Good-Bye To All That

8 October 2015, Thursday
Today we moved from Inishowen to Donegal Town. On the way, we were going to drop John at the Donegal Regional Airport. And I had a few more adventures planned. 🙂

So we had breakfast in the sunny dining room, then got packed and left around ten o’clock. Drove down to Muff and back across the R239, which we’d found so exciting coming in but was old hat now, and left the peninsula.

You can see the route here. We were on our way to another head—Fanad Head.

For some reason, Google Maps will not embed this evening. It doesn't recognize the Pb parameters—whatever that is! So I’ve made a screen shot instead. Good grief!

For some reason, Google Maps will not embed this evening. It doesn’t recognize the Pb parameters—whatever that is! So I’ve made a screen shot instead. Good grief! (UPDATE: It will, however, embed the map below. I’m so confused.)

On all our Inishowen travels we’d learned to use the paper map, plus John’s mobile phone map, plus the GPS to sort of triangulate where we wanted to go and how best to get there. The GPS alone had a tendency to take us the most direct route—but those were often bad roads (not well taken care of) or excessively narrow and just a little bit frightening. Sometimes you’re just better off taking a slightly longer route but staying on a main road. Coupled with lack of sign-posting (what is the name of this road? who knows?), each destination is an adventure.

But our printed map stopped at the peninsula, so we weren’t quite sure where we were half the time.* I took the pictures, though, and looked them up later.

Thus I can tell you this was taken along Mulroy Bay. (On Google Maps you see it called Broad Water. And while I was researching this, I found this fabulous video of it.)

Thus I can tell you this was taken along Mulroy Bay. (On Google Maps you see it called Broad Water. And while I was researching this, I found this fabulous video of it.)

Looking north along Mulroy Bay. That’s the Fanad Peninsula on the right, the Rosguill Peninsula on the left.

Looking north along Mulroy Bay. That’s the Fanad Peninsula on the right, the Rosguill Peninsula on the left.

The further north we went, the smaller the roads got, and the more convoluted the route with sharp turns and confusing road signs. We drove and we drove and we drove. We could see the sea, finally. And then we went over a little rise, crossed a little bridge, and—boom!—there it was. All three of us gasped.

Wouldn’t you?

Wouldn’t you? That’s the lighthouse on the left. Remember, you can click on this photo to enlarge and zoom in.

We pulled over, got out, stretched our legs, took photos. Drove a little father, took more photos.

Again … wouldn’t you? What a view!

Again … wouldn’t you? What a view!

But even here we weren’t all the way there. So we drove as far as we could. Until the road ended.

They don’t let you onto the lighthouse property.

They don’t let you onto the lighthouse property.

The lighthouse at Fanad Head.

The lighthouse at Fanad Head.

The sign at the tiny parking turnout reads:

For centuries, Fanad Point has had strategic importance in protecting the Irish coastline and passing ships. The first lighthouse—lit in 1817—replaced an earlier British watchtower. The Navy called for a lightouse after the HMS Saldahna wrecked about 1811. Only the ship’s parrot survived. The present lighthouse dates to 1886. The ruined buildings are the remains of a coast guard station. In the mid-1800s, about 90 stations were built around Ireland. During WW1, Lough Swilly became the main Atlantic base for the Allied Fleet. Fanad Point guarded its entrance.

We all agreed that Fanad Head was worth the drive. The view was spectacular!

Looking back the way we came to Fanad.

Looking back the way we came to Fanad.

See the pretty beach? Immediately west of Fanad Point.

Here’s a satellite view I grabbed from Google Maps, so you can tell what you’re looking at. But then, maybe I’m the only one who obsesses about where, exactly, I am. I do love a map.

Here’s a satellite view I grabbed from Google Maps, so you can tell what you’re looking at. But then, maybe I’m the only one who obsesses about where, exactly, I am. I do love a map.

Now we were going to head to the airport, with a stop in Glenveagh National Park. But remember what I said about trusting the GPS? There might have been more comfortable ways to get there, but instead we bounced along on tiny backroads across the top of the Fanad Peninsula, threading our way on the little piece of dry land between Kincrum Lough and the northernmost point of Mulroy Bay. Honestly, I can’t even tell if the road is numbered. (It’s not: it was a private road, I’ve discovered.)

Here’s a look at the map again:

Finally the road turned decidedly south and we crossed Drongawn Lough (a branch of Mulroy Bay) on the very modern Harry Blaney Bridge onto Rosguill Peninsula.

 I did not take this photo; I snatched it from the Internet, and don’t even know who to credit. Nice shot, though.

I did not take this photo; I snatched it from the Internet, and don’t even know who to credit. I can’t tell you which side the photograph’s taken from, either. Nice shot, though.

It was picturesque country, to say the least. (Majestic … spectacular … those are closer to the truth.) I’d planned to take us by Doe Castle—it’s a national monument now—but I’d learned just that morning that it was already closed for the season. A view of it is, however, on the Wild Atlantic Way, and we settled for that. 🙂

The Wild Atlantic Way strikes again!

The Wild Atlantic Way strikes again!

Doe Castle on the shores of Sheephaven Bay at low tide, October 2015.

Doe Castle on the shores of Sheephaven Bay at low tide, October 2015.

A closer view of Doe Castle.

A closer view of Doe Castle.

Then we got back on the road, through ever-changing countryside.

Crossing the Lackagh River, which drains from Sheephaven Bay into Glen Lough.

Crossing the Lackagh River, which drains from Sheephaven Bay into Glen Lough.

Again, we went from bare hills into tree-covered countryside, from highway to country lane. Just after the bridge above, this …

An old farm truck, with the farm dog riding shotgun. They were moving very slowly.

An old farm truck, with the farm dog riding shotgun. They were moving very slowly.

… and then we followed the signs to Glenveagh National Park. It is the second-largest national park in Ireland, and it is magnificent. Whoa.

A view of Lough Veagh in Glenveagh National Park, October 2015.

A view of Lough Veagh in Glenveagh National Park, October 2015.

Glenveagh National Park, October 2015.

Glenveagh National Park, October 2015.

The history isn’t pretty, though. The estate that forms the bulk of the park was purchased in 1859 by John George Adair, who then built a castle on it in 1870–73. He was rich, and he was, well, an asshole too: Adair notoriously evicted 224 poor tenant farmers for no reason other than he believed they spoiled his view. In 1937 the estate was purchased by American Henry Plumer McIlhenny, who later sold the land to the Irish State; in 1981 the family gave the castle and gardens to Ireland outright.

John and I took the shuttle bus two miles in to Glenveagh Castle, while Gerry declined. (He made himself useful with a camera, though. You’ll see.)

It would have been a lovely place to live, Glenveagh Castle. If your neighbors didn’t hate you.

It would have been a lovely place to live, Glenveagh Castle. If your neighbors didn’t hate you.

We decided against touring the house and just strolled around outside, admiring the gardens, then found our way to the tearoom for a cuppa. (I have yet to eat in a venue tearoom that wasn’t delish. Yum. I had Banofee pie, which is banana/toffee.)

Garden at Glenveagh Castle.

Garden at Glenveagh Castle.

All the doors were painted this lovely aqua—one of my favorite colors.

All the doors were painted this lovely aqua—one of my favorite colors.

In one of the gardens I heard a bird singing loudly, very close by the bush I was standing under. I looked and looked and looked—and there he was! I’ve since learned this is a robin. (A European robin?) It’s much smaller than the North American robin, but my Irish and British friends tell me they are very vocal and are unafraid of humans, which was obvious here.

I clicked several photos as quickly as I could, worried that the bird would fly off, but there it sat.

I clicked several photos as quickly as I could, worried that the bird would fly off, but there it sat.

Meanwhile, Gerry was having his own stroll around the park.

A little boathouse on Lough Veagh.

A little boathouse on Lough Veagh.

Grasses growing in the lake.

Grasses growing in the lake.

More of Lough Veagh.

More of Lough Veagh.

A different part of the lake at Glenveagh.

A different part of the lake at Glenveagh.

A beautiful trellised walkway at Glenveagh.

A beautiful trellised walkway at Glenveagh.

Then we drove on toward the coast, along the R251. The rocky terrain was simultaneously bleak and beautiful. Laughing and talking and oohing and aahing. And singing. In the car. 🙂

We’d been watching a peak in the distance, and finally got close enough to stop. Mount Errigal, just between Dunlewy and Gweedore.

Mount Errigal. This really doesn’t do it justice; it’s enormous. The sign says, basically, “Welcome to Gweedore” in Irish. Welcome to the Gaeltacht.

Mount Errigal. This really doesn’t do it justice; it’s enormous. The sign says, basically, “Welcome to Gweedore” in Irish. Welcome to the Gaeltacht.

A view of Dunlewy Lough, opposite Mount Errigal. What a brilliant day that was!

A view of Dunlewy Lough, opposite Mount Errigal. What a brilliant day that was!

Mountains across from Errigal.

Mountains across from Errigal in a late-fall afternoon sunlight.

Here we’d driven halfway around Errigal; the gentle slope that disappears at the right of this frame is where we took the previous shot. Can you imagine having this in your—ahem—backyard? We filled up the car here.

Here we’d driven halfway around Errigal; the gentle slope that disappears at the right of this frame is where we took the previous shot. Can you imagine having this in your—ahem—backyard? We filled up the car here.

Slowly we came back down out of the mountains as we approached the western coastline of Donegal, on which sits the airport. No seriously, it is right on the water’s edge (of the North Atlantic). This was definitely an outpost, but was way cool. Getting there, though, was all one-lane roads through bogland—though at least you could see cars coming, it was so flat. We passed residential areas as we got close, nothing commercial. We wondered if these folks commuted by plane to Dublin (there were a lot of cars in the lot but not a lot of people inside).

We pulled up to the entrance and unloaded, then I went to park.

We pulled up to the entrance and unloaded, then I went to park.

As previously noted: Welcome to the Gaeltacht. Irish spoken here.

As previously noted: Welcome to the Gaeltacht. Irish spoken here.

What a difference from the Dublin Airport! It was peaceful, quiet. I pulled the car around to the lot and then had one of those moments that happen so fast you can’t get the camera booted up quickly enough: as I was leaping out of the car, a flight was taking off. It came right over the top of the tiny terminal, facing me. Loud and close. It was like something out of a movie from the 1950s. That plane was so close I felt as if I could touch it, as if I should be jumping up and down and waving. Definitely a wow! moment, and it was all mine.

The airport was small and uncrowded. We said our good-byes.

John and Gerry. We’ll do it again one of these days, please God!

John and Gerry. We’ll do it again one of these days, please God!

Walking back to the parking lot. That’s Mount Errigal in the distance. See? Massive.

Walking back to the parking lot. That’s Mount Errigal in the distance. See? Massive.

Then Gerry and I headed south toward Donegal Town and our next hotel. As we drove away on the tiny one-lane roads, I said, “No one will ever believe this was the approach to an airport.” So we took a photo through the windshield.

So believe it. This is the R266, not a mile away from the airport.

So believe it. This is the R266, not a mile away from the airport.

There was a lot of roadwork being done on the N56, so it was some tricky driving, but we finally arrived at the hotel. At Lough Eske Castle.

Hello, gorgeous.

Hello, gorgeous.

Yes, I really did stop the car and jump out to take a photo. Wouldn’t you?

Inside, everything was very relaxed and very high end. (I felt like a country bumpkin!) Although we did have to carry some luggage up the front stairs, where the trolley was waiting for us. The staff was friendly and fun to talk to. We were checked in in a Donegal minute. 🙂

Oh, and the room! OMG.

The room was huge and luxurious—and this is only half of it. This was the first and only true king-sized bed we slept in, though every place we stayed advertised the bed as a king. There was a couch and coffee table behind me.

The room was huge and luxurious—and this is only half of it. This was the first and only true king-sized bed we slept in, though every place we stayed advertised the bed as a king. There was a couch and coffee table behind me.

The bathroom had double sinks and both a shower and large tub. Closets and drawers, too—this bathroom alone was nearly as big as our room at the Redcastle.

The bathroom had double sinks and both a shower and large tub. Closets and drawers, too—this bathroom alone was nearly as big as our room at the Redcastle.

A view of a courtyard from our window—actually quite lovely. (The breakfast room also looked out on this courtyard.)

A view of a courtyard from our window—actually quite lovely. (The breakfast room also looked out on this courtyard.)

And on the table near the window, this …

Chocolate-covered strawberries and truffles. I could get used to this.

Chocolate-covered strawberries and truffles. I could get used to this.

… and next to it a hand-written note addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Hampson: “Congrats to you both! Hope you have a wonderful stay with us here at Lough Eske.” Yes, they had me at chocolate. 🙂

We ate in the bar, which had a really nice ambience. But they will not cook a burger to order (I had to ask—a burger sounded really good—but I know from experience the Irish overcook beef, particularly hamburgers, and I will not eat another unless the chef will cook it my way) and they were out of Greenore whiskey, even though they were pushing it on their whiskey menu.

So we lingered next to the window in the bar and watched the shadows grow long, and then went upstairs to bed. It had been a very long day.

This is the waitress coming to tell me they are out of Greenore. (sigh)

This is the waitress coming to tell me they are out of Greenore. (sigh)

* Every morning I tried to look at Google Maps before we left the room, but it’s hard to keep all that in your head. 🙂

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What’s That You Say? A Polar Vortex?

In case you missed it, the United States has been in the middle of a cold snap. (The South, where I am, has thawed in recent days.)

They’re calling it a polar vortex, so naturally, I had to look it up. It’s nothing new, really, but folks are talking about it on NPR and all over the Interwebs.

It does bring out some interesting photos, however, and that’s what I wanted to share with you. These eerie photos of ice-encased lighthouses in Michigan, for example. I’m glad this gentleman makes the trek every year … so I don’t have to. 🙂

No, really. I do love to travel, but there are some experiences I don’t need to have. I watched a show on public television (longer ago than I care to say) that was about the polar ice caps. They’d cut holes in the ice and sent divers down below to film. The footage was spectacular—very blue. And it really gave you a sense of what a huge place this world is and how much we don’t know about it. How much we’ll never see. I remember being grateful that someone did this—made that dive—so I could see what it looked like and think about how lucky I was to live in this day and time.

It was also a little bit creepy and scary. You will never find me in the mood to swim under a polar ice cap. That’s a trip I will never take.

Niagara Falls is another question altogether. All the polar vortex excitement brought these photos out of the woodwork—OMG, Niagara Falls has FROZEN OVER!!!—and even though they were taken in 2011 (it happens fairly regularly, apparently), I enjoyed having a look. (And since we’re talking about it, here’s another interesting set of Niagara photos, from 1969 … when they turned it off.) And the falls are a place I’d like to visit sometime, too, though in milder weather.

Guess I’ll put it on the list. 🙂