Tag Archives: donegal

Day 8: Donegal to Sligo

We awoke in our wee bed at the Green Gate, hoping in vain for another gorgeous day.  The weather had been a mixed bag over our first week; usually rainy and grim in the morning but burning off and warming up in the afternoon.  After a lovely breakfast (one of the best of our trip and while I love bacon more than life itself, I got a bit sick of Irish bacon everyday) with a shell-shocked looking Swiss couple, I signed Paul's guest book, which is about the size of the Oxford English Dictionary composed mostly of photos and drawings sent to the Green Gate.  I had to reassure him that I would tell the gang at Conde Nast Traveler that his website has changed, and I'm glad to see that they got the right one.  He gave us some recommendations for beaches and drives to check out on our way to Sligo that were well appreciated.  After a bath in brown water (sign reads: "The water is brown.  It is normal." due to peat in the ground), an odd but not unpleasant experience, we headed into town to check out the tweed, which is what Ardara does best.

We didn't go to Eddie's (shown above), as he also runs a pub next door and was installed at the bar when we passed and we didn't feel like making him open up shop for us.  We did go to a large store and factory at the end of the main road in Ardara, whose name escapes me at the moment, but can be recognized by the large amounts of tour buses outside.  We went in and wandered around, and while the stock is very nice, hearing the employees give their well-rehearsed spiel to masses of tourists with their wallets open at the ready turned me off immensely.  We walked up the hill and ended up buying our Aran sweaters at Kennedy's, which had the best prices I found and a no-pressure atmosphere.  We headed to the coast, driving through gorgeous misty hills and valleys, past many sheep of course.   Here is a map of County Donegal, we were in region 4, on the westernmost side:

Stopped in the little town of Glencolumbkille, where we were met by the
village idiot dog, who chased after us for ages, insisting we throw him
rocks and sticks to fetch on the deserted beach:

Gorge.  Moving on, we drove all the way to Malin Beg, which is even more remote and gorgeous.  We took a long flight of stairs down to the beach:

Just ridonculously beautiful but not that warm.   My forlorn bathing suit remained in my suitcase, tag still attached. e attempted to get closer to this structure to figure out what it was, but this was as close as we could get without incurring the wrath of rural farmers and sheep:

 Last stop in Donegal was the Slieve League Cliffs, the highest in Europe, but not as well known as the Cliffs of Mohr.  To get to the top, you can either hike about a kilometer from the lower parking lot or drive a harrowing drive to the upper look out spot.  We opted for walking and when we got to the look out spot, I was amazed but ready to turn around and go back. Oh no, H was insisting we go up *further*, up the ominous One Man's Path.  Um, yeah, perhaps you're acquainted with my fear of heights?!  He suggested we just go as far as I felt comfortable, since we'd come so far.  It was misty, but the views were still remarkable:

I don't think we actually made it to the pass, as it is described as having sharp drop offs on either side and I don't recall anything that scary.  We did get pretty high up there, enough for me to sit clinging to the dirt, far away from the edge, while H took photos and I begged him to stop before he fell down the mountain and left me a widow, a la Auntie Mame.  The way down was scarier, but I made it without tears or hyperventilating, though I am trying hard to keep it together here:

I will have to relabel this set of photos so that they have more information, we have a slew of beautiful shots from Donegal and Slieve League.  A word on my shoes: I had bought a pair of Dansko clogs for the trip, finding them practical but not hideous, despite H's snickers.  Anyway, I had tried to break them in the week before we left, but even a week into the trip, they were still making me walk in a way I can only describe as a pimp roll.  It turned out to be because of a small piece of leather embedded in the top of the shoe, which I still haven't bothered to get repaired.  I wore them anyway most of the trip, but seeing them again makes me wince at the memory.  Wow, that was a dull story.  Sorry.

On to Sligo next..

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Day 7: Ardara, Donegal

We spent much more time than we planned or wanted to driving in Ireland.  It doesn't help that I don't drive at all and thus can't help out, but if we had to do it again, H would take the bus.  It took a few hours to get to Ardara, where we were going to stay the night at the fabulous Green Gate.  I had found the Green Gate online and was shocked to find a B&B that allowed, even encouraged, smoking.  Then I learned it was owned by a Frenchman (natch) and it's not for everyone: there are no showers, you have to stoop in most doorways, and the bathwater is brown.  But it is in a magical setting, and Paul could not be more charming.  I had read that he refused to rent to Americans, but when I called to reserve the room, he was thrilled that I was from New York.  He's also going to be profiled soon in the travel mag where I used to work, so I got more feedback on the place from the editor who is writing about Ireland and Paul's place.  Here is the town, which is lovely and bucolic:

After some difficulty, we made it to the Green Gate, which is about a kilometer from town.  Paul's signage along the road is not horrible, but here is the sign when you get to the gate, totally obscured by plants:

Paul is as charming as could be, offering us coffee and biscuits, as well as special Green Gate lighters and cigarette pack covers, to hide the large European warnings.  Excellent.  I told him how I'd been referred to him by a colleague who was writing a story about Ireland.  Paul seemed very concerned that the magazine wouldn't include his new website, as if a major national magazine would fail to fact check such an item.  He also joked that so many Americans come to Ireland and nearly knock the left-hand rear view mirror off their car, he should start selling them and make a fortune (there but for the grace of God goes our mirror).  Finally, he gave us some restaurant recommendations in town and told us we could have breakfast whenever we felt like it the next morning.    All the while that we sat outside chatting, bunnies hopped around us and birds alighted on Paul's shoulder, like a Disney cartoon!

Here are some pictures of the property, but no photos could do it justice. :

We headed into town on foot, not wanting to deal with driving back on tiny roads in the dark.  I began collecting bottles and trash along the way, muttering how no one respects the country code anymore.  Lookit how pretty:

One of many hilarious roadsigns.  80 kilometers?! You'd be lucky if you hit 40! The other side says 50, which also makes no sense, but often you will see an 80km and a 50km one on top of the other.  Confusing.

We had dinner at Nancy's on the main road, full of interesting objects and great food:

After dinner, we checked out the pubs, of which there are many (every Irish town, no matter how small, has at least two pubs).  Of all the places in the world, we walked into the one pub where the bartender was from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which is a few miles from where we live.  We were the only people in the place, so we talked about  Brooklyn and Ireland.  She offered this advice for driving on the left side: keep your right shoulder to the middle of the road and don't worry about how much space you have on your other side.   Sound advice.  We went back to the Green Gate (still on foot, apparently a first, most take a cab home as the walk home seems a lot steeper after a few pints) and entertained the idea of drinking wine outside but the midges prevented that.  Settled instead for guidebook reading and wine drinking on our tiny bed.  But no sleepwalking, thank God, as I would have ended up in the middle of nature!

Rather posted out for tonight now.

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