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    Jon's Ireland Vacation Travelogue - June 2002 - Part IV
    Day 1 | Day 2-3 | Day 4 | Day 5-6 | Day 7-8

    Day 5

    The fifth day of the trip wasn't that exciting. I was going to leave the B&B I'd been at in Tubercurry and move to one North of Donegal. I decided to take a long route around Lough Erne and see all the stuff around there. In theory there should have been tons of stuff to fill up my time. Castles, ruins, stone circles, scenic vistas. But It didn't seem to work out that way.

    Devenish Island was one of the things that sounded interesting. It's hard to find though. There's a sign, but I actually drove by the turn-off twice before I saw it. And when I got to this point it looked a little boring. In addition, I had missed the boat that takes people out to the island. Did I really want to wait an hour to get over and climb up the round tower? Probably not.

    This is kind of a cool picture with Enniskillen in the background there. Very pretty. But I didn't know how long it would take me to get to the B&B and I figured I had tons of things to see. Note to self - Don't be stupid, climb the damn round tower.

    On my way up the east side of the lough I saw a sign to the "Cassidy Ancient Rath". This wasn't on my maps or in any of the guide books, so of course I decided I better check it out.

    Note to Ireland tourists - Don't bother to go see the Cassidy Ancient Rath. Sure, it's a big fort on top of a hill, but you can't see anything. And you have to hike through this mud bog to get there. It's a very beautiful mud bog, perhaps the greenest place I've ever been, but the rath is all overgrown and mostly eroded, and you have to get very muddy and slashed by nasty thorns to get there. If I'm going to get bloody and mud covered, I want to see more than a bump in the dirt.

    I have no idea where this picture was taken. Around Lough Ernie somewhere, but Ernie is certainly much bigger than this. I think this might be River Erne. [sigh] I have no idea.

    [segue alert] I was having fun listening to the radio on this trip. Very nice to not have to hear about George F'ing Bush and Israel non-stop. The topic of conversation on RTE Radio was the celebration for the soccer team in Phoenix Park. Apparently everyone wanted to have the team parade through the streets of Dublin, but the Garda wouldn't allow it. So everyone was going to have to stand in the mud where they'd barely be able to see the team up on some stage somewhere.

    One of the things I really wanted to see on the trip was the Drumskinny stone circle and alignment. The books I had described this as one of the nicest circles in Ireland. Well, I wouldn't know, because I never found the God Damned thing.

    I drove all over the damn place for an hour. I have no idea what this alignment is. I don't think it's the one I was looking for. The weird thing is that there were big signs leading off the main road with distances and everything. But then nothing. And I didn't have the topo map for this area. Shit! Note to self - Bring the damn map. Stupid stupid stupid!!!

    But I did find the Boa Island janus figure.

    Which is good, because I was pulling my hair out over the damn Drumskinny feasco. The guidebooks say this is hard to find. But it's actually very easy if you know what to look for.

    Comments for this section

    After Boa Island I started making my way back to the second B&B of the trip, which was just north of Donegal. I spent quite a bit of time wandering around Donegal. Very quaint. Very pleasant. Notice how everyone is parking in the "No Parking" zone here. It was like this everywhere.

    No one obeys traffic laws in Ireland. No one cares about blocking the entire street. No one gives any consideration to other drivers, safety, or courtesy. If you think drivers are bad where you live, I can assure you they are no where near as bad as Irish drivers.

    Another thing I noticed were the horrific guard stations they have in Northern Island. I didn't get any pictures, because I have no doubt I would have been shot or arrested, but these things look like something out of "Escape From New York". It's basically a small building with two barb-wire cages surrounding it. These are usually right in the middle of a normal looking neighborhood.

    When I finally got to my destination (Ardara), I decided to grab some mussels at Nancy's pub. Very nice. Very rustic. People where whining that I didn't have enough pictures from the pubs, so here are two. Nothing fancy, brown bread, seafood chowder, Guinness and mussels.

    Another thing that threw me on the drive back were the road signs. They use "miles per hour" for speed limits, but "kilometers" for distance. What? That is not fair. And of course you can't make the speedo in the rental cars read in miles. It's just totally screwed up. And in some places it seems to be reversed. Driving in Ireland is like some sort of practical joke. Real funny.

    And here is a good picture of the red-ish brown streams they have in Ireland. After the last trip I had someone try to convince me that the color was due to all the poop and agricultural run-off. Which is bogus. The color comes from the peat. I still wouldn't drink it though. And it's very weird to see brown water running out of the pristine peat fields that are way out in the middle of nowhere.

    I know. Everyone wants to believe it's pollution so they can get all upset about that. But it's totally natural. Just deal with it.

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    Day 6

    This was one of the best days on the trip. I saw fantastic things and went places I'd been imagining for years. The guide books said that the Donegal peninsula is one of the most beautiful areas of Ireland. You be the judge. All of the pictures below were from the first 30 minutes of my day.

    The plan was to hike along the Slieve League cliffs and then motor all over the place trying to see as much as possible. I figured I'd end up spending at least three hours hiking at the cliffs, so I wanted to get there as soon as possible. But I kept pulling off to get pictures of cool stuff.

    The area around the Glengesh Pass and the Glen river is more remote than a lot of the other places I went. Lots of wonderful little streams. Long bays. Wonderful forests.

    I don't think that dolmen there is authentic. It's not on any of the maps. And it's a silly place for one. Seems like it would have slid into the river by now. It's in the damn flood plain even!

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    So after getting out of bed very early, only to waste a good part of the morning pulling over to take pictures every few hundred yards, I finally made it up to the Slieve League cliffs.

    Here's a tip. When you get to the end of the road you'll find a closed gate and a huge parking lot. *Do not* park in the parking lot!!! Like I did....... The real parking lot for the cliffs is still 3/4 of a mile up the road. Go through the gate. There are a couple nice lakes you'll miss, and there are a few photo ops along the drive, but if you're planning on hiking up the cliffs you really don't need the extra distance.

    Also don't be fooled by the wonderfully constructed stairs that wind up towards the top of the cliffs at the start of the trail. Just as you get used to the idea that the hike isn't going to be very hard after all, the stairs end and the trail turns muddy and indistinct.

    No matter. Yes, you'll need to be careful, I have no problem seeing how people die up here every year, but it's really not too bad, and the view is more than worth it. It was cloudy on the way up, but even so you can see the fantastic colors. And the scale is epic. These photos don't really do it justice.

    Notice the clouds blowing over the cliffs in this picture. I'd guess they were gusting 30-50 mph. The clouds are forming right in front of the cliffs and then streaming over the top.

    The part of the cliffs you can't see is right where I was heading. The trail runs right along the top and at points the cliffs drop away on both sides of the trail so that it's only a few feet wide. Did I mention the mud and gusty winds? Very exhilarating.

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    Here's a good illustration of how close the trail was to the edge. All of the guide books point out that this is the sort of thing which shouldn't be attempted by people with vertigo. Of course I suffer from vertigo. But what the hell am I going to do? Stay at the bottom and be safe just because I'll feel dizzy and almost faint while I'm standing by the edge? Screw that.

    The main danger on the trail was all the mud. On the far side it wasn't a cliff, but you would have rolled through several hundred feet of rocks and heather if you fell.

    But again, the view was worth it. Fantastic colors.

    This is looking back toward the parking area. You can see one of the cool lakes that's perched on the edge of the cliffs. I think that's Benbulbin in the background there. At this point the trail wasn't too bad, but after this it got particularly nasty. About 200 yards further on I started to seriously worry about whether I was doing something just a bit *too* stupid.

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    I'm just getting to the clouds at this point. So far things had gone well. The trail tends to disappear at irregular intervals, and it was more than a bit muddy, but I'd been keeping a good pace and it had only taken me about half an hour to get this far. The view was great and I was invigorated.

    The rest of the hike was very nasty and nearly killed me. The next half mile took over and hour and a half. My first mistake was to not bring any water. I figured I'd only be hiking for about three hours, and the trail wasn't suppose to be too strenuous, so I just drank about a quart of water at the car and headed out.

    And the hike would be pretty easy if you could follow the trail, or if the whole side of the mountain wasn't a mud bog. At many points I ran into places that were just too dangerous to pass do to the mud and I'd have to back track. I ended up wearing myself out sliding and crawling and trying not to roll down the mountain.

    Here you can see what a bog it was, even right at the top. The steep slopes were covered with standing water just like this, even though that seems like it shouldn't be possible. The whole place is like a big sponge.

    And notice the road in this photo. I was shaky and exhausted and dehydrated at this point. Why the hell didn't someone tell me there was a road? And yes, the road runs right to the top. There's a locked gate, so you have to walk, but still....... I suppose the view isn't anywhere near as nice. But it's a fucking road!

    Here's one of my favorite photos from the trip. So I'm standing on the edge of the cliffs nearly ready to drop from exhaustion, and I look back down the hill to see some guy hiking quickly up, not seeming to slide all over the place like I had, moving quickly. It was one of the locals, out for walkies. He was going to hike the entire ridge and then go down that road, dressed in sneakers and a sweatshirt. I also saw another guy walking his dog. Damn locals.

    We chatted for a bit and he headed on up the ridge. I took this picture and then headed back down.

    On the way back the sun came out and the clouds burned off. Very pretty.

    Tips for Slieve League hikers - Take some water, try very hard to stay on the trail no matter how muddy it looks, staying close to the ridge is your best bet, even though it means lots of steep up and down stuff.

    Comments for this section

    So I dragged my butt off the mountain, hurried down the road to get some water, then raced off to get some of the other items on my list done. I'd spent hours more than expected at Slieve League and still had much to see. I hurried to Glencolumbkille where I'd thought I'd be doing lots of hiking and exploring, but I ended up just checking out the beach and then heading on. They have a village recreation thing there, but it looked way too touristy.

    If you keeping hiking along the cliffs like I'd been (rather than wimping out after 3 hours of "hike from hell"), you eventually come to the little cove called Trabane Strand. Wow. You can just barely make out people down on the sand for scale, and notice the cool little waterfall on the far side.

    I also liked the sheep pasture perched up the isolated peninsula. It looks like that would be a great place for a castle or a mansion. It's just sheep though. How odd.

    Then off to Malin More which has a cluster of antiquities. I ran into several standing stones, but I didn't climb over the fences to go see them. I never did get used to the idea that I'm suppose to climb over fences and go tramping around someone's farm. If I go back I think I'll spend more time quizzing the locals about that. I missed a lot by being respectful of property lines. But I sort of get the idea that was wasted.

    You can also see the reddish water coming out of the peat fields in that stream. I keep wondering what that stuff tastes like, but I'm not trying it. Anyone?

    Comments for this section

    The main structure in the cluster of megalithic monuments at Malin More is the Malin Beg court tomb.

    This has obviously been rebuilt to a certain extent, but it's pretty impressive. It has the same layout as the Deer Park and Creevykeel tombs. Basically four tombs spaced in a trapezoid with a long cairn stretching out from the top. Very oddly shaped.

    There are suppose to be three other structures a bit further up the valley, but I didn't find those. Even after driving up and down the roads a couple times. Pretty area though.

    On the drive back to Killybegs for some dinner I decided to pull over next to this peat cutting and change out of my pants, which were still covered with mud from the Slieve League hike.

    Peat is weird. This is basically just mud, but it's used as firewood throughout Ireland. The smell in Ireland is basically peat - 4000 year old, bog preserved moss.

    Then down to Killybegs for some dinner. I stopped off at a highly rated restaurant for some steak and shrimp. After the treacherous hike in the morning and then the racing up and down the coast trying to find monuments it was some of the best food I'd ever eaten.

    I sat at a little table overlooking the main street and savored every bite. Much Guinness as well.

    The fishing boats at Killybegs don't seem to use piers. They're just tied up in a huge clump. There are maybe 30 ships in the picture above, all just roped tightly together.

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    After the yummy dinner I decided to drive around a bit more and check out some of the unnamed archaeological sites on my map.

    I hadn't seen enough standing stones on the trip, so I decided to track down this pair. These were in someone's backyard, but I still don't think they should be able to have this little joke with standing stones which are thousands of years old. And since there was a new and expensive looking house here, I doubt anyone uses a clothes line.

    I drove all the way out on St John's Point, but they have a gate so that you can't get to the very end. But I did get these wonderful beach pictures. You can tell the sun is about to go down here. But since the days are so long this time of year, it actually took a couple hours for it to start to get dark.

    I decided to race over to these tombs that I saw listed on the topo map. I don't remember the name (just north of Dunkineely), and I seem to have lost my notes, but this was very interesting.

    It was three tombs side by side with what looked like the remains of a curb. There was also supposed to be a hill fort near by, but I didn't manage to find that. I was still worried about the sun going down any moment, so I headed back rather than hike off into the forest to find it.

    As I was walking back to the car I saw this great sunset. But I was it the forest where I couldn't really see it. So I got in the car and raced back out on St John's Point to get the shot. And you can see that it's still not dark out yet. It's about 11 pm in this picture. And the light would last for about another hour.

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