Donegal App leaps forward

The Donegal App encapsulates the full wonder of nearly 5000 hectares of the most beautiful part of Ireland onto the device you carry in your pocket. Download it for free and plan your holiday by ‘favouriting’ all the places you liked the look of in one handy folder. When you get to Donegal it comes into its own as a practical guide to helping you find these places with ease.

On this Leap Day 2016, the Donegal App celebrates its birthday having launched on Leap Day 2012. At the time, it had only five tours, had a very basic website, a rather naff logo, no turn by turn guidance, no audio or video and only this somewhat zany promo video to accompany the launch. It was done on a budget of zilch by one fellow then living up in the wilds of Inishowen, with no support from either the Council or the State via Failte Ireland. Since the 2012 launch, the app’s production company, Headland New Media has become Racontour Productions and its founder, John Ward, now lives in London.

2012 was a good year to launch as Donegal managed to win the All Ireland Football Final in September. There was a great sense of excitement in the air and the countryside was resplendently bedecked in the county colours as everyone will remember from that Summer, Jimmy was winning matches and nowhere parties better than Donegal as we lifted the Sam McGuire cup on the 23rd of September 2012. We even managed to inveigle the then Donegal Senior Football manger Jim McGuinness to join in our guerrilla marketing campaign with this cheeky little presentation:-

Yes yes, we know – cheeky and a tad cheesy, but fun! Some fans might remember our more polished Play It Again Sam video that online sports journal called the most epic promo video in advance of an All Ireland football final ever made no less!

Over time and with the advance of technology, the Donegal App began using the full range of features a smart phone offered. You could see on a map where a location was and with the click a button that would give you turn by turn directions to that place. Liked the golf course you just read about? Click the phone number and you could make an appointment or you could email them or look at their website or a YouTube video on the course. It certainly seemed a long way from how the GPS travel concept appeared to the producer, John Ward, back in February 2010 when it was primarily designed for sat nav devices and apps were but a twinkle in the eye: –

Each year, we added new details and tours piece by piece. Commercial entities that feature on the app are either because they are highly rated on Trip Advisor, Facebook, have been visited by the app’s producers at some point or have a good reputation. A business can’t just get on it via a cheque and it is subject to annual review, but membership really is just a token amount to cover the cost of the annul badges that are sent to the members. Thanks must go to Kelly Group for sponsorship and Geovative in the US for back end development of the app. In 2013, we enlisted and indeed rechristened Don Draper to help us promote the app’s special appeal to those missing home. Give the video a minute and you’ll see what we mean: –

Today the app offers eight separate tours: –

Donegal’s Arts and Heritage
Donegal’s Activities
Donegal Bay and Yeats Country
Best of Inishowen
Best of Ulster
Donegal’s Greatest ‘shrines’
Donegal’s Great Outdoors
Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Gems

In addition, the Donegal App website’s dropdown menu will give you access to our free sister app, The Bluestack Way App which is packed with over a hundred audio clips and every conceivable piece of information you could wish to know along the 51km route from Donegal Town to Ardara via Glenties. Primarily designed for walkers, it requires 70 meg alone for the audio and so it is a better fit as a stand alone offering.

Each tour on the Donegal App is deceptively simply at first glance, but there’s a lot of information to hand on further examination. Take your time to explore each one and use the Categories section, the Search section and click the star in the top right hand side of the actual point of interest to save that place in the handy Favourites folder. For 2014, to coincide with the official launch of the Wild Atlantic Way, we rebooted our 2012 tour of the Wild Atlantic (yep, two years before Failte Ireland got their act together!) and combined some places that are marked along the official route together with our own favourites along the way.

By 2015, we had added a full tour of the counties of Ulster, a tour of the wonderful peninsula of Inishowen in north Donegal and our Donegal Bay and Yeats Country tour to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Yeats’s birthday in nearby Sligo, his spiritual home. A full two day audio tour of the best Yeats sites is on offer and has gone down well with Yeats enthusiasts with the audio kicking in as you approach each and every place of interest. Nothing else quite like it exists in Ireland for combining stories with technology.

With the 2016 version of the Donegal App released this month,  the north west offers the world a comprehensive multimedia smart travel guide with close to 600 places of interest included on it. Android and iPhone smart phones now have turn-by-turn technology just like Garmin and TomTom sat navs do with the app. Effectively with one handy device in your pocket, you can now do the following for free with the simple click of a button:

– Be guided turn-by-turn with a voice to your destination.
– Call your destination e.g. ring to book a tee time at a golf course.
– View your destination’s website or email them direct.
– Be up to date on that point of interest with their social media details.
– Read our informed review on what the point of interest offers.
– See a picture of what the point of interest looks like.
– Watch the most interesting YouTube video we could find about the place.

For 2016, we’ve added in an audio introduction to our Greatest Shrines tour as well as rebooting dozens of audio pieces from our Best of Inishowen tour. Fans of Inishowen might also enjoy our Rambling House radio series which explored the many stories of Inishowen over a six part series.

Both in helping you plan your trip (save what you like as a Favourite to build up an itinerary) and in helping you find the places when you get here, you are in great hands with the Donegal App. It’s really only the weather you’ll be leaving to chance on your trip to the north west! Spread the word, follow us on Twitter or Facebook and as you’ll see from our latest promo video, may the force be with you!