West Coast…Ireland Day 3

Is it Day 3 already? Continuing down the West Coast of Ireland you spend a lot of time wondering which side of the car you should be looking out. With the Coast on one side and dramatic mountains on the other you feel like your head is on a constant swivel.

We woke up early on day 3 to get a jump-start on the day and our aim was Westport. Westport lies about half way down the coast and seemed like a good point to stop at for the evening. All I wanted to do was see castles! After blowing past Carrickfergus the previous day I had castle fever and I got to see my first one in Donegal.

Donegal is an interesting area of Ireland, it sits on the dividing line between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country. It’s name means “fort of the foreigners”, fitting since part of their land is owned by the British government. Donegal itself is a picturesque Irish town with a castle right in the center, just what I wanted to see.

Entrance to the Castle is £5 cash per person. Neither of us having any cash on us we were directed to the “diamond”, Donegal’s town square. After retrieving the cash we went back to the entrance and the caretaker, a chatty fellow, struck up a conversation with us about the current political climate in Ireland. After our 20 minute talk, me struggling to follow because the accents were so thick and the gentleman spoke so fast, I started to better understand the divide between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country. I really wish I had filmed the conversation but of course I thought about it after the fact. On to the castle.

The original structure on the spot was a Viking outpost around the 1100’s. The castle itself was built by the O’Donnell clan in 1474 and was one of the finest Gaelic castles in all of Ireland at the time. Over the years the castle received some additions but fell into ruins in the early 18th century. The owners at the time, the 5th Early of Arran, decided to give the ruin to the Office of Public Works. It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that the Office of Public Works partially restored the main structure and then opened it to the public.

There are so many great features in this castle, one of which is the Great Hall. Not unlike other castles seen on the trip the main tower was the living area for family, with the Great Hall on the second level and the bedrooms on the upper floors. Luckily we were the only people in the castle at the time and it was nice to have a piece of history all to ourselves, if only for a little while.

From there were started back down the coast. On our way I noticed a sign for a waterfall. Mick asked if I wanted to stop and I said if we can see if from the main road then we should go. My eyes saw something that I thought was a waterfall but was really a crevasse in the mountain. We followed the signs and about 20 minutes off of the main road we found not only one but 2 amazing waterfalls and you were able to take a quick 5 minute hike to get the bottom of one of them.

We were in the Glencar area in the county of Sligo, which is so beautiful. Most of our travel toward the waterfall had mountains on both sides and a lake to the right. It was cold and raining but it did not deter us from enjoying the beauty of the region. The waterfall called Devil’s Chimney filtered down into the Glencar Teashed, which also is where we ate lunch at the Teashed. A cute little cafe which served very good soup and tea with handmade baked goods!

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With our bellies full we got back in the car and drove to Achill Island. It’s a favorite vacation spot of the Irish. Since we were there in early spring the grass wasn’t as green as it could be but everywhere you looked was a picture waiting to be taken. The island has a lot of natural wonder including many ruins and a mini Stonehenge.

With everything that we did I was getting a little tired from all the driving and hungry, anyone see a theme emerging? Anyway we got to Westport, settled in our B-n-B and headed out to find some dinner. Now here’s a tip for anyone who is traveling to Westport at any time during the year. If you are traveling on a Friday or Saturday night you need to make reservation because I am not exaggerating when I tell you that everyone in the whole town goes out to eat those nights and if you haven’t planned ahead, like us, then you would be stuck with pub food or waiting until 10pm for a seating, when the restaurants close around 11.

That being said we ate at perfectly adequate pub and then headed to Matt Molloy’s. Matt Molloy’s is what I always envisions a typical Irish pub to be. No TVs, Irish music played by a real troop of troubadours and beer. The bar is owned by one of the members of the Chieftains, a popular Irish Folk band, and does not disappoint if you’re looking to experience pub culture. It is loud and joyous because everyone is talking to everyone. Definitely a must experience when you’re in Ireland.

That concluded our day, we had to leave rather early because we had a long day ahead of us, one that I didn’t realize just how long it would be. Until next time.

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