Wonderful, wild & wet – we did it our way!
For the June Bank Holiday Monday, I had promised our kids that we would take a day or two to explore the Wild Atlantic (Donegal) Way. On the day it was grey, wet and windy and there was a noticeable reluctance to leave the house to embark on our journey. Truth be told, we were all a bit cranky and it looked like this was going to be one of those family experiences best forgotten. We sat in the car and the windscreen wipers fought hard to keep sweeping the rain away. As chief tour guide, I tried to be upbeat and chat about where we were going but apart from a shrug of the shoulders or a sigh or two, we didn’t really get off to a good start.
We drove through Killybegs, Kilcar & Carrick and first stop was Glencolmcille Folk Village. By now the wind was howling and the rain was horizontal. We made a dash for it and entered the visitor centre to a warm welcome from Margaret and her team. We did a whirlwind tour of each traditional Irish cottage and somehow the experience of living in Donegal in the 1700’s, 1800,s and 1900’s came to life. The Folk Village Museum was the initiative of a dynamic Donegal priest, Father James McDyer.
On a previous occasion, we had climbed Slieve League – a significant iconic attraction on the Wild Atlantic Way which is enjoying large numbers of tourists and is giving the world famous Cliffs of Moher a run for it’s money.
Onwards towards Ardara and Portnoo through the amazing Glengesh Pass
Music on the radio shifted from classic to country to traditional Irish. Moods lifted, chit-chat and familiar car games began. The sky was still laden with grey and ‘Chicken Little’ would have said the sky was going to fall but things were looking up. The kids enjoyed following the journey on the map and as we arrived in Dunfanaghy, the sun came out and we checked into the charming family run Arnold’s hotel. By now we felt we were ‘real’ tourists. You could smell the turf fire as you entered the hotel and the lilt of the Donegal welcome had a lovely tone. Our rooms were clean and cosy. Later on, we enjoyed a delicious dinner in The Cove Restaurant just outside the town. Marc and I were very proud of our well behaved young adults and we all enjoyed each other’s company.
Following a leisurely breakfast, we drove to Horn Head and climbed to the top. It was breathtaking, not only because the wind blew away those cobwebs but the view of mountain and sea took your breath away too.
A visit to Marble Hill beach blended beautifully with warm sunshine and blue skies. Of course, Carl, James and Christina just had to go for a paddle in the water and all we could hear was shrieks of laughter as they splashed away in the sunshine. Memories of my own childhood came flooding back, as on that same beach many years ago, the McGlone kids did the very same thing.
We popped in to see Doe Castle, just outside Creeslough where we had a great game of hide and seek.
Next stop Glenveagh National Park. We decided to walk the 4km from the visitor centre. They have created a new path which winds it’s way over streams and bog to the castle. Lough Veagh lapped happily along the way and we spotted a golden eagle swooping above us. Following some delicious treats in the Tea Rooms, we joined the guided tour of Glenveagh Castle. What an amazing story and it’s such a great tourist attraction for Donegal.
Homeward bound and we just had to stop for ice cream cones in Ballybofey. A day and a half away, we arrived back home in great spirits and already looking forward to our next trip along the Wild Atlantic Way.
As a family, it was a lovely experience to do something together. All too often, we get gobbled up by work, school and all those devices that distract us from conversation and communication with each other. If ever we needed an excuse to have a family outing, let the Wild Atlantic Way be it. It’s not just for tourists. It’s for us all and no better place than Donegal.
Have a look at Home-made Holidays at Harvey’s Point for more ideas on what to discover in Donegal – Wild Atlantic Way.