Art & Culture

The Highlands Hotel and the town of Glenties had the privilege to be associated with one of the country’s literary geniuses, the playwright Brian Friel.

Having spent many summers holidaying in Glenties with his aunts, the town is now considered the setting for many of his most famous works, including Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), which toured to the West End and Broadway, and was made into a film starring Meryl Streep. Indeed, Meryl Streep stayed in the Highlands for the film’s Irish premiere in 1998.

Brian Friel was a regular visitor to the hotel, and a celebration of his work swept through the town in 2008, when the Patrick MacGill Summer School honoured his literary achievements with ‘A Feast of Friel’.

The author Patrick MacGill hailed from Glenties and despite leaving school early, went on to pen a series of renowned novels and poems which detailed his life as a migrant worker in Ulster and in Scotland. MacGill’s works highlight the plight of emigrant workers in Britain at the beginning of the twentieth century and the horrors of the Great War in which he fought. His works are still being published and widely read.

The Patrick MacGill Summer School has been in existence for over thirty years. The School has, in that time, brought together speakers representing all walks of public life in Ireland – North and South – to analyse and debate topics of major national interest. The School’s themes have included Emigration & Employment (1988), Education in Ireland (1989), The Constitution of Ireland 1937-1987(1987), Northern Ireland – The Future (1986) and, more recently, Drugs and Alcohol in Ireland – Use and Abuse (2001). In 2002 the School dealt with the issues surrounding the Nice Referendum, Nice – The Arguments, The Debate, The Facts and these proceedings were consequently published. The 2003 proceedings were published under the title: “Why Not? Building a Better Ireland”. In the following year the title of the book was “Political Choice & Democratic Freedom in Ireland” which was the theme of the MacGill school and, in the 25th year of the school, its proceedings were published under the title “Managing Ireland’s Future 2005-2030”. The 2006 book was entitled: “The Soul of Ireland-Issues of Society, Culture and Identity” and was published by the Liffey Press, as was last year’s publication, “The Challenge for Government”. All publications were edited by the founder/director of the MacGill Summer School, Joe Mulholland, former managing director of RTE Television.

Visit MacGill Summer School Website

The Highland’s Hotel hosts a permanent art exhibition featuring works by local artist, Johnny Boyle. Johnny is widely regarded as one of Donegal’s finest landscape artists. Surrounded by the magnificent beauty of South West Donegal, Johnny’s work continues to return to the hilly slopes of Carnaween, to the glorious Gweebarra and to the fishing boats of Killybegs. The rugged beauty of Johnny’s native county has been an unending source of inspiration in his work, and he has worked tirelessly over the years to develop his style in an attempt to capture the magic that exhales from the hills and bays of Donegal.

Johnny Boyle’s work has been selected for exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Academy and at the Royal Ulster Academy where he won an award. He has won many awards at the Annual Easter Exhibition at the Glebe Gallery Churchill and has shown at Iontas, the prestigious National Small Works Exhibition. Internationally, Johnny has exhibited in Holland, Germany and the United States. The lovingly executed landscapes that are a central feature of the hotel are imbued with the weather of Ireland’s northerly regions. Racing clouds, changing light, rain, winds and even the odd shard of sunlight.

The Gallery also exhibits paintings from a range of other local artists including Gay O Toole and Mick Power, as well as a number of paintings from Johnnys private collection from renowned Irish artists such as Lawson Burch.

The Highland’s Hotel has long been associated with Donegal traditional music and in particular fiddle music. Regular sessions take place in the hotel bar, often featuring the well-known brothers Jimmy and Vincent Campbell and Jimmy’s son Peter. The Fiddler’s Weekend takes place in the hotel in October of every year and is one of the most well known traditional music events in the country.