Glenveagh Castle and National Park, Ireland

Glenveagh is the second largest national park in Ireland. The park covers 170 square kilometres of hillside above Glenveagh Castle on the shore of Lough Veagh, 20 km from Gweedore in Count. Glenveagh National Park is a remote and hauntingly beautiful wilderness of rugged mountains, pristine lakes, tumbling waterfalls and enchanted native oak woodland in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains in the north west of County Donegal. At the centre of the Park on the edge of Lough Veagh is Glenveagh Castle, a late 19th century castellated mansion, built as a hunting lodge. At the same time Scots pine woodlands were planted and red deer re-introduced.Surrounding the Castle are the renowned Gardens, boasting a multitude of exotic plants whose luxuriance contrasts starkly with the surrounding barren landscape.

This showy castle was modelled on Scotland’s Balmoral Castle. Henry McIlhenny made it a characterful home with liberal reminders of his passion for deer-stalking. In fact, few rooms lack a representation – or the taxidermied remains – of a stag.

Access is by guided tour only. Cars are not allowed beyond the Glenveagh Visitor Centre; you can walk or cycle the lovely lakeside 3.6km route to the castle, or take the shuttle bus (every 15 minutes).

The most eye-catching of the flamboyantly decorated rooms are in the round tower, including the tartan-and-antler-covered music room and the pink candy-striped room demanded by Greta Garbo whenever she stayed here. The exotic gardens are similarly spectacular, boasting terraces, an Italian garden, a walled kitchen garden and the Belgian Walk, built by Belgian soldiers who stayed here during WWI. Their cultured charm is in marked contrast to the wildly beautiful landscape that enfolds the area.

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