Ardara. Image © Donegal County Council
Ardara, one of the five designated heritage towns in Donegal, is situated in the beautiful south west region of Donegal.
Close by is the Owenea River, where the salmon and trout fishing is widely regarded as one of the best in the country. Just outside the town is the spectacular Glengesh Pass on the road to Glencolumbkille. The town boasts top class blue flag beaches and a first rate links golf course.
The name Ard a Ratha which means ‘high hill of the fort’ comes from the earthen ring-fort, which crowns the hill to the northeast of the town. Christianity was introduced to Ardara in the 6th century by St. Conall Caol who was a direct descendant of St. Colmcille.
From the middle of the 17th century to the end of the 19th century the Nesbitt Family of Woodhill was closely associated with the commercial prosperity of Ardara
Ardara has been long associated with the tweed and knitwear industries. From the 1870’s this trade became a cottage industry with home spun and hand dyed woollen and tweed items being created. The Ardara Heritage Centre, formally the town Courthouse, profiles the development of the tweed industry. To this day several shops in the town still sell high quality tweed and knitwear.
Ardara lays claim to some notable sons/daughters. Foremost among these is John Doherty born in 1900, one of the most revered Irish Fiddlers of the 20th century, a true exponent of the Donegal style. In sporting circles the Captain of the 1992 All-Ireland GAA Championship, Anthony Molloy, is an Ardara man as is Pat Shovlin who is a coach to the 2012 Senior All-Ireland GAA holders of the Sam Maguire. Bibi Baskin, a notable name in media circles during the 70’s and 80’s also boasts Ardara heritage.
John Mitchel MP, the 19th century revolutionary nationalist leader visited Ardara, staying at the Nesbitt Arms (then called Maloney’s Hotel).
William Allingnham, Donegal’s famous poet (The Faeries) also stayed in this Hotel. Evie Hone the renowned stained glass practitioner features in Ardara’s Holy Family Church. Her beautiful Rose Window has been acclaimed worldwide.