Friday, August 08, 2014

County Donegal

We finally got up to County Donegal for bank holiday weekend. We were once again fortunate to dodge a lot of rain (started while in the car, stopped when we arrived). This is a beautiful area and due to its proximity from Dublin, most tours stay away.

Friday afternoon we drove to Belleek, a small town on the Ireland/NI border that is known for its pottery. We booked a little bar B&B there and then drove to Donegal town for dinner. I thought more of the town was on the water, but the bay barely makes it in to the town. After a brief walk through town, we ate at a restaurant that was top rated, but it really wasn't any good (except for their sticky toffee pudding). We then walked out by the docks and ended up at the old Friary and Abbey Cemetery. This was a pretty area against the setting sun.

The next morning we got up and went next door to the Belleek Pottery factory for a tour. It was a nice little tour and Kacey even got away with a little something extra. We then stopped by the SuperValu to grab some lunch food to eat while driving to Slieve League Cliffs. We also stopped at Wool N Things in Donegal, and the Donegal Craft Village, for Kacey to check out the goods.

We got to Slieve League and the parking was a little confusing. There was a small area for parking, packed with a few cars waiting to park. There was a small road that looked blocked off, possibly for services. After we got parked, we noticed a few cars going in and out, but we started the walk. After a tough walk along the road, we realized at the end that we could have driven and saved the legs. The views were quite nice. I only walked about half way up the hill because it didn't really look like the views of the cliffs would get better. Our next thoughts were to try to drive part of Rick Steves drive near Bunbeg and Dunfanaghy but people were tired and it was raining pretty good, so by Glenties, we changed course to Letterkenny for our hotel.

The next day our first stop was Glenveagh National Park to see the castle. We arrived right after a few tours did so we had quite a wait to get in. The castle is small but has very nice grounds and great views on the lake. The rain started right as we got in the car for our drive to Bunbeg. The fog was way too thick to see Mount Errigal, but I am sure the west side of it is quite beautiful. We got to Bunbeg and what we thought was town was quite small as expected. The only place we saw for lunch was a little slow and as we left town, we saw that town was a bit bigger than we thought. We drove out to the beach and once again it was a stunning view. The drive north was nice and scenic, and the rain kept trying to come, but never too much. We stopped at Cnoc Fola, which is the Hill of Blood or Bloody Foreland due to the color of the heather at sunset. We stopped at the Dunfanaghy Work House, but didn't go in as we wanted to get to a couple other places still.

Next we drove out to Horn Head. The views here are pretty nice, even when it is trying to rain. We also drove over to the WWII shelter, which can be seen to the west of Horn Head. Our next stop was just outside of Derry, an old ring fort. Grianan Ailligh is a 2000 year old fort (restored over 100 years ago) with grand views of the hillsides all around. After letting the kids run a bit, we drove in to Derry to our B&B. We drove around the old walled town and the murals a bit to see them without having to walk around in the rain.

The next morning we drove around the murals again and took some decent pictures, but we had to get on the road to make it to Malin Head, and then home. Originally we had hoped to drive the Inishowen 100, but we knew we didn't have for it. We decided to drive straight to Malin and see a few things up there. We started at Five Finger Strand. This is a big, beautiful beach area where low tides reveal what look like fingers. We played here a bit and collected shells. Then we drove to Malin Head. This was getting a bit crowded for parking, but we got in. Nolan and I hiked down toward the Head point. What I learned is that the marker is actually located on a set of rocks separated from the mainland by a raging ocean and steep cliffs. We were fortunate that the weather was absolutely gorgeous this day and the view and hike were nice. Next we drove south on the Inishowen 100/Wild Atlantic Way toward Malin town to find lunch. There were more nice views along the way. We stopped at this place that looked like a community center that was also serving lunch. We stopped at Northern Bites and it was nice with good people and information. We learned about a few other sites to see, so we set out with new GPS coordinates and sites.

We now knew where Wee House of Malin was, and it was close. So we saw this little cave and old cottage, with again, nice views of the ocean. We also set out to see a few high crosses on our way south, as well as an old stone circle. The Bocan Stone Circle was in a guy's field, and we parked in the mud. We then set out for a high cross, but the GPS coordinates led to some guy's field with no cross. Next we drove for Carrowmore Cross and found Cloncha Cross and church, the one we couldn't find! Too funny. Carrowmore crosses are just in a field with no where to stop really, but we did anyway. We set out for home via Moville, where we stopped for Cooly cross, in a little cemetery with a few sheep grazing inside. They were all great to see and learn about.

Donegal is beautiful and not too busy due to being far from tours and Dublin. I now see why the Wild Atlantic Way is quickly becoming quite popular.

Pictures can be found here.

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