20.01.2017 - 22.01.2017 4 °C
Our final morning in Carrigans was a misty one, but we defied the fog and decided to make for Grianan of Aileach, a hillfort that was supposed to afford fabulous 360 degree views on a clear day. It was only 15 minutes down the road, so we figured that if we got there and couldn’t see anything, it would be no great loss. What we hadn’t banked on was The Great Jacket Loss of 2017. For when we went to climb to the aforementioned hillfort, Simon discovered that his waterproof jacket was nowhere to be found in the car. So unless Spud had started eating our belongings, that meant that he had left the jacket behind in our Carrigans apartment. And the hosts of said apartment had been about to leave for the day. Hmm. We shot them a message, and had to resign ourselves to peering out into the misty horizons while waiting for a reply.
We came up with the grand plan of going into the nearby castle/visitor info centre/interactive experience thingamy. It was only 3 euros, and included a cup of tea, and would entertain us at least until we heard back from our hosts.
Nope. Closed for repairs.
Right, stuff it. We headed north along the Wild Atlantic Way, which would have been lovely and charming on a bright sunny day, but on a foggy day with a missing jacket and a temperature of about 4 degrees it was hard to get excited about. We did get excited about a text confirming that Simon’s jacket was still in the apartment, but we couldn’t reply as we were in a mysterious no man’s land without phone reception or free wifi. We tootled back to Carrigans – and then got the message that our hosts wouldn’t be back from their shopping adventure until nearly 4pm. Right. Now, the advantage of us staying in Carrigans was that it was lovely and quiet. This rather quickly became the disadvantage of staying in Carrigans, as there was nothing in the village except a post office, a small grocery shop and a pub. The obvious choice was the pub – it had heating, it had seats, it had wifi, and it had beer.
We entered and got suspicious looks from the locals at first, but once we had ordered a pint they decided we were okay and we spent the next hour or so with Billy who was dying of cancer and knocked back the pints as if each might be his last, and some others who didn’t give us their names but were entertaining company nonetheless. The barmaid was a Trump supporter… enough said. Anyway, by the time our hosts returned to town, we had Billy offering to adopt us so that we could get a permanent visa to stay in Ireland and the fun of the crossword was just getting started. We had been warned that we were leaving it a bit late to be going so far north – apparently Carrigart was a “long drive” and the roads would be hard to navigate in the dark.
Approximately one hour later, armed with Simon’s jacket, our “long drive” was complete and the sun hadn’t quite set yet. Pff. Come to Australia and then tell me what a long drive is. Our new hosts (and their cocker spaniels) were very welcoming and talked for about 3 hours before letting us go off and find dinner. They had talked up the village pub and its woodfired pizza facilities, so you can imagine how heartbroken I was when we arrived to discover that pizza was not on offer that night – nor was any other food, for that matter. Onto the next village, and on the third try, we finally found a pub selling food. This, you see, is the downside of travelling in the off-season – places shutdown over January because there are no tourists. Anyway – this place was open, and we had a two course meal for €12.50 instead of a one course meal for €14.00. Gotta love the ol’ weekend special. There was another group in the pub celebrating someone’s 40th birthday – and I use the term ‘celebrating’ very loosely… essentially, there was a table of women sitting around looking morose and occasionally checking their phones. If that is what turning 40 looks like, I’ll skip straight to 50, thanks.
The next morning we were greeted with the most beautiful views from our bedroom window – and tractors. Tractors everywhere. Lovely. We headed north to Fanad Head (at Paul’s suggestion) and enjoyed the fact that the sun was out, but it didn’t carry a lot of warmth with it. We mosied around the Wild Atlantic Way official viewing points up north before making our way down to Glenveagh National Park. From the carpark, it was a very pleasant 4km walk to the Glenveagh Castle and, more importantly, the Glenveagh Tea Rooms, where every man and his dog (literally) were enjoying some refreshments. We supped, and then took the steep route uphill for views and hilarious photo opportunities. I think it’s a reflection of our fitness and stupidity levels that it took us longer to take photos jumping off the rock atop the hill than it did to actually climb up the hill. Go team.
The Wild Atlantic Way took us still further south to Mountcharles, and then we popped over to Donegal for dinner with a Slovakian waiter. Because Ireland.
Somehow, we scored The Best Possible Weather to head to the Slieve League cliffs for the day. Allegedly some of the highest marine cliffs in Europe, we walked upwards in full sunshine and zero wind. And once you got moving, you hardly noticed that it was about three degrees. Sunglasses required for the second day in a row – not bad for an Irish winter! Everyone we passed on the cliffs commented on how fabulous the weather was, until we came across a young lad walking with his father and the young lad launched into a sales pitch for his family’s chip shop in Carrick. BEST chipper in Carrick, apparently. What a legend. We found a nice smooth rock in the sun to sit on while we dined on Orkney oatcakes and cheese (what pb sandwich lovers eat when they’re not eating pb sandwiches) and generally felt smug about life. Views for days – and not a drop of rain or a breath of wind. Not exactly what we had expected from an Irish winter, but we were not complaining.
Once we’d had our fill of cliffs, we popped over to see the beach at Silver Strand and watched the sun go down over the waves. Still no rain – but definitely no desire to be swimming. Definitely views to be appreciated from the relative warmth of the shore.
As it so happened, Carrick was on the direct route back to Mountcharles – so would you believe it, we stopped in at the Cottage Chipper and had some excellent fish and chips (or chicken and chips if your name is Alison) before going home for a cup of tea. What a splendid day!