An August 2000 trip
to County Donegal by lisamcgu
Quote: County Donegal is said to be the most unpopulated part of Ireland. However, with its horse treks, surfing, castles, and rugged beauty, I found parts of this area to be the most commercial and tourist-populated in all of Ireland.
This area is known to be the "roughest" with weather and seas included. Back down the coast, past the town of Donegal, is where you will find Ireland's surf beaches which are fueled by that rough north sea.
In fact, it had belonged to a wealthy landowner and is still surrounded by about 50 acres of land with, supposedly, private access to a sand dune beach (I couldn't see it from the house). There are horses to pet out back. Off to the side of the house there is what looked like an old, falling down, entire village! The village seemed medieval with an old church and other buildings, and parts of it seemed to be undergoing a restoration process.
I stayed two nights in this B&B. The first night, my room was one of the basement rooms. It was not very appealing in location, view or furnishings. The next night, I asked politely to be upgraded, and I went from the bottom to the top.
Being a single is what doomed me to the basement to begin with; the proprietors like to save the big rooms for family groups that all jam in one room but still pay per person. A group's bill would total way more than mine with my little, single supplement (only about $25).
Anyway, my second room was on the upper-most floor. It was huge with a little attic-type window looking out over the front courtyard (parking) area, a beautiful old fireplace and one of the fluffiest, most comfortable beds I've ever slept in. The attic room was much better than the basement room, and I was glad I had stayed one more night. I was also glad that I got to experience another great breakfast.
Most of the B&Bs in Ireland serve a "traditional" Irish breakfast. Along with the tea and toast that is always put out, this would be their thick, sweet, ham-like bacon and eggs with stuff on the side. Not liking any of the side items, I didn't acknowledge them much and, therefore, don't really recall what they were, however, I remember tomatoes being somewhat involved. Usually, I just ordered the bacon and eggs plain, and I would eat some cereal.
For breakfast at this B&B, I was asked if I wanted the traditional Irish breakfast or Bacon with French Toast. French Toast!?! Yes! I chose that option, and it was excellent; it was beyond excellent. The country butter and syrup that was served with the meal were wonderful. I thought this was the best idea for a B&B breakfast. Yum!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 7, 2001
Ballyshannon, County Donegal
Restaurant | "Malin Hotel - the Pub"
It was a classic pub with low windows in the front, where one can sit and look out on the town square outside. I ordered my usual tea with a ham and cheese sandwich, which you will always find in a pub.
The bar itself was clean and quiet, just like the town. It seems Malin has even won Ireland's "tidiest" town award. Even with a few locals at the bar in the corner, there was only the occasional boisterous outburst.
The other patrons were older, well-dressed family groups, quietly enjoying their tea and the sun streaming in from the large front windows. The service was gracious and friendly, and I was very glad I chose this little pub in which to have my tea.
Inishowen, County Donegal, Ireland
Starting from the town of Malin, and even more so as you get nearer Malin Head, it is truly a most beautiful ride with view points all along the way - definitely bring a picnic lunch.
When you get there, you'll find a monument which explains that the unique rock formations below the cliffs were formed 15,000 years ago by glaciers. Supposedly, geologists from major universities come out all the time to do research on these unique formations.
Malin, County Donegal
County Donegal, Ireland
Attraction | "Donegal"
The Irish Tourist Board office was crowded; small yet jammed with tourists reserving tours, accommodations, etc. Knowing of this great load of tourists, the parking lot next door had become a haven for indigents and street urchins.
The children would, without asking, wipe greasy rags on the tourists' front car windows, looking for change because they "cleaned" the windows. And, healthy, even overweight, young women, with an obvious ability to work, would try to bum money. I was in shock and only encountered this type of begging in one other town (see my County Meath journal, Tinkers in Trim entry).
It was as if the place had no pride. I chose to not have tea in one of the many restaurants there. Instead I used the cybercafe as I had planned (my reason for visiting the area), got my email, and then got out of there as soon as possible.
I went back the next day, parked my car and went straight to Donegal Castle. Suffice it to say, I did not feel secure about leaving my car alone, or being on my own walking through this town.
UPDATE: When made aware of the tinker problem, Donegal town council took action! They put controls in place so they can't bother tourists anymore. Huge sigh of relief. Now one can relax and have a good time when visiting Donegal.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 7, 2001
Donegal, County Donegal, Ireland
County Donegal, Ireland
Except for in the old, medieval town of Carlingford, on the other side of the country, this church had some of the oldest gravestones I saw in all of Ireland. (In Carlingford, some of the markers were just plain rocks.) They have even named one of the gravestones with a Heritage sign calling it the Killaghtee Cross - it has been dated to the time of the vikings, 650 AD, showing its age with a large celtic cross on top. The church itself, or the walls of it, could be called well-preserved but its oh so small.
It was interesting to see just how small a church could be back then, as if there were only a few who would use it, yet that did not deter them from the trouble of building it. And, the stonework around the Church's arched windows was incredible showing the handy work of a true craftsman.
On the way to the church, you pass the most beautiful site, an old castle ruin being eroded at the water's edge with horses grazing around it. It is Rahan Castle, ancient seat of the McSwyne`s of Banagh who had it in 1450 AD although, locally, it is called Castle Murray after the last Earl of Annadale, a more recent owner.
Just a mile or two away from the Church is a heritage museum that informs on all the heritage sites in the area. I wish I had found their website before I went because, according to it, this area also boasts wedgetombs dating to between 3000-2000 BC and a couple of Pagan sites being a reilig (burial mound) for unbaptised children and St. Conal's Well. I was just going by signposts and missed these. Anyway, if going over, so you don't miss out as well, the heritage museum (with its B&B and art gallery) has a webpage which can be accessed at:
Killaghtee Old Church and Heritage Sites
County Donegal, Ireland
This castle sits with part of the structure hanging over the river. It was redone perfectly, showing each stage of development as the castle went from Irish ownership to English.
It was built by the O'Donnell kings who, it seems, had only war on their minds. Thus, they constructed the castle with such features as narrow windows, so arrows could be shot out but rarely find their way in, and narrow, uneven stairways that enabled those familiar with the stairs to have the advantage over those who were charging up from below. And, later, when the English took over, huge, grand windows were installed to show prominence, wealth and confidence over their deposed enemies, the Irish. I remembered all this stuff because the guided tour was so good!
Tours are conducted quite regularly, and the ticket counter is right there in front of the castle. It cost only a few punts, but go to enough of these few punt castle tours and they add up. Thus, there is the Heritage Pass. A moderately priced pass, under 20 punts, if I remember correctly, that covers entry into many named heritage sites all over Ireland. Donegal Castle is one of the heritage sites named, so you can buy a pass there and use it for entry that day and later at all the other heritage sites.
Oh, I almost forgot the toilet. It was placed in a small room situated over the river so that when one sat on the little bench which, of course, had a hole in it, the waste would go straight down into the river. Good plan until it was found that one's enemies could be in the river right below, and shoot an arrow right up the hole. Architectural evidence showed the hole was curved, after this error in judgment was discovered.
Orange County, California