Traveling- The Emerald City to The Emerald Isle| Donegal, Ireland & Lough Eske Castle Hotel

Sleepy from the lack of tourist crowds and filled with mostly locals, we knew we had to make it back to Donegal after being stunned by the devastatingly impressive Slieve League Cliffs on our last trip. There may not be a huge amount to do in Donegal, however, what it lacks in "attraction" it makes up for in natural beauty. A more rugged, and almost Highland-esque terrain, the area around Donegal is filled with lakes, rolling hills, hushed seaport towns and a plethora of fishing. It's no wonder National Geographic deemed it the Coolest Place on the Planet in 2017

The highlight of our visit to Donegal this time had to be our stay at Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa. If I could go back today, I'd do it in a heartbeat. The castle is lusciously cozy, teaming with the smell of fire crackling in the large stone hearths. Beautiful warm oil paintings of the countryside and former prominent people adorned the walls, thick with rich wood paneling. Our room wasn't quite ready when we arrived, so we were treated to drinks in the lounge.  Without knowing, we were also upgraded to a garden suite, located in the old stables, converted into stylish country rooms including a soaking tub and rain shower. 

Lough Eske is a little ways out of town, but we found we liked the seclusion. It gave us an opportunity to have a few days of quiet and a slower pace, since most of our trip was spent bouncing from place to place. The castle hotel is surrounded by by a forest and features a lake with a boardwalk trail. There is also a spa, a couple of restaurants and a lounge. The food was wonderful and the drink selection vast. 

We had high hopes for another day out at Slieve League, and had been looking forward to it for months. The weather and my car sickness. They had other plans. The only day we could go to Slieve League the rain was at level: TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR. The kind of downpour that's hard to drive in and little can be seen. I also unfortunately suffer from aggressive motion sickness, which is not a traveler's best friend. We tried making a go of it, but decided that even if we made it there, we didn't really have the proper rain gear to enjoy any of the Slieve League. Last time we visited Slieve League, it was also rainy and the fog was so thick you weren't able to see much of the cliffs. Deciding it'd be the same or worse, we made the decision to preserve our first experience, which was fantastic, and to head into Donegal Town. 

Donegal Town is pretty quiet and made even more so, as it was the day after Halloween and people were sleeping off their hangovers. We tried to see Donegal Castle, but ironically, it had closed for the season the day before. The castle gave me intense Dracula vibes as a constant scatter of birds flapped overhead. Our day took a worse turn when I was stung by a bee in a pub at lunch. I honestly cannot ever recall being stung by a bee, so I think I spooked everyone when I told them, only to be shut down by a bored bartender, stating that "I'd be on the floor already" if I were allergic. The bee apparently came out of a stack of wood, stung me and crawled away into a window, only to be eaten by a giant spider (that my husband neglected to tell me until we left since my spider fear is much larger than my bee fear). After also accidently getting ripped off at a wool shop (charged us €80 instead of €8) we decided it'd be best to just cut our losses for the day and head back to the hotel. 

Getting out for a walk was the perfect activity to lift our spirits. Russet and gold leaves filled the trees and scattered below our feet as we walked. We did get a little turned around after a few detours and stuck in some mud, but it was all in good fun! Since we'd already been around so many tourists and spent a crazy amount of time in our car, we rather enjoyed the calm country walk where people were few and far between.

Cell Phone Shots: 

I think one of the most important things to remember with travel is that although you have all of these things that you want to do, life doesn't always run on schedule or cooperate. We may have had a bust of a day in Donegal, but we laughed it off with each other and tried to recuperate for our next day. Overall, we still love Donegal and the fantastic Lough Eske Castle Hotel (see: chocolate covered strawberries below). 

Places of Note-

Accommodation:
Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa
Website- https://www.lougheskecastlehotel.com/ 

Favorite Dining in Donegal Town: 
The Olde Castle Bar
Website- http://www.oldecastlebar.com/
(The best fish & chips we had in Ireland in my opinion. Minus the whole bee sting incident.) 

Attraction: 
Slieve League Cliffs
Website- https://www.ireland.com/en-gb/articles/waw-slieve-league-cliffs/
(We didn't make it this trip, but they truly are a can't miss destination)

**This post contains links to the places we stayed and visited, however, we were not paid or compensated to share these links. The opinions and experiences shared this post were mine & my husbands alone.**

...Stay tuned for more blogs about our trip from the Emerald City to the Emerald Isle- Road trips around Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland!


Brittingham Photography is located in Orting, Washington and specializes in natural High School Senior portraits. We also offer Britt Beauty Sessions (individual women's shoots), Lifestyle Newborn, Couples Sessions and Intimate Family Photos. Thank you for stopping by to read my little blog!

-Andrea Brittingham

Owner, Photographer
Orting, Washington Photographer