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Cool Donegal tops National Geographic world must-visit list

The Church of the Sacred Heart at the foot of Mount Errigal in Co Donegal Pic Mal McCann

Donegal's nomination as the coolest place on earth to visit by one of the world's most important travel magazines is expected to bring a major boost to visitors to the north-west county.

The county beat Chilean capital, Santiago, Helsinki in Finland as well as Iran, Greenland and Sudan in a list of coolest places to visit by National Geographic Traveller magazine.

National Geographic Traveller is one of the world's most influential travel publications, with a place on its annual Cool List considered a major coup for nominated countries.

In a glowing tribute to Ireland's most northerly county, National Geographic said: “With a weather-nibbled coast spotted with sea stacks, blue flag beaches and offshore islands, Donegal is a land that feels undiscovered.

“Last summer, scenes for Star Wars: Episode VII were filmed on the Inishowen Peninsula. But this area of Ireland is also expecting 2017 to be a big year; there's an array of reasons to visit, from surfing beaches in Magheraroarty and Ballyhiernan Bay to Horn Head – a driving, walking or cycling loop that squeezes the 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way into a 4.5-mile nutshell.”

The magazine's editor, Pat Riddell said the annual Cool list was informed by area's which “piqued” curiosity.

“What's happening in the world, what's interesting and, most importantly, what's in it for you? We aim to answer these questions and more with our list of 17 must-visit destinations for 2017.

“From Ireland's forgotten county to the high temple of US hipsterism, from South America's hottest foodie city to Germany's art scene, we've selected the world's best place to see and be seen in the coming year.”

Mr Riddell said National Geographic believed County Donegal was on the cusp of a breakthrough and deserved to top the list which also included Seoul in South Korea and the whole of the US.

“Wilderness always feels just a stone's throw away,” he said.

Fáilte Ireland said the nomination would be a "boost to visitor growth." The tourism promotion agency said it was not surprised by the accolade.

Director of Fáilte Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way (a tourism coastal route), Orla Carroll said: “Donegal is cool and now we're delighted that the rest of the world is hearing the same.”

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