Saturday, August 12, 2006

'Hills of Donegal' tour

Travelling in peak periods in Ireland has some disadvantages as it can be hard to get hostel bookings when you want them. But it has some advantages too, as there are buses that connect places in summer months that don't run the rest of the year. Yesterday I went on a BusEireann tour here in Co Donegal that runs only in the summer and it was excellent. It enabled me to get out to parts of rural Donegal I would otherwise have found it hard to travel to/from.

I picked up the tour in Donegal Town at 10.15am. The driver was a great guy. He was friendly and also had great local knowledge. He was imparting bits and pieces of interesting info all day in a very natural way. Some of it was anecdotes he had picked up from other locals, rather than just dry tourist facts.

The tour was circular and visited both mountain areas and coast in Co Donegal. We passed through some lovely green farmland in the morning and also through some major towns.
My favourite bit of the day was when we arrived at Glenveigh National Park. We had over two hours free here to explore which was great as it gave time to go walking a little. Fortunately the drizzle/rain of previous days seemed to have mostly abated and I only needed my raincoat on very briefly. I climbed to the viewpoint where you were able to look along the length of the lake. The track went steeply upwards in places, but after Croagh Patrick, it was a breeze! Then I followed the footpath back to the Visitor Centre along the lakeside. The Visitor Centre had some information about the golden eagles they have been reintroducing to this area. It also had some poignant material about more than 100 people who were evicted from their houses by the local landlord. Their houses were levelled and they were left destitute. He claimed as his justification for this that there had been a murder of one of his staff and this was punishment for those responsible. When things like this have happened to the Irish in their past, it is no wonder that they seem to have a conscience here for aiding those in the world who are suffering famine or other injustice.

Our trip in the mountain/coastal area was in quite different terrain from the good farmland we had seen in the morning. This western part of Donegal was quite rugged. It is bogland and we saw many places where the turf has been cut to give fuel for the domestic fires. As well as bog, the rain fills the many lakes in the area, and the effects of glacial sculpting of the landscape are obvious. The bog covers bedrock and in many places huge rocks were protruding.
We went to Dunlewey and had a boat ride on the lake if we chose. I was hungry by now and glad to eat here as well!

The coastal section of the trip was beautiful and we had many good views out over bays. It was cloudy so we never saw 'blue sunshine' water, but maybe seeing Ireland with drizzle imminent anytime soon is how it is most of the time anyhow! We had time for one last visit before we returned to town. The driver took us to 'Leo's tavern' which is owned by the father of the Clannad family, and Enya. There was no music on while we were there, but it was most impressive to see all the silver discs on the walls etc.

It was about 7.30pm when we got back to town so it had been a very full and interesting day. We covered about 260km of varied and beautiful landscapes and had time to explore at some of our stops. If you are in Co Donegal in August I really recommend this trip, but the last day it runs is September 1st!

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