The Heritage Towns of Donegal

County Donegal is regarded worldwide as a place of beautiful scenery and rich heritage. Located on the western seaboard of Ireland, the county has a diverse range of landscape features, comprising over 400 km of coastline, extensive mountainous areas and rolling lowlands. In 1802, James McParlan carried out a survey of the county for the Dublin Society, and he had this to say about Donegal's villages and towns:

"In 1789 the number of houses in this county was 23,521, and although since that period there may be an increase in houses to a not easily calculated extent, the villages, which are about 500, are not on the increase, but dispersing daily into separate habitations and holdings. The number of towns are thirty; many of them not consisting of thirty houses, large and small; the most considerable are Donegal, Lifford, Letterkenny Raphoe, Ballyshannon, and Ramelton". These last three towns, with the addition of Ardara and Moville, have been designated Heritage Towns* due to their uniqueness and the diversity of their location, history, architecture, and people. Much of this diversity is evident in their architecture, from the former Victorian seaside resort of Moville, to the classic Georgian malls of Ramelton and Ballyshannon, and the vernacular architecture of Ardara. However, these buildings are not museum-pieces, they continue to be occupied just as they have been for generations. A great deal of preservation for occupation is due to the efforts of individual local development associations. They give so much time and energy to the restoration conservation and enhancement of their prized local architecture while assiduously keeping an eye on encroaching developers.

County Donegal is also fortunate in that a dedicated Heritage Officer, Mr Joseph Gallagher was appointed in 2003. His role is

(i) to raise awareness of County Donegal's natural, built and cultural heritage,

(ii) to provide advice and information to members of the public, Donegal County Council and its staff on heritage matters,

(iii) to propose heritage policy to Donegal County Council,

(iv) to collect data and conduct research on aspects of County Donegal's natural, built and cultural heritage,

(v) to promote best practice in relation to heritage matters, and

(vi) to prepare and implement the County Donegal Heritage Plan in conjunction with the Donegal Heritage Forum.

The County Archives Service is part of the Cultural Services Division of the Community, Culture & Enterprise Directorate of Donegal County Council.

The Archivist was appointed in August 1999. The role of the Archivist includes:

To preserve, list and provide permanent suitable storage facilities for the archives of the local authorities of Donegal, and other archives relating to the history and culture of the county of Donegal;

To make the archives accessible to the public and to provide the best possible facilities for research;

Acquisition of public and private archives of the county of Donegal;

To develop and raise awareness of the documented heritage of the county of Donegal through exhibitions, education programmes, media and other events;

To provide a records management service to the County Council;

Our towns and villages are vibrant during the summer months with numerous festivals, seminars, and entertainment events in each area.

*click to see aerial maps of these areas

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