Emerald Island Escapades; Week 4 of 5

Westport to North Antrim; May 31st – June 6th

Like the previous 3 weeks of our trip, this week offered up many an adventure.  As usual we headed northward toward our next destination, Donegal.  It was a bit of a drive that day and saw some beautiful sights.

One of our first stops was at the town of Sligo where one of my 3rd great grandmother’s was born, Mary Finnigan.  She is through my dad’s mom side of the family, Hannah Elizabeth Clapp.  Of course I had a look around in some churchyards, but never saw any sign of Finnigan headstones anywhere.  We visited St Mary’s Cathedral, the Abbey, and came across a very nice courthouse that looked a bit like a castle.

 

After we strolled around town a bit, we took a little detour in an eastward direction to visit Parke’s Castle.

 

 

The tour inside the castle was quite interesting with some very well done dioramas set up depicting the people, what their life was like and the furnishings of the period.

 

Afterward, we went back to the main road and traveled a bit further when we came across another interesting church and churchyard.  Although I never did find any Finnigan headstones I did come across a very interesting headstone, that of W.B. Yeats!

 

The church at Drumcliffe was also quite outstanding and the grounds included an ancient high cross and round tower as well as a striking view of Benbulbin from the graveyard.

 

Our next stop was a drive out to Mullaghmore Head complete with a castle and some outstanding views across the bay to the north at Donegal.

 

Not much further and we arrived at our wonderful hostel, Donegal Town Hostel, with its wonderful hosts, accommodations and location.

 

The following day, the 1st of June, we continued our adventures heading toward Londonderry.  In the morning we made a diversion west to see Slieve League cliffs, and oh was it ever worth it.  Far better than the cliffs of Moher in my opinion…

 

 

The remainder of the afternoon was spent driving the rest of the way to Londonderry, where we stayed in a lovely B&B, the Saddler’s House. After checking in, we walked a couple of blocks to the walled city and walked around top of the walls taking in the sights.

 

We walked across the Peace Bridge to  a new brewery, The Walled City Brewery.  We tried a flight of their specialty brews. They were quite yummy!

 

The next morning, after a very comfortable sleep, we had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with  none other than Pat O’Connell, the editor of Rick Steve’s guidebook for Ireland.

He was there checking up on the facts, making sure everything is correct in Rick’s guidebook. Such a nice guy and very interesting to talk to.  I personally felt honored to be able to share with him how they have inspired me to venture out on my own, traveling solo, staying in hostels and getting to know the locals.  It was a simply wonderful treat for me!

 

It was was such a pleasure and special treat to talk to him, share our experiences,  and was especially honored to have him autograph Lynne’s copy of the guidebook!

After breakfast we went for a ride west of Londonderry doing a loop in the stunning countryside around first visiting Doe Castle, then traversing around Muskie Mtn and visiting the Glenveagh National Park, which included a delightful tour of yet another castle – Glenveagh – with an added bonus of extensive gardens as well!

 

 

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What a fantastic castle; think it might even end up on my top 10 lists of my favorite castles!

On June 3rd we left Londonderry and headed east toward my good friend, Deirdre Frew.  We met her in the morning at Cloughmill’s annual fair.  It was a wonderful affair and before we knew it, we were recruited to help out in the food booth making buttermilk pancakes and Irish potatoes bread.  What fun that was!

 

The fair was put on by Cloughmills Incredible Edibles.  What a great place!  They have a community organic garden in an old mill site in the town of Cloghmill’s.  Deirdre’s brother, Patrick, is one of the main coordinators of this unique site.

 

There were so many activities to partake in for kids of all ages:  learning about herbs and their medicinal value, gardening, archery, fire starting, archery, bubblemaking, blacksmith skills, etc., etc.  we had such a great time.  There was live music, Irish dancers, and food galore!  Lynne and I felt really privileged to have the opportunity to volunteer and be part of such a great community effort!

 

 

What a fun filled day that was.  Afterward we headed to Deirdre and Roy’s house where we would spend the next 10 days or so as their guests in their lovely home with a wonderful garden as well.

 

The following day Deirdre, Lynne and I took a tour of the north Antrim coast including stops at Dunluce castle, a wonderful “wee” cottage, Bushmill’s Distillery, and the Giant’s Causeway.

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday we headed for Dark Hedges! It is a lane leading to an old Manor house lined with over 300 year old Beech trees.

 

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We finished the week with a wonderful get together of the “Frew Girls” for a geneaology night!  That is always a night filled with good Craic!

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Well, that ends week 4.  Next installment will be covering a bit more of Northern Ireland and then south to Trim and the city of Dublin to finish off our escapades in Ireland.  Stay tuned!

 

Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving American 64-year young great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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