The drive from Cornamona to Donegal was an easy two hours on nice roads. Our latest apartment is just outside town on a hillside with beautiful views of the countryside. After our arrival in the early afternoon we took a drive around Donegal searching for a gym after not finding one near our last place in Cornamona. The closest one we found was the Finn Valley Leisure Center, 25 minutes away in Ballybofey (I just love the small town names here in Ireland) It’s a great gym and will be perfect for those rainy days, which once again we had a lot of. During the few dry spells we dashed out to see some of the sights nearby.
DONEGAL (Dún na nGall) town is a popular tourist destination with many sandy beaches nearby boasting good surfing conditions. It’s also a great base to explore the surrounding Donegal County. The town itself is small with a population around 2,800 and as such the center is quite small, basically a triangle in the middle of town. We wandered around Donegal a couple of times and popped into McCafferty’s for a Guinness one afternoon.
CLASSIEBAWN CASTLE is the story of a fairytale castle and the assassination of Lord Mountbatten. Classiebawn Castle stands impressively on the Mullaghmore Peninsula in County Sligo where it has been since 1874. Classiebawn was built on land confiscated from an Irish family by the English Parliment. Construction was started by a then Prime Minister of the UK and handed down through the families over the ensuing years. The Mountbatten’s inherited the castle in 1939 and Lord Louis Mountbatten visited the castle during the summer for many years. The Lord Mountbatten I am referring to was related to the Royal Family, being the Uncle of Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband. On a sunny day in August 1979 Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA not far from the castle while in a fishing boat with his two grandsons, creating worldwide outrage. The castle received attention once again after it was featured in the Netflix series “The Crown”. The castle sit’s on 3,000 acres of private land so you can’t get close to it, let alone see inside. However, it does stand on a hilltop so we could admire it from afar. Imagine our surprise when a busload of 45 tourists arrived at what we thought was a part of the road barely wide enough to pull over 😂 I guess it’s a popular stop on the tourist route around Sligo.
Near Classiebawn we spotted the MULLACHGEARR MEMORIAL, a small sculpture dedicated to Freddy McHugh and the forgotten poor. McHugh resided in the castle’s gatehouse and the poverty he experienced before his death was uncovered when neighbours discovered he had burned almost every stick of furniture in his home in an effort to stay warm, even part of his bed had been used for firewood. McHugh died in the 1960’s after collapsing with apparent hypothermia. In addition to Freddy McHugh the memorial is in remembrance of eight other families living in the village of Mullach Gearr, who were forced to leave once the castle was completed. No trace of the village remains!
From Classiebawn we drove to the BELBULBEN FOREST WALK parking lot which is the start of a 5.5 km easy walk at the base of Benbulben, undoubtedly one of Ireland’s most distinctive mountains. Belbulben is sometimes referred to as Ireland’s own Table Mountain, formed during the ice age by massive glaciers. We only got about 1 km into our walk when it started to rain so we decided to return to the car and not risk getting drenched, but we did get a pretty good view of Belbulben.
While near the town of Sligo we popped by ST. COLUMBA’S CHURCH in DRUMCLIFFE renowned for being the final resting place of W.B. YEATES, Ireland’s Nobel Prize winning poet. Unfortunately it was a Sunday and the church was closed in preparation for a service later that morning so we could not go inside. Yeats was originally buried in France but almost 10 years later, per his final wishes, he was moved to a graveyard in Sligo to lie beneath Benbulben.
SLIEVE LEAGUE (Sliabh Liag) has the second highest cliffs in Ireland and are best viewed from a viewpoint known as Bunglass. There is a parking lot 2 km below the viewpoint, which is as far as you can drive unless you pay for a shuttle bus. The first bit of the walk is steep but after that it settles down to a nice gradual incline to the viewpoint, where the views are outstanding!! It was not overly sunny, but it was dry and that was all we hoped for. There are some tourist trinkets for sale and a coffee truck at the upper parking lot so we had a hot chocolate while relaxing and soaking up the views. From the viewpoint a hiking trail continues up the hillside to the top of the cliffs and along the ridge. We saw a few hiking groups setting off for a day hike. We arrived around 10am at the lower parking lot and it was quite empty but when we returned it was full and people were being turned away. Parking costs 5 Euros (USD $5.50) for 2 hours. This place was definitely the highlight of our week in Donegal 😁
THE ABBEY OF DONEGAL (Mainistir Dhún na nGall) is a Franciscan monastery founded in 1474 by Red Hugh O’Donnel, a Donegal chieftain. The abbey flourished until 1601 when it was unsuccessfully defended from the English and destroyed in the ensuing battle. The grounds of the abbey are now a cemetery, and here you will find the vault of Red Hugh O’Donnel who died in 1505 in Donegal. There is not much left of the Abbey but it’s location overlooking Donegal Bay is gorgeous.
This past week was yet another week of rain and very little opportunity to get outside, which is where most things are to see in Ireland. The two days that we had the opportunity to sightsee were busy ones as we tried to squeeze in as much as possible.
Just in case anyone is thinking we complain a lot about the weather, read the below headline. It has rained 23 of the 31 days in July and is the wettest July on record!!!! So, it’s not just us that is unhappy with the weather. I think we have just had some very unfortunate timing for our first visit to Ireland.
So we continue on our soggy tour of Ireland to our next destination, near Ballycastle in Northern Ireland…..
An té a bhíónn siúlach, bíonn scéalach
He who travels has stories to tell