Where We Be
|Donegal & Westport, Ireland
We broke up the longest driving day of our trip
with a stop in Donegal, a cute little town in the
northwest. It's near the border with Northern
Ireland but in the Republic of Ireland, so we're
back on the euro again. The highlight of a visit
here is Donegal Castle (€4 each). It's fun for a
quick tour: built in 1474, the castle has been
almost fully restored.
Our drive was supposed to take 4½ hours but
actually took 6 because we hit unexpectedly
heavy traffic near the tiny town of Westport, of
all places. The reason for all the traffic was that
it was a Sunday afternoon and the road was full
of fans making their way to the stadium parking
lot for the hugely popular (in Ireland, anyway)
Gaelic Games. Gaelic football and hurling are
the two main events, but there's also Gaelic
handball and rounders. If you've never seen
them being played before, they're a hoot. Just
turn on the telly in Ireland and you're bound to
see them -- or check them out on YouTube.
|Donegal Castle was once described by the English Viceroy
in 1566 as "the largest and strongest fortress in all Ireland"
|Westport is one of those towns everyone seems to like. It's located on the west coast of Ireland
in County Mayo (about halfway down if, like us, you don't know your Irish counties that well).
|During our Camino, multiple people we met from Ireland said, "Go to Westport."
They were right! It's a great little town. No wonder it's so popular with tourists.
|Now here's a window display you have to love if you're Irish.
Is the glass itself tinted green, or is that just my imagination?
|And what about this house covered tip to toe in green ivy?
|In the morning we drove to Westport Quay for a look around
just as this boat was being lifted by a crane into the water
|A rusted old hulk adds intrigue to the view at Westport Quay. Here we spoke to a local walking his dog about -- what else? --
the weather, THE topic in Ireland ALL the time. On this morning, fortunately, it was about how spectacular the weather was.
|Forming a backdrop to the town is the famous pilgrimage mountain of
Croagh Patrick, known locally as "the Reek" for reasons that escape us
|As we headed out of town, we took a moment to visit the Great Famine National Monument,
also known as the Coffin Ship. It honors the approximately 1 million people who died
during the Great Potato Famine of 1845-50. Another 1 million Irish emigrated.
|It pained us to be right at the trailhead but not
have the time to climb Ireland's holy mountain
|Donegal town is charming, but we only got
a quick taste of it during our long driving day
|We saw two churches in Donegal -- the Church of Ireland at left
and St. Patrick's Memorial Catholic Church at right
|The original castle is furnished throughout and includes
Persian rugs, French tapestries -- and a really big fireplace
|The powerful O'Donnell clan built it in 1474 -- and burned it in 1607! They did so to keep it out of English hands, but it
didn't work. Sir Basil Brooke, an English captain, quickly restored it and extended it with the manor house seen at left.
|My driving in Ireland is
bad but it isn't this bad!