Part Two: Donegal

Our first order of the day waste clean out the AirBnB and get the kids safely to the airport.  There was substantial food left in the refrigerator but with Keenan at the stove a good deal of it went into the egg scramble.  I cleaned out the car to see if there were any loose socks or souvenirs tucked away in a nook and cranny.  Seana’s greatest task was fitting all of her new treasures into her luggage.  She had wisely picked up an inexpensive duffel bag to assist.  Even with Bill sitting on top of her suitcase, the zipper would not shut.  It took Packing Effort #2 before success was achieved.

This had been a great location and place to stay.  The washer/dryer was included.  I was able to leave with all of my clothes cleaned and dried, as did Keenan and Seana.  We each had a private room with Keenan’s being the only one without an ensuite bath.  It was perhaps 3 blocks from downtown and right across the street from an enormous Dunnes store that had any and everything you might need during your stay.  The price was also affordable.much more affordable than staying at one of the local hotels would have been.  Score!

We were loading into the car by 10:00 a.m. for the half hour trip to the airport.  Once at the drop off my darling charges were off-loaded to find their ways back home.  It was a profound moment for me; the realization of a dream.

Trip #2 started with a long drive to County Donegal located in the far NW corner of Ireland.  Bill and I had already explored the Wild Atlantic Way from Dublin to Clifden and I wanted to focus on another location.  Near Sligo we stopped at Drumcliff, the location of the grave of W.B. Yeats, but also an amazing view of the mountain named, Benbulben.  There is quite a range of these mountain plateaus popping up in this area.  In my memory I recall mention of “The Twelve Bens” and I wonder if Benbulben isn’t one of them.  

There is also a high cross at Drumcliff that depicts several scenes from the Bible including the fall of Cain and Abel.  High crosses often had Biblical lessons on them.  This was is estimated to have been built in the 11th. Century. 

Just past Drumcliff there was a sign pointing the way to a hiking trail. We had no intention of going hiking but I thought we’d at least pop up that road to see what we could see. What we saw was a stunning view of the mountain.

Benbulben

From there it was on to Donegal.  I’d asked Bill if he wanted to visit the castle since he’d seen none since his most recent arrival in Ireland.  He didn’t object so we drove into town finding the streets teaming with people on a Sunday afternoon.  I parked our car at the post office but after a brief moment of reflection, we decided not to brave the crowds and to instead continue our journey north.  As it turns out, right across the street from the castle a hearse and arrived bearing the coffin of someone obviously very beloved.  That explained the throngs of people and Garda directing traffic.  A quick stop for gas and we were off.

We were surprised at what good time we had made on this journey.  I had expected to drive at least 5 hours but we’d managed it to be closer to 4.  That gave us time on this mostly cloudy and blustery day, to view Slieve League.  These are cliffs that are said to be the highest in Europe.  I had researched them a bit prior to our arrival.  The most valuable piece of information I had garnered concerned the visitors’ center.  Once arriving at the visitor’s center there is a gate that prevents you and sheep from intermingling.  If one only opens and closes this gate, you can still drive to the top versus taking the 1.5 mile steeply inclined trail.  You betcha!  Bill was on it.  We drove the narrow, twisted road up the barren Donegal hillsides to the top viewpoint.  Once arrived we were both shocked by the absolutely bracing wind and, I would add, wind chill!  Bill added additional layers before we walked to some of the best views available. 

Slieve League

With so many clouds shrouding the cliffs every picture taken was a little different.  A spot of sunlight would break out and quickly dissipate even though we were standing in the sunshine the majority of the time.  We lingered here a while.  I had no real idea of how long it would take for us to drive to our B&B in Ardara but we thought it wise to continue on.  There was a spur road out of Carrick that I’d seen coming from the south with a directional sign toward Ardara.  Coming from the other direction, that sign was not visible. Once we turned onto the road we verified that it was indeed destined to get us to Ardara.  Yet another narrow, twisting road to another magical location.

I had selected “The Green Gate” as our lodgings for the next 4 nights.  It was said to be “quirky”.  Using Bill’s GPS we managed to located the first sign to the place on a small white placard with a green gate painted onto it.  The road was truly nothing but a two-track with no where to pull over if we’d met another car.  Once we pulled into the drive the warning beeps on the car went off on each side all the way up the drive.  Unfortunately, Bill and I are stuck with a station wagon for the 2 of us.  This is not the way to travel in Ireland if you can avoid it!  

We arrived at the top of a hill that provided beautiful views of the harbor below.  Soon after we were greeted by a happy Jack Russel terrier named (we found out later of course), “Bob” or “Robert”.  We made our way around several low squatty buildings and found our way into the small main house, filled with Paula and her friend.  The ladies were in the process of sprucing up the dining area but had spent the day gabbing instead with everything a bit asunder.  They were both delightful and we joined there for some cider and a beer.  Paula is a great conversationalist and told us much of the history of The Green Gate.  That history included the story of the second to last owner of the property who was born in that house, as was her father.  We were shown to our room which is akin to staying in a tiny cottage.  Bill has to duck a bit to fit in some of it – definitely to get into the bathroom.  Even I have to duck to do that, but it is charmingly different than anywhere we’ve stayed before.  I can see outside through the crack in the cabin door and breakfast is served whenever we feel like getting up!  

After we unloaded our belongings, we headed back into town to Nancy’s for some grub.  Nancy’s has a great reputation for food.  Unfortunately for Bill, they have about one item on the menu that is not seafood.  Go figure, stay at the coast and you’re going to find all kinds of fresh seafood… and one burger.  

Nancy’s

 It was my second time having hake, a type of mild fish with a texture like cod.  It was served with peas and new potatoes and was quite delicious.  From Nancy’s we walked to the Corner House and settled into see if we could stay awake long enough to catch some traditional music.  Here we found an honest-to-goodness public house (e.g. pub).  As the evening wore on people started filling the place.  They all seemed to know each other and sat in little clusters.  I sat by the fireplace with a genuine fire therein.  The lighting was adequate but certainly not the glare of LED lights.  Once the place got busy, a woman (who had appeared to be a customer) popped behind the bar to help serve drinks.  We watched several couples (who we identified as visitors) come and go while we sat hunkered in our corner.  I’d say we’ve been in friendlier pubs before, but we are patient.  I think if we make a return trip we’ll be rewarded with more conversation as two familiar faces instead of one-and-done visitor. 

The live music was provided by one gentleman with a guitar.  There was a mix of Irish and folksy tunes.  He encouraged folks to sing along if they knew the words.  I’m sorry to admit that I usually take no encouragement at all!  Imagine this:  Sitting by a peat fire in a wee fireplace, sipping on a bit of Bailey’s Irish cream, whilst singing along to U2’s “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”  It wasn’t exactly “The Cliffs of Doneen” but it worked for me!  We managed to hold out until nearly 10:30 p.m. before heading home.  I’d have preferred to make that drive in the daylight but it was fast slipping away as I headed up another twisted lane to our spot.  Once in we happily settled down for our well-earned rest.

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