Donegal

To catch you up on the rest of my adventure from this week (that’s right, in between looking at fascinating online dating profiles and picking them to pieces, I have actually been doing real things in the real world), I was in Co. Donegal at the beginning of last week. From where I was in Co. Mayo, it took me seven hours (SEVEN), plus six bus and car changes (SIX) to get to where I was going, which was the very tip of the South-West corner of County Donegal, a place called Glencolmcille (well, actually, it was a place called Malinmore, but Malinmore wasn’t so much a ‘place’ as a collection of houses with a post box. Glencolmcille at least had three pubs, a school and a folk museum, so you could legitimately call that a ‘place’). Here is an idea of where I was:

I was aiming for the ‘A’. From google maps.

Whilst waiting for the first of my six buses/taxis, I hung out in the deliciously blazing sun of Westport and attempted to even out my sunburn. I know, I know, its absolutely appalling and considering my father has had all sorts of scares with skin cancer, you’d think of all people, I would know not to be putting my skin in trauma, but I couldn’t help it. It’d been so long since I’d seen the sun and my skin was so white and the sun felt so good, that I just wanted to lie out in it an burn myself to a crisp. I covered up my burnt skin in sunscreen and tried to brown my shoulders, but of course went a little too overboard with the sunscreen, meaning that I ended up with red arms, a little stripe of white skin and then red shoulders. Highly attractive. It must have done something for someone, however, because an elderly gentleman stopped in the street to declare me ‘a handsome woman’ and to tell me how lucky was the man ‘who gets to put his arms around you.’ Sweet.
Anyway, I eventually ended up in Glencolmcille, despite a bit of a disaster when I got to Donegal and the mini-bus driver told me that he’d only be able to get me to Killybegs (about half an hour away from where I needed to get). As it was already 9:30pm, I’d been traveling for hours, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do. However, I held myself together admirably well. Compared to some previous travel disasters I’ve had, I simply asked the bus driver to check with the company to see if there actually was a service from Killybegs, as I had checked it several times online. Of course, there wasn’t, but they agreed to organise me a taxi from Killybegs to Glencolmcille as part of my ticket. I was very pleased that everything had worked out and I also hadn’t panicked and made a fool of myself. The taxi driver was very nice, though he seemed a little grumpy at first about having been dragged away from his IRA movie to drive a silly tourist to Glencolmcille. But he became much more friendly and even sang me ‘The Boys of Killybegs’ when I asked ‘wasn’t there a song about Killybegs that I would know?’ He also refused to leave me on my own in Glencolmcille and stood in the car park for a good half hour waiting for the people from my hostel to pick me up. He was very amused to find out that I was writing all about the trip and hoped I would write a new chapter (it was easier to say it was a book) with himself in it. I should really have gotten his name, but if he ever reads this I hope he will know who he is.
The next day, I was hoping to climb Slieve Leage, which are some amazing sea cliffs, about three times higher than the hugely famous and popular Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare. Here is a picture:

I climbed to that pointy bit in the middle of the picture. Found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slieve_League

Because they are not so popular as the Cliffs of Moher, there is no barrier along the walk to the summit. And, though you can’t really see it in this picture, the walk to the summit involves rather sheer, crumbly, dizzingly high and terrifying drops into the ocean on one side and not quite o high, but just as sheer and perhaps more rocky drops into a valley on the other. The way to the summit is along the aptly named ‘One Man’s Path’. My housemate had told me to ‘go with someone’ along the path, but as I was traveling by myself, I figured I would just have to attempt to do it on my own. The day was perfectly clear and sunny, no wind, so it seemed like the perfect conditions to attempt the scary climb on my own. However, an American man from my hostel also happened to be attempting Slieve League that day and as I needed a lift to the cliffs anyway and he had a car, we ended up doing the walk together by default. He ended up being a very interesting gentleman, lots of great stories about science and kayaking trips and places I should visit in the USA and after a slightly awkward start, we got along very well and had a lovely day. It was kind of lucky he was there in the end, because the One Man’s Path wasn’t nearly as obvious as the name would imply and there were a few times we found ourselves in rather awkward scrambling situations (at one point, we had some very amusing Germans above us. I called out, ‘Did we go the wrong way?’ They replied, ‘No, no, this is the One Man’s Path. It is called this because only one person in every two can survive it.’ Ha ha ha). Not that having someone else there would have helped my climbing abilities, but it was a good incentive for me not to completely freak out and have a hysterical break down on the mountain, because I didn’t want to look like a girl in front of the hardcore American kayak man. Also, I forgot my sunscreen and I really thought that my skin had probably gone through enough trauma for one week and the American had spray-on sunscreen. I still think spray-on sunscreen must be a bit dodgy, but it seemed to do the trick.
We parted ways at the summit, the American went back the same way to get his car, I decided to go down the Pilgrim’s Path down the back of the mountain for a bit of a change. I stumbled into Carrick at 4:30pm, overheated, dehydrated, hot, sweaty and absolutely delighted with myself. About twenty minutes later, the American went past me. I totally beat him down the mountain and he was in a car. I don’t want to crow, but I feel that was pretty awesome. And, in the true sense of the word, not in the American hotdog sense of the word.
So, after a lovely shower, I sat down, outside, in the long evening sun and attempted to write job applications whilst getting very distracted by the google mail chat thing that I have only just worked out how to use again.

Me being summer-y and confused by Gmail chat.

 The next day, I decided to walk over the mountain on the other side of Glencolmcille, which my hostel owner had said was quite lovely. I learnt from one of the other guests (who happened to be an artist) that there were the remains of a cottage Dylan Thomas had once spent 6 months in over the mountain as well and I figured I might go sit in it for a bit and hopefully get some Thomas-like writerly skill or inspiration and churn out my equivalent of ‘Under Milk Wood’ in a day. Or something. I didn’t find the ruins though (they were a bit further away than expected), so I guess I’ll have to do it on my own steam. Apparently the reason Thomas was in this neck of the woods was because it the cottage was the further away from a pub that Thomas’ agent could find near the UK and was hoping to dry Thomas out for a few months. Instead, Thomas decided that a 10 mile walk over the mountains was a perfectly reasonable way of getting to alcohol and did it regularly. Well, I guess if he wasn’t entirely sober, at least he was getting some exercise and that’s… not nothing.
There was absolutely no one up on the mountain except myself and a lot of sheep (and lambies!) The mountain cliffs dropped straight into the sea, and I found myself clutching on to the edge of the flimsy wooden fence and staring down a sheer drop into the water however many hundreds of metres below. It made me ever so slightly giddy, light-headed and giggly.
When I came down the mountain, I popped into the local Folk Museum, which was quite sweet. It had a variety of cottages done up as they would have been in the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. I couldn’t help thinking of my eldest charge from last year and how much she would have enjoyed it. I certainly enjoyed myself, but thinking of her enthusiasm for knit curtains and old-fashioned things made the experience that little bit more fun.
I was lucky enough to get a lift back from the hostel owners as I was completely wrecked after my 5 day adventure holiday. The weather was incredibly perfect for the entire time I was away and I was little sorry to have to be going back to Dublin the next day, but I was also kind of wrecked and, of course, there was plenty to be done back at home. I’m packing everything up at the moment, as I leave my house in Dublin tomorrow. I’m off to Alaska on Wednesday and then back in Cork for two weeks and then its on to London…
I can’t quite believe it’s all ending. I’m getting more than a little sad and nostalgic and have been listening nonstop to a beautiful Unthanks song called ‘Fareweel Regality’, which is all about farewells.
But, more on that next time.

And now it’s time to say fareweel
And though I hope that we may meet again
And all things may be reet again
We’ve lived and spent the day

And so we’ll cry fareweel regality
And cry fareweel to liberty
To honest friends’ civility
To winter’s frost and fire
And there’s naught that I can bid you
But that peace and love gan with you
Never mind wherever call the fates
Away from Hexhamshire

And what is time that flies so fleet
But just a bird that flies on merry wings
And lights us down in happy springs
When winter’s need is past

And so we’ll cry fareweel…

Aye but the curlew sings her sang
And winds her sorrows down the Rowley Burn
And drear as winds the hunter’s horn
The call is all fareweel

And so we’ll cry fareweel…

And as I set the mossy stones
And do me bits of jobs and gap the dykes
I hear the whispers down the sykes
Fareweel they sigh, fareweel

And so we’ll cry fareweel…

Do I remember? Do I dream?
And did we rightly meet by Viewly Side?
For all this and much more beside
Has got me sore beguiled

And so we’ll cry fareweel…

And on some golden autumn morn
Or when July is hazing Dipton Slopes
By Whitley Mill or Westburnhope
We’ll live and spend the day

And so we’ll cry fareweel…
And so we’ll cry fareweel…

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