Skip to main content

Mise an spéir, an t-aer is an tEarrach, mise an t-iasc is an t-uisce, mise an chré faoi mo chosa.

Michael Hartnett

Glenveagh 7 °C Rain showers
29. 1. 2023
5:32
Glenveagh National Park logo

Nature & Conservation


 

Glenveagh falls within the Cloghernagore Bog & Glenveagh National Park Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and the Derryveagh & Glendowan Mountains Special Protected Area (SPA). It is also protected by EU and national law.

 

Freshwater River
The park spans 16,000 hectares and has a range of habitat types including uplands, woodlands, peatlands and freshwater rivers and lakes. Many of the flora and fauna found here are confined to Northwest Ireland and show similarities with wildlife of western Scotland.

Most of the habitats in Glenveagh are in a semi-natural state, however past human activities such as tree felling, grazing livestock and the creation of a deer herd have had a lasting influence on its ecology. Growing visitor numbers will also impact the future of this landscape unless carefully managed. Read about our ongoing conservation projects in our monitoring section.

Useful Tips

Plan Ahead

Think about the best time to visit and how you’ll travel here, to minimise your environmental impact. Check the weather and make sure you have everything you need to bring.

Be Considerate

Be aware of how your activities and behaviour can impact nature, the experience of other visitors and those working here. Be mindful of any noise you make and how you interact with others along the way.

Respect Wildlife

Dogs are very welcome but must stay on the lead. If you can, avoid sensitive times for wildlife nesting and breeding.

Travel and Camp on Durable Ground

The marked trails let you take in all the best parts of the Glenveagh wilderness. Only experienced hikers should venture into the hills. Only Wilderness Camping is permitted: review the guidelines here.


Leave What You Find

Do take photographs of the landscape and plants, but please leave even the smallest details untouched, so others can enjoy the Glenveagh wilderness just as you did.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Litter is a huge threat to nature. By bringing your waste home, you help protect the park and its wildlife, and keep Glenveagh healthy.

Minimise the effect of fire

We can’t allow fires of any kind in our national parks. Fires can cause lasting impacts and devastate plants and animals. Talk to our rangers or Education staff if you need advice, and check our Wilderness Camping guide for details.


Conservation Projects

Project 01: Red-throated Diver Monitoring

Above: red-throated diver

Project 01: Red-throated Diver Monitoring

The red-throated diver (Gavia stellate) is one of the hallmark species of Glenveagh National Park. This annual project monitors the population and breeding success in northwest Donegal.

Project 02: Goosander Nestbox Scheme

Above: male and female goosander

Project 02: Goosander Nestbox Scheme

Our goosander (Mergus merganser) nestbox scheme aims to support the small breeding population of this tree-nesting species in Donegal.

Project 03: Bumblebee & Butterfly Monitoring Schemes

Above: large white (cabbage white) butterfly

Project 03: Bumblebee & Butterfly Monitoring Schemes

National Park staff undertake dedicated surveys for both bumblebee and butterfly species each summer. These surveys are carried out along two fixed routes, one on the Derrylahan trail, and one through the Castle Gardens. For more information on these schemes visit the National Biodiversity Data Centre website.

Project 04: Pearl Mussel Project

Above: pearl mussels

Project 04: Pearl Mussel Project

The Pearl Mussel Project is a pilot agri-environment programme to improve the quality of watercourses to benefit the endangered freshwater pearl mussel.

It is locally adapted, results-based and focuses on the top eight freshwater pearl mussel catchments in Ireland. Park staff participate in an annual assessment, the results of which are submitted to the Pearl Mussel Project.

Project 05: Glenveagh Native Woodland Strategy

Above: yew tree leaves & fruit

Project 05: Glenveagh Native Woodland Strategy

This long-term strategy aims to improve woodland quality and structure, and return the park’s woodlands to their natural range and extent.

Project 06: Pilot Native Woodland Scheme

Above: Yellow catkins of hazel in spring

Project 06: Pilot Native Woodland Scheme

This scheme is exploring opportunities to re-establish native woodland species on some of the more marginal lands within what is considered the historic extent of the woodlands here. Subsequent phases will examine the potential for natural woodland regeneration within this study area.

Project 07: Scots Pine Ex-situ Conservation

Above: scots pine

Project 07: Scots Pine Ex-situ Conservation

This project will involve the planting of up to 2,000 native Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) seedlings and is one of the initial steps in the development of an acorn-to-tree approach to woodland conservation management within the park.

Project 08: Invasive Species Management

Above: rhododendron ponticum

Project 08: Invasive Species Management

Invasive species management is an ongoing and expensive issue. Annual works are carried out to manage the invasive rhododendron ponticum and prickly heath (Gaultheria mucronata).

Project 09: Deer Management

Project 09: Deer Management

With no natural predator, ever increasing numbers of red deer can lead to significant pressures on the sensitive woodland and peatland habitats within the park. Ongoing management of the red deer population is necessary to sustain a healthy and vibrant ecosystem within Glenveagh National Park.

Habitats

Glenveagh supports a number of important habitat types ranging from pristine rivers and lakes to some of the highest peaks in Ireland. These habitats are home to plants and animals of both national and international importance. Our aim is to conserve, and if necessary, enhance the quality of these habitats.

Habitats Guide


Uplands


Though bare and sparsely vegetated, the uplands at Glenveagh National Park are home to a range of fascinating flora and fauna. Arctic alpines, mosses and liverworts as well as hares, golden plovers, ravens and peregrine falcons have all settled on the rocky precipices that wouldn’t look out of place in the Arctic or lower Alps.

Read more about the uplands in our Habitats Guide.

Woodlands


Glenveagh’s 100 hectares of natural and semi natural woodlands are among the few native stands left in Co Donegal. The woodlands boast a mix of native and non-native trees including sessile oak, downy birch and Scots pine. The wood warbler, rare in Ireland but an annual visitor to Glenveagh, arrives in mid-May. Leislers bat, Ireland’s largest bat species, emerges from hibernation in spring, and the woodlands are also home to a wide variety of animals including stoats and pine martens.

Read more about the woodlands in our Habitats Guide.

Peatlands


Glenveagh’s peatlands are a key part of Ireland’s natural history. From the dry patches of bogland with its ling and bell heather and the damper patches which support wet grassland including fescue, deer grass and molinia to the lower slopes of the bog where bog cotton is abundant. Red deer are the largest animal in the peatlands and the meadow pipit is prolific in this area.

Read more about the peatlands in our Habitats Guide.

Freshwater


Lakes in Glenveagh range from small lochans to the deep waters of Lough Veagh. Most of the park’s lakes hold brown trout, salmonoid fish, eels and the ‘land-locked’, endangered charr. The Glaskeelan river, whose headwaters rise from Lough Inshagh, is an important breeding habitat for the freshwater pearl mussel. Lough Veagh is also the only breeding centre in Ireland of the red-throated diver.

Read more about the freshwater habitat in our Habitats Guide.


Flora


Glenveagh is home to a mix of native and non-native trees. The main species are sessile oak, downy birch, rowan, holly, hazel, yew and aspen. Scots pines are also a key feature having been planted as shelter belts around the lake shore.

The denser areas of woodland are rich in plants adapted to moist shady conditions. Mosses and ferns form lush green carpets on boulders and trees. Golden leafed saxifrage and liverworts cover the wetter rocks and woodrush, wood sorrel and wood anemone abound on the woodland floor.

The uplands are home to a range of Arctic alpines,including alpine club-moss, silvery moss and dwarf willow. Ireland has some of the most significant areas of blanket bog in the world and has international obligations to protect this habitat and its species. These areas are a key part of Ireland’s natural history and heritage and are rich in wildlife and plant species.

From the dry patches of bogland with its ling and bell heather and the damper patches which support wet grassland including fescue, deer grass and molinia to the lower slopes of the bog where bog cotton is abundant.

 

Protected & Rare Flora

Several protected plant species are found in Glenveagh including Killarney fern, the small-white orchid and heath cudweed.

Many scarce plants have been recorded from cliffs and gullies, mainly around Slieve Snaght and the Poisoned Glen area. These include brittle bladder-fern, alpine clubmoss, stiff sedge, mountain sorrel and Irish spurge. Purple saxifrage and alpine saw-wort have also been recorded from this area.

Rhododendron

Above: Rhododendron Ponticum

Invasive Flora

As with other areas, Glenveagh has to contend with the highly invasive rhododendron ponticum. This non-native plant was introduced to Ireland in the early 19th century primarily for ornamental purposes.

If left unmanaged, rhododendron stands will out-compete native flora in woodland and peatland habitats, causing severe degradation in their quality. This in turn can have an adverse effect on the fauna that depend on those habitats and to the wider surrounding ecosystem.

Fauna


Glenveagh National Park is teeming with wildlife. Whether you find yourself in our woodlands, out amidst our peatlands, hiking some of our upland areas or taking in our lakes and rivers, there is always something to see.

Flora & Fauna Guide


The diversity of habitats in Glenveagh is reflected in the wide range of bird species here. The peregrine falcon and the golden eagle are two of the larger predators frequenting the park. The wood warbler, the spotted flycatcher and the chiffchaff call the woodlands home, and the red-throated diver has its only Irish breeding centre in Lough Veagh. The peatlands play host to a number of bird species including skylarks, red grouse and the golden plover.

Read more about Glenveagh’s birds in our Flora and Fauna Guide.


An abundance of terrestrial mammals can be found in Glenveagh. The largest animal in Glenveagh is the red deer and they are primarily found in the upland areas of the park. The best time for watching red deer is during the mating season or ‘rut’ between mid-September and mid-November. Our guided educational walks in autumn ‘Rut Walks’ during this time offer a chance to hear the distinctive call of the stags.
The upland regions of Glenveagh are also home to the Irish hare, which survives on a diet of mountain grasses and sedges.

Several species of bat can be found in Glenveagh, including the common and soprano pipistrelle, Daubenton’s Bat and Ireland’s largest bat, the Leisler’s bat. We run ‘Bat Nights’ during the summer months, a guided night-time walk with bat detectors.
Otters can be found in the main valley of Glenveagh and are occasionally observed in rivers both above and below Lough Veagh.
Badgers and foxes are important predators in the Glenveagh ecosystem and the park is also home to stoats and pine martens.

Read more about Glenveagh’s mammals in our Flora and Fauna Guide.


From the smooth newt and common frog to Ireland’s only native reptile, the common lizard, Glenveagh is teeming with a diverse wildlife. The freshwater pearl mussel, a long lived filter-feeding bivalve capable of surviving for up to 140 years, is found in significant numbers in the freshwater habitats in Glenveagh. Most of the park’s lakes hold brown trout, salmonoid fish and eels. Lough Veagh has modest runs of salmon and sea trout as well as stocks of arctic charr.

Read more about Glenveagh’s amphibians, reptiles and aquatics in our Flora and Fauna Guide.

Protect Nature

Thank you for helping us protect nature at Glenveagh. When you enjoy responsible outdoor recreation here, you help us preserve the unique creatures and habitats of the Glenveagh wilderness.

 

To find out more about how you can leave no trace and protect nature while enjoying the Park, download our guide below.

 
Protect Nature Guide