15th August 2012
After my trip back to Scotland I headed over the water to Ireland and the seaside town of Bundoran in Donegal, Anne Marie’s home town. First impressions were of a beautiful wee tourist town with cracking coastal walkways, beaches and plenty of Irish pubs to keep the thirst at bay.
Bundoran, or ‘fundoran’ as I’ve heard it called may be past its heyday, suffering the fate of many tourist towns as the masses now head abroad each summer, but it’s still got a nice buzz about it. I was certainly made to feel right at home by Anne Marie’s family and friends and loved exploring the coast and little towns and villages of Donegal. We also managed a few nights dancing until the wee hours in some of Bundoran’s clubs (there are at least three!).
Mullaghmore in nearby County Sligo is a ‘picture postcard’ fishing village with a busy little harbour. The sun was shining, the seagulls were making a racket and the smell of the sea filled the air, everything I remember from childhood holidays. The only thing missing here was a gale force wind and the odd torrential rain shower. It must be the luck of the Irish.
The most dramatic part of the Donegal coast however has to be Slieve League, which boasts the highest sea cliffs in Ireland at a maximum height of 601m (that metre makes all the difference). It was a cracking day and we spent a few hours climbing around the cliff top rocks and taking in the views. Some of the drops certainly aren’t for the faint hearted, especially with a brisk wind blowing. The fishing boat in the picture below gives a sense of scale as to how high the cliffs are.
Further inland we spent a day in Glenveagh National Park, walking around the Glenveagh Castle gardens and surrounding trails. My overall impression of the landscape is not far from that of Scotland, which of course it physically isn’t, yet Ireland definitely has it’s own unique charm (spot the Leprechaun in the photo below!).
Whether it’s the winding country roads, rolling hills speckled with farmhouses, painted villages or the cherry cheeked faces of the locals, this is unmistakably Ireland. The sense of local pride and belonging that people have here was infectious and I soon found myself asking about family roots and my own great grandfather Sweeney who lived in Letterkenny. That story’s for another day, but needless to say I did check and no, Anne Marie and I are NOT related!
Of course what trip to Ireland would be complete without a night out in Dublin? Our final night was spent touring Temple Bar and various surrounding watering holes, all serving as good preparation for the 38 hours of flights, waiting lounges and transfers ahead on the journey back to New Zealand.