Monday, May 23, 2011

Ireland!!: Ardara & Dawros Head

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During our last trip to Ireland, I'd seen a tweed purse somewhere that I really liked, but it was just after having bought myself a sweater, so my souvenir budget was done. Since then I kept thinking about getting a tweed purse someday. This trip seemed like the perfect opportunity, especially since my current purse is starting to fall apart. Ardara is supposed to be one of Donegal's centers of tweed making and selling, so it seemed like a good place to stop in search of the purse.

We parked on the road in to town, with our first order of business to find lunch. There was a little cafe in the same building as the tourist information office, and we decided to check out the menu there, but before that we ducked into the info office to see if there was anything interesting. There was - the lady working there! She started talking when we walked in and didn't stop, about things including the festival we'd missed the previous weekend and what she did yesterday and the recent gorse fires in the area and how farmers had to help put them out - but she also recommended a place to get lunch (Nancy's) and a few places to look for tweed.

We stopped first at Nancy's, only a couple of doors down from the tourist office. The woman had recommended their seafood chowder, so we all had it along with some brown bread and tea, and it was great. Nancy's was like a maze of several little rooms. In one tiny room I saw a guy reading the paper and watching TV as if it were his own living room. The two largest rooms both have bars and one also has a fire. It wasn't busy at all when we were there, but we later found out that it's a guidebook favorite, so it may be more crowded at other times of the year.

After lunch we went up the street to Eddie Doherty's tweed shop, the first place she told us to look for tweed. In a big two-room shop were a guy hanging out in a tweed vest, piles of tweed hats, scarves, and blankets, and rails of tweed jackets, vests, and capes. After we'd looked around a few minutes and he encouraged us to try stuff on, he offered to show us how he makes the tweed on a big loom that takes up half the back room. It was very cool. He also said he has another loom in the back of his son's pub two doors down so he can make tweed while hanging out there. A local seamstress takes his tweed and makes all the stuff in the shop. J got a hat for her sister and my husband got a vest - he wanted a jacket, but it was way out of our price range. Alas, there weren't any tweed purses there, so we moved up the road to a couple of other shops the lady had mentioned, neither of which were as personalized. We saw a tweed purse at one that was very cute, but it was made with fake leather and didn't look like it would hold up that well, so I decided to see if I could find anything better. I am really hard on purses - they don't just sit in the passenger seat of the car, they go with me walking everywhere and carry a lot of stuff. No luck with the purse in Ardara, although I did get some soft-serve ice cream from a very friendly lady at a tiny grocery shop, which I'd been craving since we got to Donegal - it seemed every little cafe and variety store had a big fiberglass ice cream cone outside its door.

After Ardara, we visited a couple of dolmens just south of Kilclooney. Lonely Planet had mentioned something about a place near there that would have info on walks in the area, but when we showed up they said the guy who knows everything was away, and they didn't have anything useful in the way of maps or brochures. They did tell us how to get to the dolmens. On our way there, we ran into a little old lady coming from the church who was talking to herself. We thought she said something to us, so we asked her and she told us she was just praying. Then she asked us if we had ever been to Kennytown - I couldn't find anything on this so I think she actually must have said Kerrytown. We said no and she told us we should go and she knew a guy who got healed there and that that's where she was going, pointing off down the road. Then she started talking to someone else and we continued to the dolmen.

Ardara & Dawros Head Area Mai 11

To get there, we walked through a lot of burned areas and it still smelled burned - there had been a huge bunch of gorse fires there a week before. Apparently gorse burns really well. The ground was very wet and mucky, and we kept thinking about the tourist info lady in Ardara who told us that farmers helped put out the fire by putting water into the trucks they normally haul manure with and dumping the water on everything. Mmmmm. The dolmens were cool and we heard a cuckoo bird too!

After that we had no plans, so we went down the road the lady had been pointing down, thinking maybe we'd find this Kerrytown, which we now know wasn't anywhere near where we were. Anyway, we ended up at a forest sweetly named Bonny Glen - they say the land of Bonny Glen was traded by seven families to a man who gave them tickets to America - and took a little walk there before driving around the Dawros peninsula a bit looking for anything of interest. There were some incredible sea views and we got our car herded by some sheepdogs, which was fun.

Next, we checked in at our B&B in Killybegs and our adventures in the very southwest of County Donegal began...

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