The original Gaelic meaning of Donegal is ‘Fortress of Foreigners’ and this might provide a clue in understanding why Donegal has a global reputation for being one of the most hospitable and friendly places anywhere on Earth. Built at the confluence of the Eske River and the Atlantic Ocean – nesting in the shadows of the majestic Bluestack Mountains, Donegal town was built as an important trading location since the first foreigners – Gauls arrived probably in the ninth century.
Writings called ‘The Annals of Tirchonaill’ records the existence of Vikings in the Donegal Bay area in 807. So, the area does indeed have a significantly long heritage of making visitors feel welcome and at home. The city of Donegal connects dynamic gifts with historic pasts. The construction of Donegal Castle and Donegal Monastery in 1474 – saw the area emerge as a powerful seat for most powerful and richest clan of the time – the O’Donnell clan. They held power over forty-two castles and nine monasteries within their boundaries. Donegal Castle operated as the headquarters by the clan to communicate with the King of Spain and France and the Holy See in Rome.
However, the history of the county began long before the 15th century. The County of Donegal is a veritable goldmine of pre-historic megalithic stones, ancient buildings and impressive monuments from the time before and beyond the Early Christian era. All this combines to create an impressive Celtic legacy that makes Donegal a fascinating place to visit. Get to Donegal with Irish Airports at https://irelandwestairport.com/
Many of the world’s oldest examples of megalithic stones can be found in County Donegal. Visitors can discover tombs, burial chambers and dolmens, for example, from the Neolithic Era. Archeologists have uncovered many flint tools from the Mesolithic Age in the county, as well as stone circles, standing stones, lots of examples of early Christian craftsmanship and ring forts.
Dolmens – Also known as portal tombs, what you see is one large fairly flat rock that sits in a horizontal fashion like a table and forms a structure like a roof over a chamber. These date from the Neolithic era.
Wedge Tombs – These are a unique pre-historic structure to Ireland and are named for their unique wedge formation and decreasing width and length in the burial chamber.
Cromlechs – A term that can also be used to describe a stone circle or dolmen.
Court Tombs or Court Cairns – Court tombs are distinctive as they have a spacious gallery area within the overall design of these very long structures and date from the Neolithic era. The gallery is located at the end of a short entrance passage to the tomb.
Donegal is awash with pre-Christian tombs and other prehistoric treasures dating back as far as 9000 years. The arrival of the Celts and their fort-building activities gave the county its name, but Christianity is also a strong influence in the county’s history, due to to St Colmcille, a local man who spread the good word here, as well as exporting it across the sea to Scotland too.