Creeslough has many nature attractions for visitors to Donegal. It is worth visiting Creeslough to check out some of the most scenic and historically interesting sites in Donegal. If you visit Donegal make sure you stop and visit Creeslough.
Ards Forest Park
A short history of Ards forest park
In the plantation of Ulster which followed the Flight of the Earls in 1607, Turloug Og O’Boyle was granted Ards and the surrounding area by the British, on condition of his loyalty to the Queen. They lost this area in 1641.
By the year 1700 the Wray family had possession of the land, they sold it in 1782 to Alexander Stewart, he resided in Ards until 1926. Ards came into the possession of the Irish Land Commission in 1926 after the acquisition of the “Stewart-Bam Estate” as it was known.
The nothern half of the Estate was held by the Land Commission for afforestation and the rest was divided among tenants. Ards Forest Park is the most northerly forested park in Ireland, located on Sheephaven Bay and one of the few in Ireland situated by the seaside.
Visitors driving from the entrance to the car park located near the shore, pass Lough Lilly which is covered with lilies during the month of August. There are a number of trails and walks with breathtaking views of woodland, mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. There are also many forms of wildlife in the park.
It has six different habitats in its 481 hectares: Deciduous and Coniferous woodlands, Salt-dunes and seashore, Salt marsh, Saltwater Lakes, Rock face, Fernlands.
Ards forest park is currently being managed by Coilte Ireland. There is a small car admittance fee or many purchase an annual pass. Once in the park there are plenty of walks and trails to do. There are various habitats to explore from shoreline to deep forest. There are 9 trails to explore varying from 0.5km to 13km for the more adventurous. The park also includes the ruins of an old ring fort, a mass rock and a holy well.
Ards House was built in 1708, by the Wray’s whose family came from Yorkshire, England. In 1780 they sold the House and Land to the Stewart’s, later known as the Stewart Bams.
In 1930 the old mansion, Ards House was taken over by the Capuchin Franciscan Order, and the name was changed to Ard Mhuire. In January 1931 this became the Novitiate and Theological Seminary.
After 35 years it became evident that the house was too small for the growing number of students and in the 1950s plans to extend the building were abandoned for a new Friary. The new friary was opened on Sunday, 13th November, 1966 by Bishop Anthony Mac Feely. Present also were Capuchins from the USA, Zambia, South Africa, New Zealand. Fr. Conrad reckoned that 80% of all Irish Capuchins, at home and abroad had studied at Ards. 192 students were ordained to the priesthood in Ards.
To date the Capuchins still grace us with their presence with their daily Mass for the public in the Oratory at 8am. Confessions are heard thoughout the day – 7 days a week and priests are always available. The altar and fittings for the sanctuary of the Oratory are made from larchwood from the local forest. Many of the local people regularly attend Sunday Masses here and enjoy visiting the area.
The area is a beautiful place to go for a peaceful walk. The main walk is along the shoreline past the small sand beach to a viewing point looking over the bay to Downings. From the viewing point you can see the ‘metal man’ in the water which used to guide boots into shore in years gone by. Walking further along the coast you can reach another secluded secret beach. The trail continues into the forest park and can take 3 hours to complete.
A short history of Doe Castle
The castle was built in the 15th century. Sometimes the date given is 1425. The first or early occupants were the Mac-Sweeney’s. the Castle remained in their possession for about 200 years. The Mac-Sweeneys ruled the area’s of Rosguill (now Downings & Carrigart). Doe (now Creeslough & Dunfanaghy) Cloughaneely (now Falcarragh ) and Tory Island, from Doe Castle.
Sir Cahir O’Doherty had his headquarters here when he attack Derry 1608. The Mac Sweeneys are back by 1641 and Eoghan Rua O’Neill landed at Doe Castle on 6th July 1642 on his return fron Spain. Around 1660 an English garrison take possession of the castle but by the 1690’s the Mac Sweeneys are back.
The Castle changed hands many times over the years. One of the owners: George Vaghan Harte who bought the castle in 1800 left his initials (GVH) embedded on the wall above the door of the eastern entrance.
The Castle was occupied up until 1909. In 1932 the Irish Land Commission (Office of Public Works) bought the Castle and vested it as a National Monument. The work to restore the castle to it former glory is ongoing, Many legends and stories are told about the castle and the people that lived there.
Glenveagh National Park
Glenveagh Castle is built on the shores of Lough Beagh in the Derryveagh mountains in County Donegal. Glenveagh National Park has 9667 hectares of mooreland, mountain, lakes and woods and it is divided in half by the beautiful valley of Glenveagh which means ‘Glen of the silver birches. The Park lands include the peaks of the two highest mountains in Donegal, Errigal and Slieve Sneacht.
Glenveagh was a peaceful place until 1857 when John George Adair set about buying the farms around Glenveagh, many people were evicted and left homeless. In 1870 he built a castle, he died in 1885 but his wife lived in the castle until 1921. In 1930 it was purchased by the Harvard professor, Arthur Kingsley Porter. He remained there for a short time, as he disappeared mysteriously on Inishbofin Island in 1933.
Henry P. McIlhinney, from Philadelphia, USA purchased the castle in 1937 and lived there for many years, continuing to develop the gardens with his advisors Jim Russell and Lanning Roper. In 1975 the lands of Glenveagh were purchased from Mr. McIlhinney by the National Parks and Monuments Service. He later presented Glenveagh Castle and gardens to the Irish Nation. Glenveagh National Park (one of only six national parks in Ireland ) and Castle is a must for visitors to the area.
The visitors centre provides an introduction to the Park and its natural history through audio visual shows, displays and exhibits. The terrain, habitat, wildlife and vegetation come to life in this beautiful display. The Park has a variety of trails and walks, and gardens display flowers and plants from as far away as Chile, Madeira and Tasmania. The interior of the Castle may be visited on guided tours daily. The restaurant serves meals throughout the day. The tea-room provides visitors with a taste of delicious home baking and a cup of tea.
Glenveagh National Park The park is home to one of the largest herds red deer in Europe and the golden eagle has being introduced and is thriving.
Crossing the Lackagh river on the Creeslough to Carrigart or Glen Road this bridge was built in 1755-1756 by William Wray (of Ards) and Thomas Smith. Who were granted £207. The main road through Barnes Gap dates from 1849.
The Lackagh River is the outlet from Glen Lough into Sheephaven Bay near Doe Castle. The Lackagh River is known for the salmon and sea trout fishing. Fishing with rod and line mostly, the season for fishing with boats and nets where they circle the salmon on their way up to Glen Lough is very short.
Creeslough is at the foot of one of Donegal’s natural gems Muckish Mountain. It is 2197ft and can be climbed on a good clear day. The views are of the surrounding country side, Tory island and panoramic views of sheephaven bay. Well worth the hike.
Burtonport Railway Walk.
If you don’t want to climb up Muckish, there is also the Burtonport Railway walk from Muckish car park to Falcarragh following the old railway line. This walk takes you past the beautiful Lough Achair. The trail is flat with a good surface which occasionally slopes or shallow steps. It is suitable for family groups including children and elderly. It takes 2 hours to complete and the distance is 9.4KM.
Duntally woods is a nature reserve located in Creeslough. It can be accessed via a lane entrance opposite Lough Natooey or via the car park of the road to Carrigart or via Duntally Road from Creeslough. It is a 2.5km looped walk. The woods are full of various trees, woodland animals and birdlife.
The woods are best visited in the spring months when the bluebells are in full bloom and the new buds are starting to show.
This is a little know waterfall in the heart of Duntally Woods. Access to the waterfall is of the Duntally road.