In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described County Donegal like this:
Donegal.-- maritime co., Ulster Province, Ireland; is bounded W. and N. by the Atlantic Ocean, E. by cos. Londonderry and Tyrone, and S. by cos. Fermanagh and Leitrim and Donegal Bay; greatest length, NE. and SW., 84 m.; greatest breadth, NW. and SE., 41 m.; average breadth, 28 m.; coast-line, about 166 m.; area, 1,197,154 ac., or 5'8 per cent, of the total area of Ireland, consisting of 1,174,274 ac. land and 22,880 ac. water; pop. 206,035, of whom 76.5 per cent, are Roman Catholics, 12 Episcopalians, 10 Presbyterians, and 1 Methodists. ...
The coast is bold and rugged, and is penetrated with several far-reaching indentations. The chief inlets are Loughs Foyle and Swilly, which are separated by the Inishowen peninsula, Mulroy Bay, Sheep Haven, Gweebarra and Donegal bays; the boldest headlands are Malin, Bloody Foreland, and Malinmore; and of numerous islands the largest are North Arran, or Arranmore, and Holy Island. The surface is mostly barren and mountainous. Mount Errigal, the loftiest summit, is 2460 ft. high. There are numerous bogs and lakes, the largest lake being Lough Derg, in the SE. The mountain streams are small, but numerous, and their estuaries abound in salmon and other fish. The river Foyle forms a part of the E. border, and the Erne flows about 10 m. through the SE. corner before entering the sea. Mica slate and granite are the prevailing rocks; limestone and marble are abundant. On the W. coast spade husbandry is practised, and agriculture is generally backward; oats, flax, and potatoes are the prevailing crops. (For agricultural statistics, see Appendix.) The inhabitants of the coast and islands are chiefly employed in the fisheries and in the making of kelp from sea-weed. The mfr. of linen, worsted, and muslin is carried on in a few of the principal towns. The co. comprises the bars. of Banagh, Boylagh, Inishowen (East and West), Kilmacrennan, Raphoe (North and South), and Tirhugh; 51 pars.; and the towns of Ballyshannon and Letterkenny. For parl. purposes it is divided into 4 divisions, viz., North, West, East, and South, 1 member for each division; the representation was increased 2 members in 1885.
Vision of Ireland presents long-run change by redistricting historical statistics to modern units. However, none of our modern units covers an area close to that of County Donegal. If you want trends covering a particular location within the county, find it on our historical maps and then select "Tell me more".
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of County Donegal | Map and description for the county, A Vision of Ireland through Time.
Date accessed: 18th January 2017
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