It was another leisurely morning. As the only guests at The Green Gate we got Paula’s full attention. I have to admit that initially I thought she was a tad bit over-the-top but I’ve come to look forward to her stories and the histories she shares about Ireland. For one, when she talks about “The War” and having been raised during the war, she means the war between Great Britain and the IRA. She shares her opinions and experiences openly and with the art of a story-teller. She is emphatic about England’s policy toward the Irish during the great famine and that it was simply “starvation”. Many of the Irish that survived did so because they “took the soup”. There were soup kitchens available; however, the Catholic Irish would have to convert to the protestant Church of England in order to eat. There was great shame associated with that. Some of our conversations would include American politics as well. The bottom line is, she has become our best Irish acquaintance during this trip! Time spent with her is really time getting to know Ireland.
The day was a bit misty and chilly but at least not rainy. We decided to visit Glenveagh National Park. The park exists in large part due to the Derryveigh Evictions that occurred in April of 1861. At that time the lands were owned by a man who became known as “Black Jack” Adair. Mr. Adair owned the lands but leased much of the 15,000+ acreage to poor Irish farmers. Because they paid their rent he had no grounds to evict them until one of his employees was murdered. There was an old Norman law at the time, that a whole community could take the punishment for such a crime. Mr. Adair sent 200 soldiers to route over 250 individuals from their homes. The structures were destroyed and the people forced into the streets, destitute and homeless; however, Mr. Adair increased his land holdings substantially. After a few months, it was agreed that the able-bodied young men in this group could be sent to Australia where perhaps they would fare better.
Today, after changing hands multiple times, Glenveagh is now a National Park consisting of 40,873 acres. The most recent private owner was an American who donated the land to Ireland in 1981. There are walking trails, as well as a manor house (referred to as “Glenveagh Castle”) and gardens. We took a lovely drive via Churchill to the park that at time skirted along an abandoned railway. It was amusing to see sheep laying in the tracks and horses grazing their way around. Once at the park we took the Lazy Man’s route to the castle by riding the very inexpensive bus!
We scheduled our tour of the manor at 3:30 p.m. and spent time in the gardens and sipping coffees while we waited. Although I was impressed with the size and dimensions of the manor, it is maintained as it would have been at the time of the last owner in 1980s. There are some lovely historic pieces as well but nothing particularly “castle-y” about it. After the tour we wandered up a trail to several viewing points before catching a bus back to our car.
It was a lovely way to spend a couple hours on a (now) sunny day in Ireland. At an overlook of Mt. Errigal I emptied the last of Mom’s ashes. I had forgotten her for a couple days and did not want to run the risk of leaving “her” in the car when we returned it.
By the time we got to Glenties, it was time for the dinner discussion (e.g. “Where do you want to eat?”). Firmly establishing that Bill did not want seafood, we decided to try out the Highlands Hotel for dinner. True to form, Bill ordered foreign food (fajitas) from an Irish kitchen. I was quite amused by his tomato sauce covered pieces of chicken, peppers, and onions. He declared that it was good and tasty; though I doubt he would have admitted otherwise to me! I enjoyed delicious salmon with barley and chorizo risotto. There were two children rolling around that restaurant on shoe roller-blades and one on a scooter that nearly took out our table when she fell! We figured (later confirmed) that the only ones who could be allowed to do that probably belonged to the owners. It was annoying if not irritating.
Prior to this trip I had searched for “hidden gems” and “off the beaten path” suggestions for Donegal. One such place was just outside of Ardara, beyond the Assaranca Waterfall. We headed out only to take the wrong road to the waterfall again! It’s never easy to turn around a station wagon (that shifts with your left hand) in a narrow road but I am mastering that feat. Within a few minutes we were on the way to the waterfall.
Along the harbor we saw what looked like rows and rows of narrow tables set in the shallow water. As we got closer we could tell that they were actually racks with seaweed laid across them. (Paula explained to us later that dried seaweed was used as a thickening agent and for medicinal cures.). When we arrived at the waterfall the view was partially blocked by a small RV set up for the night. No problems. That was not our final destination.
The road to Maghera (MA-ha-ra) Stand narrowed as we traveled further. Eventually, we came to the end of the road and a parking area with toilets. I had read that there were caves along this beach if you visited at low tide. Not only was it low tide, but it was nearing sunset. I hoped we were in for a treat. We parked the car and walked a short way up a boardwalk to the sand dunes. We were accompanied by rabbits much of the way. At the end of the boardwalk we hiked over a small amount (hey, we’re from Michigan) of sand dunes leading down to the beach.
We were awed by the view as well as the realization that we were the only souls on this enormous and beautiful beach. Granted, it was nearly dark and the water is not safe for swimming, but still; we felt pretty lucky. First we headed towards the cave farthest away. We figured that if the tide came in we’d miss the opportunity. The cave was more of a notch but it was fun to check it out. As we explored the sun set lower and lower to the west.
Finally, we could see a tiny shape heading in our direction. That turned out to be Breej and her two herding dogs. She was delightful! We visited with her for a while before she headed back home.
Bill and I sat and marveled and took millions of pictures as the sun lowered into the ocean. Sunset was officially at 9:44 p.m.
We took another shot at The Corner House where an older gentleman took the roof down with his renditions of “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire”. The number of people singing along surprised us. We’re told the Irish love Johnny Cash and identify him as “a man of the people”. It was another late night for us but always happy to bed.