Splendid Isolation – Virtual tours of the North West of Ireland with ISAI

29th March 2020

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

After very happy and fun study trips through February and early March, the last thing we expected was to have to suddenly close down and reschedule all of our upcoming programs for the next few weeks. We know that many were disappointed, but also that this is the right thing to do, to keep us and our loved ones safe. We also know  that many of you are now restricted in movement, in company, home from work or college, and perhaps anxious about what’s next. We all are.

There are many things we will be doing, to prepare for when this passes- and it will pass. We are developing new ideas and new programs for colleges and schools, we are reading, researching, improving our online presence, and lots of things so that when we get back in business, we will be ready for the next phase. However, we also decided to do a walk or hike each day, and post the photos for you to enjoy, so that each evening, you could take a virtual tour of somewhere in the Northwest of Ireland. This virtual walk focuses on the counties of Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Derry – our neighbourhood, if you like, and so rich in beauty, history and heritage. We got to wander quite a bit in our first ten days, but a current restriction to a radius of 2km for short periods of exercise will limit days 11-25 to the immediate area- a challenge, but one we feel we can take on, because we are blessed with an Atlantic coastline here that is forever changing.

We hope you will enjoy these photographs- many of you have been here, on field trips with Niamh and John, and will hopefully enjoy the trip down memory lane. Some of our walks are to places we haven’t introduced as field trips yet, but we might, if you’d like to go! We hope you enjoy these, and that we will see you here in Ireland to do these walks for yourself in the near future. Meanwhile- stay safe, and take care.

DAY 1  

BEN WISKIN, COUNTY SLIGO   

March 18 2020

The Dartry Mountains are a mountain range in the north west of Ireland, in the north of counties Sligo and Leitrim. They lie between the lakes of Lough Melvin, Lough Gill and Lough MacNean.
The mountains are named after the old Túath of Dartraighe, which was part of the kingdom of Bréifne.
The range is a large dissected limestone plateau. Glaciation has carved the distinctive shapes of this mountain range, and there are many walks and hikes that will bewitch you with history, mythology and breathtaking views from every angle.

I climbed into a gully between the mountains of Ben Bulben and Ben Wiskin, and then further up onto Ben Wiskin. These mountains have stunning views over Sligo and Leitrim, right up as far as Donegal. The climb was pretty wet, as the February weather dropped a lot of rain into the boggy terrain, but my boots were up for it, and the views, not just from the top, but throughout the hike, were worth the squelch! Enjoy!

DAY 2 

RAGHLY HARBOUR, COUNTY SLIGO 


March 19 2020

Hello and welcome to your virtual Ireland walk while we wait out this isolation.. today, I’m taking you out to tiny Raghly Harbour, County Sligo, and we travel around this beautiful coastline, which has beautiful views of Knocknarea Mountain (Cnoc Na Rí) where the formidable Queen Maeve (Medb) is supposed to be buried. It was a beautiful blue-sky day today, the Atlantic was looking spirited and flirty, especially around the astonishing blow-hole – I am not sure what it is named- I’ve read ‘Pigeon Holes’ and ‘Punch Bowls’ but not clear if this is the same place… the other mountains you will see in the distance are Ben Bulben and Ben Wiskin, (the location of our Day 1 hike). I left some of the sequential photos of the ocean in there- possibly repetitive, but hopefully giving you a sense of the energy and freshness that prevailed,There was a lovely contrast between the calm of the harbour and the brisk friskiness of the waves on the exposed side of this tiny peninsula, but every corner brought another heart-stopping view. Ireland is so beautiful, and so undiscovered! Enjoy today’s walk with me, see you tomorrow!

DAY 3 

COUNTY FERMANAGH & COUNTY CAVAN 

March 20 2020

Today’s isolation took me to Counties Fermanagh and Cavan on the day of the Spring Equinox. I began with a walk along the Claddagh River, which flows out from deep inside the Marble Arch Caves down through Florencecourt. It being equinox, it was necessary to hang around for sunset, and what a sunset it was- photos barely do justice to the crazy pink skies and the apocalyptic hue around Lough Ramor, Virginia County Cavan. Many of the neolithic passage graves in this area have an alignment to the equinox- you may remember visiting Lough Crew (the one with the hill!) – so it felt very special walking these landscapes on such an important day to the ancients. I wonder what they would make of us ….

DAY 4

KILDONEY  COUNTY DONEGAL 

March 21 2020

Today’s walk took me through the Donegal townlands of Kildoney and Creevy, a few miles outside Ballyshannon. I spotted the first primroses, a whole field full of wild daffodils, some new lambs and some beautiful old tumbledown cottages before making my way to Creevy’s flaggy shore. What the photos can’t convey is the soft rain that was falling, the faint smell of peat, the silence of these quiet roads and the collective stoicism of Donegal communities- who have seen worse, and just get on with things! It’s always, always beautiful.

DAY 5 

GARTAN  COUNTY DONEGAL 

March 22 2020

It was a beautiful Spring day today, and the Donegal mountains were calling. I headed up towards Gartan, a very dramatic landscape of peat bog, glittering fragments of quartzite, slabs of bleached granite, and water, water everywhere! These boglands have been soaking up weeks of February rain, and the going is slow, sucky and mucky! But absolutely worth it for the exercise, for the views, for the things I can’t show you- mad frogs hopping through the rushes, little clouds of midges, the silence… another cracker of a day!

DAY 6 

FINN VALLEY COUNTY DONEGAL 

March 23 2020

More Donegal for you today folks- this beautiful drive is between Ballybofey and Glenties, through the Finn Valley – it really does look like the movie set of rural Ireland, with it’s waterfalls, old cottage ruins, bright yellow gorse bushes, and a few donkeys thrown in for luck.

DAY 7 

FAIRY BRIDGES, COUNTY DONEGAL 

March 24 2020

My walk was early and close to home this morning- just after sunrise along an angry Atlantic. The Fairy Bridges of Bundoran have been a popular tourist attraction for a few hundred years, the ocean having carved these unusual and memorizing pockets into the coastline. Often frequented by surfers, today it was just me, and the bridges looked like the cauldron of a cross cailéach! But as usual, always beautiful.

DAY 8 

DROWSE RIVER  COUNTY DONEGAL/LEITRIM

March 25 2020

The beautiful old bridge over the Drowse River, running along the border between Donegal and Leitrim is today’s staring point for our virtual walk. It’s a fantastic spot for fishing, although I had it all to myself this morning.

DAY 9 

DONEGAL/LEITRIM 

March 26 2020

Today’s wandering takes place along the backroads of the Donegal-Leitrim border, a short distance from Bundoran. No photos can do justice to the beauty of the vibrant yellow of the gorse bushes, or the ridiculous cuteness of the new lambs shaking their tails – it’s an incredibly pretty time to be out and about, and so grateful for the space, fresh air, and access to these quiet roads.

DAY 10 

BALLYBAY, COUNTY MONAGHAN 

March 27 2020

Today’s meander took me to County Monaghan – another of our beautiful border counties. I took the river walk at the Ballybay Wetlands. Wetlands are among the most biologically diverse of eco systems, serving as home to a wide range of plants and animal life. It was close to sunset, and a very pretty walk- lots of clusters of wild primroses in the ditches, pink skies, and a pair of swans to add to the magic. Spring is really bustin’ out, oblivious of the tough times we are all having. I find great comfort in the natural beauty surrounding us, and I hope that by sharing it, you can see yourself exploring these same landscapes in better days to come.

DAY 11 

TULLAN STRAND, BUNDORAN DONEGAL 

March 28 2020

Today, I’m taking you down on the beach. Last night, our government limited us to a 2 kilometer radius for walks & exercise, which means for the next two weeks, our virtual wanders will be in Bundoran, Donegal. I am looking forward to the challenge of creating an adventure for you each evening, within our 2 kilometer bubble, but I do believe, as we are so blessed right here on the edge of the Atlantic, that I can do this! Perhaps you’ll come to recognize the area very well, but very often the time of day, the light, the sunrise, the sunset, the ocean swell can change everything- the sea is never ‘the same’ and we have a lot of coastline and country lane to explore together.
Today, it was bright and breezy, on a low tide and huge expanses of shiny golden sand, dappled everywhere by the wind and waves, shell-strewn, and mirroring the dramatic sky. Take your shoes off, shake out your hair and walk with me along the always beautiful Wild Atlantic Way.

DAY 12

BUNDORAN PIER DONEGAL

March 29 2020

We are so spoiled for beaches in Bundoran that the Pier is often overlooked – but down by the slipway there is a small sandy beach, with stunning views across the bay to Sliabh Liag. This is also a very important HQ for our amazing Bundoran Lifeboat crew, who do terrific work all year long. Someone had left some artwork behind- (it wasn’t me) but I enjoyed it. The town was staggeringly empty for a late March Sunday – it’s awful, but we all know that it’s so necessary right now. Our weather has been beautiful this week, and we know we’re very lucky to live here, and have all this within our 2km limit. We cannot wait until we can share it again with our family, friends and visitors. Stay safe!

DAY 13

FINNER COUNTY DONEGAL

March 30 2020

The orange wellies (rain boots) were on today for a wander through the dunes of Finner, following the pathways taken by our horsie friends at Donegal Equestrian Center, and along the little back roads nearby. So get your boots on and come with me- some beautiful old stone walls, bright yellow flowers, definitely forty shades of green, and some lovely views towards Leitrim and Sligo. And all well within the 2k limits! Enjoy & stay safe!

Day 14

NEWTOWN ROAD BUNDORAN

March 31 2020

We were out at dawn this morning, and our route takes us up along Newtown, which runs just behind Bundoran. Sun was coming up and the light was amazing – and there are wild primroses and daffodils in every little corner, hedge and ditch. I met some friends- including some deer and a friendly little pony – C’mon, get your shoes on and come with me, it’s a gorgeous March sunrise!

Day 15

CLIFFONY BEACH SLIGO

April 1 2020

John’s turn to explore his 2km neighbourhood, which is beautiful Cliffony beach, in North County Slgo. Stunning views of Classiebawn Castle and Benbulben, and those endless golden sands…. we are so lucky to be here. Enjoy and stay safe.

Day 16

DONEGAL EQUESTRIAN CENTER BUNDORAN

April 2 2020

The weather changed this morning- as I left my home for my (inside 2km) ramble, a grey sky lay low over the landscape, and an earlier rain had left the grasses bejeweled with droplets. I had the boots on, so enjoyed the what they call a ‘soft day’ here- misty and a bit magical. My walk took me across the main road and into the Donegal Equestrian Center, where I got to say hello to Chloe and some of the beautiful four-footed fellows. Rachael from Donegal Equestrian Center had kindly given me permission to take a walk around and take some photos. Further up the laneways, there were ewes and lambs, and on my return I saw some smaller creatures that were having a VERY good time! So get your boots on and enjoy all these things bright and beautiful in Donegal today.

Day 17 

BUNDORAN SEAFRONT

April 3 2020

No boots today – you just need your comfy shoes, we’re taking an easy stroll along the seafront in Bundoran, checking out some of the eye-catching artwork, some pretty gardens, and of course, the waves rolling in in the background. It was heart breaking to see the shutters down on our town- right now we should be full of happy visitors enjoying the Spring weather. We look forward to better times, and you coming back to us. Meanwhile, enjoy this virtual wander, and stay safe.

Day 18 

THE OLD BOG ROAD

April 4 2020

You’ll need your hiking boots for this- we follow the old bog road, just outside Bundoran, up towards the mountains. The colours of the landscape are extraordinary – bleached grasses, red heathers, clutches of lemony primroses and daffodils, and the deep buttery yellow of the gorse bushes. Lots of newborn lambs looking shyly from behind their mamas. The skies today were grey and low, but this only magnified the remarkable tapestry of hues below. Enjoy and stay safe.

Day 19

IN THE THICKET

April 5 2020

Today, I found a pathway beside a river, and stumbled into a little green world, speckled with yellow marsh marigolds & gorse, and impressive soundtrack of chirpy birds that you can’t hear- but you can see their nest-building, which is very impressive. Despite it being breezy and brisk, this was a lovely little sunny oasis of peace and birdsong. Enjoy!

DAY 20

ROCKING THE SHORELINE

April 6 2020

Kick the boots off today! We are not going too far away, -down to the cliff face along Tullan strand at low tide, to have a look at the rocks, pools, and seaweeds of the shore. It’s a shame you all are not here to dip your toes in the sparkling atlantic waves, but I did it for you. Not ready to dip the rest of myself in there yet (without a wetsuit) – but there’s all of May for that! Enjoy and stay safe x.

DAY 21

THE BRIDLE PATH DERRYVEAGH DONEGAL

April 7 2020

Be excited today, people, we are taking the most beautiful trail, called ‘The Bridle Path’, through the Derryveagh Mountains, about 1 hour outside of town (I had an essential appointment in case you are frowning at me) and the only other living things I encountered were the sheep. I keep telling you all how gut-bustingly spectacular County Donegal is, and how much of it is free, and empty and full of stories and myths and history, but even I, today, was just blown away by this scenery. It was a first for me, but I’m adding it to options (Clint Saunders, Meena, Mela, ) because it’s jaw-dropping… There was a nice dry track, so you don’t need your boots – let’s go!

DAY 22 

MISTY ATLANTIC MORNING

April 8 2020

It was misty and ethereal down by the cliff face around Rougey this morning. Plenty of swell bashing up against the gnarled black rock, shooting salt-spray into the air. The huge stone slabs, pock-marked by relentless wave hustle, are interrupted here and there with lumps of sea grasses, Danish scurvy-grass and budding sea-thrift. Enjoy!

DAY 23

MAGICAL MULLAGHMORE SLIGO

April 9 2020

John’s turn to take you on your daily walk today! He’s bringing you to the beautiful little village of Mullaghmore, County Sligo, for a ramble from the harbour, around by Classiebawn Castle, and back to the cutest little lamb you’re going to see today. Stay safe, enjoy!

DAY  24

SUNSET AT TULLAN STRAND, BUNDORAN

April 10 2020

Hello everyone- I hope you are all doing well. Thanks to everyone who emailed and commented on the photographs. We know we are so blessed to have this wonderful scenery on our doorstep, and we want you to look forward to joining us somewhere down the line, and enjoy it with us. It isn’t going anywhere- Donegal is beautiful, all year round, and as soon as we can get up and running again, you can join us on these walks for real. Last night, I went down to the beach, just as the sun was setting. A couple of surfers were just leaving the water as I arrived- the waves were perfect, their faces glowing in the pink light, from the joy of being at one with the ocean. Tiny birds were skating in and out on the ebbing tide and the lights of Bundoran began twinkling. By the time I reached the estuary, Ballyshannon was lit up like Vegas  and I was guided home in the darkness by Venus and the lights along the Rougey walk. Enjoy, Stay safe x

DAY 25 

BACKROADS BY THE BYPASS

April 11 2020

It was quite an overcast Easter Saturday morning as I set out, with the intention of exploring some of the forgotten by-roads around the main motorway into Bundoran. I was prompted to think about Patrick Kavanagh’s Iniskeen Road poem, where he declares himself King of ‘Banks and Stones and every blooming thing’ – because as I wandered around, the sheer vibrancy of plant-life was revealing itself everywhere, in every ditch, nook and cranny. Join me now, for a glimpse of extraordinary beauty in the ordinary back roads of our little corner of Donegal. Enjoy!

DAY 26

A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD

April 12 2020

Splendid Isolation Day 26 – and it’s Easter Sunday. So I’m taking you to church – an old country churchyard, overgrown with wild garlic flowers, daffodils and primroses, hidden in the Glens of Leitrim. It was a serene and peaceful place, with the stone monuments a stark contrast to the tufts of rampant spring shoots everywhere. Hope springs eternal. A very happy Easter to you all.

DAY 27

ROUGEY SUNRISE

April 13 2020

Hello everyone. Your intrepid (within 2KM) adventurer was up early this morning, to catch a low tide and a spectacular sunrise, and some Brent geese having a dawn paddle. The moon remained as long as she could, dangling over the perfect surf like a Chinese lantern. I started at Tullan Strand, around by a glowing Rougey pathway, around to Rougey rock and Bundoran’s Main Beach. No photos can do it justice, so please start planning to come and witness this yourself! Beautiful, all year round. Enjoy!

DAY 28

BUNDORAN COMMUNITY GARDEN

April 14 2020

Popping down the street today to take you around one of the most beautiful places in Bundoran- and one of the most laudable projects I’ve witnessed. In April 2006 Sr. Assumpta Butler and Sr. Mary Kate Hagan began a small ecological initiative on 2 acres of land, with the aim of of educating and promoting among the local people organic growing as a more sustainable and wholesome way of relating to the earth. It is now a wonderful hub of sustainable activities, used by local people, schools, groups for education, therapy and sustenance. Enjoy!

DAY 29

BLUE SKY WEDNESDAY

April 15 2020

OK- all you need today is your sunglasses, shorts and suncream – we’re going for a hike along another back road, and everything on this walk should fill your heart with joy. The blackthorn bushes are flowering wildly, their tiny white flowers competing with the yellow gorse bushes for domination – the fields are full of lambs shaking their tails, every hedge and ditch is alive with colour and birdsong. I saw a few butterflies today, little fellows who were too shy for the camera, but they’ll get braver and bolder as April progresses. Off we go… Enjoy!

DAY 30

LAKESIDE RAMBLE

April 16 2020

So it’s the thirtieth day of our virtual walks around our beautiful corner of Ireland’s Northwest. I am thoroughly enjoying my explorations around the variety of scenic spots well off the beaten track, but entirely worth seeing. I miss doing this with our groups, but your generous comments and emails have assured me that you are enjoying accompanying me from all around the USA, and that makes us very happy! I will keep it up as long as our shut-down lasts, with every confidence that there is always a little twisty road going somewhere that I can investigate!

Today, it’s a nice level stroll along Assaroe Lake. No blue skies today, but while a Mediterranean sky is always welcome, I love the atmosphere created by low cloud cover and those rays of sunshine that peek through occasionally and throw glitter over everything. Enjoy!

DAY 31

TAHITI SURPRISE

April 17 2020

Sorry folks- we are going nowhere near the South Pacific; we are very much anchored here in the Atlantic Northwest – but I did get a very pleasant surprise while taking today’s walk through an old forest track nearby – a splendid ‘Narcissus Tahiti’, in all her finery, and all by herself! This little trail was interesting for the variety of new wilderness- the mad little flowers of the cherry larches, the excellently named candytufts, and lots of violets peeping out through the undergrowth. The day was a little overcast, but it did not subtract from the joy of vibrant greenery and the odd salutation from the patient four-legged friends on the route. Enjoy!

DAY 32

EAGLE’S ROCK

April 18 2020

Grab your boots, my friends, we’re doing a bit of a climb today, – as you travel the road through the Glens of Leitrim, you won’t help noticing a crazy stack of promontory known locally as ‘Eagle’s Rock’. And that’s where we are going today. The scenery, the views… just breathtaking! Enjoy- I certainly did!
I hope you are all enjoying your weekend, stay safe.

DAY 33

BUTTERFLY ALLEY

April 19 2020

Hello everyone. Today, I was heading towards the ocean, and took a short cut down a little track – one I had never taken before. At one point, the trees closed in, and to my delight, I suddenly was surrounded by butterflies, darting in and out of the undergrowth. Now- I do apologise as these were hard to photograph – but I got totally distracted by them, and it became today’s project. There are two types here- the speckled wood, which as the name suggests, is a clever camouflager, and the cabbage white. There were more than two of them  but I can’t prove this, as they would only pose one at a time. However, I hope you can use a little imagination to share the sheer joy of being in what I named ‘Buttefly Alley’ for part of today’s walk. Enjoy & stay safe!

DAY 34

SUN-DRENCHED SHORELINE

April 20 2020

Today’s wandering took me along the Atlantic Coast, by a stony cove in Sligo, facing out to Inismurray Island, and Donegal Bay. Inismurray was home to St. Molaise, and is famous for cursing stones- now you’ll have to come here to hear the story behind them! It was another spectacularly sunny day, and the light illuminated the clearest of waters, and the multicolored pebbles, seaweed and shore flora. The cloud shapes were mesmerizing, and it was definitely warm enough for a paddle… go on, kick your shoes off! Enjoy!

DAY 35

SUNSET SWIM

April 21 2020

A change of clothes required today, my friends- I’m taking y’all for a swim – and not just any old swim, but a sunset swim on Bundoran’s beautiful Tullan Strand. The entire beach was bathed in astounding colours, and I could not resist the lure of a quick dip (in the wetsuit, folks, I’m not that brave in April!). The sunset sent the breaking waves on fire, and although I was incredibly nervous about taking the iphone into the ocean- well, I did it for you, just so you could share it with me. Happily, my assistant photographer was on the beach, and he took over – hence a few more shots of me than you usually see… sorry about that  This incredible weather seems set to last for the week, so stay tuned to see where we end up tomorrow! Enjoy, stay safe.

DAY 36

LOST WORLDS 

April 22 2020

Hello. One of the most common features of the Irish landscape, especially on the Atlantic side, is the derelict or ruined cottage. I’m always fascinated by the stories behind these abandoned homesteads- many of them testament to evictions, forced and voluntary emigration, and occasionally, a poignant return of a descendant, faded photo or map in hand. These ruins also remind us how heavily populated the countryside once was – you can come upon deserted villages in all sorts of unexpected and remote places. There is something both reassuring, and terrifying, about nature reclaiming what was once somebody’s home – a kind of ‘Ozymandias’ moment, Irish style. Here’s a few from the walks. Enjoy!

DAY 37

SHAKESPEARE AND RED HUGH

April 23 2020

It’s April 23, the date believed to be Shakespeare’s birthday, and I am a big fan of William, or Liam as he’d be called if he was Irish. In honor of the birthday, we are going to take a little history walk this evening, around Asseroe Abbey in Ballyshannon. Asseroe is an anglicization of Eas Aodh Rua – the waterfall of Red Hugh. Aodh Rua (Red Hugh) was one of the O’Donnell chieftains, and the O’Donnell clan held power in the territory of Tir Chonaill or Tyrconnell [South Donegal] up until the early 17 Century, when sadly, Aodh Rua II (Red Hugh II ) and his allies were defeated by British Crown Forces under Elizabeth I. The last of the Gaelic chieftains, including Aodh Rua II were forced to leave Donegal for sanctuary in Europe.They would not return. However, the war between the Irish Chieftains and Elizabeth was in full throttle in 1599 when Shakespeare wrote the play ‘Henry V’ and it is one of the very few plays when Shakespeare references events outside the world of the play- and it is these wars in Ireland to which he refers. In 1599 Shakespeare imagines that Queen Elizabeth’s war General, the Earl of Essex will return to England ‘[B]ringing rebellion broached on his sword ‘ However, the Earl was returned home in disgrace after being outmaneuvered by the Northern Chieftans, and these lines referring to his glorious return were dropped from the play. Henry V is superbly subversive, and has its very own hot-headed Irishman- I’ll be talking a bit more about this in the next poetry blog- but therein lies the connection between this evening’s walk around the old Abbey lands that were once part of the proud kingdom of the O’Donnells. Enjoy!

Day 38

ATLANTIC GARDENS

April 24 2020

Not so much as a walk for you today, as (for those of you who have been before) a trip down memory lane- and for those of you who haven’t, this is where you live when you come here. Our gardens were looking lovely this afternoon, and John really wanted to play on the swings, so we ran around and took some photos of our own backyard. As the sun began to set, we took a few photos from the apartment balconies, and wish you were here for it. Happy Friday from the Atlantic, everyone, have a lovely and safe weekend.

DAY 39

HEART OF LIGHT

April 25 2020

The River Bradóg enters the Atlantic Ocean right in the centre of Bundoran, and separates the West End and East End of the town. Maybe it’s because of the amazing coastal scenery, but I’ve never paid it too much attention before, but this being the season of local discovery, off I went, like a jolly Charles Marlow, up the Bradóg! It’s been very dry and sunny this month, so I was in no danger of being swept away, and there was no heart of darkness- in fact, I was delighted by the sparkling sunshine reflected in the murky greens and browns of the river, matched by the almost neon-y yellow of the dandelions and marsh marigolds clinging to the banks. There was a comical moment when I was spotted under the bridge, lurking like a troll, but luckily it was our own brilliant photographer Megan, who thankfully believed my reasoning for being there. Enjoy the journey & stay safe.

DAY 40

PORT NA MARBH

April 26 2020

Another river walk for you today folks- but this time it’s the magnificent River Erne, which enters the sea at the beautiful and historic town of Ballyshannon. My explorations took me down to an area around ‘Port Na Marbh’ or the Port of the Dead. Ballyshannon was, back in the 18th and 19th centuries, a busy shipping port, and emigrant ships sailed from here to Canada and the United States as early as 1804. Much changed now, there is still evidence of this history, as well as an amazing selection of lush greenery, complete with beautiful wild flowers and as you’d expect by now, butterflies, swans, and all of the ingredients of a very pretty Sunday afternoon. Enjoy!

DAY 41

BUNDORAN BY NIGHT

April 27 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen, we take a night walk around beautiful Bundoran and the beaches- (and credit please to Todd Vorenkamp and Clint Saunders for these pics- please don’t use without their permission) Todd and Clint run the photography course here each fall, which is open to everyone, and one of the aspects they cover is night photography. Enjoy!

DAY 42

PRETTY CASHELARD

April 28 2020

Today’s walk is to the very pretty townland of Cashelard, just outside Ballyshannon, County Donegal. As you will see, the burst of bright yellows that characterized early Spring is now beginning to change- we are seeing the beautiful pinks of the cherry blossoms, the purples of the bluebells and orchids, and the bright white flowers of the blackthorn bushes. The walk loops around a small lake named after our local saint, Colm Cille, and on a sunny Spring evening, with the sun beginning to set, it could not have looked prettier! Enjoy.

DAY 43

KILBARRON CASTLE RUINS

April 29 2020
 
Hello everyone. Today, you’ll need to have your wits about you – we are out on the coastline, clambering over the rocks and stones to get views of the ruins of Kilbarron Castle, I’m always telling anyone who will listen that any walk anywhere in Ireland will satisfy all interests- for the nature lovers there is so much to see, for the history buffs, there’s bound to be a connection to something, or a set of old ruins on the way, for the scientist, the geologist. the artist, the botanist, endless opportunities, for the health enthusiast, the fresh air and space is intoxicating – It really has something for everyone. And to prove my point, just look at the colours of the rocks and stones here, and ponder their formation – or just enjoy the bright bursts of sea thrift (surely the coast’s answer to the Cherry Blossoms?) and the wild violets, – or as you spot the ruins of Kilbarron Castle, allow yourself to be transported to a time when the O’Donnells reigned supreme in the kingdom of Tír Chonáill, and later in the 17th century, an historian named Michael Cleary ( Mícheál O’ Cléirigh) set about collecting as much information as he could so that the Irish past would not be forgotten – O’Cléirigh was born at Kilbarron Castle, and his scholarship became part of the very famous ‘Annals of the Four Masters’, one of the most important chronicals of Irish history. Or you can just enjoy a happy little cormorant, contemplating a swim! Enjoy everyone! Stay safe.
 
DAY 44

FAERIE HOLLOW

April 30 2020
 

Calling everyone’s inner child… we are paying a secret visit to Faerie Hollow, deep in the forest on the shore of Lough Melvin. Not only can you spy little doors on the trees, but we’ve taken a fairy-sized view of the beautiful flowers, insects and plants of this magical little place – the clover-like leaves with the white flower is Wood Sorrel, there are pink and purple ‘Granny’s Bonnets’ (Columbines), Drooping Sedge, Marsh Marigolds and Marigolds, Ferns, Cow Parsley and the healthiest, fluffiest daisies I have ever seen! Keep an eye out too for some butterflies & bees…. and well done, Lough Melvin Eco-park, for creating such a wonderful resource. Enjoy everyone, stay safe!

DAY 45

RAIN DANCE

May 1 2020

Hi everyone. You’ll have to get your raincoats on today- I had made it about 3km down another anonymous little winding road when ominous lead-coloured skies burst open and reminded me why the landscapes are so green all year round! Personally, I do not mind the rain at all, but my iphone took it quite badly, and went on strike for a while. I took some shelter in a derelict cottage and talked it back to life, and we continued on, snapping some of the locals who looked similarly unimpressed by the weather. Enjoy, and happy May Day to you all. Stay safe!

DAY 46

BLACKSLEE FOREST WALK

May 2 2020

The sun was out again, and the hills were calling, so off we go to the Blackslee Forest to do two things- climb up through the forest to catch views of Lough Erne, and down through the forest to see the Blackslee Waterfall. The forest was fun- all the usual suspects were out- dozens of butterflies, clutches of primroses and gangly bluebells now making an appearance, a couple of red deer that were camera-shy, and the views at the top were certainly worth it. Unfortunately, the Blackslee Waterfall was extremely underwhelming, a waterfall with no water, it turns out! The vegetation, the mosses, ferns, wood anemones, uprooted trees and crazy slabs of the Blackslee Dyke still makes for a very worthy walk. Enjoy!

DAY 47

ST. ANNE’S CHURCH AND THE PAUPERS’ GRAVEYARD 

Today, Sunday May 3, I took a walk up to St. Anne’s Church in the town of Ballyshannon. I was doing this partly for this series of photos, and partly for the poetry blog- as I am writing about Eavan Boland’s ‘Quarantine’, which is set during the Famine.

I have to keep the two posts separate, but if you’d like to match these photos with the poem itself, just click here and it will open in a separate page or hop over to the poetry page to see them all www.isaireland.com/irishpoemstolove/     

Ballyshannon was established as a plantation town during the early 17 century, and St. Anne’s Church was built on a hilltop known as ‘Mullach Na Sí’ or the Hill of the Fairies, in 1841, just at the beginning of the decade that would bring the catastrophe or ‘Great Hunger’ or 1845-1850.
St. Anne’s Church has a beautiful setting, high on the hill, and is visible from almost every approach to Ballyshannon. Spotlit at night time, it is a familiar and iconic landmark, and surrounded as it is with the magnificent backdrop of the Erne Estuary and Donegal Bay, it is always worth visiting.

The graveyard to the front of the church has many impressive plots, vaults and carved monuments, from as early as the 16th century. Carved on these stones are the names of many prominent families of Ballyshannon, including that of well known poet, William Allingham (Allingham is the nephew of poet, MaryAnn Allingham, -see poem 2 on the blog – the whereabouts of her grave is unknown). It was a fabulously sunny morning, with astonishing clarity of view across the Erne river and down to the Dartry mountains, and it was made all the more moving by an hour of bell-ringing in honour of all those who have died from Covid-19. ‘Amazing Grace’ pealed out from the bell tower and carried over the Mall Quay, and out on the waters into the Atlantic.

On the other side of the Church wall, there is a patch of land; a field, somewhat overgrown with long grasses, briers and accessible by a winding pathway from the road. This is known as the Paupers’ Graveyard, or the Union Burial Ground, and it is the final resting place for about 1000 poor souls who died during the Great Hunger 1845-1850. There are no records of their names, nor are there any markers in this field, except for a memorial plaque erected in 1995. One can see from this viewpoint, both the Ballyshannon Workhouse, where many of the paupers would have died, and the Mall Quay, where Famine Ships would have taken the luckier survivors out of this hellish time in Irish history.

We often talk about this period of Irish History as ‘The Famine’ – but it was not a famine. There was no shortage of food in Ireland between 1845-1850, there was a failure of the potato crop, and this was the main source of food for the poor. Centuries of colonial legal and economic strategies that enriched a small minority at the expense of a nation culminated in a catastrophe of unimaginable horror. Over a million people died, and to this day, most of them are nameless, forgotten people. Too poor for headstones, too unimportant for records, too inconvenient to rescue.

I walked back down the pathway from the Paupers’ grave, overjoyed to see a few bunches of forget-me-nots growing along the margins. We won’t.

DAY 48

ROADS LESS TRAVELED 

May 4 2020

Hi everyone. The Irish word for a road is ‘bóthar’ – that’s pronounced ‘Bo -har’ and a small road is a ‘bótharín’, which became anglicized to ‘boreen’. As you’ve probably guessed by now, there’s nothing I like more than spotting an unknown road, and following it to see where it goes. So I often take lots of photographs of road, going wherever you want them to go! Today’s post is a combination of various different roads I’ve taken in the last month or so – you can decide where you end up! Enjoy.

DAY 49

WEST END GIRL  

May 5 2020

Today’s ramble began early- sunrise is around 5:45am these days so even though it was only 7am when I was out and about, the sun was up and doing its best to burn off the sea mists. Our walk is very local – I went to Bundoran’s West End Walk (also known as the Nuns’ Walk) which goes from the town south along the coastline – it’s a wonderful walk, with lots of little coves and inlets and step sets up and down, – and the views back towards the town were beautiful. Bundoran became known as a wellness resort back in the late 1700s- the wealthy people of Ballyshannon followed the lead of the Viscount of Enniskillen, who built a summer home for himself in Bundoran – and ‘taking the sea air’ continued to be a trend through the 18 and 19 centuries. You will see here what we now call an infinity pool – height of poshness in very expensive resorts- where did this idea come from? Check out our own West End pool- so beautiful, natural and absolutely free to all. The ocean was really clear and sparkling this morning – and some lovely flowers around- I’ll put the names on the photos. Directly out to sea, we are looking across Donegal Bay, and you can make out the dusky outline of West Donegal and the Sliabh Liag Cliffs. Gorgeous, my friends – enjoy!

DAY 50

BY THE SILVERY SEA

May 6 2020

Hi everyone. We are now on DAY 50 of our splendid isolation series, and I hope you are enjoying the photos as much as I am enjoying taking them. We are not going far today, and bare feet are fine- I got up this morning, and took one look at the beach, and there was no contest. There’s a song often sung here- ‘Beautiful Bundoran, by the silvery sea’ and that is exactly how the beach looked – shimmering sands dappled with sunlight, and Mediterranean blue skies. It was a very low tide, so I met some little sea-friends; a periwinkle busy moving house, and a crab I named ‘Jersey Jim’ (to give Donna a laugh :-)) I tested the water and it’s definitely getting close to swim-without-a-wetsuit- time… close, but no cigar just yet. Enjoy the splash!

DAY 51

BIRD’S EYE BUNDORAN

May 7 2020

Hi everyone. Today’s view of Bundoran is a bit different – A bit of a climb involved, but not too taxing- a ladder took me up to the roof of the Atlantic, where I grabbed some very isolated me time, and extraordinary views over the rooftops – south, we’re looking at the Sligo coastline, west across Donegal Bay to Sliabh Liag, East over the Glens of Leitrim. The golf course was spectacularly empty for such a nice day  and the streets so quiet – we can’t wait until we have our visitor buzz back in town. Enjoy… & stay away from the edge!

DAY 52

DIARMUID AND GRÁINNE’S CAVE

May 8 2020

Today’s walk is a great illustration of the way in which Irish history and culture are an integral part of the landscapes. We’re walking up towards the Gleniff Horseshoe – past a lovely profile of Ben Wisken Mountain – and you’ll see, high up to the right of the cliff face, the opening of a large cave. This is known as the cave of Diarmuid and Gráinne. The legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne is one of the great legends of Ireland – the lovers eloped, chased around Ireland by the jilted Finn Mc Cool (Fionn Mac Cumhaill). Many places are associated with the pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne, including this cave, and both the story and landscape inspired many artists, including painter Jack B. Yeats, and playwrights George Moore and W.B. Yeats. On the way back down, I was happily distracted by the usual things- butterflies, curious lambs, and pretty flowers. Hopefully you’ll be inspired too! Enjoy.

DAY 53

CASTLE ARCHDALE

May 9 2020

Hello everyone. We’re having a bit of a history trip today – as it’s 75 years since the end of WW2 in Europe. Castle Archdale is in County Fermanagh, just across the border from Donegal. It has two impressive historical buildings on site- the first is an old castle built by John Archdale in 1612. Archdale was an Englishman, granted lands confiscated from the Maguire clan during the plantation of Ulster. These lands sit along the shores of the beautiful Lough Erne. In the late 18th Century, the Archdale family build a second mansion, part of which is now a museum set in beautiful grounds. During the Second World War, Lough Erne was a very important strategic base for the Allies. It was used during the by flying boats of the RAF Squadron RAF, and Consolidated Catalinas and Short Sunderlands based here would patrol the North Atlantic for German U-boats.
The Republic of Ireland was not officially part of the Allied Forces during WW2, ( the event is known as ‘The Emergency’ here) – but a secret arrangement was made between the British and Irish governments to allow the RAF to fly the shortest route from Lough Erne out to the Atlantic, which was directly over Donegal. This is known as ‘The Donegal Corridor’. So our walk today stops off first at the old castle, then along the lake shore and forest to what remains of the newer building, used as a main operational base for the RAF. There’s a nice seat overlooking the lake for you to take a break half-way  Enjoy!

DAY 54

THE COLOUR PURPLE

May 10 2020

We’re off to the forest today – a secret location I have named ‘Bluebell Forest’. At this time of year, the forest floor bursts into a carpet of bluebells, and takes on the most amazing bluish-purple colour. There are also the other pinky-purpley plants and shrubs – purple orchids, giant onions, rhododendrons, wisteria, camas, & all the usual suspects. I’m not sure any photo can do this walk justice – but let’s give it a go. You’ll have to add the following sounds- an absolutely crazy level of bee-humming, bird-twittering turned up to eleven, the occasional snap and scurry of the squirrels (too fast for me), and the soft whisper of the occasional breeze through the canopy. Perfect for your Sunday walk. Enjoy!

DAY 55

SLIGO SAUNTER

May 11 2020

Hello everyone, welcome to day 55. We are going to take a stroll around the city of Sligo – tiny by USA standards, but so pretty and historic. Very much associated with the poet W.B. Yeats, who, being a smart man, is wearing his mask! The city is built on the Garavogue river, and between 1847 and 1851, the years of the Great Hunger, over 30,000 people emigrated from the port- you’ll see Niall Bruton’s moving sculpture here – you’ll also walk past Sligo Abbey, a Dominican Friary founded in the 13th Century, and Sligo Jail, whose inmates included the bould Michael Collins. Unfortunately, these buildings are closed right now, as is Lyons Café, but please imagine the delicious tea and scones you’d enjoy there- I did! A few quiet street scenes for you, and my favourite bit- a curious grey heron standing sentry in the river. Enjoy!

DAY 56

GIBRALTAR ROCKS

May 12 2020

Just outside Sligo town is a stretch of coastline which has the fabulous name ‘Gibraltar’. It is not as photogenic as some of our previous walks, and it was a very overcast and moody morning when I went exploring – but it is really interesting place. It is inside the Sligo estuary, which means it is protected from the wild Atlantic, and the water warms up nicely compared to the more exposed beaches. About 60 years ago, the development of an outdoor pool, and terraced seating made it one of Sligo’s most popular places to bathe; but as people moved from the bicycle to the car, and then to the sun holiday, the area fell into disuse and disrepair. However, thankfully, environmentalists realised the importance of the area as a habitat for birds, wildlife, oceanlife and flora, and it has now been cleaned up and declared a conservation area. It is overshadowed on one side by the majestic Knocknarea mountain, and you can see Queen Maeve’s cairn at the top – and across the bay, a very misty cloud-covered Ben Bulben. I’m always interested in the lives places had in the past, and thinking about young Irish teenagers messing around here in the summertime way back then, when there wasn’t anywhere else to go, was interesting. What secret stories do these stones know? Enjoy!

DAY 57 

MERMAID’S COVE 

May 13 2020

We are in County Sligo again today, folks, on a tiny strip of beach known as Mermaid’s Cove. As you can see from the choppy waves, it’s a little breezier today, but absolutely gorgeous! In the distance, you can see Classiebawn Castle, and I envied this lone fisherman who was enjoying such peace alone on the beach! The mossy green rocks and crystal clear pools seemed a perfect resting place for a mermaid…enjoy!

DAY 58

DOORLY PARK

May 14 2020

Hello everyone. Ten minutes walk from the centre of Sligo City, along the banks of the Garavogue River, brings you to an area known as Doorly Park. This is where we’re going today, and your reward is gob-smacking scenery under a moody sky, an indignant swan, some sociable ducks, and I think, that same grey heron we saw on Monday, still keeping watch. Let’s go!

DAY 59 

MULLAGHMORE PEACE GARDEN 

May 15 2020

Happy Friday everyone. We’re taking it easy today – we are going to the beautiful Sligo village of Mullaghmore, to the Peace Garden. This little space, which looks on to the picture-postcard harbour, and across to the Dartry mountains, was created for reflection and meditation amongst the flowers and scenic surrounds. Mullaghmore witnessed one of the most moving demonstrations of reconciliation in May 2015, when relatives of Lord Mountbatten, including Prince Charles, visited the garden. Lord Mountbatten, Lady Dorothy Bradbourne and 15 year old Paul Maxwell were killed when an IRA bomb blew up their fishing boat during ‘The Troubles’. It is a beautiful and restorative space, reminding us that peace and forgiveness are always possible. Have a lovely weekend, and be good to eachother!

DAY 60

BALLROOM OF ROMANCE

 May 16 2020
 

It’s Saturday night- and you deserve some romance- so I’m taking you to Glenfarne, a small village located in the north of County Leitrim, Ireland. It is the site of the original “Ballroom of Romance”, which inspired a short story by William Trevor and was subsequently turned into a movie by the BBC. John Mc Givern built the Ballroom in early 1934 and it opened the same year. It was then known as Mc Givern’s Dance Hall, although locally it was referred to as the “Nissan Hut”, as its galvanised iron construction was reminiscent of the British Army huts of the same name. Glenfarne also has a beautiful lakeside forest near Lough MacNean – we will wander that way too. We’ll see the remains of the old ‘big house’, Glenfarne Hall – this house was given by the Tottenhams to Edward Harland (of Harland and Wolff shipbuilders, Belfast). It’s said that the flag stones that line the Titanic quay come from quarries in Glenfarne. Finally, we’ll walk in towards Kiltyclogher (note the lamb traffic jam!) and see the home of Irishman Séan Mac Diarmada, one of the signatories of the Irish proclamation of Independence, executed in Kilmainham Jail May 12 1916.

DAY 61

MIND THE GAP!

May 17 2020

An Bearnas Mór means ‘the big gap’, and this mountain pass is situated in the Bluestack Mountains in County Donegal. It’s the main route between South Donegal and North Donegal, – and I’ve promised myself a million times that some day, I’ll stop the car and get out and climb it. Today was the day!

Barnesmore was, for several hundred years up to about 1800, a notorious haunt of brigands ambushing travelers and removing them of their goods, and sometimes, their lives!

One of the things I wanted to explore was the old railway line- now defunct, but up until the late 1950s diesel rail-cars ran through the gap connecting Stranorlar in the east to Donegal Town, and through to Killybegs in the west. The tracks are gone now, but you can still clearly see where they were, and I’ve always wanted to walk it.

As you’ll see from the photos, it was a very misty and cloudy morning, which was fine by me, – perhaps the views weren’t as good as they would be on a clear day, but it was all conducive to imagining the rapparees hiding in the mists, waiting for their prey. So wrap up well for this one, folks! And leave the purse at home…

Enjoy!

DAY 62

CREEVELEA ABBEY

May 18 2020

Today’s walk is to an amazing old abbey, tucked away in the Glens of Leitrim. I forgot to tell you that I fell into a river on yesterday’s walk, so my boots were too wet for a hike  This was an easier, and didn’t require the boots.

This is Creevelea Abbey – the last Franciscan Friary to be build in Ireland before good ole Henry VIII shut them all down. This Abbey was founded by Mairéad Ní Bhrian, (Margaret O’ Brien) who was married to O’Rourke, of the kingdom of Breffni, in 1508. It’s still a stunning place to explore, with incredible views over the landscape and the beautiful river Bonet. It really is off the beaten track, but worth it – even with the cloudy skies- and just around down the road you’ll find the mighty O’Rourke Castle overlooking Lough Gill. We’ll go there tomorrow. Meanwhile, get in here and whisper to the ghosts! Enjoy!

DAY 63

LOUGH GILL

May 19 2020

Lough Gill means ‘bright lake’ and it is a beautiful freshwater lake between the counties of Sligo and Leitrim. It’s amazing scenic surrounds have been documented by much of the work of the talented Yeats family, and hence the area is known as Yeats Country. But it has a much older history- for centuries, the O’Rourkes ruled the area, and the site of their castle, remodelled in the 17th Century by the Parkes family, is one of the most beautiful features of the lakeside. This particular walk is just around the shoreline at the castle- I have more treasures to show you at Lough Gill at a later date. It was a calm still day, gentle rain, brooding skies, and slippy enough for me to go into the lake when taking photos of the long grasses, but worth it all! The drive around the lake from the castle to Dromohair is as jaw-dropping a scenic journey as I have seen anywhere in Ireland, but so peaceful and empty. Enjoy!

DAY 64

ERNE ESTUARY

May 20 2020

Today’s walk was to the end of Tullan Strand, Bundoran, where the Erne river meets the sea. The Erne River is compelling in itself- rising in the midlands, and making its way to the North West via the magical lakes (Upper and Lower, of which there will be more trips) and then through Ballyshannon to the sea. It’s historic- many’s a battle was fought, and many’s a castle build, or an escape made upon the Erne. It features in many poems and stories and myths of the past. And it finally greets the Wild Atlantic at this point here, -you can see the distinctive silhouette of St. Anne’s Church in Ballyshannon in the background, and where freshwater meets salt water, and river meets tide, you have soft sands, magnificent shape-shifting dunes, and all sorts of wildlife- including the Irish Army, who have one of their major bases at Finner Camp, just to the right of the Estuary. But it was the sky I enjoyed most on this particular walk – a big sky of rolling, thunderous-looking fellows, who, at their most ominous, separated abruptly, and let the sun glitter the water. It was bare feet for me today, so kick off your shoes and follow! Enjoy!

DAY 65 

FABULOUS FUNGI 

May 21 2020

We are going down a little forest trail today, where I spotted some fallen trees that were sporting some very colourful fungi. These are mostly what are known as ‘bracket’ fungi -they look more like layers or shelves of growth rather than our typical mushroomy lads. Anyway, they have some great names, especially the ‘turkey tail’ fungus. I think the big white fellow is a birch polypore, but open to correction on this one. Did you know that fungi of this kind were used as writing material, back in the past? I found a reference to fungi being used in Irish hedge schools, and also during the Roman Empire, for this purpose, and there is a species of polypore actually called ‘Artist’s Conk’ because of its suitability for writing and drawing upon. (Facts like this might be why you should never get stuck sitting me for dinner)… Also, some other very interesting things to see- the lovely little Spring Snowflake, which has these delicate green spots on the bottom of each tepal – it is like a beautiful polka-dot dress. The fir trees are currently two-tone ; the new leaves are an almost luminous bright green, providing a marked contrast with the older, dark green leaves. They would be the Ska Boys of the forest. There was also a lump of glistening white rock in the middle of it all – quartzite or marble, I’m not sure, and don’t know why it’s there. Geologists? It was raining as I explored today, so some of the photos just appeal to me because they are shiny and rain-droppy. I’ll say it again- the weather in Ireland is IDEAL – because there is so much to discover, and the climate allows you to be outside in all weathers, with no extreme temperatures either way, and nothing dangerous in the forests, fields or oceans. Anyway- you will need your raincoat today for this, and no eating the ‘shrooms! Enjoy!

DAY 66

STORMY WEATHER

May 22 2020

It’s a tough one today, folks- the Atlantic was letting us know who’s the boss, so if you are coming with me today, hold on to your hat! It was extremely windy, very low clouds and spitty rain, why would you bother? Because it’s still amazing – the sea thrifty clinging on to the cliff-edges, the churning cauldron underneath the Fairy Bridges, the endless white-capped waves, and the exhilarating fresh air! Enjoy!

DAY 67 

WAVES GONE WILD

May 23 2020

Today, I offer you the Atlantic in all its majesty. Once again, photos can not do justice to the sensation of standing on the rocks, foam flying everywhere, and the spray of the ocean in your face. This is just a few km along the coastline of Bundoran, and one of the benefits of a bit of weather! Get your coat on, and treat yourself to Donegal 🙂 Enjoy!

DAY 68

STATION ISLAND

May 24 2020
 
Today, I’m taking you to a place in Donegal which, in medieval times was one of the most famous places in Ireland. It is one of those places that has many layers of history, folklore, ritual and fascinating culture, located in an absolutely beautiful setting on a small lake called Lough Derg. Beautiful it may be, but many Irish people who have been to Station Island will not remember it for scenery!
 
First of all, when you get to the lake edge and look across to Station Island, it looks like an Irish Alcatraz – you can see the outline of a lot of tall grey buildings, and if you’re going, you take a boat. It is a place of pilgrimage, and not for the faint-hearted. ‘Doing’ Lough Derg usually means a three-day visit, and rituals include walking barefoot on stony ground, reciting prayers, fasting, and no sleep on the first night.
 
It is known as ‘St. Patrick’s Purgatory’, as legend says that a cave on Station Island was shown to Patrick, and he was told it was the gateway to Purgatory (which is a kind of holding-pen for Catholics not quite ready for Heaven.) There’s no evidence this actually happened, and if St. Patrick actually blessed all the wells, islands, rocks, mountains and hills that he’s supposed to have, he’d never have had time for a prayer! But there is evidence of a monastic site here associated with St. Dabheog (Davoge).
 
Back in medieval times, pilgrims would travel first to Saints Island, and when suitably prepared, would then go to the cave on Station Island for a purgatorial stint. The tradition was rooted in the practice of austerity that was popular among monks- isolating themselves in remote places, often islands, to focus on introspection and faith. Some of the original pilgrim’s pathway is still here, as per the photos. Saints Island is abandoned now, and pilgrims go directly to Station Island. It was very popular to ‘do’ a pilgrimage right up until the eighties, but numbers have fallen a lot in the last thirty years.
 
Seamus Heaney has a book of poems called ‘Station Island’, with a sequence of poems that use two real-life visits to the island as a reflection and clarification of his artistic, personal and public life. Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh also visited it, and probably sums it up very well –
 
‘The twentieth century blows across it now
But deeply it has kept an ancient vow.’

DAY 69

BUNDUFF RIVER WALK

May 25 2020

Today’s ramble is easy on the eye, and the feet. Just a few km south of Bundoran is the River Duff (Dubh is the Irish for Black), and there is a very pleasant walk, almost where it reaches the sea. The Duff river is short, draining the Dartry Mountains, and it’s a popular kayak spot in winter time, and a popular salmon-fishing destination in the summer months. It also defines the border between the counties of Sligo and Leitrim. The water levels can change rapidly, depending on the rainfall, and as you may have noticed from our sequence of splendid isolation photos, we have had very little rain for the last two months! So the levels are pretty low right now. And pretty is the word, because the rhododendrons are decorating the walk, weaving in and out of the trees, and there’s lots of cowslip and cow parsley along the route too. So- seeing as we sent you to Purgatory yesterday, you deserve this little bit of heaven! Enjoy.

Day 70

GLENADE LAKE

May 26 2020
 
Another Leitrim Glen for you today my friends. Perhaps at this stage you are thinking that ‘all’ Ireland is is beaches, lakes, valleys, forests, mountains, the odd town, and the odd castle…eh yeah! Some of the historic places I would take you to if I could are closed down, and many out of reach. But I’m still finding undiscovered places to show you, it’s day 70, and we haven’t run out yet! Glenade Lake is just over the Donegal border in lovely Leitrim, and there was only me and the sheep! Enjoy!

Day 71

GLENIFF HORSESHOE SUNSET HIKE

May 27 2020

I hope you are feeling fit for today – we are taking an evening climb for some spectacular views of Sligo at sunset, from the fabulous horse shoe at Gleniff. We are chasing the sun off to his bed as we climb, but still getting panoramic views of Truskmore (with its masts) and the Sligo coastline. And if you look closely you’ll see a small sliver of moon appear by the last photograph. Do a few stretches before you begin, it’s hard on the legs! Enjoy!

DAY 72

PERKS OF WALLFLOWERS


May 28 2020

This is for the flower-lovers, – it is an absolutely gorgeous sunny day here today, and while on my walk, I became completely distracted by the wild flowers nonchalantly being fabulous! I’m always impressed by just how pretty the roadsides and hedgerows become around this time of year, and I thought these blooms deserved a whole day to themselves. Tomorrow, I’ll bring you where I meant to go, today, you’ll have to do what I did, just stop, and smell the roses! (and the daisies, and the marigolds, and the poppies….) Enjoy!

DAY 73

BELLEEK 

May 29 2020

Hello everyone, and today we are visiting the pretty and very friendly town of Belleek, in County Fermanagh. Belleek is a village in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. While the greater part of the village lies within County Fermanagh, part of it crosses the border into County Donegal which lies in the Republic of Ireland. Belleek is a thriving market town with a variety of pubs, shops and restaurants. It is most famous for the fine Parian China produced there at the Belleek Pottery, the oldest pottery in Ireland. The china is valued by collectors from all over the world. It is also a noted location for angling and other recreational activities and is linked to the River Shannon by canal.

The River Erne is about 70 miles long, and shortly before its final journey through Ballyshannon in County Donegal, it travels over flat flagstones, which gives the town its Name (Beal atha na Leice.- the ford of the flat stones). This crossing place marks the border between Donegal and Fermanagh, and since 1921, the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It has always been of great strategic importance, and at least four fortresses guarded this important gateway. The present derelict fort overlooking the town (on the Donegal side- hence the flag) dates from 1798 and succeeded an O’Donnell fort, two Norman forts of 1212 and 1250 and probably a Viking fort of the 9th century. In 1922 it was occupied by four forces in succession; A Specials, IRA, British Army and finally the Free State Army in 1924. It was the last place to be handed over to the Irish Government other than the Irish Ports in 1938 – (the fort, that is, not the town of Belleek!)

The photos here include the old fort, Belleek Pottery, The Thatch Coffee house (one of my favourite lunchtime venues) which is the oldest original thatched building in Fermanagh, the two churches (Church of Ireland and the Catholic Church) and the old RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) barracks, now happily defunct and derelict – Belleek is beautiful, and one of the great bonuses of the Good Friday agreement and the Peace Process is to be able to enjoy these beautiful places that were for so long, hostage to the border. Put this town on your bucket list! And check the attic for Belleek Pottery – some of the pieces are worth a lot of money! Enjoy!

DAY 74 

BALLYGILGAN NATURE RESERVE

May 30 2020

Gorgeous exploration of another tiny back road in beautiful Sligo. This nature reserve stretches from Lissadell House across Ballygilgan strand. A site of international importance for Barnacle Geese! And amazing views of the Dartry a Mountains. Enjoy!

DAY 75

ST. PATRICK’S TOOTH 

May 31 2020

Strandhill is one of the most beautiful beach towns in County Sligo, and renowned for great surf, great beach cuisine, seaweed baths and a beautiful little airport . Strandhill is remarkably scenic, nestled between Knocknarea Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. Less well known about Strandhill is the dental misfortune that apparently happened St. Patrick on his visit.

Just past the beach is a place named Killaspugbrone – based on three Irish words; Kill from cill meaning church, aspug from easpaig meaning bishop, and Brón was the name of St Patrick’s disciple. This important Christian settlement was founded in the fifth century by St Patrick who gave the church to his disciple Bishop Bronus.

Bishop Brón was a native of the Coolera area and held a special place in the affections of St Patrick because he helped propagate the new Christian faith. On his visit to the area Patrick lost his tooth that according to the ancient
‘Life of St Patrick, “he gave to Brón because “he was dear to St Patrick”.

The tooth of Patrick became a relic in the area and was put in a shrine known as ‘Fiacal Pádraig’. The gold and silver ornamented shrine Fiacal Pádraig is now preserved in the Treasure of Ireland exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland. Unfortunately the tooth is missing!

But if you love someone, now you know- give them a tooth! Enjoy 

Day 76

QUEEN MAEVE OF CONNACHT 

June 1 2020

Get the boots on!
 
In Irish mythology, the stone cairn at the summit of Knocknarea Mountain is the burial place of the Warrior Queen Maeve of Connacht. Maeve is said to be buried upright in the cairn at the summit of Knocknarea, spear in hand, still facing her enemies in Ulster. It’s a fabulous climb, folks, and loaded with so much history. Formed from limestone over 300 million years ago,the mountain has been an importance ritual focal point since Neolithic times. The presence of the passage tombs, along with circular house foundations and an extensive system of earthen banks enclosing the eastern approach to the summit, are all reminders that this was a place of intensive activity. The large cairn was probably built around 3400 BC, while some of the smaller passage tombs are potentially some one hundred year older. And if that wasn’t enough, about half-way up to the cairn is a deserted village, from Famine times.
 
At the summit, not only do you pay your respects to Maeve, but there are astonishing views over the coastline of the Northwest, and the counties of Donegal, Leitrim, and on a clear day, Mayo. You’re being spoiled today, it’s just gorgeous! Enjoy!

DAY 77 -BLM

We suspended our series to acknowledge all our African-American students, colleagues, and friends #blacklivesmatter.

DAY 78

THE JANUS FIGURE

June 3 2020
 
Hello everyone. We are going on a fascinating  journey today – to Caldragh Cemetery in Fermanagh, to see Janus! You have to walk down a country lane, and to an old graveyard by the shores of Lough Erne, and just there, in the field is one of the oldest and most beautiful pieces of sculpture.
 
This figure is regarded as one of the most enigmatic and remarkable stone figures in Ireland. It is called a Janus-figure because it has two faces, reminding some of the Roman two-headed deity Janus – it is not a representation of Janus though, more likely It is from the Celtic era, possibly one of the male or female deities of the time.
 
Each side of the figure has a face and torso. On the sides of the stone where the two carved figures are joined, is an interlace design that may represent hair. The faces are large and pointed ovals in shape, with big eyes, straight noses, and half open mouths with protruding tongues above the pointed chins. The figure has no neck, with its head resting directly on its torso. The torso is a square block with hunched shoulders, crossed arms, and a belt. The lower section of the figure—two hands with elongated fingers carved in relief was broken away from the top part at an unknown time in the past. Some have suggested one side is male, one female.
 
Between the top on the two heads there’s a cavity – and I was told by Douglas Rowe, the gentleman who owns this land (and takes care of the figures) that it’s good luck to place your hand on it. I did it for all of us!
Enjoy!

DAY 79

TERMON RIVER

June 4 2020

The Termon River wanders between the counties of Donegal and Fermanagh – at some stages it forms the border between the two counties, and between Ireland and Northern Ireland – including right between the town of Pettigo (dividing it between North and South) and flowing into Lough Erne. On our behalf, I investigated it on both sides – a very pleasant day’s exploration. It’s really difficult to think of beautiful natural places like this being designated as ‘borders’ or markers of territory – the frogs and the flowers don’t know any different. It’s a lush and beautiful area, a bit slippy, so mind yourself! Enjoy!

 

DAY 80

MCGRATH CASTLE

June 5 2020

Well now! It’s been 80 days, and we’ve certainly been around the gorgeous hinterland of Bundoran, if not quite the world. We are staying in Donegal today, and exploring the awesome ruin of the McGrath Castle. It even came with ravens and mysterious shadows, so you can’t say you don’t get the best here! And the story of the castle owner is very entertaining!

Miller McGrath was a bishop of both the Roman Catholic Church and Church of Ireland and he managed to be unpopular with both sides! He came, originally
from Pettigo, County Donegal, where the McGraths were hereditary overseers of the lands of the penitential Island known as Saint Patrick’s Purgatory. Miller Joined the Franciscan order and became a priest. He travelled to Rome and was made a Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Down and Connor – but the Reformation happened, and he didn’t want to be on the wrong side, so he became the Protestant Archbishop of Clogher and then Protestant Archbishop of Cashel He married Anne O’Meara and they had nine children.

McGrath lived In turbulent times and he maintained his own army of about 200 men at Cashel: most of them McGraths, Monaghans and McMenamins from the Donegal area. He was a very greedy man and managed to control four dioceses and 70 parishes at various times. He was twice called to London to Queen Elizabeth to account for the allegations made against him, but returned with more lands and benefices than he had before! There are stories that McGrath returned to the Catholic Church at different times and particularly when he was close to death, but there Is no definite proof. He is thought to have been buried on Saints’ Island, Lough Derg. (You were there with me a few weeks ago.) In 1503 Patrick Kearney of Cashel said Archbishop McGrath ‘’was a common drunkard and carouser, a whoremonger with a concubine in England, and an open perjurer, at loggerheads with his wife and an open gamester with a low class of companions.” If only he’d have said what he really thought…

And very unusually, and in spite of his enemies, Miller McGrath lived to be 100 years old…

Enjoy, and have a lovely weekend everyone!

DAY 81

PETTIGO

June 6 2020

The very pretty town of Pettigo is also a very unusual Irish town. It is mostly in County Donegal, but its high street is on the other side of the river, which puts it over the border and into Northern Ireland. You can stroll around the town, across the bridge, and next thing you’re looking at red post boxes and British Telecom phone boxes.

Thankfully, there are no longer checkpoints and obstructions to worry about – and the good people of the town have done lovely work with a very attractive river walk, a heritage trail to follow (I love those) and much of the history of the town can be seen still.

In the 17th and 18th centuries Pettigo was a very busy market town-the Market yard and stores was the biggest market yard in both Donegal and Fermanagh. Many people travelled on the great Northern Railway line which stopped off at Pettigo to buy and sell their produce. The village suffered from the demise of the railway in the 1950’s and from the closure of numerous cross- border roads during the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

During the Great Hunger (1845-1850) maize was ground in the Pettigo Mill and then sent to the poor through the port of Ballyshannon. Pettigo Mill was a sawmill as well as a grain mill, but the main product that was made was egg boxes which held twelve eggs. Eggs were sent by train to the cities of Belfast and Dublin or onto England and Scotland. Egg boxes were in great demand as many people depended on their egg money to buy their groceries in the local shops.

There is a statue in the center of the town of an Irish revolutionary, commemorating four men who died in the invasion of Pettigo on June 4th 1922, during the Irish war of Independence. Enjoy the visit!

DAY 82

CARNEY COTTAGE

June 7 2020

Hello and happy Sunday – I hope you are having a peaceful day. As it’s a day of rest, and you’ve had a very busy week with me, trudging around castles and graveyards, we are taking it very easy today. You know by now that I love my wildflowers, and many of you seem to enjoy them too, so we’re going for a peep at this wild garden which is out front of an abandoned cottage outside the small Sligo village of Carney. It’s just such a pretty road front to an unoccupied site, and shows you what wildflower gardens can look like – although I suspect that there may be some very kind person tending to this garden, as there is a lovely ‘boat’ of wildflowers on the other side of the road. You’ll also see my favourite of all, the gorgeous heart-flowers, and I thought they would be appropriate for those of us hoping for more love in the world… Now- I have a lot of history sites planned for the coming week, so enjoy this nice short walk, and get ready for tomorrow, back to work for you! Enjoy

DAY 83

PORTORA CASTLE AND LOUGH ERNE 

June 8 2020

For those of you not so familiar with the Erne River, it travels up through the upper half of Ireland, and into the sea at Ballyshannon, Donegal. There are two large lakes on the Erne, and the town of Eniskillen sits in between these two lakes. For centuries, the Erne was a major artery in the transport system of Ireland, and evidence can be found on many of the numerous small islands on the lakes – particularly early Christian sites. Typically,sites built for defense and power are built near water- and when the Ulster chieftains begin castle-building, they build close to the rivers.

Later, the Ulster plantation takes place, and new landowners from Scotland and England will build or rebuild castles in similar strategic places – so what this means for us is that a browse around the Erne lake area is a paradise for history lovers, with so many things to discover. Add this to the fact that Lough Erne is also absolutely beautiful, with views in every direction, and an incredible population of birds and wildlife, and you’d really wonder why there are not more people visiting here. This is the legacy of the border, my friends – but it’s a win for us, having this spectacular place much to ourselves.

I’ll bring you to a few of these castles as we tour around- today, it’s Portora Castle, built where the lower lake opens up. This was an important crossing point, or ford, for centuries, and evidence of stone age, bronze age and iron age artifacts have been found here. The ruins of the castle here now was built in the early seventeenth century by Sir William Cole, – it is built in an English style, but the stone work is Irish, suggesting that it was refashioned from a previously existing structure. This was common enough too – although the new settlers were instructed to destroy the vernacular buildings, many of them did not – they just added on extensions, or redesigned the buildings. The castle became an important strategic outpost for the British during several uprisings, but then fell into ruin.

However, if you remember back to our visit to Castle Archdale, you’ll know that the lake continued to be used by the British military, especially in WW2. The nearby sports fields are named after Eisenhower, who visited the US 8th regiment here in 1944.

The best view of the castle is from the river side, and you can also see the sluice gates that control the water levels on the lake. The day was a bit overcast and grey, but as I keep telling you, it really does not matter, or diminish the many ways which places like this can give pleasure. Enjoy!

DAY 84

SACRED SPACES 

June 9 2020

Off I went today to explore a stone circle, and as luck would have it, on my way to the one I knew about, I discovered a new one! So you’re getting value for your walk today, my friends.
It also shows us just how much history is available on the landscape, – these are two extraordinary places, and I met nobody on either of the visits.

Standing stone circles like these are roughly 4,000 years old, and date back to the Irish Bronze Age. They are not graves, but more likely spaces where people came to celebrate rituals – as most of them have an alignment to sunrise or sunset at equinox and solstice, it is thought they were part of rituals observing the sun and moon. It would be much later that the storytellers would begin imagining wonderful mythology involving druids and fairies with these sites- but we really don’t know much about them, except they are very very old, and were important to these ancient people.

The first site (with the gravel bed) is in County Fermanagh. This is Drumskinny (Droim Scian – the edge of the knife) Stone Circle- it probably originally had 39 stones. At this site, there is also a small circular cairn, and a straight line of stones, (called an alignment).

Just over the border, back in County Donegal is Beltany Stone Circle. There’s a beautiful leafy laneway up to the top of the hill that was very ‘dark hedges’ and atmospheric. As with most stone circles, Beltany (which is Irish for ‘Bealtaine’, which was an important date in early historic Ireland, being the midway point between Spring equinox and Summer solstice – it is also the Irish word we use for the month of May) – is on top of a hill, with fabulous views at every angle. The walk up to the circle, and around the local forest is really amazing in itself, but then you spy the standing stones in the distance- and it’s really something! There are 64 stones still standing in this circle- it’s thought originally there would have been about 80. 

There’s also one single standing stone outside the circle.Once again, I don’t think photographs can do places like this any justice. I post them here to whet your appetite, so that you will make the time to see places like this for real. It’s at places like this you can let your imagination romp all over the countryside, breath the air of secret and sacred rituals, hear birdsong and bee buzz and yes- probably wind and rain in your face- but it is sublime. Always. Enjoy!

Day 85

CAMLIN GATEWAY

June 10 2020

Hello folks, I have a lovely walk and a sad story for you today. The magnificent gateway we are going to walk through was built as part of Camlin Castle, a large Tudor-Gothic house built by the Tredennick family. The gateway still stands as you can see, but tragically, the house itself was destroyed to facilitate the building of the new Hydro-Electric Scheme on the river Erne. It was thought that the new lake would cause the building to be submerged, but it did not, so the building need not have been demolished. Now, the gateway simply leads down a leafy path to the edge of Lough Erne. It was a rather dark and rainy day for this ramble, you can’t see the wind, but the choppy lake and ruffled rushes should at least give you a sense of the weather. So wrap up warm for this one, and enjoy!

DAY 86

POLLNAGOLLUM CAVE 

June 11 2020
Belmore Forest is deep in the heart of Fermanagh’s cave country, where the geography is dominated by limestone, and a magical landscape of mystery prevails. And hidden in the forest is a cave, known as ‘Pollnagollum’ which means the cave of the doves. The entrance to the cave has all the elements of fantasy – from the waterfall trickling from above, winding steps cut into the descent, and the whisper of the Gods of the Underworld saying ‘Come on in… I dare you’! If you’re a fan of ‘Game of Thrones’ you won’t be surprised that the cave was used for the set – check out this clip
 
And as Arya is involved, shoutout to Thomas and Tiffany 🙂
This whole area is part of the Fermanagh/Cavan Geopark, and it’s chock full of amazing walks, falls, caves and forests to visit. You can also see how the landscape inspires and underpins the myriad of myths and stories from these places.
 
You can’t go too far down into this cave, so I’ll leave you go exploring on your own – see you tomorrow! Enjoy.

DAY 87

CASTLEDERG

June 12 2020

Today, we’re taking a walk around Castlederg, which is in County Tyrone, just across the border from Donegal. As the name suggests, there is a castle, and it’s perched on the edge of the beautiful Derg river. The ruined castle has a similar history as most of the castles in Ulster- it was most likely the site of a tower house (an Irish castle) and probably occupied by the two great tribes of Ulster at different times- the O’Donnells and O’Neills, -but after the Plantation of Ulster, an Englishman named John Davies was given the land, and the castle was reconstructed. 

There was a large population of settlers from Scotland in this area after the plantation, and they were regularly attacked- the castle provided a refuge for them until the great showdown between William and James in 1689. After that, the castle fell into disrepair. Many of the early Scots settlers moved from Castlederg on to the USA, including the ancestors of one Davy Crockett! ‘Ulster-Scots’ is the term given to the much undervalued culture of the Scots planters who came to Ireland in the 17th Century, and I was delighted to see the park gates saying both ‘Fáilte’ and ‘Fair Fa Ye’ – Irish and Scots for welcome!

The river is lovely at the best of times, but today it was most peaceful and mirror-like, with lots of birds and ducks darting through the grasslands and river rocks. The Derg is a tributary of the River Foyle, and now a designated conservation area. I may have gone slightly off the path (i.e. under the bridge, chasing a heron) but there is a lovely river walk for those less likely to do these kinds of things!

One final mention for another treasure from Castlederg – it’s the home of Irish musicians ‘The Logues’ – great friends and great ambassadors for traditional music that’s fun! If they are not on your playlist, look them up! As the pubs were closed, I didn’t know where to look for them, but I found a poster, so that’ll do for now. Enjoy Castlederg!

DAY 88 

CHANGED PRIORITIES 

June 13 2020

Today’s walk is a short country road ramble by the river- but I have to tell you that this road sign in the first photo (which of course, refers to traffic behaviour) just seemed very fitting for the times we’re in. We’re walking in Border country here, from Donegal into Fermanagh, and the lake views are from Boa Island.

And as it’s Yeats Day today, it’s only right we should have swans. Enjoy!

DAY 89

DOE CASTLE

June 14 2020

Doe Castle is in County Donegal, and is one of my favourite castles in this area. It was probably built by the O’Donnells in the late 1400s, but was occupied mostly by the MacSweeney tribes, who were Scottish ‘Gallowglasses’ or mercenaries who settled in Donegal. It is set on the shore of Sheephaven Bay, and there’s truly a view from every angle.

As with all the other castles, it changed hands after the Plantation of Ulster, and was owned for about 100 years by the Harte family – you’ll see the initials of George Vaughan Harte in the stonework. In 1932, it became a national monument, and it’s very accessible to visit.

That’s your Sunday walk for you today! Enjoy!

DAY 90

BRIDGE OF SORROWS

June 15 2020

Hidden in the hills of Donegal is a small bridge, with a stone beside it that says ‘ Fad leis seo a thagadh cairde agus lucht gaoil an té a bhí ag imeacht chun na coigrithe. B’anseo an scaradh. Seo Droichead na nDeor’. Beautifully concise in the Irish language, a more rambling English explanation is that when people were emigrating from Donegal, family and friends would accompany them to this point (which is through a mountain pass called the Muckish Gap,) it was at this bridge they would say goodbye. This is the bridge of tears. It is a poignant reminder of the impact of emigration on both the emigrant, and those that are left behind. This bridge is not too far from a little town named Creeslough, and there is a famous song called ‘The Emigrant’s song’ set in this town, written by Percy French. Be warned – it’s a tear jerker!


See you tomorrow!

DAY 91

LATE NIGHT TWILIGHT

June 16 2020
 
Ireland is further north than you probably think- on the 55th parallel, and this means the sun is visible for 17 hours, 22 minutes during the summer solstice and 7 hours, 10 minutes during the winter solstice. We are almost at solstice now, and sunset is around 10:30pm. So last night, at about that time, I took a walk along one of my favourite Leitrim roads, enjoying the late dusk, and the spooky light around the old cottages and the damp fields. Hey- they were all cheerful ghosts, and they say that things can only get better! 
 
Stay safe, enjoy!

Day 92

OAKFIELD PARK

June 17 2020

Oakfield park in Donegal is a real treat for you, especially the flower-lovers. Set in the grounds of an eighteenth century Georgian house, these glorious gardens are open to the public. Now, I try to avoid places that actually charge money to go in, mainly because Donegal has such magnificent scenery everywhere you go – but in this case, it’s worth the ticket. They have a little train, complete with train station and platform, which will deliver you around the gardens if you don’t feel like walking, or you have little ‘uns in tow (and they love it, of course). There is a superb walled garden, which thankfully is not overly manicured; their gardeners have embraced the natural look, but they have some beautiful plants and flowers that you won’t find in the Donegal wilderness. They have a lovely restaurant there too, – you could easily spend a full day exploring- well, we did! And now you can enjoy it too.

Welcome to Oakfield.

Day 93

FOXGLOVE FREEWAY

June 18 2020
 
Today’s walk followed a favourite occupation of mine- finding an old road and seeing where it goes. We are back in County Leitrim again – this is only about 5 miles from Bundoran, we are so lucky to have lovely Leitrim so close. Leitrim is the least populated county in Ireland, and in my mind, the most well-kept secret, because it is full of loveliness.
 
I was out early in the morning – just after sunrise, and after quite heavy rainfall. As we’ve had two months of dry weather, we can’t complain, and the plants and animals need it, – and the raindrops only added diamonds to the pretty wildflowers, hedges, spider-webs and shrubbery.
This particular laneway was lined with bright cerise foxgloves, forming a guard of honour along the way – in my head, I thought ‘it’s the foxglove freeway’! So I stuck with the name. The yellow flag irises are everywhere too, only nature would get away with these flashy colours, and pull it off.
 
Enjoy!
DAY 94

MARBLE HILL

June 19 2020
 
Hello everyone, and happy Friday. We are having very unseasonable weather at the moment, a lot of dark cloudy sky, wind and rain. It won’t stop us, but it’s a different ‘look’ when the rain’s battering down! Today, we are in a little beachy village in North West Donegal called Marble Hill. Usually at this time of year, the beach would be packed, as this is a very popular place. Irish painter and writer AE (George Russell) used to come here a lot for artistic refreshment, and impressed the beauty of this area to many, including his buddy W.B. Yeats – although sadly, I haven’t found any poems written by Yeats that are about Donegal Yeats’ brother Jack, (the artists) was also a regular visitor, and he didn’t forget us.
 
A very nice person allowed me a sneak peak of Marble Hill House, where the Law family made such guests welcome. I think my fascination with doors and doorways took over this set of photos, – things I can’t resist – gardens, doorways, heart flowers, swans, and roses. You can also meet the Corncrake, aka the worst singer iin the world… I don’t know about that, I think we have some alternative candidates.
I’m planning a big hike tomorrow, so have a good night’s rest, you’ll need your energy!
Stay safe and have a good weekend, Enjoy Marble Hill.

Day 95

GLEN FOLK VILLAGE

June 20 2020

Few places in Ireland match the magnificent nexus of Irish scenery, history and culture like Glencolmcille in West Donegal. This Atlantic coastal valley nestles between the most spectacular cliffs. It is a Gaeltacht – Irish is the first language here and spoken fluently and mellifluously. It is associated with Colm, one of the earliest Christian missionaries, but there is evidence of pre-Christian settlements, it has associations with mythology and wonderful folklore. It is home to one of the best Irish Language schools, and the Folk Village is an incredible amenity which all visitors should visit. There are reconstructed cottages, a school house, a pub and store, filled with authentic collected furniture, tools craft work, a gorgeous homely kitchen, and the friendliest people you could meet. We visited it today, and although the folk village is not open for visitors yet, we took some photos just to introduce it to you. The large map of Ireland features each county created from its local stone, and the folk village is right beside it. We have more of Glen to show you tomorrow- enjoy!

Day 96

STURRAL

June 21 2020

Join me today for an incredible coastal walk along the edge of Donegal. We are visiting Glen Head, and the Napoleonic tower, built about 1805. These towers are found all along the coastline, and as the name suggests, were built during the Napoleonic wars as look-out posts. Just a few kilometres from the tower, the awesome rocky claw that is Sturrall comes into view. It is a spectacular rocky outcrop with a sheer drop from the very narrow track at the top to the deep blue below. A very sturdy off-shore wind made me very mindful of going too near the edge – it wouldn’t do to get the new boots that wet that soon! Enjoy!

Day 97

ROSSNOWLAGH 

June 22 2020

The meaning of Rossnowlagh is ‘Heavenly headland’ and it is an accurate description. The beach at Rossnowlagh is fabulous, but it is from the rocky heights of the headland that it is most appreciated. Heaven could also be in a conventional sense too – right on the edge of this beach is perched the Franciscan Friary. This relatively modern friary replaced the much older Friary in nearby Donegal town, built in the fifteenth century by the O’Donnells, and destroyed early in the seventeenth century. The current friary operates as a friendly retreat center and there are beautiful walks on the grounds that offer the opportunity of spiritual reflection with stunning views of Donegal Bay. The weather today was anything but heavenly, but it’s nature’s prerogative- or the Almighty’s, depending on your persuasion, to decide those matters! It didn’t bother me, and it won’t bother you, at least not today! Enjoy!