Monday, May 23, 2011

Ireland!!: Inishowen & Letterkenny

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Crappy weather hovered over us as we left Derry and headed northwest toward Inishowen, an area in County Donegal bordered by the sea and two giant lakes, Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly. We stopped in Moville to look around for some tourist information, but didn't find it, and the cold wet weather drove us into a little shop for some coffee.

After warming up, we visited a graveyard outside Moville featuring a high cross and a skull house. The graveyard was being used to feed sheep, with buckets of something they like sitting almost right inside the gates. It was pretty amusing to watch them scatter when we came in, then watch the bolder ones return to the buckets first (same ones every time). We then spent at least an hour looking around for the Bocan Stone Circle. The circle is visible from the road near the tiny town of Bocan, but we managed to not spot it at first and ran around all over trying to find it according to some crappy directions from Lonely Planet. Finally on a last, desperate pass, we spotted it from the road and found a roundabout path to get out to it through a pasture. Most of the circle is loose rocks on the ground, but there are a few standing stones left.

These two minor things took up the whole morning so we stopped for lunch at Donagh Cafe in Carndonagh, which had the standard pick-your-filling toasted sandwiches (chicken, cheese, and pineapple for me!) that we love so much. Before finding the cafe we wandered into a pub looking for food. They didn't have any, but at noon there were three pretty old guys sitting around drinking in there, and the booths were upholstered with this amazing fabric with Latin words all over it! Wish we had been there in the evening so we could have a drink there!

After lunch we checked out some old carved crosses and pillars near the church in Carndonagh, then backtracked a little bit to the Clonca church and cross, which were also in a field but much easier to find than the stone circle had been. It's behind someone's house and there's a sidewalk going out to it from the highway. Maybe it was the break in the rain we had while we were out there, but I thought the church was a highlight of the day at Inishowen. See the photos!

Inishowen & Letterkenny Mai 11

We continued on to Fahan, south of Buncrana, to see St. Mura's cross, an old carved slab in a graveyard in Fahan. It was supposed to have some Greek carvings on it, but I think only a mega old-rock-expert could find them. We definitely couldn't! The graveyard was still cool, though. After that we drove up to the GrianĂ¡n of Aileach, and old fort on the south end of Inishowen which has been restored - possibly inaccurately, but it's pretty fun to visit nonetheless. Inside the walls you can climb up stairs to the top for incredible views of the surrounding area. It poured while we were up there, of course, but afterward we finally saw our first rainbow of the trip! However, there is something else up at this fort. While we were there we saw at least 3 cars come up to the parking lot and never come to the fort. We didn't witness any of them leaving their cars either, although they might have briefly. Mostly we just saw them sitting in their cars. WTH!? There isn't anything else up there and you can't get a great view from sitting in your car.

After the fort, we checked in at our B&B, Rinneen Country Home just north of Letterkenny - partly chosen because Letterkenny is just so fun to say. I had booked this one because I misunderstood that it had a bathtub, but it didn't. Blast! However, it was still very nice, with tea and snacks on arrival, although we couldn't get the breakfast time we wanted because it had already been claimed by some longer-term guests (who were very nice English people!).

J, a big fan of Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys, was hoping to catch some original folk music while in Ireland, so we asked where we could find some, along with a fire to warm up by. The hostess seemed a little put-off by the question and explained that Letterkenny doesn't have anything like that even though that's what everyone's stereotype of Ireland is, and that you can usually only find things like that during tourist season, which hadn't arrived yet. So, it's just for tourists and we should get with the real Irish program, I guess she was sort of trying to say. She didn't know of any place with a fire either. So, we wandered into Letterkenny and ate at the Indian restaurant she had recommended, which was unfortunately expensive but really good. And the bathroom had real hand towels so I was sold. Then we resorted to Lonely Planet to see if we could find a bar with a fire, and there it was, right in the book, the Cottage Bar. There was almost no one there so we got a seat right next to the fire and burned off the cold wet day. They were even playing a great radio show with things that I would actually listen to - Local Natives came on, for example. But, we did see what she was talking about with Letterkenny "not being like that" - it was clearly a town which prides itself on being more updated and city-like and cultural. I didn't care too much about seeing any live music - Local Natives on the radio is a highlight enough for me - but we definitely still wanted to find it for J, but it would have to wait another night!

Breakfast the next morning was lovely. My husband discovered mini-Weetabix with raisins and loved them. Our hostess gave us a helpful info sheet for the area we were headed that day - coming next: southwestern County Donegal!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, glad you had some nice weather for so many of those pictures.

    I'm jealous!


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