Showing posts with label Fanad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fanad. Show all posts

Monday, August 19, 2019

Jutting into the Wild Atlantic. Delightful Pieces of Donegal

Jutting into the Wild Atlantic. Delightful Pieces of Donegal

Jutting into the Wild Atlantic are three of the most beautiful pieces of Donegal: Inishowen, Fanad (and it’s spectacular lighthouse) and the petite and pretty Rosguill. Inishowen, with Ireland’s most north-westerly point Malin Head, is the biggest, Fanad (and it’s spectacular lighthouse) is next to the west and then comes tiny Rosguill (a micro-version of the others).

Malin, aside from the remains of an old signal tower and some more modern and equally wrecked Irish army lookout sheds, has no buildings on the head. But it does have Ireland’s most north-westerly bakery and coffee shop parked right up there. Also a curious sign saying Eire 80, a wartime note to German pilots saying that this is Ireland and keep your bombs at bay. These white-painted signs, designed to be read from the sky, were all around the country. Malin though has plenty of walks around the head, all nicely laid-out and signposted. The views are spectacular.

One of the Malin walks
And, in the nearby village, it has one of the most innovative cafés in the country in Wild Strand where seaweed is the essential ingredient.

Having reached Malin, you need to drive all the way back down towards Letterkenny to get to Fanad. You can also shorten the trip a bit by taking the ferry from Buncrana across Lough Swilly to Rathmullan. In any event, the ferry times didn’t suit us on the day so we drove the long way and then all the way up to Fanad.

Sat-Nav wasn’t cooperating that much and we had to rely on the road signs and eventually we were on the long road in. Thought we might be late for the last tour but there were a few more scheduled. Bought our tickets and walked up to the lighthouse. Like quite a few other lighthouses, Fanad now has apartments to rent.

We didn’t disturb those residents though as we took the tour. Our guide gave us the history telling us that, after a two-year build period, it got its first light in 1817 but had no electricity until, believe it or not, 1975. In between, the biggest storm that struck was Debbie in 1961. By 1978 only a Principal Keeper was retained in Fanad, and when he retired in 1983 the lighthouse was reclassified as an Attendant station and the retired Principal Keeper remained on as part time Attendant. Now there is just a caretaker.

We climbed the 79 cantilevered steps to the top and, from behind a glass enclosure, took in the views all around, especially Malin Head to the east and Tory Island to the west. We were shown four tiny bulbs, hardly as big as my little finger, in the lamp. But these are powerful little fellows and their light shines over 18 nautical miles, just over 33 kilometres.

The two wrecks whose memory is enshrined in local folklore are those of the Saldanha in 1811 and the Laurentic in 1917. The Saldanha, a Royal Navy Frigate of 38 guns and a crew of about 300 men, was driven by a north-west gale on to rocks off Ballymastocker Bay on the night of 4 December 1811 and that led to the erection of the lighthouse.
Powerful little bulbs at Fanad

But the lighthouse was powerless to prevent the sinking of the armed merchant cruiser, the Laurentic, on on 25th January 1917, when it hit two German mines at the mouth of the lough and sank with the loss of 354 crew. A 6-inch gun from this ship was recovered a few years back and is now on display on the pier in Downings.
The gun from the Laurentic on the pier at Downings

Soon we were on the way to Rosguill, the journey cut short thanks to the Harry Blaney Bridge.  This spans Mulroy Bay (there is water everywhere here!) and connects the Fanad peninsula to Carrigart Village and Carrigart is just a few minutes from Downings at the neck of the Rosguill peninsula. 

Lying between the Fanad to the east and Horn Head to the west, Rosguill is surrounded by the Atlantic. Beautiful ocean panoramas, white beaches and even that distant Harry Blaney Bridge are among the sights you’ll see as you do the short circuit (12 km). Might walk that the next time! Small and pretty.
Harry Blaney Bridge

After a long day at the wheel, we were glad to check in at the Rosapenna and take it easy for a while before heading out for food (and a couple of glasses of Kinnegar beer) at the excellent Grape and Grain, reviewing the amazing sights we had seen and enjoyed that day in north Donegal.
The Rosguill drive
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
Downings. A Great Base for Donegal Visit

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fabulous Fanad!

Fabulous Fanad!
Donegal. Day 3

Welcome to Fanad
The roads called again today, this time those of the fabulous Fanad peninsula.

But first let me tell you that we have had a spectacular drive down from our cottage on the hills above Downies every morning so far, the golden sands of Sheephaven Bay and the blue of the Atlantic waters filling the view. So there was no trace of temper at all today when we had to slow down as a farmer drove a half dozen cattle to a nearby field. Just relaxed and enjoy the view.
Some fine views too as we left Carrickart behind and drove over the Mulroy Bay Bridge, our entrance to the Fanad peninsula. Mulroy Bay is unexpectedly large and its waters accompany us for much of the journey towards Kindrum which has its own lake.

Soon we came across the first of the day’s spectacular bays, this a very long one called Ballyhiernan Bay where we were greeted by another bunch of cattle (see pic). Fanad Head was now within easy reach and it, with its lighthouse, looked so well in the morning sunshine.
Walk (under golf course)
to access Portsalon beach
But even better sights awaited as we drove down the east coast of Fanad. Stopped at Portsalon and reached the beach via a passage sunk into the golf course, the beach trekkers protected by an overhead net, the golfers facilitated by little bridges overhead.

The beach is huge but we didn’t realise how big it is nor how beautiful the beach (and Ballymastocker Bay) is until we reached the heights of Saldanha Head. Took our breath away, the camera going click, click, click! 
Fantastic beach at Portsalon
Not so nice though for the British frigate after which the head is named as it was lost here in 1811. There were no survivors out of the estimated 253 aboard, and some 200 bodies were washed up on shore.

Called then to Rathmullan (from where the ferry crosses Lough Swilly to Buncrana) and then Ramelton. Up then to Milford and the listed St Peter’s Church, with its separate bell tower. The church was built as recently as 1961.
Old docks at Ramelton
Almost got into a panic about dinner as we realised how many of the local restaurants were closed on Mondays, indeed quite a few opening only Fri-Sun at this time of year. But, the Rosapenna Golf Hotel, perhaps the closest to us, came to the rescue.
St Peter's Church (1961) at Milford, a listed building
Sipped an aperitif in the bar as we waited. All the pictures and most of the conversation, aside from some political, currency and culinary strands, were golf orientated in the very pleasant surroundings. The restaurant, with a stunning view, over the local beach, was equally luxurious, the service Donegal soft and Donegal friendly.
Caviar Muscovite 
And the food was excellent. Starters of Caviar Muscovite and Orange Segments in Kirsch got us underway. The mains, served with lots of vegetables, were also excellent. CL was delighted with her Escalope of Veal Viennoise while my Grilled fillets of Hake with a sun-dried tomato and basil dressing was also top notch. Add in tea or coffee in the lounge and the lot, with two glasses of wine and an included 12.5% service charge, came to €79.87. Not a bad end to another brilliant day. Drops of rain now but fingers crossed for tomorrow!
Back to diary index

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!