A Knitter’s Weekend: Donegal, Ireland

By Albina McLaughlin
November 8, 2017

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  • What a wonderful article. I feel whisked away to a rugged landscape with fresh clean air and to top it all off yarn in all its forms. Thank you for sharing.

  • It was a lovely story. Will you be adding some of this fascinating yarn to your shop?

    • Stay tuned….

  • Beautiful and inspiring!

  • What A lovely trip this would be!

  • We actually live in Ardara! Where are you based? Fab article! We never appreciate where we live really.

    • Oh hello! We are in Falcarragh : )

      • Hello there neighbour

    • What a small world. Lucky you, getting to pop into Nancy’s whenever!

  • What a treat to read this. I needto back later and follow every single link!

  • Thank you for sharing this. It sounds and looks lovely and inspirational. I have a stash of Kaffe’s Donegal lambs wool tweed. Ireland is on our list. I’ve been but not my DH. I have to add Donegal to the itinerary.

  • Makes me think I should renew my passport!

  • Truly droolworthy! Between this and the soon-to-be-released fingering weight tweed from Kate Davies, I’m in an absolute tizzy.

    • I so [email protected]

      • Too excited to type ! instead of @ . . . . 😉

    • I so enjoyed reading about Kate Davies’s visit to the mill!

  • OH! I want to do every bit of this! Thank you so much! xoA

  • thank you. thank you. thank you.

  • I soooooo want to go there…….. a great article.

  • Oh my, how I wish I had this information before we stayed in Donegal! We missed so much. We did visit with Mr. McGinty in his lovely little shop. And we ate and had a pint at The Olde Castle Bar. Ireland’s wool shops have increased since our very first visit 20 years ago, when the closest thing I got to getting wool was picking it up off the ground. This last time I found a number of wonderful yarn/wool shops. Ireland is truly magical and needs to be a must visit for everyone!

    • In Ulster, and Northwestern Ulster especially, the interesting bits are mainly under the radar. It took me years of word-of-mouth and accidental discovery to stumble upon most of the things mentioned in this article! …For instance, I met the wheel builder Johny Shiels riding my bike through Carndonagh. He was sitting and spinning on the main street, and I was so tired from having just cycled over a mountain pass that at first I thought I was hallucinating. Gingerly I turned to my husband, pointed at the man spinning, and said ‘Is this real?’ It was hilarious.

      The knitting shop scenes in Dublin and Cork are amazing. Donegal, not so much … yet!

  • thank you Albina, i am super-inspired !

  • As an avid knitter….I’m adding your location to my bucket list.

  • Thanks for a really enjoyable post.

  • Thanks [email protected] for mentioning me in the nice article you wrote about spinning, weaving and knitting run by local family businesses in Donegal and Inishowen.

    • My pleasure Johny!

  • Lovely article, thank you. Perhaps there could be a Donegal Wool Week sometime in the future?

    • I would love to get involved in organising something like that and hope to look into it in the coming year.

  • Thank you so much. Not only have you mentioned so many of my fav places and rarely mentioned hero’s of this Donegal wool world but you noticed our ‘why’, #keepingirelandknitting. I totally appreciate and love where I’m from but often it’s heritage is best appreciated by those from afar. Thank you all. Now the image of you stretching to see across the sea to Ireland will stay with me as will that childhood sweater you should recreate …I want one! My favourite colour is Turquoise. Edel … MacBride & Knitfield Donegal & Derry.

    • Thank you for that lovely reply, Edel! I find it fascinating how there are certain sweaters from our childhood or teenage years, that stay vividly in our mind’s eye, for the rest of our lives. And yes, I would love to recreate that Donegal tweed sweater… though perhaps not in c.1993 fuchsia!

  • Best travel article yet (and they have all been amazing)! I got teary-eyed at every point during this article. I can only imagine what being there would be like.

  • What a treat to read – thank you MDK and Albina for sharing. Albina, I’ve been following you for quite a few years over on Lovely Bicycle, so I knew that you’d started LB Handknits, but it was a pleasant surprise to see you’d written this article. I’m fortunate to have been gifted a lovely selection of Donegal yarns by an older Irish gentleman I used to work with. He’s originally from Donegal and brought bag a huge shopping bag for me after his last visit – and then refused to accept any payment. Ann & Kay I hope you’ll carry some of it, I’ll buy for sure!

    • Oh wow, a Lovely Bicycle reader : ) Indeed the cycling and knitting worlds overall quite a bit!

  • Hello there everyone and thank you for all the beautiful comments.

    In case anyone is reading who plans to use this as a travel guide in the near future, I wanted to add one thing: Some of the makers are a bit tricky to find – especially as there are no street addresses as such in most of Donegal, and not everyone has a web presence with contact info. If you have difficulty locating any of the persons or places mentioned, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me (through LBHandknits.com or @lbhandknits on instagram) and I’ll send directions!

  • I really enjoyed reading this and it has inspired me to try harder to visit Donegal. I’ve only recently discovered (my father was adopted ) that my ancestors came to NZ from Donegal in the 1860s. I have knitted a Donegal tweed coat to honour them and I’m always getting compliments about it. Too warm to wear at the moment as we head into summer!

  • Thank you for your wonderful trip through the wooly heart of Donegal. My mother and her sisters were home knitters of “jumpers” for export. A great way to spend a long winter on Owey. In later years we could not leave Ireland without Irish wool to take back to the states.

  • Traveling and knitting two of my passions.

  • Donegal is my absolute favorite part of Ireland and I’m so excited that I will be back there again in early February. I can’t wait and look forward to visiting the places that you included in your wonderful article.

  • Thank you so much for this article! When our friends announced they were getting married near Ballyshannon, I said “We’re going!” We barely scratched the surface of things to do, but we did stay at the Fanad Lighthouse, and it was the highlight of the whole trip. We absolutely loved it! Thanks again!

  • After reading your article, a fiend and I have decided we need to visit. June of 2020, Donegal, here we come!

  • Is this tour being offered in the Fall of 2019 or Spring of 2020?

  • What a gem of an article!! Thank you for writing it. I am headed to Donegal (my second home) in a few months for my 60th birthday and to visit my father’s grave in Ballyshannon. (I’m first gen American). I have acquired many Donegal sweaters over the years from my relatives there, and have recently learned to knit myself. I am very much looking forward to checking some of these places out, as now that I knit and have learned to appreciate yarn, I realize that all these years I have taken Donegal wools for granted. Great tip about the extra suitcase!!! Thank you again.

  • Loved Edel’s shop in Donnegal! Designer Maggie Jackson (also from Ireland) introduced me to her as we were on our knitters tour of Northern Ireland early June 2019. I would love to go back to see the rest of Ireland and meet more of the people. I love their heritage and they were so welcoming! Monica from Alabama

  • I too have discovered and love Donegal……been to Kilcar and Studio Donegal but it seems you have missed my favorite place..Glencolumnkille just up the road from Kilcar and Slieve League. ..I call it the place of my heart…I go their to continue to learn Irish at Oideas Gael But the Glen Folk Village there is known internationally and their Fold Village Gift Shop has local hand knit items and local items of Donegal tweed..I recommend a visit there ..a drink or so at Roarty’s and the tour of Glen Folk Village, lunch in the Tea Room there( Is maith liom aran donn, anraith glasrai agus cupan tae!) and a visit to Oideas Gael..classes in Irish language are ongoing from June to August…their Bookstore is amazing ..many classics and other books and help in Irish , but also books on the Glen and Donegal, Irish folklore, Irish music..wonderful CDs etc..Geraldine is the saleswoman extraordinaire in the Bookstore..a delight to meet and very helpful !! A handknitting shop was in the Village , across from the Grocery store with just wonderful sweaters , scarves, and gifts ..It was called the GlenHead and I bought sweaters there, scarves and several gifts..but last summer 2019 it had closed ..what a shame …I see I got carried away..I’m not sure I will be able to go to Glencolumnkille this summer d/t restrictions r/t covid19 virus …but my heart has been going there these last few weeks

  • Just as a footnote to this great article for any future travellers to Donegal, I went to Studio Donegal in Kilcar in 2018 and bought a couple of blankets and a couple of jumpers (aka sweaters in American). I chose to ship it all direct from SD to my home in WA, USA to save me the heartache of lugging it all on the rest of my travels and back thru the airport(s) etc. AND because the shipping cost me less than I would have paid in VAT on my purchases!!! Also, although we didn’t get to Nancy’s in Ardara, we did get to the Rusty Mackerel, Teelin and enjoyed the music and food so much we went back the following night as well. I notice on their current website that, since 2018, they’ve become a specialty hotel with lots more bedrooms on site so next time we go, guess where we’ll try to stay :-).