Travelogue, Day 23
A hotel-chain shower has much to recommend it -- hot, good water pressure, huge shower stall. After a quick buffet breakfast (not included in the room rate, yet another reason to avoid big hotels) we packed up and left Letterkenny without really going through the city. The end of the city we stayed is in heavily industrial and crowded with cranes and trucks. We just didn't feel like trying to find the "town" part of the city, and Mark is getting a little nervous about making it to Antrim today.
We drove up the coast to Buncrana, then around by the main road on the peninsula to Malin Head (the northernmost part of Ireland). I think we've managed to hit all the possible "-most" coastlines -- and since we did try to find the exact center of Ireland, we can at least claim that we've "seen it all!" A quick side trip on the way to Malin brought us through a startlingly bright and cheerful "Famine Village" display and eventually out onto the barely paved road into someone's farmyard. I ventured a ways in to snap some pictures of Dough castle, but the real fun happened back at the car.
And Mark is adored by Sheep
The moment we stopped the car and got out, we could hear a lamb in the stone-walled field next to us baa-ing like crazy. There are dozens of sheep and lambs wandering the road and the fields and so we didn't give it much thought. Mark stood up, though, and a little brown and white lamblet leaped over the stone wall and charged over to bump Mark's knees and baa affectionately. The little map was practically dancing it was so excited. It was like the ice-cream truck had driven up, he was ecstatic to see Mark and hopping about like a demented wind-up toy. Mama was on the other side of the fence, maa-ing in a flat monotone for him to come back.
Mark picked him up and carefully set him on the the side of the fence. Boink! He clambered back over the fence and following us. The lamb was practically squealing in excitement. We had to toss him back over the fence two more times before he finally stayed there, corralled by Mama and the other sheep (who all clustered around to see what was going on)
We finally figured out later that he was probably a bottle-fed lamb, so the appearance of A Man meant FOOD! He must have been thrilled to see us! Sheep are actually astonishingly stupid - we watched one sheep in one of the little huts try, in vain, to get out of the hut. One side of the door was wide enough (the previous sheep had zipped in and out a few times) but Stupid Sheep continued to try to get through the second opening, which was too small for it to fit. As far as we know, she never figured out how to escape.
We got back on the main road (with the little lamb trailing along until he couldn’t see us any more) and followed the signs to Malin Head. It's a rocky headland, and since we could actually SEE an even more northerly point, we kept walking to find a viewing point. It was cold and blustery, but there is something wild and exciting about standing on the rocks while the waves crash in. Out on the beach, people have taken rocks and spelled out their names or slogans. We sat in the drizzle for awhile just watching the sea.
Greencastle and Greencastle Fort are about a hundred yards apart, but Mark was far more interested in the apparently military installation at the fort and the vehicles parked in the lot. Not much to see, really. It looks like both the sites are fairly recent, although the castle is really nothing more than a pile of softly eroded rock walls.
Sometime, the most interesting things show up when you're on your way to somewhere else. During our drive north, we passed a development in Fahan (several times, actually, we got a bit lost again). The steep hill had many houses on it, and a huge billboard advertised"Luxury 4 Bedroom Detached Georgian-Style homes" and we were agog at the fact that the dozen or so houses on the hillside were EXACTLY alike. There were two different door colors, but otherwise they were identical and rose up the hill like a Xeroxed stack of photos. On the third pass we finally turned back and found a place to park so I could get a picture. The houses look large, and very luxurious, but…the same. This wasn't a set of council flats or cheaply built houses thrown up to handle the expanding population. No, these were obviously very nice homes built with a very nice view over the sea, in a very nice development…just all the same.
Housing developments at home are often homogenous, but they aren't IDENTICAL. Here, sometimes even the color of the house is exactly the same. Not a few slightly different styles in the same area, but the same house built over and over again, dozens of them at a time. Mark thinks it might have something to do with the thriving class structure in the UK (not that we don’t' have those class distinctions here, even if we like to think that we're so egalitarian). Here, you have to have the same thing to be the same 'class". I don't quite get it, although I can see how "keeping up with the Joneses" would a lot easier if you know that you have the same thing and that the Joneses won't suddenly show up with something that you don’t' have.
All I can say is it must be hell giving someone directions to your house for a party. "Um, the third yellow house with the green door on the right". Huh? Makes me glad that I can easily describe my own house.
It took ages to get across the upper peninsula and to Antrim - the roads are narrow and snake along the coast with many tunnels. Looping in and out of each small village is fun, but definitely not fast. We picked an inland route on major roads and were still stuck in traffic and just as slow. But, the scenery is stunning and we still found ourselves pulling off the road to take pictures and just gawk. But, since the rain still kept falling, we really didn't begrudge the time in the car.
Ballygally Castle is a hotel now and it was one of the stops we made to look at the lovely little town stretched out along the beach. We called the NT caretaker about the Barbican and got detailed directions, so we could meet her only a few minutes later.
Our own tiny Castle!
Wow. It's a teeny miniature castle! Two stories with a roof, and a spiral staircase in a connected tower leading to them. Bedroom on the first floor, sitting room and kitchen on the second, and access to the roof on the third. The bathroom was between the ground and first floor with the biggest roll top bathtub that I have ever seen and big steam radiators (ooh! Hot towels!). The main gate to the demesne goes through the gatehouse, and on the other side of the huge doors is a utility room with laundry facilities. It's absolutely fabulous!
We needed to hit a grocery store for food (this is self-catering, we're on our own), and it was definitely time for dinner. We had to drive to the next town for dinner. We're apparently staying in the only town we've seen that has two pubs and NO FOOD. But it's ok, we found a nice pub just down the road and picked up eggs and bacon for tomorrow and retired to our little castle for the evening.
lost in ireland 2005 travelogue and photos © rfingerson