Donegal, home of the Muse
Located on the famous 'Wild Atlantic Way,' west Donegal is rich in culture and physical beauty, characteristics that have attracted artists from the far corners of the globe - musicians and painters alike - all seeking the solace and space offered there to pursue their craft.
Known as the 'Forgotten County,' ancient and evocative landscapes and seascapes of Donegal in this northwestern corner of Ireland also provide a font of inspiration for writers.
Gaoth Dobhair, (Gweedore in English) ‘the place of the wind,’ where the week-long 'Ireland Writing Retreat' takes place, is known as 'An Gaeltacht,' a specially-designated Irish-speaking area.
Within it, Cnoc Fola, (Bloody Foreland - ‘the Hill of Blood’) might suggest the site of an ancient Celtic battle but actually takes its name from the way the setting sun enhances the natural red hues of nearby granite cliffs, as seen from ferryboats crossing the offshore islands of Tory, Gola and Inisfree.
One of a series of spectacular mountain ranges in west Donegal, this silver-sloped, cone-shaped mountain has been the inspiration for generations of artists, each trying to capture its unique personality. A three-hour walk brings one to the top, offering superb panoramic views over the surrounding islands and coastline. It is the supposed home of Lugh, the Celtic Sun God.
Glenveigh National Park
Bordered by the Derryveagh Mountains (meaning "forest of oak and birch"), this gorgeous park, one of the most dramatic in all Ireland, encompasses 24,000 acres of wilderness—mountain, moorland, lakes, and woods. Within its borders, a thick carpet of purple heather, russet-color peat bogs and dense woodland rolls down the Derryveagh slopes into the broad, open valley of the River Veagh and an impressive, turreted castle beside it.
A simple, 20-minute boat ride from the mainland from the picturesque Bunbeg harbour, this island, with its pretty thatched homes, rests snugly among other islands, forming a ‘basket of eggs’ formation. It is believed this is the place that inspired famed author, Robert Louis Stevenson, to write his classic novel, ‘Treasure Island.’ After visiting, the Scottish writer learned how the glorious Spanish Armada had been wrecked against the unforgiving rocks during heavy storms and their treasure sunk to the bottom of the sea. Gola island is a haven for artists, birdwatchers, photographers, walkers and rock climbers. Near the island's interior lake and around its towering cliffs, bird-life abounds with cormorants, razorbills, guillemots as well as gannets and kittiwakes, to be admired. With long sandy beaches, gorgeous ocean scenery and an abundance of angling opportunities, the visitor to this island is guaranteed a unique and memorable experience.
Gola can be explored in a few hours over easy walking terrain. On the island, one feels a world away, making it difficult to comprehend you are just a short distance from mainland Donegal.
These are a string of quaint, rural Irish villages that hug the winding west coast of Donegal offering visitors a series of arts and craft galleries, museums, coffee houses, pubs famed for their traditional Irish music and fine-dining restaurants. Situated along the 'Wild Atlantic Way,' these villages nestle beside stunning natural scenery such as Bloody Foreland, Horn Head, Muckish Mountain, Lough Altan and the golden sands of Marble Hill beach.
“I came to the 'Ireland Writing Retreat' for inspiration and to become immersed in Irish culture. The experience was more than I hoped for. I'm leaving with the start of three new stories set in Donegal and new friends from three continents. It has enriched my writing and my life.”
Laurie Wagner, Director of Development, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Denver, Colorado
“I came to Ireland expecting inspiration and found magic. The conference bonded strangers into friends. We wrote, walked and wandered. Culture programs introduced us to local food, whiskey and dance. Guest authors and editors honed our craft. Loved it, will be back!”
Mary Holt, published author