Into the Depths of Donegal

I woke up following the latest night out on this trip… or of the last several months for that matter.  Check out was at 11:00am.  We checked out no earlier than 10:59.  We had scheduled our breakfast for 9:00am, but even that was too early.  I didn’t have much of an appetite, but our host, Frank, provided us a delicious breakfast.  I managed to eat most of it, but I was definitely regretting Barry’s generosity from the night before!

We packed up the car and returned the key to Heather who’d checked us in the day previous.  We chatted for a bit and she informed us they had opened their B&B for one day to accommodate us as they had been out of town, and the next day would be leaving the country.  Though we were strangers from miles away, they definitely made us feel special.  We truly appreciated our interaction with them and their hospitality.  Frank had stepped out for a moment and Heather was hoping he’d be back before we left.  Alas, we had waited a bit and he still wasn’t there, so Heather sent us on our way.  We walked across the street and got in the car when Frank came up to my window and knocked on it.  I opened the door and started to get out, but he urged me to stay put.  He chatted with us for a moment and we said our goodbyes.  If you ever get to Boyle, Ireland, this is the place to stay.  What wonderful people!

Northbound we drove toward the more remote County Donegal.  Of course, we had a few stops along the way.  What kind of road trip would it be otherwise?  We didn’t have much time to explore Boyle the day before, so we made a quick stop at Boyle Abbey.  A beautiful sight from the outside, but according to Barry, not worth the 10£ to tour it.  We walked around the grounds and took a few photos, and then hopped back into the car to head to the next destination.

Just outside of Boyle we saw a sculpture Barry had told us about the night before.  We had actually seen one similar on our way into Boyle.  The sculpture on the way out was a knight on a horse made entirely of metal.  This piece is called the Gaelic Chieftain and is constructed from stainless steel and bronze.  He overlooks the site of the Battle of Curlew, which was fought in 1599.  The piece commemorates the Irish victory over the British.  It’s also really cool to look at.

We took another few photos and some time to enjoy the viewpoint from the top of the hill on which we’d parked.  We’d driven too far to see Boyle or the lake we’d recently passed, so decided to jump back into the car for our next exciting stop.

Within 30 minutes we arrived to a very narrow, unmarked road.  There were no homes or buildings on this road as it wound amongst open fields.  As we’d become closer to the coast, the sunny skies we had in Boyle had been reduced to dreary gray skies with low clouds.  Initially, I was disappointed, fearing conditions not ideal for taking a photo of the spectacular Benbulben.  As we neared the mountain, I realized the clouds were perfect for setting the scene around this mystical place.

Like many landscapes we’ve seen, Benbulben’s strange shape was created during the Ice Age, and is the result of erosion of the limestone and shale from which it is constituted.

This was one landmark amongst many where I felt no photo could adequately depict the beauty before me.  Photo after photo… mountain from the left and mountain straight on; all the mountain or half the mountain; with a fence and without; with the road and without… Ohhhhh, photography struggles!  Needless to say, I took plenty of pictures.  I still don’t think these photos do it justice, but it is what it is!  Just take my word for it – it was fascinating.

Out of the cloudy shadow of Benbulben, we drove closer to the coast and into the sun.  We neared a castle I had longed to see.  Privately owned, you cannot drive up to it or enter it, but I’d seen some outstanding photos online and was hoping to achieve something similar.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a road that got us close enough.  I had resolved myself to the fact that someone must have trespassed and/or had a fancy camera, superior to my iPhone 7Plus.  We decided to circle Mullaghmore Head and take a road back toward the castle and perhaps this would be the money shot!  As we drove, the top of the castle was beautiful from afar, but I couldn’t see it in its entirety.  Suddenly, the coast appeared and there was Classiebawn in all her glory!  What a beautiful sight!  I yelled with glee for Justin to pull over.  He parked our little gal and I jumped out and ran across the bouncy peat beneath my feet.  I stopped at the edge of the field, just short of the small beach with crashing waves beneath me.  The white foam encircling the jagged rocks protruding from the sand.  On the other side of the beach were large flat slabs of rock creating what I thought would be a fun waterslide into the ocean, if I had enough guts to do it!

Again, I took as many photos as possible!  The castle looked beautiful with the ocean in the forefront and I found myself slightly disappointed it was still cloudy in the backdrop.  On a clear day you can see Benbulben behind the castle.  It was still a fantastic sight, and the mystery and history of a castle makes fog and clouds seem more appropriate anyway!

Justin took some time to climb down the hill to get closer to the water.  Having worn my flip flops for the expectation of many hops out of the car for photos, I refrained from the trek down the steep hill as I didn’t think it was the most appropriate footwear.  My mom would be really mad if I ended up falling into the ocean, and I’m sure some of the photos I’ve posted to date already have her ready for my return.  (As I write this, I’m on the tarmac in a defective plane, and she’s not happy about that either).

The cold coastal wind was whipping my hair about, and I was ready to get back into the warmth of the car.  We continued to drive the Wild Atlantic Way around Mullaghmore Head, but no sooner did we start driving, we came to a scenic viewpoint… an official one.  So, of course, we had to stop!  When has one seen enough dramatic seascape scenery?  Never, I say!   We pulled off again and got some more photos.  It was gorgeous, and concealed rocks below created a violent yet beautiful swirl beyond the shore.

Once a satisfactory number of photos had been taken, we carried on through the town of Mullaghmore and further north to Glenveagh National Park.  The remainder of our drive consisted of few highways, and often single car roads.  Now a professional Ireland driver, Justin kept off the shoulder unless passing an oncoming car, at which point it was required.  We finally arrived at Glenveagh at about 4:30pm.  The park was open for quite a while longer, and we benefited by missing all the tour buses that were there earlier in the day.  Missing lunch, we had a quick bite in the café, and then took off for the nature trails.

With limited time we chose a shorter lakeside trail that would lead us to Glenveagh Castle.  The 4 kilometer walk was met with beautiful views and only a handful of people.  We also met several furry, four-legged cuties along the way.  Many people utilize the park for getting their doggies some much needed exercise.  Merrick would love the trail, and he could benefit from a few walks up and down it.  No doggie shuttle buses allowed.

At the end of the trail we arrived at Glenveagh Castle and the walled gardens.  These gardens were just as beautiful, though smaller than those we saw at Kylemore Abbey.

We meandered through the tranquil gardens and ventured out to the backside of the castle where a longer trail continued.  There was a beautiful place to take a photo so we stopped to take advantage of it.  Within seconds I was being eaten alive by bugs.  I quickly recalled a sign I’d read at Kylemore Abbey discussing the likelihood of running into “midges”.  These little nuisances were worse than mosquitos, I think.  They were much smaller and their bite stung!  I was being bitten everywhere and I couldn’t get away.  I’ve never been attacked by a swarm of bees, but I can only imagine it was something along those lines!  In my attempt to escape, I somehow managed to get one in my eye.  I had to use my Snapchat app to get it out, meanwhile, continuing to be attacked.  It was dreadful!  In light of the incident, we decided against anymore picturesque detours.

We walked back to the castle and courageously risked another midge attack by going out to the water again where there appeared to be a pool or water feature of some sort, and a boat dock.  We snapped a few more pictures and then decided to catch the shuttle bus for the 4 km return.

It was getting late and we still needed to check in to our Airbnb.  We got onto the shuttle bus and had the whole thing to ourselves.  We enjoyed the sights from our private coach as we wound back through the park to the entrance.  The empty shuttle bus was a testament to the number of people there that afternoon.  If only we could wait to see every attraction after 4:00pm!

Upon leaving the park I took advantage of the open space and scenic landscape to capture a few photos.  If I’m being honest, the road was quite heavy with traffic and we had to strategically plan each photo.  The first step included looking for traffic.  If no traffic was seen, we’d listen for traffic.  Because the area is so open and peaceful, it’s fairly easy to hear when a car is coming.  We’d then each pick a lane to watch for traffic during the photo.  It took a few tries, but we successfully and safely pulled it off.  However, if my mom asks, there wasn’t another soul on the road that day!  So uncanny!

Our route to Newmills was another pretty one.  We crested several hills that allowed us to look out over valleys filled with quaint little farm homes and fields of livestock; the smell of peat fires in the air.  We very easily found our accommodation buried deep into a farming area off the main road.  When we stepped out of the car there was complete silence except for a quiet “meow” from our welcoming party.

We stepped up to the back door and rang the doorbell.  While waiting for our host to answer, we stood back and admired the thick wooden door, painted a dark green with a beautiful old stain glassed design at the top.  After a moment without response, I rang the doorbell again.  Mr. Kitty waited with us, swirling between our feet begging for attention.  Another few moments passed and I began to get concerned.  The doorbell was clearly ringing each time as I could hear it myself from outside.  I rang it once more and took note that there was a car present.  After our third ring went unanswered I attempted to call the 2 numbers provided to me.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the call to go out.  (I later realized I had to dial additional numbers before the country code).  I finally suggested to Justin that we go grab something to eat and come back later.  He wasn’t quite as willing to give up as I was, so he went around to the front of the house to see if he could see if anyone was home.  As he rounded the corner I heard people talking.  He came back around to get me.  Our hostess, Sarah, was cooking and listening to the radio and never heard the doorbell ring… or rings. It was only when her dog noticed Justin and started barking incessantly, that she became aware of our arrival.

Despite the initial debacle, she was very friendly and quickly showed us around the house.  We would be staying in her daughter’s room.  The door was clearly marked LEILA’S ROOM and upon opening it we were met with an explosion of pink and purple.  Leila is 22 years old and was out of town with her father for the night.  We learned a lot about Leila.  Sarah is a very proud mother and took every opportunity possible to share information about her first and only.  Leila goes by Leila Jane; Jane being her middle name.  It has a better ring to it, which is necessary as she is a rising folk music singer and songwriter.  Last year she went to the States for the summer.  Sarah pulled out a homemade map Leila had made her to show her all the states to which she’d be traveling.  Sarah was curious where Missouri and Kansas were.  They were on the map, but not colored up and labeled like some of the other more important destinations like Manhattan, NY and Nashville, TN.  Somehow Ohio made the list, though.

We had a nice conversation with Sarah, but then decided to go grab something to eat – partly because the little snack at Glenveagh wasn’t sufficient, and partly because Sarah’s dog was driving us nuts jumping and jumping and biting and jumping.  I think she needs to take her dog for a few TEN) walks at Glenveagh.  She acknowledged she has no idea how to train her dog.  It’s quite evident without her admission.

After an unimpressive dinner nearby, we returned back to Sarah’s charming little farmhouse and fell asleep to the sound of the countryside.




2018-09-04T11:53:02-05:00By |Ireland, Journal|0 Comments

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