County Donegal (Dún na nGall, "the castle of the foreigners")


Donegal is something of a geographical and political anomaly. It is the northernmost county on the island, has its strongest cultural, commercial and ethnic ties with neighbouring areas of Northern Ireland, yet forms part of "the south", the Republic of Ireland. The climate and terrain have more in common with Scotland than with southern counties. The western and northern coasts have been worn into jagged bays and fjords by the full impact of the north Atlantic and the magnificent barren inland mountains - Errigal, Dooish, Blue Stack, Slieve League - form part of the same geological structure as the Scottish highlands.

In early historical times, the area was part of the kingdom of Aileach founded by Conall and Eoghan, the two sons of the semi-legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Eoghan took what is now Tyrone (Tír Eoghain, "Eoghan's land") and the Inishowen peninsula, now in Donegal, while Conall took the remainder of the modern county, which became Tír Chonaill, "Conall's land". The name Donegal was taken from the town when the modern county was created by the English administration in 1585.

Surnames associated with the county include Gallagher, O'Donnell, O'Doherty, Gillespie, Breslin, Bonar, Brannan and McDaid.