower-houses adding an air of antiquity to the castle. The building stone chose was granite, plentiful in Donegal but difficult to work and allowing for little detail.
The forbidding architecture of the castle is quickly forgotten amidst the varied comforts within. Henry McIlhenny, the last owner of the castle, served the Philadelphia Museum of Art as Curator of Decorative Arts and his expertise in this field is evident throughout the castle. Through time, each room acquired a different character, some roughly in keeping with the period of the house, others freely inventive. Few of the great houses of Ireland are preserved in this condition, with their original furnishings, and in Glenveagh Castle one catches a glimpse of a lifestyle belonging to an earlier age.
Access to the castle is by guided tour which last approx. 30 mins