Drenched in Donegal

Top of Sleive League Cliffs

The last time I wrote I was in Blackrock, a small town close to Dundalk, the largest town in all of Ireland in Co. Louth, the smallest county in all of Ireland. Since then I’ve taken several buses to get to the northernmost county still in the Republic of Ireland, Donegal. I made it to Donegal Town on Tuesday around 8 pm. I walk up the steep set of steps to the  hostel door, it’s locked and there seems to be no one in sight…until, out comes Laura, the daughter of Linda who runs the hostel. She let me in the door and running back in the direction of her house said, “I’ll just go finish bathing my wee one, have a seat, there’s a fire going.” At this point I was thoroughly tired from my late nights in Blackrock and traveling all day, something about sitting on a bus all day reading really knocks me out. When I walked into the hostel there were two guys reading by the fire, Julien and Yuan from France. They were on a weeks holiday and were in Donegal just for the night before heading up north for a hiking adventure. After I got my key and put all my stuff down I returned down to the fire to see what everyone’s plan was, because clearly, despite my exhaustion I can always find energy to get to know new people. Also, despite my exhaustion, on the way to the hostel I asked the guy giving me a ride if there was traditional music anywhere in town that night. So in the back of my head, I thought, maybe just maybe I’ll muster up the energy to walk there later. Well, when I heard the guys saying they wanted to hear traditional music I told them where to find it and invited myself along like any sensible solo traveler. Then Greg from Australia showed up and we invited him along, and so the night went with the four of us in this tiny and most tourist pub you can find in Donegal Town.

It’s a funny little place with a host of locals right alongside a new batch of tourists every night. We walked in early, around 9:30 I think, before the music started so it was quiet in there and we were the center of attention. A very, very drunk Irish man at the bar kept talking to all of us (or trying to at least) and Greg and I, the native english speakers, could only catch a few words here and there, so clearly Julien and Yuan were completely lost and later asked me if he was speaking Irish, as in Gaeilc, an entirely different language. Ha!

The guy singing this night, born and raised in Donegal, once traveled to Pennsylvania with a boys singing group

Gerry the singer who stayed near Villanova

and guess where he stayed?!? Off of West Chester Pike by Villanova, what are the odds?! I’ve been finding in the last few days here as my journey comes to a close that I’m meeting more and more people that have connections to Philadelphia. I think this is the universes way of grounding me and gently reminding me, “Hey, you’re going home soon.” The next day I met two more born and raised Irishmen who had connections to Philly, and these were both in very remote little villages.

The next day I decided to join Greg on a tour of the Sleive League Cliffs. Not having researched this journey at all, I had no idea what I was in for. We left around 9:30 am, running on not enough sleep, a slight hangover and some deliciously creamy porridge which Greg graciously shared with me. About an hour later we were dropped off at a fork in the road, which we later learned is known around town as “The Rock,” in the most rural place I’ve visited yet. Now I know Waterville was remote and out there, but this, whew, this place is like what you see in movies where the person is trying to get somewhere in a hurry and a herd of sheep are standing in front of their car or something.  I’m talking, from The Rock, we walked a mile to get to the most remote hostel, only passing maybe 4 houses and a small schoolhouse (which was opened in 1908) on the way. But we eventually made it to the hostel and we eventually find out that the bus doesn’t come back there until the next morning so I eventually end up staying at this hostel borrowing oversized clothing from Sean, the 60 year old man that runs the place. Well the whole point of this trip was to walk to the top of Slieve League Cliffs, and we soon found out from

This is the Blackrock Village Center where you can buy food, medicine and alcohol, get your hair cut/colored, get dental surgery AND mail a letter.

Andreas, a German guy who is a regular to this particular hostel and who also has a very thick Irish accent on top of his German one, that the cliffs weren’t quite as close as we’d expected so had quite an eventful walk to the top through rain and wind and such. Hahaha, seriously, I can understand why no one was stopping to pick us up because I had to of looked like a looney up there. Danielle will appreciate this more than anyone, but I was sweating a tearing off layers within the first half hour of the walk. Here I am in 45-50 degree weather wearing a thin long sleeve t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to my elbows, carrying my jacket, hair soaked with a combo of sweat and rain…and Greg from Australia, not a drip of sweat, walking calmly next to me in ALL of the same clothes he started in and an umbrella. Unbelievable. To be honest though, this was all worth it because once we got to the top, the view was absolutely amazing, as is everything I’ve seen in Ireland. Though, it was quite misty and foggy up there so the few pictures I got will not do it justice. – Luckily, I approached an older man, Patty Cunningham, who had smartly driven to the top and asked for a ride back down which he graciously agreed to, not only that but he drove us to the store to pick up some ingredients for dinner, then back to the hostel. He was awesome and on the way down the mountain gave us a full on history lesson. “Do you see that space way down there?” As he pulls over closer to the edge of this plunging cliff than I was comfortable with and points down into this ravine, “That’s where my great great grandfather used to make whiskey.” There was much more but that was one of my favorites. We bought him a small bottle of wine in thanks, then later found out that he is a recovering alcoholic…..eeeekkk.

Needless to say it was an early night for us and I think I am still recovering a bit from that day. We woke up the next day with the intention of me heading back to Donegal on the 11:20 bus that picks you up at The Rock. Well, in all my time here I’ve never seen a bus be on time, let alone early, but of course…as Greg and I approach the top of the hill to The Rock, we see the bus at the end of the road, turning and speeding out of sight. Another rainy day,

Greg standing in his well put together outfit, I stayed behind the camera for this one....haha

and I wasn’t haggard looking this time so people were willing to stop for us. We hitched a ride to the town centre and then I hitched another ride to a place called Killibegs where I missed the bus by 10 minutes and had to wait until 4:50 pm for the next one. But it was fine because I needed a nice sit-in and that’s exactly what I got. I went into a pub and ordered lots of tea and wrote and played music on the jukebox and chatted with Declan the bartender who incidentally had lived in Philadelphia for a little over a year back in 2004. Killibegs is a seaside town and it’s main industry is fishing. So at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on a Thursday it was completely normal (apparently) that there were 5 fisherman lined up at the bar drinking Guinness.

Well, I made it back to Donegal that night and met Nicole who is from Rochester, studying abroad in Dublin and took a day off to spend the night in Donegal. This was her first time traveling alone all semester and she didn’t like it. So we spent the night together, back at that same random pub with all the tourists. And this time, I got an eyeful. An American bus tour was there. About 30 middle-aged people from…Wilkes Barr, PA of all places! I was trying to tell myself to not be so judgemental but it was quite difficult when I asked the two women that decided to sit with us why they were wearing big, pink, fuzzy bunny ears on top their head and they told me just because they’d found them in the store. “Last night we had on santa hats, the night before we had wigs…” I mean I may sound rude here but it was just overwhelmingly stereotypical-American-in-a-foreign-country-behavior and it made me nauseous. This feeling intensified when they relentlessly yelled to the guy playing guitar to sing Danny Boy, which he several times tried to discreetly deflect this request, but eventually had to give in as they were not getting the picture. They were all nice enough people, it was just all a little comical to me.

At the bus stop in Killibegs

The next morning I woke up and felt like I’d stayed in Donegal long enough and headed out to Sligo, though not before Linda only charged me for 2 and not 3 nights at the hostel, despite the fact that my stuff was sprawled across the room for 3 nights. Such kind people here!

I’m here in Harbour House Hostel in Sligo city centre and I’ve stayed the night last night and I’m leaving shortly. I told my mom on the phone that the road I walked down to get to my hostel seriously reminded me of the industrialized road close to the Chester casino…I was warned before coming here but I’m stubborn and wanted to experience it for myself. So I did. I checked in last night and almost within an hour booked my next hostel in Galway. But, I figured, I’m here, why not make the best of it and walked back down that long road to a pub called T.D.’s and proceeded to have the craic with the 5 guys in there at the time. It was a seriously fun night and as the pub got busier, a group of guys came in playing darts for money and had a pool going, you give 2 euro and pick a number space on this paper dart board. Well I was reluctant to spend my money on this, several times being asked to and declining, until one man came up and told me it was the last space on the grid and I gave in AND I won the damn 20 euro. Hahaha! I bet they were all pretty pissed about that, but I was elated to say the least. Night paid for.

As I reach the end of this waaaay shortened story of my last few days, I’m not going to mention anything about the fact that it’s November 6th and I’m going home in 4 days, because you all know that already. May or may not be my last post before then…see you on the flip side!

Love,

Shannon

P.S.

Sorry about the lack of photo’s guys, I’ve been slacking in my photo-taking these last few days.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Greg says:

    Nice reading you Shannon. From memory the umbrella was quite small and the photo backs this up! I’m impressed with your journaling, best wishes xo

    Like

  2. amy says:

    Shannon it’s been so wonderful reading about your journey… you’ve inspired us to be more free-wheeling when we’re visiting places and just accept the kindness and generosity of the characters we meet to see where it takes us!
    Looking forward to seeing you again one day stateside you should meet us all in new orleans for new years!!
    Love to you, safe travels home 🙂

    Like

  3. Eileen Webb says:

    Haha Shannon! Love your storries!! Can not wait to see you and toast a pnitbor two
    xxoo
    mrs Webb

    Like

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