Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Downings. A Great Base for Donegal Visit

Downings. Delightful Base for Donegal Visit
Sunset on Sheephaven Bay

From previous experience, we knew that the beachside village of Downings is a terrific base for visiting much of Donegal. It is on the lovely compact Rosguill peninsula and the spectacular Fanad Lighthouse is less than 30 minutes away. 
Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh National Park is also about half an hour's drive  while Bunbeg and Burtonport, with ferry connections to the islands, are an hour's trip or so. Letterkenny, the largest and most populous town, is also within easy reach. And there's a
myriad of smaller attractions up and down the coast.
An old loom in McNutt Tweeds in Downings. Exquisite products on sale here.

About six years ago, we stayed in a small cottage in the hill above the village. This time, our room in the Rosapenna Hotel and Golf Resort was as big as the cottage - no kidding! Again, there are other hotels in the area and lots of guesthouse and B&Bs.

The Rosapenna is best known for its two golf courses and you'll see many golfers around the restaurant and the bar. Fantastic public spaces in the hotel where you can sit and relax and recall the birdies and the bogeys of the round.
In 2007, this six inch gun was recovered by Downings divers from the SS Laurentic, a liner that hit two German mines and sunk off Fanad head with the loss of 354 lives in 1917. The gun now stands on the Downings Pier as a memorial.

Downings Beach is an expansive one on the shore of Sheephaven Bay and the hotel dining room has terrific views over the bay as did our room with its balcony facing in the right direction.
Tide is out in the bay. You can see the Rosapenna reflected in the shallow waters

There's a good range of food outlets up and down the village, ranging from the hotels to the inexpensive McNutt's cafe (popular with families) over by the pier. We had been looking at something in between and enjoyed a terrific meal at the busy Grape and Grain. The following evening, we had a superb fish dinner at Fisk, another busy spot.

The Sticky Toffee Monkfish with bok choi, saffron and wild rice was a winner at Grape & Grain, the sauce adding a touch of sweet and sour and the wild rice was terrific. Enjoyed this very much indeed while CL's Slow Roasted Duck Leg, plum sauce with potato gratin, also hit the spot. 
We enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere here and went all three courses. This Crème Brulée with lemon meringue ice-cream was top notch. The Apple and Rhubarb Crumble with French vanilla ice-cream was another winner
The Grape & Grain (left), with their Creperie alongside, on the main street in Downings, a village very popular with visitors from across the border. We enjoyed a couple of the Kinnegar beers on draught in this lively restaurant about a ten minute walk from the hotel. They also have a decent wine list and no shortage of cocktails. And also a very helpful and pro-active barman!

Lots of people in the south never get to Donegal and that's a shame. Roads have been improved over the years and six hours will get you from Cork city to Donegal. 

Do take a break though. On the way up, Tête a Tête in Ballyshannon is recommended. On the way home, call to The Gallery in Gort or perhaps to the nearby Coole Park where they have a café and where you can soak up the history (be sure and check out the autograph tree) and stretch your legs at the same time.

Sometimes, we bring a snack with us. If you'd prefer not to leave the motorway between Limerick and Tuam and you have a sandwich in the bag, then you might like to know there is a parking area close to Gort. Just parking, mind you, no facilities whatsoever, but you'll be able to snack, and stretch those legs.

Also on this trip: Kinnegar Brewery
 Mary T. From Mallow to Donegal's Castle Grove
Something fishy going on in Donegal
Superb Day Out at Oakfield Park & Buffers Bistro
Malin Head, Fanad and Rosguill Peninsulas

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