If you’re reading this, you’re on the cutting edge. Whether you know it or not, you are being let in on a cultural secret, nay phenomenon. Count yourself lucky to be one of the few people worldwide who is getting it from the horse’s mouth: Donegal, my native land, is an undiscovered gem of natural beauty. “How beautiful?” says you. Only beautiful and unique enough to garner the attention of National Geographic. Did you hear what title that August publication bestowed upon Donegal last year? Only the “coolest spot in the world.” Not just Ireland. Not just Europe. But the whole world.

I come from Donegal – the Inishowen peninsula. It is the most northerly point (Malin Head) of Ireland. It is far off the beaten track, which might make me wonder, should I really be telling the whole world about us? Might it make more sense to keep it to ourselves? It might. After all, the reason why it is viewed in such an exalted position is due to its wild remoteness. Millions of visitors with cameras would most likely get in the way, but that’s how we are in Donegal. We’re open and inviting and we always have time to chat. We know there’s another world out there, many of us have even visited it, but it doesn’t change who we are.

Speaking of other worlds, the Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, took photos from space of Donegal, more specifically the Inishowen peninsula. I was up in Inishowen, in Malin Head, writing my memoir when the photos started to first appear. Astronaut Hadfield became an overnight hero for the Irish. It is ironic when you consider the fact that the area has existed since the beginning of time, yet it took a man in a space ship to leave the earth behind and photograph the natural beauty from above to make such an impact.

Hopefully you will all enjoy the accompanying photographs of my homeland, taken by photographer Christy Nicholas (aka Green Dragon), and the striking beauty will fill you with as much awe as it always has for me.