Larne, Northern Ireland to Sligo, Eire

Tuesday 9th July 1996                                                                                                                       33 miles

 

We were catching the 11.30 ferry today from a few minutes down the road. We thought that we had loads of time, and after getting up late, time just rushed away and it was soon time to go.

They didn't seem particularly organised in getting us onto the boat. It was an old grubby boat – the Pride of Rathlin – but very uncrowded and the staff seemed jovial and pleasant, particularly when we had lunch (fish/scampi and chips).

Time passed quickly – first watching as we glided up the long Loch Ryan, then a bit of a read, lunch, then we were approaching Larne. Unfortunately the sea sickness tablets left us feeling very dozy for the rest of the afternoon.

The morning had started very grey and stayed greyish, although the cloud did break up to give a few glimpses of the sun. However it felt cold. It had rained in the night and early morning.

We arrived at Larne at 1.45, disembarked and very quickly reached the coast road north. This follows close to the sea for 20 miles or so. The scenery was far more attractive than I could have imagined. We stopped at Ballygally opposite the castle hotel and again a bit further on (and dozed). If only the weather were warmer here – what a place it would be!

For those of you who have read Scotland, this trip starts at Cairnryan having driven down the west coast of Scotland from Glasgow

At Glenarm we saw the salmon wholesalers, but didn't stop although we probably should have done. There was a little harbour here and also at Carnlough where we did stop.

We walked around the recently completed harbour area and then brought an ice cream. It was a very pretty place.

We had wondered what people would be like in this reportedly troubled province, but found people going about their business as anywhere else in the world and certainly pleasant and friendly. We had been disconcerted while waiting for the ferry to hear the 11.00 am news which reported "more disturbances in the province" and also that the knife incident at a school which we had heard of briefly yesterday was in Wolverhampton (where we left Simon).

We continued along the coast to Cushendall and viewed an uninspiring site right by the sea, but continued over the hills a bit further to Cushendun where we found a static site not far from the sea, but not so unattractive as most, being surrounded by attractive trees and with a very pleasant warden.

We set off in the fine Irish drizzle to walk into the village – firstly along a leafy footpath then along the beach, over the bridge – where a few pretty boats nestled and past the hotel.

Here we found another beach with cliffs behind made of a conglomerate of smaller rocks.

There were archways and caves – and through one was the entrance to a private residence.

 

Wednesday 10th July                                                                                                                                                           60 miles

 

When we awoke we felt the sun shining in. It was a lovely morning. We sat outside for breakfast, enjoying the peace and calm around us – so incongruous with the news, which told of all the rioting in Northern Ireland.

At 10 o'clock we left and took the minor road over the cliffs, which was quite spectacular with wonderful views. We stopped and looked back to Cushendun and saw the big house through the archway that we had seen last night. The hedgerows were ablaze with flowers – notably high fuchsia hedges and also foxgloves and blue scabious.

We stopped at Ballycastle a very pretty little place with a harbour and a sandy beach. Beyond the River Glenshesk was a long sandy beach. Small children were playing on the beach and everyone was just enjoying themselves – just like people anywhere, with no hint of any troubles.

 

Everything looks so English – road signs, buildings etc. and the countryside is so beautiful, but we have to keep reminding ourselves that this is supposedly troubled Northern Ireland.

We stopped at the National Trust car park to visit Carickarade Island (English spelling). This entailed quite a long walk beside the sea. Access to the island was by a rope bridge – so I didn't go across – Adrian did.

 

We stopped briefly at Ballintoy harbour after passing through the small town with pennants out across the road.

Carrick-a-Rede bridge (modern National Trust picture - bridge much dodgier in 1996!)

Next up was the Giants Causeway – well you don't just stop – you have to Park £2.50 (the car park isn't National Trust) and walk the half mile or so in the howling gale, although it wasn't cold. You could take the bus (50p) but unless you're old, infirm or very lazy that's cheating.

What can I say about the Causeway except – yes it is remarkable. Yes – all of Northern Ireland was there. Yes it was windy!

Nice to see so many people wanting to walk to see something. We walked on further to the 'Organ Pipes' and then until the path was closed due to subsidence. A truly wonderful bit of coast line. Lots of wild flowers – notably harebells and yellow iris.

We rewarding ourselves with an ice cream when we got back to the visitor centre – about two hours or more altogether.

Back on the main road we drove through Bushmills which had large flags flying everywhere. It seemed a bit like the Coronation, but with eerie overtones. Then on the coast to Port Ballintrae – "rather an estate" – very boring and with a huge boring static site.

Just afterwards were the ruins of Dunluce Castle, looking very dramatic against the deep grey sky – it had now become rather overcast. Beyond were the islands called "the Skerries".

 

Shortly after was White Park Bay, which we couldn't stop at because a lorry was parked in the way. It looked lovely a sandy bay – so many on this coast.

We called in briefly at Currysheskin harbour, but didn't stop. We did stop by the ruins of Dunseverick Castle, and here we had lunch, with a magnificent view. The Causeway footpath seemed to start from here.

 

Ballintoy Harbour

We drove down to another beach White Rock Beach – with sands like Woolacombe, but backed by tall white cliffs. It appeared to be a good beach for surfing.

We drove through Portrush and then Port Stewart – passing more huge static sites. The police station at Port Stewart was surrounded by huge barbed wire fences – the first inkling of any troubles.

Port Stewart was a very busy place – very seasidy and lots of people. The sea beyond looked dark grey and menacing and beat against the shore.

We had hoped to stop Before Coleraine– as we had heard on the radio that the roads were blocked. Now we were heading for it. I had thought that we could almost bypass it, although we knew we had to cross the River Bann.

However we had to do a tour of the town. At one point we were slowed right down by a march of "Orange men". They were just marching peacefully down the middle of the road and went either side of us, but it was an anxious moment.

Out on the other side (relieved), we passed through a hamlet called Arcticlare where a large tree trunk beside the road would appear to have been used as a blockade.

After this was Castle Rock – a lovely beach resort, but with the usual hideous static sites. So many beautiful beaches.

We came through dramatic steep scenery to Downhill, with several interesting National Trust properties which we didn't stop at being late.

Just beyond was Benone – obviously being made into a resort. We found a "tourers" field a bit away from the statics. The wind was blowing strongly.

At 7 o'clock we tried ringing Tom – who returned home from the Canaries today – and amazingly got through to him, so we were able to pass on the message that we were fine – even if he didn't know anything of the troubles! After supper we walked out and around the located the other campsite – in this so-called "complex" – more sheltered but more crowded than ours

Rosie on Ballygally Beach

Carnlough Harbour

Cushendun

Archway in the rock at Cushendun

Peaceful breakfast at Cushendun

Looking back to Cushendun

Ballycastle

Dunseverick castle

The Giants Causeway

The 'Organ Pipes'

 

Dunluce Castle

Looking to White Rock Beach

Thursday 11th July                                                                                                                                                                 116 miles

 

A miserable morning and a day that stayed dull with varying amounts of rain and drizzle.

I wrote postcards to the "kids" and sent off the two films we had taken – consequently it was 10.15 when we left.

First we went to Magilligans point through a nature reserve, and passed a very bleak prison with an incongruously colourful children's playground outside. At the point we had a quick look over Lough Foyle in the drizzle then had to drive all the way back again.

We now headed towards (London) Derry. Driving through Ballykelly we noticed lots of barbed wire – the only place that we did – but ordinary houses did not have any wire.

We skirted Londonderry by the large bridge over the River Foyle and were soon in the Republic. We can honestly say that we saw almost nothing of any troubles.

However, we tuned in to the radio and listen to a Northern Ireland phone in programme interspersed with news items, and there is certainly a disturbance going on in Portadown and also many roads have been blocked. We have been lucky not to have come across anything. I can only reiterate that we found Northern Ireland a beautiful country full of people just wanting to get on with their lives normally like people anywhere.

We drove up the western side of Lough Foyle, stopping at Moville, but at Greencastle we couldn't find anywhere to stop. We noticed immediately low 'Irish' houses with thatched roofs – some in a good state of repair, others not!

We stopped and had lunch at Dunagree point near the lighthouse – hot Scotch pies followed by pancakes, then we walked along the lovely sandy cove and climbed on the rocks.

We drove back to Greencastle then over the hills (in the mist) to Kinnagoe Bay – another lovely long sandy beach of golden sand. We walked along the beach, paddling (in our wellies) and getting a bit wet.

We had to drive south again before taking a long straight road and ending up near Dunmore Head at a delightful little cove of beautiful golden sand. We went for a quick "blow" in the drizzle – me wearing shorts, as my trousers got wet before. It wasn't cold, just wet! This was Culdaff Bay, with lots of golden sands.

We now drove up to Malin Head. The countryside was very moor-like and visibility not very good, although it was better at the head itself, with some spectacular scenery and raging currents.

We drove up to the most northerly point in Ireland and stopped briefly and a bit further on at "The Curiosity Shop" where we viewed some antiques, but didn't buy anything.

We now drove down the western side of this peninsular to Malin. We noticed high hedges of hebe as well as fuchsia and also lots of purple heather.

From Malin we drove towards Carndonagh, then west to Ballyliffin. From here we took the road north to Porlan Bay, stopping to view a pitch and putt course with overnight camping. It was a bit remotes, with no indication of where to camp, so we didn't stop.

Perhaps we should have, because a bit further on we stopped at Tullagh Bay caravan park – a crowded static and touring site obviously beside a sandy beach – but too drizzly to see at present. Anyway, we stopped here being now 6.00 pm.

We drank some mulled wine, then ate supper – an excellent chicken dish and then wandered out to explore this wonderful beach – quite magnificent and almost devoid of people.

It was still drizzling lightly, but the beauty of it all overcame this. We got wet legs wandering up through the long marram grass. In the short grass, particularly near our van, lots of wild thyme is growing.

Friday 12th July                                                                                                                                                                           70 miles

 

Not a sunny day, but it wasn't drizzling just overcast, but quite pleasant. After breakfast we returned to the beach and took some video. A few children were playing on the beach. Children seem to be allowed to play freely – lots were out last night playing until it was dark, but it was very quiet this morning.

After our walk and filling up with water, it was gone 10.30 when we left. After a false start of taking a road which didn't go anywhere, we drove to the Gap of Manore – a dramatic pass through barren Scottish looking countryside, with wonderful views. We came down to Dunree Head and looked across Lough Swilly to Portsalon, where in fact we ended up tonight. We could see more lovely beaches and it was very tranquil – just the occasional bird. There was a military museum here, but we didn't go in.

We drove down to Buncrana – an exceedingly busy and crowded town. We visited a very busy small supermarket and bought excellent French bread and pastries amongst other things, but sadly found that the wine is expensive – about twice English prices. We should have bought more in Northern Ireland! We also got some Irish money from a machine, then drove down to an attractive spot beside the water and had lunch – again listening to the radio discussing the disturbances.

We then drove to Letterkenny, then back up northwards on the western side of Lough Swilly. We skirted Rathmellon an attractive little place. The lough was absolutely still and looked like a mirror.

We continued up the coast to Rathmullan where we stopped to walk along the pier. Lots of people were enjoying themselves on the beach.

We carried on up the coast, stopping high up by the ruins of a fort to look back to Dunree, where we were this morning.

Soon afterwards we came to the campsite at Portsalon we had seen through the binoculars this morning. It was much larger than we realised and was a mixture of touring and static. It cost £9 – almost twice last night (£5) and was very crowded. There were views over the wonderful bay – supposedly "the second loveliest bay in the world". Yes, it is lovely – but so is so much of the Irish coast that we have seen.

We found a spot with some views of the beach and hills and planned to go for a walk. We bought a couple of leaflets on walks, but found that they were along roads. The site is very near the beach, but there didn't appear to be a way out except down the road and then across a field of cows, with a difficult stile at either end.

We reached the beach, but couldn't walk as far as we wanted to as the River meandered its way across. At the near end of the beach the rocks were of a strange conglomerate.

Saturday 13th July                                                                                                                                                                66 miles

 

Not a good night. The wind got up and howled all night. The morning was wet and miserable – just the sort of morning to be glad to be in a motorhome and not in a tent and just the morning to stay in bed and read – which we did. Consequently it was even later when we left – gone 11.00.

We drove into Portsalon itself. The sun was just peeping out from below the mass of grey cloud making a magnificent sight. We tried to drive down to Portsalon pier, but got a bit stuck in the narrow roads and with nowhere to park or turn around.

After this we drove through a very green forested area and headed for Fanad Head and the lighthouse. The hedges were high with fuchsias and roses – all shades of pink and white and interspersed with blue vetch. Also lots of purple heather. There is a predominance of a shrub bush – I think Oleria with holly like leaves and large clusters of flower heads made up of many small white daisylike flowers. There is also a variegated shrub with white leaves on the end of the branches – quite dramatic.

We have noticed lots of swifts/swallows flying around. Building wise – there are many buildings with rounded not pointed roofs.

Observations over – back to the journey – we had a hazardous "bump" over an unseen hump or dip  when everything appeared to hit the roof. On looking later we found all the cupboards more or less OK, but in the loo all the pots of toothbrushes etc had jumped out and were lying on the floor!

Before Fanad Head we came to the "Great Arch", but you had to walk to it and it was damp and blowy, so we sat in the van and ate our doughnuts instead!

At Fanad Head visibility wasn't good – we could see waves crashing on the beach.

 

We drove to the western end of this peninsular and stopped by another wonderful beach and had a great walk out in isolation, popping the sea weed and wading through the rock pools. We got as far as an island with a few sheep as inhabitants. It was a tremendous area, with land and sea all around, making it difficult to know what was what. A very enjoyable walk.

 

While on the beach Adrian found a large "dying" fish and carried it to the sea where it must have recovered and swam off.

We came back and had lunch in the van, with wonderful views all round – good fresh rolls. Also Adrian found what was making most noise in the wind –  a vent above the fridge – and temporally cured it.

We drove around an area south of here – very barren and many times we wondered if the road would go. We passed several isolated houses. We then drove south down the western side of Fanad and stopped at Kerrykeel (Carrowkeel). This is where you must stop at John Kerr's wonderful shop. Apparently he is a balladeer from Donegal – world renowned.

Well if his music is anything like his shop, no wonder we hadn't heard of him. We felt we were stepping into a shop of our childhood and everything in it was rubbish! Ugh!

There were a great many cars parked along the road nearby and we wondered why – may be a wedding – it was by the church – but no it was a car boot – an Irish car boot, with cars opening their boots to display a few items of second-hand rubbish – nothing worth looking at at all! We did buy some home-made rice crispy cakes for 80p in the village hall – not exactly a bargain. We were glad to leave!

We now headed for Milford then back up north to the Rosguill peninsular following the "Atlantic drive", but we were going the opposite way round to everyone else, which on the narrow winding roads made it very trying.

We continued right to the north tip – opposite where we had had lunch. There were some beautiful sandy bays here and several static caravan sites – hence all the traffic (plus a Saturday). At one point we pulled in to let someone pass and almost got stuck in the mud!

We tried a site right at the tip of the peninsular, but although it was a huge area of statics spread along the beach, we couldn't find anywhere suitable and felt that the old lady didn't want us anyway. We tried another site, which was full so continued round the "ring" of the route. The sun had come out and the sea looked deep aquamarine. With the stunning barren scenery it made me think of Kefalonia in Greece.

At Downings we came across another crowded static site which also had tourers packed in. We thought we had better stop. This time it was £9 and virtually no facilities (showers, as last night, were 50p extra!). There was one small loo block with basic loos/sinks/showers. We had been hoping for showers and washing machines. I sufficed by washing my hair in the basin. At least we had a patch with a little space around us, but we had to close our eyes to the statics and view the hills around.

We cooked supper (steak) – and drank a bottle of rose wine then walked out – the weather was very variable with dramatic skies. We walked past the "village" – no visible life from the two pubs, despite being Saturday – crossed the rugby pitch and walked back along the beach, where the wind was blowing hard.

Sunday 14th July                                                                                                                                                                   73 miles

 

We were off by 09.45 this morning – another grey day. The first stop was at Doe Castle in a very tranquil setting at the bottom end of Sheep Haven. We had just passed a pretty village with goats beside the road at Carrigant.

Dunagree Point

Kinnagoe Bay

Tullagh Bay

Rathmullan

Loch Swilly from the fort

The beach at Portsalon with its conglomerate rocks.

Portsalon campsite

Portsalon

The Tiv at Rinmore Point near Fanad Head

Rosie near Fanad Head

The Rosguill peninsula

The beach at Downings

After Doe we didn't stop at Ards Forest Park, as you had to pay and we have plenty to see without paying!

We had driven through Creeslaugh and stopped at a well-stocked Spar supermarket and bought hot French bread and one or two other things. Just afterwards was the church. Everyone was crowding in for the 11 o'clock service – coming just as they were – not dressed up. Two chaps stopped with their tractors beside the road and joined the crowds!

Just past here we turned off to the Marble Beach peninsular with a nice beach and several crowded caravan sites.

After this we turned off to Horn Head. This was again past a church with so many cars outside that the road was pretty blocked. The coach driver in front of us got out and had a long conversation with the tractor driver coming the other way. He then came and asked us if we had been to the "Horn" before and were the roads wide enough for his coach! Anyway he decided to follow, as we saw him later near the "Horn".

We had a walk to the viewpoint at Horn head. It was pretty blowy, so we didn't stay long. Back at the van we tried the phone, which sort of worked (our mobile at the time was an analogue one, and did not work in Eire, but we were still so close to the Northern Ireland border that we sometimes got a signal).

Back at Dunfanaghy we went into the restored workhouse, which actually housed a "Famine Museum" which we didn't go into. We continued slightly inland through Falcarragh and Gortahort and stopped for lunch at Meerlaragh. There was a little jetty here where the ferry for Tory Island left from.

After lunch we had a walk along the beach of the wide sandy bay. We had initially to cross some smelly seaweed. Even with my fleece and woolly hat it was too windy for me!

By the time we got back to the van, there were lots of people around – but it is Sunday afternoon. Notably the coach mentioned earlier (full of elderly German ladies) had arrived.

As we left the village we saw lots of teenagers converging on the village hall, all walking in groups of three or four. Some must have walked quite a distance from the scattered houses. A couple of miles along the road, teenagers were walking in the opposite direction – obviously to the next village. It reminded us of "Ballroom of Romance". We stopped at the Bloody Foreland and looked out to the islands and realised that Gilbert and Angela's island will be a bit like this, just a bit further down the coast. There were a great many houses scattered over this low-lying area close to the sea – we found it the least attractive area so far.

We turned off to "The Rosses" and drove around between lakes and sea and quickly came to Burtonport, where Gilbert and Angela will have to collect us from. After a quick look at the harbour, we continued a few miles to Dungloe. There had been a Burtonport to Dungloe charity walk this afternoon and the people were all gathered in the High Street. Earlier we had been stopped behind an Irish band walking along from one village to the next.

We located the campsite – a small "municipal" type site behind the houses, but containing touring caravans and tents – much more our scene.

We did "household" things like the washing (in the machine) and rang Angela and arranged to meet tomorrow. Soon afterwards Tom rang us.

Adrian excellently cook the meal and we had the last of the mulled wine.

Just afterwards Simon rang with his degree results – a 2:1. We went out and walked around the one eyed steep town and down to the muddy front and around the back over a very steep footbridge, then stopped in a packed out bar with two guys playing guitars and singing. We drank to Simon's health – Adrian in bitter, and me in Guinness. Back late to the van.

 

 

Monday15th July                                                                                                                                                                 6 miles

 

N.B. Today we are going to Innishfree Upper, an island with no roads or amenities and where our friends Gilbert & Angela and their sons Derek & Douglas live)

 

Guinness must be good for you – I slept beautifully. We were meeting Gilbert and Angela at 11 o'clock. In fact we were ready and packed up just before then and saw them as we drove down the road. Having found somewhere to park the car, with Gilbert's help (the "town" was crowded) we piled into a cafe and enjoyed coffee and a pastry and much chat. Derek was with them and joined us later at the supermarket. We drove to Burtonport and arranged to leave the van in the car park. We loaded our luggage and the shopping into the boat and set off for the island.

The trip was smooth and the day calm with a lot of sunshine later. It was quite exciting coming into the island that we have said for so long that we would visit.

It was low tide. The boat was tied up and the goodies loaded into wheelbarrows to take across the island.

We walked over the hummocky ground to the house. After a look around, we had a welcome and tasty lunch sitting outside. The boat had to be moved a couple of times as the tide rose.

After lunch we all went for a lovely walk around the island, enjoying all the wild flowers – hundreds of orchids, lots of heather and many more.

We picked up bits of wood on the way. Views out over the other islands were wonderful with the aquamarine sea.

We came back for a cup of tea and more chat and established our "bedroom" upstairs while supper was being prepared.

Tuesday 16th July                                                                                                                                                      0 miles

 

My mattress was comfortable. Angela brought us a cup of tea about 7.45. It was a beautiful morning our best day so far.

The others were going to the mainland to Letterkenny to collect Douglas today (both Derek and Douglas are at university). The plan was that we would go across in the boat with them and go off in the van for the day. However, in view of the lovely day we decided to stay on the island.

We all had breakfast together and the others left some time after 10.00 am. We set off walking, firstly in an adjacent small island which is walkable to at low tide. Here as on the rest of the island, are myriads of wild flowers particularly orchids.

We walked back to the cottage and had lunch outside, then set off walking round most of the rest of the island. The going was often "humpy" and also often boggy underfoot, but we didn't have any disasters.

The day was warm (vest and shorts!) but clouded over more during the afternoon.

Doe Castle with goats by the road

Meerlaragh

Adrian at Burtonport - loading the boat for the trip to 'Inishfree Upper' (where Gilbert & Angela lived)

Gilbert, Angela and Derek on the boat and walking to their house

On 'their' beach

Their 'lounge'

Our 'bedroom' - Bucket for night-time loo!

On the 'low tide' island looking to Gilbert & Angela's white cottage

Us in their 'garden'

The 'peat store'

Their 'garden' and view from the 'dunny'

Wednesday 17th July                                                                                                                                                            5.5 miles

 

The most beautiful warm sunny day!

I hadn't slept well, but it was no effort to get up on such a lovely morning. We had breakfast outside then decided to go for a swim. We trekked to a beach where the water would be deep enough. It was cold, but I found it refreshing and there was no wind to chill me. We walked back to the house and after Gilbert and Angela had come back from moving the boat, we had tea/coffee and sultana pancakes – again outside.

We expected to leave then, but Gilbert and Angel said if we stayed for lunch, they could look in for any post when they reached Burtonport. This we agreed to – but it meant Angela going off again, as lunch was ready, to see if the boat was okay (it's a 10 to 15 minute walk each way!) She came back and said we couldn't leave until 3 o'clock (it was now 1.40) as low tide was 2.00 and the water too low (for the boat).

Hence more chatting, outside and we finally did leave – all of us walking back to the boat, Adrian pushing the wheelbarrow with our luggage in. Angela and I went to the beach and met two visitors to the island.

Being low tide, the trip back took quite a while. We saw one seal on a rock – we had seen several on the way over.

We retrieved the Tiv and said our goodbyes and drove back to Dungloe. It was now about 4.30. We needed to stock up again so went to the Supervalu supermarket which Angela had been to on Monday – just past the campsite.

Having restocked our supplies, we had an ice cream, then decided to stay at Dungloe again and get ourselves sorted out and have a barbecue.

This we did – having put away our shopping and luggage and having a welcome shower, we enjoyed a Bacardi and Coke in the sunshine.

Eating outside on the terrace

Sundowners at Dungloe campsite

Impressions of Inishfree – what we did and didn't like (or would and wouldn't like)

 

Likes

The peace and quiet

Beautiful beaches, lovely views, wonderful island

No cars

Variety of wild flowers – in profusion.

Absence of people.

Feeling of remoteness, wonderful in good weather.

Great for a "holiday" – away from it all

 

Dislikes

Nice being on an island, but life is ruled by tides and boats.

Cows (free range) – and nuisance with muck, flies and ticks!

Difficult transport to and fro – rough ground to go over everywhere.

One would have to get on with the few "neighbours" available.

Water problem – lots of lugging about bowls or fetching and emptying – physically difficult (for me)

Sanitary arrangements – loo way outside – would be unpleasant in cold/wet weather.

Would find a plastic bucket as the only "peeing vessel" unsatisfactory.

Would find no fridge/freezer difficult.

Difficulty of disposing of rubbish.

Restriction of electrical things – no mains electricity – tools, cooking, music.

Liked the feel of "camping" for a while, but not for long term – would want more order!

Would want the occasional bath or shower.

Thursday 18th July                                                                                                                                                               76 miles

 

A good night sleep and we woke up late to a fine morning – breakfast outside.

Adrian was plagued a bit by his "ticks" itching. I didn't have any trouble – but I did have troubles with my lower lip which had felt sore and is very swollen (sunburn) . During the day I kept coating it with Bonjela, which stung like mad initially, but seemed to bring the swelling down.

It was 10.30 when we left. We managed to stop in Dungloe High Street – on a double yellow line – while I went into the bakers for rolls.

It wasn't as simple as it sounds – I walked into the front room, where an elderly gentleman was waiting "fine morning". There was no one to serve us, but after some time a young girl appeared from the road. The man bought a large soda loaf. There appeared to be only soda bread and iced fairy cakes and little else. Rolls were all gone I was told.

I did manage to buy one of two small white loaves and a sausage roll and a creamy cake.

We followed the road to Crohy Head, and stopped by a delightful sandy beach at Maghery. We sat for some time in the sand enjoying the warmth and the peace. I had a little paddle. It was quite hazy/cloudy which was a good thing as I had rather a lot of sun yesterday and look a bit "rosy".

We stopped again near Crohy Head, by a stone seat and ate half the cream cake each. We looked out over the water to the next headland with more sandy beaches. It was very peaceful until a whole lot of noisy seabirds started up on the water far below.

 

We followed the N56 for a short distance and then followed a signposted "scenic route". We couldn't follow where we were at all, until after several miles we stopped by some sand dunes. Beyond these was the most wonderful sandy beach (does this get boring?) We realise that we had been directed across a small peninsular that we were going to miss out, to Dooey Point.

We decided to have lunch on the beach, so collected all our stuff together and descended some steps. We had a laze, and a long walk to the water's edge to paddle – the tide was right out.

 

We now had to retraced our steps as the road only came to here. We were amused to find a rugby pitch close to the beach – miles from anywhere. Also along this road near the main road, was the wreck of an old vintage car – possibly a Ford.

 

We went round the next peninsular south which ends at Rossbeg – there were lots of lovely beaches – particularly in the south – on one we watched a group of children playing cricket. There was a caravan site on the north and another on the south – both static and neither appealed to us.

We stopped at Ardara – a very busy and crowded little town, full of knitware shops – all rather expensive and not the sort of day to be thinking of Knitware. We bought postcards and stamps and stopped just afterwards and bought large soft ice creams and again at a factory shop where I tried on a knitted version of my sun hat.

The weather had now become quite close and there were a few spots of rain. We have noticed lots of honeysuckle growing in the hedges today.

Mention must also be made of how polite drivers are – they instinctively pull in or back to let you pass and always "greet" you with a hand signal. Everyone we passed out in the country waves or greets us. How friendly!

People were very busy turning, gathering and stacking hay and later we passed lots of tractors.

From Ardara we went over the Glengesh pass – quite dramatic and rather Scottish looking – steep sided with the flat valley bottom.

Continuing to the sea end of the peninsular we came to Glencolumbkille, then drove up to view point where we looked out to sea. There are  very high cliffs on the north and south side of this peninsular but only visible from the sea. These are the tallest sea cliffs in Europe.

On the road to Carrick there was much evidence of peat being cut. Piles of it stood beside the road. Often it is made into a long mounds and covered with straw so that it resembles Dougal!

Around Carrick it was very attractive with the reflections in the still water of the inlet We took the coast road to Kilcar, again with lovely views back to Carrick.

We were now getting keen to find somewhere to stop, as it was getting late and we were hungry, but there were no campsites marked in this area at all.

We went down a very steep road marked beach and there was a lovely beach with people still enjoying themselves, but a clear "no overnight parking" notice. Rather despondent we drove up the hill again and past the next "beach" sign, shortly after thinking it will be to the other end of the same beach.

However having driven past and looking back we could see a caravan site tucked in by the sea. We retraced our steps and sure enough – a site. Some static but a large area of small tents and a few touring caravans on Fintra Bay near Killybegs.

The place is called "holiday centre" and has a very run down hotel which seems to be some kind of hostel. The woman seemed a bit dippy and told us "free hot showers after five" (it was 7 pm - and the showers were cold).

We rejoiced at having found somewhere to stop and quickly prepared supper. Afterwards we walked over the sand dunes and very steeply down the sand to the beach. The sun was just going down behind a huge hill and it was lovely.

Friday 19th July                                                                                                                                                                       102 miles

 

We left by 9.30! on a fine morning – sunny with misty cloud. We had breakfast outside.

We drove the short distance into Killybegs – a busy little fishing port and did a bit of shopping – buying a new film as I am getting through them rapidly.

Not long after Killybegs we drove several miles along a long thin peninsula to St John's Point. We stopped here near the lighthouse and walked to a rocky cove.

Afterwards we sat near the van and ate a buttered bun. There were wonderful views to other headlands. We could see the shape of the high cliffs at Slieve League but it was too misty to see any detail.

We then had to drive all the way back, but it was a nice drive. Back on the main road, at Inver, we were flagged down and had to wait while a funeral procession emerged from a side road. It was followed by a huge number of cars – some in the procession and some which had just been held up.

We stopped in Donegal – another busy little town, this one built around a triangle rather than the straight line of most towns. It was lunch time when we got back to the van.

We drove to Mullinasole and parked on the edge of a forest above the dunes of the beach and had lunch outside. Afterwards we went to look at the beach – a huge Woolacombe type beach with the tide right out. We didn't go down.

We drove back to the main road at Ballintra and then almost immediately off again to Rossnowlagh, but this was a bit of a failure as we couldn't see much.

We came back to the main road at Ballyshannon, another very crowded town. After taking the wrong road initially, we took the main road to Belleec, just over the border in Northern Ireland. It was a very pretty little town with lots of hanging baskets, but the purpose of our visit - to buy wine and crisps – was unfulfilled they really don't seem to have anything but flavoured crisps in Ireland.

We drove down to Garrison at the end of Lough Melvin, but there was nothing at all here, so we didn't even stop. We were soon out of Northern Ireland again, being questioned briefly at the border.

We thought this road followed along beside the lake, but we couldn't really see much. Added to this – a stupid dog tried to run ahead of us for a great distance and we had to go slowly for fear of running him over. Eventually we managed to lose him.

We came back to Bundoran, a very busy seaside town. Here we saw two caravan sites, both large and static, so they didn't appeal to us at all.

We then had to negotiate the busy town again before following the main road towards Sligo. We passed lots of walkers along the road. On the south side were spectacular mountains.

We turned off just before Sligo to Rosses Point. Here we came to a caravan/camping site – mostly tourers but a few ugly statics taking prime position.

The site was high above the sandy beach and consequently very windy, which didn't suit me!

The beach at Marghery

Adrian at Crohy Head

Rosie at Dooey Point

An old car

The Glengesh Pass

Adrian on Fintra Bay as the sun sets.

Fintra Beach

St. John's Point

Mullinasole Beach

Rosses Point

                          

We walked back along the village street where children were playing ball on the main road, and lots hanging round in the drizzle with nothing much to do.

Back at the site Adrian went to pay the warden who informed him that things had got really bad in Northern Ireland and some roads were closed today. We couldn't get our phone to work but Adrian managed to get through on a pay phone to Paul to let him know we were okay.

We walked back and got supper. The sun came out for a glimpse, but had gone in by the time Adrian had got the chairs out!

The wide bay is of white sand and is obviously popular as a place for boating of all sorts. We returned to the van and listened to a programme of old-fashioned ballads from Ireland.

After supper we chatted more in the lounge before going upstairs to our boudoir and blocking the doorway to prevent the cat coming in (there was no door).

Angela had shown us round the house earlier – where was the loo, have I missed it? No it was a "netty" – way out in the garden. The solid wooden seat over a bucket for "dry" and a plastic bucket for "wet"(wee) but it had the best view of any loo I have ever sat on! Gosh, what about night time I thought – but okay we were given a bucket for our "room"! After use, it was used to water the garden! John tester would be proud!

I'm glad we were here in the summer, not the winter!

We came back to the "harbour" just as the others returned in the boat. We walked back and had "tea on the terrace" looking out over the sea.

Later we had a  pleasant meal of lentil burgers and salad then more chat.

Adrian then barbecued beef burgers and sausages which we ate outside, before the sun went behind the trees.

All meals outside today and our first barbecue – it must be good.

We had both caught the sun today, but much worse, we had "caught" several tricks. Adrian far more than me, and we had to spend a long time removing them from each other. Being very small they are hard to find and "moles" and hair follicles could often be mistaken for them. We became a bit paranoid about them as they are pretty yucky!

We walked into the long hill of the High Street. Got some money and had a drink in "The Bridge". No plain crisps – "none in Ireland" she said!

We walked right at the end of the beach, which ended in a tranquil creek. On the other side was a little bungalow with white walls and blue paintwork. In front was a little blue and yellow boat.

We walked right round back to the site. It was still quite warm and felt quite "foreign".

We walked down to the huge busy beach and although crowds of people were enjoying the sun, I found the wind too strong. We bought ice creams (40p for a 99!) and tried to find somewhere out of the wind to eat them.

After supper we had a walk out and around.

We looked for the previous beach with the "no overnight camping" sign and realised it was the same beach. It looked very different with the tide in. We watched the tide flowing round an island of rock.

The house