Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1922: Coasting Through Ireland on Pints of Cider
By Green Dragon from FL, Spring 2011
Page 6 of 21: Monday, May 16th: The Inis Eoghain 100 or The Hardest Working Man in Ardara
I awoke from a disturbing dream. I had dreamt that we were already back in the US, at work, having taken a flight back, intending to return for the rest of our vacation, but then discovered we couldn't afford to come back to finish up. Shaking that thought off, we got up, packed and that's when I realized that I hadn't packed the battery recharger for the video recorder. D'oh! Well, that puts a damper on things. I had taken some video already, and while I was primarily a photo lover, I also knew there were some sights better shared through video, such as performances, crashing waves, etc.
I decided to order one on Amazon and ask them to deliver it to one of our upcoming B&Bs, so I tried that. Their delivery date was between May 20th and 25th; this would be OK if they delivered as promised, as we'd be close enough to the area to pick it up, so I placed the order. We shall see. In the meantime, my regular camera did take short video clips, though it ate up memory and battery – but I had plenty of memory and a spare rechargeable battery, so I figured I was good.
I like bringing postcards from my home state and leaving them with Thank You notes at our B&Bs, so both V and I did this. Pat was off to work this morning, so we had our breakfast served by Mrs. McKeegan and settled up with her. Today we were off to Donegal!
We started off through Glenarm, and then to Coleraine, Ballycastle and to Derry. Around Armoy, I realized I needed to gas up for the first time, and realized I had almost forgotten one of the sights nearby I had listed, the Dark Hedges. Luckily, the store clerk knew exactly where it was (it was very close) and gave us directions for finding it. It's an amazing little place, just one road with interesting trees all along it, the branches twisting and tangling to make it look odd and strange. We also found a church with a round tower, called Gleneshk, and then we headed off towards Derry. We found the wide road! It was luxurious after several days of winding through tracks in the Glens, and afforded a wonderful view once we crossed a ridge, looking down on the Inishowen peninsula in the distance, half-hidden by haze and mist.
We decided to explore said peninsula on the way to Ardara, even though it was one of our rainy days. We took the road north to Stroove, but ran across a brown sign that simply said 'Inis Eoghain 100'. We didn't know what this was, though I should have realized that it was the Irish spelling of Inishowen. I realized that much later.
We kept seeing more signs for it, and kept following them – it led us to the other side of the peninsula, then up north along the coast. It turned into an epic quest, full of interesting sights and small villages. When I spotted a map next to another of the brown signs, I stopped to look – the 'Inis Eoghan 100' was simply a poetic name for 'the scenic route', evidently. But that was fine, it was a lovely journey. Also, the map was right next to a small pavilion that housed a 7th century Celtic Cross, and I was excited to have found that by accident. I have an addiction to Celtic Crosses, and I had to get my fix regularly throughout the journey. Sometimes I could bypass a cemetery (V doesn't feel comfortable tramping around the graves, so I tried to restrain myself somewhat), but sometimes I just needed my fix. Usually I'd leave V somewhere shopping or with a pint while I went and indulged.
We continued along the Inis Eoghain 100 to Malin Head, and this is where TomTom started getting stroppy. As many of you know, most GPS/SatNav systems will plan the most direct route to your destination. It gives no consideration to the size, condition or accessibility of the road it recommends. We discovered this was a bit of a problem in Ireland, several times, as the most direct route is often the least maintained.
This particular time, it decided to take us up and up, over a mountain – on an unpaved tractor path. First gear, all the way up! It took us to the Wee House of Malin, a tiny church on a small cliff on the other side of the mountain – but TomTom tried to tell us to keep going, off the cliff. We wisely ignored its polite suggestion. At this point it got pissed at us and took us on another unpaved road over another mountain pass, and into Stroove.
By this time, we were quite hungry, and, having been on the road for several hours, needed some comfort facilities. However, as we drove into Stroove, it looked like a ghost town. Even though it was around 11am by this time, it was dead – every pub or store we looked at was boarded up, despite huge signs declaring it was open. Really, is it so hard to take down an open sign when you close? False advertising!
We kept driving into town, and finally found Carey's Fish & Chips store by the shoreline. They said the stores usually open during season, but we were early for that yet, being only mid-May. We had some chips with curry and a chicken kabob, and enjoyed not driving on steep, tiny mountain tracks for a little while. We went out to enjoy the quay, take some pictures of furiously lashing waves upon the rocks, and then retreated from the ocean winds into our car.
We followed the now ubiquitous 'Inis Eoghain 100' brown signs around the east coast of Inishowen to Muff (giggle), and across to Letterkenny, once more on the 'mainland.' V realized that we were out of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland without any sort of border patrol or crossing check. There was a point on the large, wide road where they were stopping cars, but they glanced at us and waved us by, without even making us fully stop – evidently we weren't who they were looking for. And going back in and out of the UK or Ireland had no signs, even.
And that's when TomTom got pissy again – and took us through a tiny road with more potholes than I'd yet seen in one place before we found the main road again. We drove through mountains and rain, mist and puddles to Glenties, and finally to our day's destination, Ardara. I'm sure there was a better road, but we must have missed a turn, and TomTom found the most difficult way through once again.
Ardara was my favorite town on this trip. There isn't one reason that sticks out as to why it's my favorite, it just seems to be a conglomeration of all the little reasons. It's not a large place, just one main street through town with perhaps a dozen pubs and restaurants. It's near the sea, and has some fantastic sights nearby, with mountains in the distance. The people were all incredibly friendly, and I could easily move there someday. I felt at home – more than that, I felt part of the family.
Once in the town, we found Portnoo Road (north out of town) without any problems. Our B&B, Bay View Country House, was down the street perhaps a half mile from town, and was a pleasant surprise. The house itself was large, with a big yard and lovely landscaping and plenty of parking. The lounge was warm and inviting, and the room Marian showed us was huge. It had lots of windows, a large bathroom, and two beds (one single, one double). The other rooms appeared a bit smaller, but I didn't go snooping. We were delighted!
Since the wind was howling and the sky was weeping most of the day (especially the latter half) we were well-wearied and weathered, and decided to find some warming beverages and filling food. Marian recommended Nancy's Bar, and mentioned there was an event going on that night. When we arrived, it was certainly crowded, and when inquiring about food, was told that they weren't serving that night, because of the event, but that we could try the Heritage Bar. So we walked down the block for the Heritage Bar – who said food was more of a 'weekend' thing or a 'bank holiday' thing. We got the impression it wasn't really a 'normal' thing at all.
Right – so, off to the Nesbitt Arms, a hotel nearby. I have found that hotels serve food when no one else wants to, though not always the best food, it's the most reliable source. I prefer pubs for the atmosphere, but when those are unavailable, we can at least find food. And that's where we discovered the hardest working man in Ardara! He was desk clerk, bartender, busboy and waiter to a fairly full restaurant. I ordered the monkfish and prawn tart with vegetable soup, and V had the goat cheese salad, and we both had pints of cider. The hardest working man in Ardara booked around the place like a man on speed – taking orders from a party of nine, getting us our food (and it was not slow service, either!), cleaning glasses, etc.
V and I started talking about books, the days' sights, etc. Kinnagoe Bay on Inishowen was breathtakingly beautiful, and I only wish it was bright and sunny to see the sweeping sand sparkling in the sunlight. As it was, the memories were dim and gloomy, misty and soft. V mentioned that she didn't like the Northern Irish accent too much, it reminded her of chav London accents, with a question at the end of each sentence.
After a pleasant evening not driving, we wandered back to the B&B for a well-deserved rest.
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