Exploring County Donegal on my days off

The gentleman I met a couple of weeks ago on Tra More beach, Willy, has decided he is my chauffeur and slave and has taken me on long drives to do some sightseeing the past two Thursdays.

Last week we went to Letterkenny to do some shopping, and he took me the long way back so I could see Mount Errigal and the coast road. On the way we stopped in Kilmacrenan at the Lurgyvale Thatched Cottages. It’s a lovely little site with restored thatched cottages, so you can see what people used to live like. There are a lot of old farm implements, including turnip seed sowers and turnip mashers (for animal feed), as well as hay rakes that were pulled by horses. A little cafe has a turf fire going and employs adults with learning difficulties so they can learn to work and interact within their own community. Lovely place!

Yesterday, we went up on Horn Head, and Willy drove all the back roads, as well as the scenic route we usually recommend to our guests. Then we stopped in Creeslough at the very modernistic-looking church I’d been wanting to check out. St. Michael’s is a Catholic church in the round, and it is gorgeous inside.

It seems it was a day for churches, as we went to Ards Friary next. We got a pot of tea in the coffee shop and chatted about how peaceful the friary was. In the gift shop I bought a St. Michael medal and some holy water, and Willy insisted on buying me a beautiful Celtic cross carved from compressed turf.

After we left the friary, we drove to Doe Castle, a small but beautiful ruin sitting a finger of the Atlantic. The day was pleasant and partly cloudy. Not exactly warm, but not freezing and the rain held off until we got to Downing, where it poured for a bit, then cleared up again.

Driving the Atlantic Drive consists of following the coastline around one of the many peninsulas in Donegal. This one is just east of where I am at Corcreggan Mill. We ended up back at Kilmacrenan, and had fish and chips at the chippy van sitting outside Lurgyvale (which was closed).

Willy decided we’d take a back road to Falcarragh, but one which wouldn’t take four hours like the week before. I got to see Muckish Mountain up close, and from the south, a side I hadn’t seen yet. She’s so stark! Willy told me that they used to cart off the quartzite sand from the north face of Muckish, to be sent to Europe for making optical glass.

The trip back wasn’t too long, and before going home, we stopped at Ray church, just east of Falcarragh. The church is a ruin dating from the time of Cromwell (who I believe may have been the cause of its destruction), and is down a rough track. Next to the church wall were two small paddocks. One contained two pet lambs who came running up to be petted. I think they also expected some treat besides a clump of the grass growing outside their fence. In the other paddock was a donkey who also consented to be petted and talked to. I’m told that many people in Ireland keep (or kept) donkeys as pets, as status symbols, even.

After making friends with the animals, we went to the church and wandered about. Willy said that the huge cross inside the church was supposedly carved from a rock on Muckish Mtn, and then carried down the mountain to the church. It’s called a Colmcille cross (phonetically: kalm killa). There were 3 millstones laid out in a row under it, but I don’t understand the significance of that, and neither does Willy.

Another long day off, I had Willy drop me off about 6pm at Corcreggan. I spent last evening downloading the pics and editing them so I could show them to you:

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6 Responses to Exploring County Donegal on my days off

  1. Renee says:

    How very beautiful. I know you’ll miss it all when you finally decide to come home

  2. vago says:

    Erica…are you doing any ethnobotanical studies while you are in Ireland? Any Irish viagra or cures for baldness in the Irish herbal cornucopia? (not that I need either ….;))

    • ericagott says:

      Well, actually, I’ve seen more international cuisines here than traditional Irish food. My host’s partner is from Lithuania, so we have her vegetable soup (like a borscht, but without beetroot), and other Lithuanian or Georgian dishes. Several Saudi Arabians come to visit our b&b and cook their traditional foods. They only serve Irish stew on special days for the tourists!

      There is the wild thyme that’s blooming now; I’m told it’s an aphrodisiac.

  3. Andrea says:

    I just love reading your posts! The photos are excellent! You’re very talented and I’m sure I’ll see a travel book from you one day.

    Wish I was there.

    Love, Andy

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