Fanad and Inishowen Peninsulas and Derry

Leaving Lough Eske

 

You can see why it was difficult to leave Lough Eske!

Immaculately maintained church and cemetery

Once again, our late night chats and cavorting with our friends lead to a late rise at Lough Eske Castle Hotel. Breakfasting with the men at 9:30am was once again a social occasion, as well as an entertaining one – what with the drunks in suits from last night’s wedding STILL inebriated and acting like knobs out on the terrace.

The spaces are so vast!

Sheep hanging on the tracks

Sunny Letterkenny

We were once again very distressed at having to leave the luxury of a castle hotel such as Lough Eske, but we had other engagements and plans and hotels to sample (and review!). We drove on to Fanad Peninsula and explored the stunning scenery and enjoyed the friendliness and hospitality of the locals. Called into Letterkenny for a late lunch at The Yellow Pepper: a veggie stir fry (nice enough, but a bit too much oyster sauce meant it dominated with its saltiness); veggie linguine with garlic (which hit the spot, very tasty).

Fanad Peninsula

And from another aspect

It doesn’t take long for Nature to reclaim her territory

Due to our many stops for pics and some ‘ooh/ahh’ moments, we didn’t get to Derry until about 7pm. We stayed at The Everglades Hotel (one of the Hastings chain of hotels), apparently a 4 star, but I’m not sure how this rating is awarded – while the staff are excellent, and the public areas are schmick and even a little plush, the rooms are a tad outdated and need some attention. While our room was an executive room, it was crowded with furniture, it didn’t have a bar fridge (although, that may be a UK thing?) and there were no privacy curtains – only the heavy drapes, which meant that the houses opposite the car park could see right into the room in daytime when one is starkers! Am also not impressed that all of the Hastings hotels don’t have free wifi – subscribing to BT Open Zone for internet access (at £6 an hour) is inconvenient, archaic and sometimes quite unreliable. Tedious, really. I thought it might be a UK thing, but apparently there are other hotels that offer the complimentary access. Actually, even your 3 star B&B offers free wifi! Get into the 21stcentury, Hastings, really! Go to The Everglades Hotel

Final resting place with a view

Fanad Lighthouse

Fanad coastline

We had a light repast at The Exchange in Derry city, a ‘wine bar and restaurant’ – although surely a ‘wine bar’ should have more wines by the glass on offer than 3 whites and 3 reds and NO champagne. AND no wifi! We ordered a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and a plate of skins and a plate of vegetables. There must be a different definition of ‘skins’ in the UK – here they must just mean wedges with the skins still on, and their other wedges on the menu are without skins. In Australia, ‘skins’ are really thin and quite crunchy, with just half a centimetre of potato flesh attached – bloody beautiful! These ones weren’t.

The Exchange wine bar in Derry

The Guild Hall, Derry

The war memorial in the middle of the ‘Diamond’, Derry

The Diamond, Derry

Managed to get a small amount of ‘homework’ (blogging!) done in the lounge area of the hotel over a glass of cognac and some more wonderful chocolate that really works with the distilled spirits, I can tell you! There was a Bublé soundtrack playing in the background, mixed in with the occasional cover of the Perry Como classics!

Burt Church

Interior of Burt Church

Terraced fort – Grianan Ailigh

The next morning, as there were hardly any guests registered, we had the luxury of our breakfast being freshly made to order (apparently not something they normally do, as we found later – all buffet). So fresh porridge was had with cream, Bushmill’s whiskey and honey, followed by some grilled tomatoes on wheat toast. So healthy! . . . with the tomatoes!

Fort Dunree

Mamore Gap

Flowers at low tide

We drove to Burt Church – not built by a guy called ‘Burt’, but located in the town of Burt. The church was designed by Liam McCormack; in architectural terms, a stunning, interesting and unique building, inspired by a ‘mystical landmark nearby’ (according to Rough Guide) – the fort about which I will talk more, anon. It really is shaped like a round hut, complete with a very pointed and tall ‘hat’ for a roof. Its simplicity is so much a part of its beauty – a whitewashed ceiling that soars to a vortex over the altar that directs a tunnel of light down onto the gleaming white stone. The whole building is rimmed just under the roof-line with geometric shaped stained glass windows in rainbow merging colours – bleeding through the spectrum, as they kaleidoscope in front of your eyes as you slowly rotate.

Dog shootin’ the breeze

It really does NOT get better than this!!

Just a few kilometres up the hill from this church stands Grianán Ailiagh, the only remaining terraced fort in Ireland. It dates back to 1700BC, was sacked in the 12thcentury where most of its stone was carried off, but it was reconstructed in 1870. While the structure itself is phenomenal in terms of its historical importance, the modern day view was completely overwhelming – 360˚ views of the entire area – so very stunning, but so bloody cold! The temperature was apparently 8˚C, but the wind chill would’ve brought it down considerably!!

Magic!

Abracadabra!

From there we continued to explore the rest of Inishowen Peninsula. Fort Dunree is on a headland overlooking the mouth of Lough Swilly, and while it has a military museum explaining its history, the wind was just so damned sharp that we only spent enough time there for John to take some shots of the fort and water before headed off again. We drove on through vistas of lush fields peppered with sheep of all shapes and colours – the little pink and blue spray painted ones, the lovely white/creamy ones, and even the nicotine stained ones (you know that colour that fingers go after a life time of smoking . . . ?).

Little church in Derry

The view of Bogside from the city walls

Mamore Gap was almost like going on an amusement park ride – this crazy straight road directly up the side of a mountain leading to a gap that looked like a huge chunk bitten out of the Urris Hills before falling away on swerving, dipping bits of road with the most breathtaking views to Dunaff Head – so raw and gutsy and wild. 

What’s left of the watch towers in Derry

We wound our way to Malin Head and attempted to lunch at 2 places recommended in the guide books that happened to be closed pre-season before stumbling across a little café that raised money for the local schools and charity groups, so we hoed into some veggie soup, homemade, of course, top stuff. There were affable labourers in there for lunch, who were good for a bit of chat and craic with the tourists, so that made it even more enjoyable.
We headed back into Derry via one of the many beaches around – the sun was out and we were interested in returning to the town and walking the walls, and checking out the public gallery of the 12 murals dedicated to Bloody Sunday. The recent history of this city gave us much pause. To think that it was only in 2006 that the British Army surveillance tower was removed was quite shocking. The Bogside murals were sobering. This was where the modern Troubles in Northern Ireland began, and it was heartbreaking to view the stories of those lost and the senseless violence and waste represented in the art on the walls – many of which were painted by people directly affected by the strife. Bloody Sunday (30 January 1972) resulted in the death of 14 civilians and a whole bunch of young angry recruits for the IRA.

The walk around the walls of Derry

The cathedral in Derry

After this rather moving walk, we went to The City Hotel to get some blogging done and indulge in some wine and Pringles. Not too much, though, cause we were going to India House for dinner – SOOOOO needed a curry! The waiter was a little dubious when we ordered the madras – doubted our curry-credentials, but it was no problem whatsoever! In fact, the spice was much needed and sorely missed over the last few weeks – both of us LOVE the chilli, baby! The onion bhaji and the vegetable pakora were both delicious, too – they were flavoursome and DIDN’T have oil dripping from them from the deep-frying! A very pleasant way to end the day that contained some confronting moments in our history lessons. Go to India House

The murals in Bogside

‘Hands Across the Divide’ sculpture in Derry

About bontaks

Nic is the the ‘Bon’ part of ‘Bontaks.’ Together we are Nic and John – two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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