I have always loved the beauty of the Bluestack Mountains. They stand majestically at our doorstep and with each passing shadow and shower, with each change of colour from blue to purple, from green to gold, I often get the impression that they are protecting us.
As a child I had heard of ‘The Grey Mare’s Tail’ and was faintly disappointed when I learned that it was nothing to do with a horse. In recent years, I learned that it was a waterfall in the Sruell valley which is part of the Bluestack Mountain range. One sunny day in spring, we decided to take a trip with the family to climb the Grey Mare’s Tail. We arrived at the base of the hill and called in to a house to ask for the best way to get to the top. When the directions were given, in true Donegal spirit, we were invited in for a cup of ‘tae’!
It was an impressive sight to see the big green valley and the long flowing waterfall spilling out from the top of the hill. It gushed and sprayed all the way down to the bottom. We started our ascent and at the beginning, it looked deceptively easy. Just follow the ridge towards the waterfall. However, we walked and walked and the Grey Mare’s Tail seemed further away all the time. We stopped for a break and enjoyed the views across Donegal Bay and beyond. The air was crisp and clean. At this stage, we were not too far from the top but it was getting steeper and steeper. So we carefully picked our way, zig zagging, bit by bit until we reached the summit. We were delighted with ourselves for not giving up.
Christina, my ten year old daugther said;
“Mammy – we are on top of the world”. We were on a natural ‘high’ as we danced and laughed in the sunshine. The descent was precarious enough but we found a technique of sliding down almost on our backs until we arrived safely at the bottom, albeit with damp and dirty clothes.
Next stop, O’Neill’s pub of Letterbarrow, just a few miles away. There was nothing nicer than
sitting at the turf fire with a pint of creamy cold Guinness and a bag of Tayto crisps, while chatting to Seamus the friendly barman and the local characters. O’ Neills is one of those traditional Irish pubs where people chat to people, where locals and visitors mingle easily together, where the conversation flows and great stories are shared.
Later, we headed home to the creature comforts of a hot shower and a Sunday roast. We were all happy to have spent special family time together and already planning our next adventure in the Hills of Donegal.