Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pictured above: Evil Sheep, Seal Pup, Slieve League Cliffs in Donegal, Ned's Point in Buncrana, Grianan in Burt, Glencolmcille, Crana River in Buncrana


I recently returned from my 3rd trip to Ireland, specifically, Derry, Ireland.

Homebase: Derry

As mentioned in my previous post, Derry (Doire, in Irish) is the 4th largest city in Ireland and is known as the Walled City. This is a good place to make your homebase while in Ireland. You can plan many day trips outside of Derry.

A brief recap of my previous post-- Derry isn't just a great homebase,there are great things to do there as well. Walk on the walls around the town center, take a stroll "out the line", visit the cemetery (nice views of the city from here as well), check out the Bogside murals depicting the troubles in the North, the Free Derry corner monument, the Irish craft village, 2 beautiful cathedrals, Foyleside and Richmond shopping centres just to name a few. Great places for dinner are Timber Quay on the River Foyle (although since they took away their Mexican Chicken, maybe its not the greatest) but...the Banofee pie for good,or dinner at the Exchange.

Nightlife is fun too. Start with drinks at the River Inn, the oldest bar in Derry, although their modern decor wouldn't suggest it's age. Finish with some dancing at the Metro (this bar gets very crowded). Other great places would be Peader's or the Dungloe bar (you may get the chance to listen to some Irish music here). Or the Argyle Bar for a nice quiet drink. Don't be surprised when you hear "Country Roads" start playing at any given bar...they love that song there...I think I heard it more there than I have here. In fact, let one of the locals know where you are from and you're sure to be serenaded with their version of Country Roads (this only works if you are from West Virginia, like me).
While you're out walking around Derry, don't forget to stop in at the BEST little corner shop in Europe...Elmwood Stores on Elmwood Terrace on the Bogside...and pick up a galaxy bar, a bag of potato crisps (and by crisps, I mean chips) and a bottle of coke...tell the owner hello! And when he says "Alright, what's the craic there mucker?", he means "hello, what's going on friend?"

Another road trip? OK!!

One in particular is to take a day or two and travel to County Donegal. Think of all the movies you see showing scenery of Ireland...County Donegal is where you will see the scenery you expect of Ireland. Think green rolling hills, huge sea cliffs, country roads...and of course sheep...TONS and tons of sheep (unfortunately the leprechauns never did make an appearance). A little warning however about the sheep (pictured above) not try to pet them...they do not like this...and they will try to attack you...take it from me...I have first hand knowledge of this :) I could almost see the headlines "American girl killed in cliffside sheep attack."

A few recommendations on places to visit in Donegal. Glencolmcille (pictured above)...a small coastal town on the Slieve League Peninsula. Its a curvy drive getting there, but the scenery is worth it. On your drive, be sure to pull over, get out of the car and just listen. You will hear...ABSOLUTELY nothing. Its so quiet on this road that you could almost be convinced you'd gone deaf. Here you'll find cliffs, mountains, beaches and a friendly small village. If you're hungry, I recommend stopping in at the Village Cafe for some chicken curry and chips...although the fish and chips (and of course by chips I mean fries) looked really good too. Eh, just order one of're on vacation (holidays) after all. If you go in the Summer, walk down to the beach...but, fair are in the North Atlantic Ocean and the water is FRIGID even in the summer. We actually got to see a seal pup (pictured above) down here...but, unfortunately he didn't look like he was in good health. But, a stroll on the beach is still relaxing nevertheless. This is an Irish speaking community, although, you won't have trouble finding folks who speak English. But, just in case you're feeling brave. Here are a few Irish words you could test out on the locals (but, they may laugh at the "know-it-all" American...and who could blame them:).
Slainte (pronounced--Slaunt cha): Cheers
Failte (prounounced--Fall cha): Welcome

Cad á mar tá tú?" (prounounced--Caa jay mar a tat too): How are you?

Go Maith (pronounced--go my): Doing well

Do a simple Google search for more Irish words.

While your in the Glencolmcille area (pictured above), check out the Slieve League cliffs. These are the 2nd largest sea cliffs in Europe and it really is an awesome view, especially at sunset. You can actually drive all the way up the cliffs to the top for the scenic views...even though there is a fence blocking the road, you can easily open it up and drive. If not, you're looking at a 3 mile hike to the top...and who wants to do that...ALTHOUGH...we almost did, not realizing you were able to remove the fence and drive on up...that is until cars started passing us on our walk, or HIKE, to the top looking at us like we were idiots...and of course, at that moment, we were. This is also where I encountered the evil sheep mentioned above.
In all honesty, it doesn't matter where you go in Donegal...any where you drive, your bound to be viewing some beautiful scenery and quaint small villages around every corner..just keep your camera handy.

While Donegal will require a day or two of your time, you won’t need that time to visit one of the coolest places in Ireland. Take a half day and venture out to Burt. Just a few minutes drive from Derry, in the town of Burt, you'll find Grianan of Aileach (pictured above). A ring fort built around the same time as the birth of Christ. It's free to go to and you'll get some really awesome views from the top. It gets rather windy up here, so if you're thinking of taking a picnic I wouldn't recommend it unless you like eating large portions of your wind blown hair along with your sandwich (of course I'm mostly directing that to the ladies). Grianan is probably my favorite place to visit. I go every time I'm in Ireland.

Once you leave Grianan, head down to Buncrana. Buncrana is THE place to vacation in the summer if you're from Derry (sort of how Myrtle Beach is THE place to visit if you're from West Virginia :). Don't forget to stop in at Doherty's Cafe for some fish and chips (fries again) for your tea (dinner) on your way to Buncrana. Once you get to Buncrana, walk through the town centre and then head down to the Buncrana Shore Path. It's a nice walk out across the Crana River to Ned's Point (pictured above) on Lough Swilly (which sort of reminds me of a mini Giant's Causeway) and to Father Hegarty's Rock, the sight where Father Hegarty was decapitated by the British for holding church services. Swing by the Drift Inn for a pint after you're done with the walk.

Quick Tip:

A few quick pointers about Derry. Derry is close to the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and is technically considered part of the U.K. So, to travel around Derry and Northern Ireland you will need to use the British pound for currency. Travel through the Republic of Ireland, which includes County Donegal and Buncrana, will require the Euro. This can be confusing especially since there really are no marked borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Also, if you travel to Ireland in the summer, you'll find yourself with more daylight hours to explore...the sun comes up around 5 am and it doesn't get dark til about 10:30pm. Winter time is a little different however with the sun not rising until about 9 am and setting about 4:30pm.

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