Derry to Donegal Town

We have seen and done so much in our first week in Ireland.

Yesterday (was, it only yesterday) before we departed Derry we walked the city’s walls.

Ireland_Derry_wall

This was really worth the effort and I’m glad we did this even though it had not been on my ‘must do’ list. Derry was a very pretty town and I really enjoyed it. Of course, I could have done with an extra night there, but that is always the way!

From Derry we drove to Letterkenny where there is a most beautiful cathedral – St. Eunan’s. This Neo-Gothic building is absolutely gorgeous with some excellent celtic stone work, lovely vibrant stained glass windows and a vaulted ceiling that is very grand. The cathedral also boasts a 65m steeple. I am so glad we stopped here!

inside St. Eunan's Cathedral

inside St. Eunan’s Cathedral

After our quick stop at Letterkenny we took the coastal route along the part of the “Wild Atlantic Way” road. Yet more spectacular scenery – we called in at Horn Head (and the pretty little town of Dunfanaghy) and drove through The Rosses (an area with more than 100 lakes).

driving through The Rosses

driving through The Rosses

This was a lot of driving through narrow, winding, country roads. I didn’t see as much as I would have liked since we didn’t leave Derry until midday; we spent quite a few hours in the car, not arriving at Lough Eske (Donegal) until just after 6pm.

Lough Eske Castle is very nice! This place was a ruin until 2006 when it was rescued and given a new life as a hotel.

 

Ireland_LoughEskeCastle

Today, we took a look around Donegal town and took a tour through the castle, which is pretty much in the middle of town. Although, not particularly old as far as Irish castles go, it was still interesting.

Ireland_DonegalCastle

After the visit to the castle, we drove some more of the Wild Atlantic Way – to Killybegs (a little town, with a big fishing port), and then on to Glencolmcille – the Glen of St Colmcille (had to visit here just because of it’s association with said saint – AKA St Columba), but this is one of the prettiest valley’s I’ve seen.

On our way back to Lough Eske Castle, we called in to visit Slieve League (one of the highest cliff faces in Europe) – it is very spectacular! However, it was quite a walk out to the cliffs (about a 6km round trip) – we didn’t realise that it was possible to drive right to the top as there was a carpark at the bottom and it was gated, so we assumed you had to walk (until we saw cars coming back down). Oh well, we got our exercise in for today!

Ireland_SlieveLeague

Belfast to Derry/Londonderry

Well, we certainly didn’t have very long to enjoy Belfast; I find it’s always the way! There is never enough time to see all that I’d like to see.

As we arrived fairly late into Belfast we only had 1 day to see and experience this city. Our Sunday morning started with a visit to the St George’s market, followed by a sightseeing hop on- hop off bus tour of the city, which was excellent.

Titanic Belfast buildingAlong the way we went to see the Titanic Belfast experience. This was really very good – and there is quite a bit of interaction you can engage in. The experience takes you through Belfast at the turn of the century and opens your eyes to the living conditions of the people at that time. The exhibit takes you on a tour from the designs and building of the Titanic (you can even take a cable car ride through a simulated building experience), through to its launch and fit out; then through actual displays of how rooms would have looked and descriptions of passengers and crew. Of course following on from its departure from each of the ports it visited you can experience then collision with the iceberg and all the events that followed. Afterwards you can see how the titanic was found and explore the relics on the sea floor via a virtual ROV. This was a really well done exhibit and I learnt a whole lot about the Titanic that I did not know previously.

Ireland_Titanic_Room_01

After Titanic we finished our bus tour and then had a late lunch at a most fabulous old pub – The Crown Bar – which is owned by the National Trust. This easily rates as one of the best pubs I’ve been to. This has beautiful tiles, woodwork and pressed metal ceilings (the food was pretty good too).

Ireland_CrownBar_inside

Today, Monday, we departed belfast without seeing a couple of noteworthy sights, including the castle. Time is our enemy! However, we had a lot of ground to cover today. Our first stop was the dark hedges,

Ireland_darkHedges

Then onto the lovely sea-side town of Ballycastle for breakfast. Ballycastle was the town where Marconi sent his first wireless message from. From Ballycastle we cruised along the picturesque Antrim coast.

Ireland_Ballycastle_01

The Giant’s Causeway was next on our hit list; I had been looking forward to seeing this legendary place. The weather was changeable, with alternating sunshine and misty showers. There are a couple of different walks you can do here and we walked back along one that involved a climb of 162 stairs (it was worth it though – the views were stunning)!Ireland_GiantsCauseway_01

Dunluce castle was our next stop. A ruined castle at the edge of the coastline. I imagine it would have been rather spectacular in its day.

Ireland_DunuceCastle_01

Finally we arrived at the only surviving fully intact walled city in Ireland – Derry (Londonderry). The walls date from the early 17th century.

Tonight we are staying in an 18th century country manor (BeechHill Country House), just outside of Derry, which is just delightful!