The small town of Letterkenny is located in Donegal, Ireland, a land of amazing natural beauty. With a population of barely 20,000, this city could be quiet, provincial and boring. Compared to some metropolis, this is probably the way it is. But Letterkenny, although small, is after all the largest city in Donegal, and here there is something to see and do. Check TOPSCHOOLSINTHEUSA to learn more about Ireland.
The modern symbol of Letterkenny is a specific monument “Polar Star” on the square with a roundabout on Port Road. The monument is made of 104 large tree trunks, each about 30 cm in diameter and about 6.5 m long.
How to get to Letterkenny
The nearest airport to Letterkenny is Derry Airport, approximately 50 km away. It receives flights from London, Glasgow, Birmingham and Liverpool. From Londonderry you can also get to Letterkenny by rail, and a regular bus service connects the city, in addition, with Dublin and Galway.
Letterkenny originated on the banks of the river Svili in the east of Donegal. It was named after the ruling O’Cannon clan. How the market town began to develop in the 17th century. Where the only Roman Catholic church in Donegal stands today, an ancient castle built in 1625 once stood. An interesting description of the city during this period can be found in the census of the mid-17th century: Friday and two fairs a year, with a beautiful church (meaning the church of Konval) and a bridge over the river Swilly in the east. Until recently, Letterkenny supported agriculture, cattle were bred in the district, and Letterkenny received the status of a “real” city only in the 1920s. In recent years, together with neighboring Derry, the city has formed the economic core of the north-west of the Irish island.
In Letterkenny, for the first and last time in the history of the country, an amusing incident occurred: two winning lottery tickets from the same draw with the same numbers were bought at two different ends of the city. The event became national news.
Attractions and attractions Letterkenny
Many of the city’s most notable buildings date back to the mid-19th century, sometimes even earlier. These are mainly educational institutions and churches. So, the tallest building in Letterkenny – the Cathedral of St. Yunan and St. Columba – was built in 1901. This is a neo-Gothic version of the French style of the 13th century with a slight touch of Victorianism. The cathedral’s sandstone bell tower rises to a height of 240 feet, the interior and furnishings were made of bog oak, and the altar is of marble. The bell tower has 12 bells, each named after a revered Irish saint, and the largest bell weighs over 2 tons. In 1985, the cathedral was renovated, but the general style and original materials were kept intact.
The first five pews in Letterkenny Cathedral are always empty. The exact reason for this is unknown, but many believe that this is a manifestation of an ancient Celtic tradition, the roots going back too far to be found.
Directly opposite the cathedral stands the Konval Church, some parts of which have been preserved since the 17th century. As befits a Protestant church, it contrasts with the cathedral with its emphasized simplicity and austerity. The church has been preserved in very good condition, although its interior dates back to the 19th century. Next to it is a monument to Cardinal Patrick O’Donnell. There is also a Celtic cross on the Cathedral Square, but this is the newest monument, created already in 2006.
Another important building is the historic Saint Yunan College. This is a three-story building with four round towers at the corners, reflecting the Edwardian interpretation of the neo-Romanesque style. Most of all, the building resembles a medieval castle on a hill. There is a chapel in the spacious courtyard of the castle, and a garden with unusual flora, fauna and even mushrooms. Now the college produces professional athletes (football players).
Interesting buildings can also be seen on the terrace of Mount Southwell, which is near the market square, just behind Castle Street. This is a Georgian red stone terrace with contrasting light and dark inserts, built in the first half of the 19th century by Lord Southwell. Here you can see five of the best examples of architecture of that period in the city.
The County Donegal Museum in Letterkenny is officially recognized by the country’s authorities as the best in Ireland. It is located on the High Road and first opened its doors to the public in 1845. Here you can get acquainted with the history of the region, examining an extensive collection of finds made by archaeologists in the area, as well as objects of decorative art. The museum occupies an interesting building built in 1843 in a typical Neo-Tudor style.
3 things to do in Letterkenny:
- Find some modern unusual city monuments: “beggar children” near the market square, “fireman’s helmet” made of galvanized steel, “chair” (or “chairs” that periodically appear in different places) and “blacksmiths’ ball”.
- Climb Mount Errigal on foot, sometimes called the “soul of Donegal”.
- Go to Glenveh National Park. Actually, many tourists come to Letterkenny solely for this.
In a later period, the appearance of the city was enriched with less classical buildings. So, the new building of the city council, which the locals call the “House of Grass”, looks quite unusual due to the flat roof, on which, in fact, grass is planted. Another interesting new attraction is the two-figure sculpture “Workers” on the old dry arch stone bridge. “Workers” made of stainless steel in 2001 in memory of the ancient builders of the bridge.
And the most recognizable modern symbol of Letterkenny is the specific North Star monument on the roundabout on Port Road. The monument, made of 104 large tree trunks, each about 30 cm in diameter and about 6.5 m long, was erected in 2006 at a cost to the city of about 100,000 EUR. It is something like a giant open ring 12 m high, bristling with logs in all directions.
For some reason, the Irish are very fond of squares with roundabouts. They build them almost everywhere where two highways intersect. Traffic in such squares is clockwise rather than counterclockwise, which can be confusing at first.
The city hosts several festivals throughout the year, among which, of course, the festival of traditional Irish music and the Celtic festival. In March, there is a parade in honor of St. Patrick, in June-July – an arts festival, and in October – a harvest festival. The center of all the fun is usually the Market Square or the main city artery, Main Street. Letterkenny also has a nightlife, and the local establishments are known as the most fashionable in the area. Night clubs “Grill” and “Vudu”, “Milan” and “Pulse” often receive foreign residents with world-famous names.
Surroundings of Letterkenny
A little more than a dozen kilometers from Letterkenny is the picturesque village of Churchhill: classic, traditional, absolutely typical. Here you can visit the Glebe Gallery in a Regency mansion built in 1828 and surrounded by beautiful gardens. Inside, you can see fabrics by William Morris, Muslim and Japanese art, and so on – more than 300 exhibits.
And if you move further northwest from the village, you will find yourself in the beautiful Glenveh National Park, one of the most famous in the country. Here, tourists are waiting not only for amazing views, but also for the famous majestic castle on the lake – with an Italian terrace, antique statues, terracotta vases and other symbols of prosperity. Of all the Irish castles, this one is one of the newest: it was built in the second half of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the surrounding nature is so beautiful that Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo visited the last owner, Henry McIlennie, a resident of American Philadelphia. McIlennie has owned the castle since 1937 and it was more than noble of him to bequeath the castle to the Irish people on his death in 1981.
Nearby you can go fishing on Lake Gartan.