In the Caledonides of northwestern Ireland there is little evidence for the crystalline basement to the Dalradian Supergroup, though ascertaining its nature is a critical prerequisite for palaeogeographical reconstructions. In Donegal a lamprophyre intrusion has sampled material with isotopic composition, age and fabrics that permit the investigation of the hidden basement of this region. U–Pb and Lu–Hf isotopes in concert with structural analysis are used to elucidate the origin of three morphologically distinct zircon populations from the lamprophyre. The first of these comprises c. 828 to c. 1660 Ma rounded inherited grains. The second population, of 476 ± 3 Ma large xenocrystic grains, displays oscillatory zoned cores embayed by cross-cutting overgrowths, implying a multi-stage magmatic genesis. The third population, of 437 ± 5 Ma high aspect ratio euhedral grains, is interpreted to date the magmatic crystallization of the lamprophyre. Hf isotopic data from the Silurian and Neo- to Mesoproterozoic zircons yield crustal residence ages of 1.0–2.3 Ga. However, the Ordovician grains have ϵHfi values of c. −20 and model ages of 2.7–2.8 Ga. These data are consistent with the presence of either Archaean crust or an underthrust Ordovician magmatic rock with an Archaean source component, at depth in NW Ireland. Felsic xenoliths, interpreted to be derived from the country rock Dalradian metasediments, exhibit a pre-entrainment foliation and are randomly oriented relative to the foliation within the lamprophyre matrix, indicating deformation prior to c. 437 Ma, probably related to the Grampian orogeny. The host lamprophyre contains a magmatic foliation parallel to a foliation in the country rock, implying synkinematic emplacement during regional NW–SE compression at 437 Ma.