For those of you who have not been keeping score, in the past 4 months we’ve had 19 visitors pass through and visited three other countries (Italy, Spain, Scotland), in addition to traveling all around Ireland with great friends and family. It has been busy, but really such a blast. I am ready for our six weeks of down time before round 2 starts off in mid-October.
We capped off the summer of fun with a trip to Donegal with our wonderful friends, Tracy and Ramona. Here is a picture from the the Shannon airport.
We rushed them into the car and drove three hours to a pub 30 mins outside of Sligo, called the Beach Bar. It was dark by the time we got there, but the beer was cold. We woke up to a beautiful beach view and a full Irish breakfast (eggs, sausage, bacon, beans, grilled tomato, sauteed mushrooms, and all you can eat toast). We got a walk in on the beach, then spent the day exploring Fermanagh (the land of Ramona’s grandfather). We found some good Irish weather (rainy and sunny all at once), and an Irish traffic jam.
We visited Castle Caldwell then went out to Boa Island and explored a cemetery and had a picnic near the ferry to Lusty Beg Island. I took a selfie with a cool stone man at the cemetery.
After a visit to a stone circle, we were off to our destination in Donegal, Glencolumbkille. We stayed two nights at Roarty’s Bar. We filled the time with beautiful beach walks, a hike at the Slieve League cliffs, and perhaps a few pints and games of Quirkle. There is an Irish folk music school in town, so there was wonderful traditional music both nights at Roarty’s. Ramona might have even gotten her dance on.
Next, we drove up the coast and east across the heart of Donegal to Rathmullen. Bret and my favorite Irish craft Brewery, Kinnegar, is in Rathmullen. We were hoping to visit the brewery and sample some of their goods, but we missed the visiting days and hours. We stayed a really lovely B and B, the Glenalla Lodge. It was in the middle of
nowhere scenic Irish farmland, but the hosts were lovely and the full Irish breakfast was enormous and delicious.
The next day, we took the scenic route back toward Glenveagh National Park and had a hike out to the Astaleen waterfall in the Derryveagh mountains and visited the lovely Glenveagh Castle.
That night, we stayed at the Lagoon outside of Kilmacrenan. It was an interesting place… a loud, swearing drunk caused a bit of a scene and we chatted up with a family of Americans who were celebrating Dad’s birthday. Not our favorite spot, but it was a place to stay with good food, cheap red wine, and eventually a warm shower.
At the suggestion of our new American friends, we ventured north to Dunfanaghy before we started the long haul south. It was a cute town with a lovely harbor and a spectacular beach.
We stopped at a really neat megolithic cemetery outside of Sligo called Carrowmore. There are close to 50 tombs at the site that are almost 5000 years old, with a large central passage tomb that all the others are directed towards. Luckily, the site was saved from becoming a dump in the late 1980s by some concerned citizens and it is now a historic site with a visitor’s center and everything.
Our stop for the evening was Fallon’s b&b in Kinvarra. This was my second trip to Kinvarra, no room at the strange Rowen’s this time though. Fallon’s was a nice substitute though and the breakfast was yummy. Kinvarra is a cute town with a well kept castle. We explored the castle the following morning, then headed on towards the Burren.
After we visited the only bean to bar chocolate factory in the Burren area, we had a nice hike in the windy, cloudy weather and managed to avoid more than a sprinkle. The Burren is a small area (250 sq km) of Karst landscape (made up mostly of carbonate rocks, limestone and dolomite). The area was a tropical reef 350 million years ago and now supports a grassland with an incredible diversity of plants and animals. Over 70% of Ireland 900 native plant species can be found in this small area! In addition, the area has a long history of human settlement and there are still many megolithic structures, celtic high crosses, stone forts, and an early 13th century monastery. Wow, it was pretty incredible.
The day was just getting started, however! Next stop was the Cliffs of Moher (the Cliffs of Insanity from the Princess Bride). I forgot to bring my camera, but I am sure Bret will add some great photos! We had a nice time walking the cliffs, but we couldn’t avoid the rain this go around and the wind was very strong. The cliff are pretty awe-inspiring. From there, we hit the road back to Cork City for a few days in the home town.
Bret had to head back to work the next morning, but the rest of us took it easy for the next two days. We did a little exploring and forest walking and perhaps some shopping. Friday night we watched a hurling match in the rain at the local St. Finbarr’s Gaelic Sports Club.
By the weekend, we were ready to hit the road again. We drove out to the Beara peninsula. First stop, a little shopping at the woolen mills in Glengariff. Then we checked in at the hostel, The Hungry Hill Lodge, and found a delicious lunch in Castletownbere at the Copper Kettle. In the afternoon, we took a cable car over to Dursey island off the tip of the peninsula. Dursey island is currently inhabited by only 6 full-time residents, although the summer population is a bit larger. It was once home to a much larger population. 300 people were massacred there in 1603 after the English defeat of the Irish in Kinsale, along with many more from the Beara penisula as they fled to Leitrim. The cable car that connects the island to the mainland over the Dursey sound can apparently hold six people, 2 heifers, or 4 sheep. We had a beautiful sun-shiney day hike up to the Signal tower. The dwarf gorse was in full bloom and the sheep were pretty friendly.
We also had beautiful views of the Iveragh peninsula in the distance.
We loved the Hungry Hill Lodge. The host, Owen, was an incredibly friendly Brit and the hostel had great facilities.
The next day, we were not quite as lucky with the weather, but we found another lovely hike on the Beara. We had spotted the Mare’s Tail waterfall from the main road and hoped to get to it, but the road was cut off by private land that we were unsure about crossing on one side and very cliffy landscape on the other. The Mare’s Tail, may or may not be Ireland’s tallest waterfall according to local sources. It’s other claim to fame was being dyed red for a scene in the vampire movie Byzantium. Although we did not make it to the Mare’s Tail, we did find another pretty spectacular waterfall and got drench in the rain in the process.
The rest of the day found us slowly making our way back to Cork City, with only a few delays for views and sheep traffic.
and yes, that is a two-way road.
It was very sad to part ways with Ramona and Tracy the next day, but we had another excellent adventure to add to the list (we visited them when they lived in Ethiopia and worked as Peace Corp volunteers)!
And, my sweet husband cheered me up a surprise bouquet of flowers.