Showing posts with label Downies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Downies. Show all posts

Monday, June 17, 2013

Farewell to the Donegal den

Very comfortable window seat, with a view!
Farewell to the Donegal den
The cottage is the middle of the three buildings.
Horn Head is to the left.

For the past week we have stayed in a “charming and romantic cottage that has been tastefully restored and updated over the years as a comfortable and cosy home. The kitchen is a spacious, light-filled room, with an Aga, lots of natural wood, and a south-facing window seat, where you can sit and look out at the scenery, read, or relax in the sun”.

We were lucky with the sun in Donegal and that helped us see the county, especially its northern regions, at its best, but it was lashing rain when we left Baile an tSléibhe and drove down to Downies for the last time. Yet when we reached Donegal Town the sun was trying to break through and it was blue skies as we passed Bundoran.

The cottage is at the end of the road and not even a tarred road at that. It has great views out over Sheephaven Bay and Horn Head. Not easy to reach but the views coming down each sunny morning were stunning.

Then you had the birds coming to the feeders every day, all day: sparrows, robins, even the odd magpie, but most of all the greenfinches (never saw so many of them together). The cottage has a lot going for it, the helpful owner, the AGA, the box bed and the four poster and so on. The only thing that wasn’t great was the bathroom – very very small. A six foot 14 stoner would find it impossible methinks!

In fairness, the location is not really that remote. Downies, just a few minutes away, has two hotels and golf courses and more while there is a hotel and a cafe in nearby Carrigart.

Dining out in Donegal is excellent but, this time of the year, book ahead, as quite a few restaurants are open only at weekends. The likes of La Fantasia in Letterkenny, The Cove in Dunfanaghy and the Olde Glen in Glen would give the best Cork restaurants a run for their money. And the people are very friendly, much the same as ourselves, as one hotel receptionist in Downies said to us. You’ll be at home in the hills of Donegal. And in its glorious peninsulas. We certainly were and will be back.

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

500 kilometres to Donegal haven!

Donegal Diary
Day 1
Three o’clock had been the target arrival time at our cottage in the hills above Downies in County Donegal. And, after close to five hundred kilometres, we met our hostess bang on time. 

There had been a few interesting stops in between, one at Drumcliffe Churchyard, just north of Sligo, the burial place of William Butler Yeats under the shadow of Ben Bulben. Cast a cold eye on death.... But here too is a lovely cafe serving sweet pastries and Bewley’s Coffee and they also sell quite a few high quality souvenirs.
On then to a tweet-up with chef Zac Gallagher at the Leghowney Community Centre, our first stop in Donegal, where he is part of the regular Country Market every Saturday. James McCuddy is a main driver in the movement here – he has a great admiration for the way the local food movement has developed in Cork and hopes Donegal can learn from it. We had quite a chat before heading off for Downies and our three o’clock appointment.
Bridge to Fanad
This cottage is not in the middle of nowhere. It is at the end of nowhere but comes equipped with fantastic window seats, a box bed by the fire and a four poster bed upstairs and loads of other innovative touches. But is has all the modern gear needed for a comfortable holiday including Wi-Fi. Even a welcoming bottle of wine!

Sheephaven Bay
But that is not all. Being high above Downies it has fantastic views over Sheephaven Bay –just waiting now for the sun to go down. Actually, just after we had settled in we were driving again, this time taking the trip around the Rosguill peninsula, the one to the west of Fanad. It is the one we are on, small but beautiful.
Back from the drive, it was time to eat. Had nothing all day except a gorgeous Almond slice at the Drumcliffe Tea Rooms and a very tasty Goat Cheese Tart from Zac

Window seat at cottage
Down in Downies, also known as Downings, the beach was packed, with people and cars, just like Redbarn in the good old days. Had a walk along there to add edge to the appetite and then strolled over to the local hotel, only to be told the restaurant was booked up until 8.30.
No good for a starving Corkman but the receptionist cheered us up by telling us they were doing bar food. The service was very friendly but rushed and a little hit and miss - understaffed! On the other hand, the food was rather good.

Cottage window
Started with a Warm Duck Salad and then tried the Sirloin Special. The meat was class, the mashed potato, well it was mashed potato. CK’s Salmon was one of the best she’d had and the Pak choi went well with it. She also had a mound of the mash.
A bottle of Valpolicella completed the picture and now we are ensconced in the cottage, supping the hostess’s Merlot and waiting for the sunset. To see it at its best we’ll probably have to stumble up the hill by the garden and no doubt stumble down again!