Sunday, May 8th
We began our day of exploration with a look around the town of Donegal with its ‘Diamond’ (really a triangle) in the centre of town Around this area was an interesting streetscape. Just around the corner at the top of town was the Donegal Castle with a good view from the church across the road.
Along the road on the first part of day’s journey, we found the capital of Irish surfing – Bundoran. Well, there were no icebergs in the water, but there were also no waves whatsoever. The sea was as flat as a millpond, but There were a number of shops open in town where one could rent a surfboard.
We stopped for a coffee in the town of Sligo with its maze of one-way streets. We drove around the town twice before we found a coffee shop in the Tesco shopping centre. Apparently nothing opens before noon in Ireland other than this errant coffee shop and the surf shops hoping to make a sale when the sea is dead flat.
We stopped for lunch, further on in the rather pretty city of Westport. The town centre here was designed by James Wyatt in 1780, in the Georgian architectural style. A particular feature of the town is the way that the river is incorporated into the architecture of the town. It runs between low stone walls with attractive tree lined promenades on each side and with several stone bridges crossing over.
We had a couple of interesting encounters here. The first was a group of eight Dutch bikers who we met at an earlier B&B. They were doing a week-long tour of Ireland on their motor cycles and they were also looking for a place for lunch. Next, as we were walking down the main street, we found a number of vintage tractors that were part of a rally of old vehicles. Among them were two little grey Massey Fergussons – one built in 1952 and the other in 1954. Very unexpected in a place so far away.
One of the more interesting sites was to go down to the harbour and look across the water to a conical shaped mountain. It was from the top of here that St Patrick reputedly drove the snakes out of Ireland. Over 40,000 people make a pilgrimage to the summit on July 12 each year – the most pious in bare feet!
From Westport, we passed a lot of farms with interesting stone walls and black faced sheep, before we came to a little village of Leenane. This inlet is reckoned to be the only fjord in Ireland. It certainly looks like one, and the scenery is very reminiscent of some places in New Zealand.
We reached our last stop for the day after crossing some moorland and peat fields to the little village of Cong. This is reputed to be the best preserved village in Ireland. It has a series of narrow streets and what looks like a series of streams that join together within a series of walled embankments. At the top of the town are the ruins of an old abbey where it is reputed that the monks had a fishing line rigged so that a bell would ring whenever a fish took the bait.
We ended the day with a drive though a heavy thunderstorm to our B&B in Galway.