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Donegal Town Marks its 550th Birthday Next Year

Next year, 2024, Donegal Town will mark its 550th Birthday. Its origins can be traced back to 1474, when Lady Nuala O'Donnell established a Franciscan Abbey on the shores of Donegal Bay. Around the same time, her husband Red Hugh O'Donnell the First, Lord of Tir Chonaill founded Donegal Castle. The Town of Donegal grew up around these two great buildings and became the capital of Tir Chonaill. Under the O’Donnell Lords, who were treated as sovereign princes by the Kings of France, Spain and Scotland, Donegal Town was like the capital of an independent country for 130 years. Even after the O’Donnell’s were overthrown following the Battle of Kinsale, the Town was reputedly the place where the Annals of the Four Master were written.

Since the time of Red Hugh the First and Lady Nuala, Donegal Town has been one of Ireland’s most historic places. Few Irish Towns have ever reached their 550th Birthday.  Yet Donegal is still young at heart, a flourishing and vibrant place, endowed with a remarkable and unique heritage and culture. That is why we are going to celebrate Donegal Town’s 550th Anniversary. To this end, a committee composed of various local stakeholders has been established to organise and co-ordinate what we expect to be an exciting and varied calendar of events in 2024. Creating a brand is all important and a unique Donegal 550 Festival Logo has been designed by local artist Cathy Mulhern “Cathy Illustrations”.  It is hoped that this will be used throughout 2024 on all correspondence, promotional materials , social media platforms etc.

Donegal Town already has an established calendar of annual events. It is hoped that the organisers of these events will embrace the Donegal 550 theme for 2024 i.e., St Patrick’s Day Parade, Donegal Town Summer Festival,  Donegal Dragon Annual Regatta, and the Donegal Bay Rowing Club Regatta. Local cultural institutions and attractions such as Donegal Castle,  Railway Museum and Donegal Bay Waterbus would organise events.

We hope to hold a number of bespoke events such as an O’Donnell Clan Rally; a history conference; a pop-up museum/exhibition of newspaper articles old photographs and memorabilia; lectures and talks; drama productions and concerts. As the final part of our celebrations, we intend to create a weekend of events to coincide with Donegal Connect which celebrates our Diaspora and takes place in September each year. Some of the suggestions were for this weekend included a street carnival / foodie event (Unique Dinning Experience) and a concert.

In addition, there are many churches, schools, sports clubs, voluntary associations, community groups, businesses, and visitor attractions in the Town and its catchment area. This is the perfect time for us all to celebrate with pride our rich and historic past.  Donegal Town 550 presents us with a unique opportunity to showcase the Town, both nationally and internationally. It will bring in extra visitors, boost the local economy, contribute to community pride and solidarity, and give Donegal Town a national profile.

For this reason, we are inviting all of  the above stakeholders to become part of this great year of celebration by using the Donegal Town 550th theme for any event they are planning during 2024.

The idea of celebrating and commemorating Donegal 550 is the brainchild of historian Dr Matthew Potter, who was born and reared in Donegal Town is quoted as saying “Although I have lived in Limerick for many years, I continue to have strong ties to my native place.”

For us to make this successful we are asking for your input and support by attending an open meeting in the Abbey Hotel on the 02nd of October 2023 at 7.00pm. 

If you would like to take part, please email the following information to

Name and contact details of main liaison
Proposed Name & Date of event or activity.

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