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Report 1922: Coasting Through Ireland on Pints of Cider

By Green Dragon from FL, Spring 2011

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Page 8 of 21: Wednesday, May 18th: Sea Caves and Sandblasting

We woke up and broke our fast, dropped the laundry at the launderette, and headed off for Glencolmcille and the southwest corner of the county for some sightseeing. It was turning into a lovely day, mostly sunny with wind, and we wanted to take advantage of the bonny weather.

We drove through more lonely, wistful peat bogs and farms, and saw a brown sign for St. Columba's Well, so we decided to investigate. It took us along a beach-side road, and up a cliff. We parked and climbed a bit farther, but found no well. We did find a fantastic view, and perhaps a couple places where there were markers – perhaps they were stations of the cross for pilgrims to follow? There was a church or a tower up at the top, but we decided the way was a bit too treacherous, and remained satisfied with the views of the coastline, rocky and violent with wind-whipped waves.

We then went on to the village of Glencolmcille itself, and passed by the folk village, but it was raining at the moment so we went on to the coastal road, pretty much by accident. This was a lovely drive, but a bit nerve-wracking with oncoming traffic, including buses, on a windy, narrow, cliff-bound road. We ended up in Carrick, which was past our day's goal of Slieve League Cliffs, so we backtracked a bit on the non-coastal road. We found the brown sign we were searching for, and followed the road – and then another sign pointed back the way we came. There had been nothing but a café and gift shop along that stretch of road, so we were a bit confused. I went into the shop to ask – evidently the wind had turned the sign around, we should continue on up. We saw several signs like this throughout the trip – perhaps Ireland should invest in two poles, so the signs don't turn so easily? Or go fix the sign? Ah, but then the gift shops wouldn't get as many confused tourists stopping in ... and there were droves of them, as several tour buses were parked.

There is parking down at the gift shop, and a second parking lot halfway up the twisty, switchback road up the cliffs. However, there is a third parking lot at almost the top – keep going up that, even the buses do it. You will have to open a gate and close it behind you, but you are allowed. We then walked the rocky sloped stairs up to the top, and it was incredible.

I love sea cliffs, and sitting on a high point, looking out into the ocean below, and the waves crashing against layered rocks below, pure power and fury. Sitting on top of these cliffs, 900 feet above the sea, was one of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip, and it was as wonderful as I had anticipated. There wasn't anyone else at the top when we were there, as the wind was still quite fierce, and the storm clouds looked as if they were gathering for an assault. However, there was a stripe of lighter clouds that stayed above us, and the storms parted as if commanded by the Gods.

The contrast and shadows created by the shifting sunlight on storm clouds was sublime and abstract, like an ever-changing tapestry of a living, breathing coastline. The sheer scale and distance was deceptive. We saw a small flock of white birds feeding around a floating island of seaweed below, and they were just small white specks, like sea foam. Again, I had no desire to leave this powerful place, I could have happily settled here for a long time. However, the storm clouds started moving about like a dance, and we figured our Gods-given reprieve was short.

We started back down, out of breath from the beauty of the experience, and as soon as we got into the car, the storms decided it was time to hit. This was to happen at several of the sites throughout the trip, where the weather Gods were kind and gave us sunlight, just enough to enjoy the places we were, no more.

We noticed many French schoolchildren at the sights in Donegal, and many older Dutch tourists. Later on, we would notice busloads of French and then German tourists. It seemed as if all of Europe was taking its vacation while we were.

We drove back down the road, taking photo ops when offered by view and by weather. We stopped in Carrick for petrol at a rather questionable-looking petrol station. Not the scary one – that was back down the road a bit, and the pump looked like it was built in the 1930s. We saw many closed, or should-be-closed, petrol stations in our journeys. Some were Texaco, some were Emo, some were unlabeled. Was Texaco pulling out of Ireland? Or perhaps closed just for season, like so many other places?

Back in town at Ardara, we decided to explore the local area a bit. We drove down the road to a brown sign we saw for Lough Cros Point. It turned out to be down a very long (perhaps a mile and a half?) sandy inlet at low tide, and saw a boat slip with crashing waves to stop at. We continued down to another beach, and put our toes in the water. It was actually rather warm, and we weren't expecting that. We walked along the beach a while, noting patterns in the sand and a girl walking with her dog.

We went back down the point for another previously noted brown sign, for Eos Waterfall. I think the Irish name was Eas a'Ranca Waterfall, as that was on my list of things to see for the area. My friend Cathy had mentioned a lovely waterfall she encountered on her morning rambles through the area, was this it? The waterfall was fantastic – tall, thin, with a nice little picnic area to sit and enjoy it right in front of it. We went on to Maghera Caves, supposedly some sea caves along the same road. We found the brown sign – and it pointed to a path that led into some very tall sand dunes. The parking lot was nearby to some very deserted-looking holiday thatched cottages, obviously not open for season yet. Sure, why not?

Off we went – into a surreal world of 12 foot tall sand dunes covered in wavering sea grass, and 25 mile per hour winds, resulting in a sandblasting. I ended up with sand in places I didn't even realize I had places before then! The footprints and patterns in the dunes from the wind made it a bizarre, organic, monotone sculpture. We followed the dunes through to the shore, a good twenty minute walk, and figured the caves were in the rocky outcropping – but also realized that no one knew we were out here, and the tide was coming in. We decided exploring sea caves with an advancing tide was probably a bit foolish, and turned back to journey back through time to modern life, through the dunes.

We did some shopping back in town at John Molloy's Tweed Outlet, and I bought a nice hat and a couple gifts. V found the first of many cookbooks she bought, one on eggs. We looked at a couple other shops in town, and saw a street vendor van selling food - the name was Watcha McCollum – we giggled.

I stopped at the church to take some photos of many more Celtic Crosses (I can never get too many of those!) while V went shopping for her required addiction of Diet Coke, and then we went into Nancy's for an early dinner (or a late afternoon meal, whatever you like). I had the special, a plate of steamed mussels, while V stuck with seafood chowder. The mussels were fresh and very tender, and the brown bread was soft and yummy. If Daniel was the cook today, he was quite good.

While we were eating and catching up with the day, one of the sisters came in, with her son, Simon. We chatted with her a bit about the family, picked up our laundry (only €15 for all of it, yay!) and then went back into the B&B. I showed V a couple funny videos we were talking about earlier (Danny Bhoy and the difference between Scottish and Irish accents, and Talking with Animals). V was not feeling very social that evening, so I went back to Nancy's by myself for some conversation and pints.

Nancy's was a bit fuller that night, as there was a large group of French tourists in the second room having dinner. One man talked very loudly, and I could hear him over everyone else in my room, but of course I understood none of what he said, except it sounded like the worst over-exaggerated French accent I'd ever heard.

I met a girl named Lauren at the bar, she was trying to read her book and I kept pestering her. However, she turned out to be quite nice about it all, and we talked a lot. She likes science fiction as I do, and had read the Outlander books, Narnia, etc. I showed her some of the jewelry pieces I made, and brought to show off to folks, and she was duly impressed. She worked as a server at a nearby restaurant, and of course knew everyone who worked here; she called it a love/hate relationship. I also talked to Alan at the bar about our decision not to explore the sea caves – he agreed it was a wise decision.

We alternated rounds, and I bought a pint for Alan when he was done with his bar shift, so he joined us. He bought me a bottle of cider while I was in the ladies room, so I drank three bottles in total – probably a bit too much. Good thing the B&B wasn't far away!

We all chatted about the Queen's visit to Ireland that day, and how no one thought Northern Ireland would ever join the Republic of Ireland, at least not in their lifetime. We talked about the fires that had been coursing through County Donegal a couple weeks before, and the life of a small town in Ireland. Alan ended up buying a pair of my earrings for his mother, who loved them, and that was a sweet gesture. The place really made me feel as if I was part of the family – I can't wait to go back some day. When I left, the owner made sure my B&B was close by and that I could get home alright.

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