After many weeks of international holidays over the past few months, it was time for a short road trip within Ireland. A friend suggested Donegal where, if we were lucky, we could see the northern lights. As it turned out, we weren’t that lucky but Donegal is beautiful nonetheless and we had a wonderful time. A large part of that is attributable to where we stayed – The Lookout Budget Accommodation. It is definitely a budget accommodation in price but quite a luxury accommodation in every other way – hospitality, comfort, cleanliness, location, views, facilities, pet-friendliness, general friendliness, etc.
We headed out from Dublin on a Friday evening after the little one returned from school. The drive was through quite a pleasant landscape and was a little under 4 hours, not counting a short stop for food. We stopped at a place called McAtee’s Bar on the way to order some food to go. Kids wanted to eat spaghetti carbonara and after the order was ready, we realised that they didn’t have any to-go cutlery! But they were extremely helpful and gave us some real silverware so the kids could eat. Another incident added to our register of Super-Friendly Irish Experiences.
We reached our accommodation quite late in the evening and only later realised that we had neglected to inform the hosts that were bringing cats, but they did not even mention it and made us feel completely at home. Thankfully, there were no other guests, especially any with a dog. Our friends, who had picked the destination and the accommodation, joined us shortly afterward and we spent a lovely evening by the fireplace with an occasional excursion into the windy backyard to look at the wonderful starry night sky (but alas no northern lights).
The next day we set out to explore a bit of county Donegal around us. We plotted a few points on the map and it created a nice looped circuit that was perfect for a day of driving around. Thankfully, the weather was reasonably friendly with bouts of sunshine interspersed with intermittent rain. The places that we went to were:
Assaranca Waterfall > Caves of Maghera > Port Pier > Glencolumbkille Folk Village > Napeolonic Signal Tower > Lunch at Hegarty’s Slieve League Lodge > Slieve League Viewing Platform > Glengesh Viewing Point
Assaranca Waterfall is a huge and beautiful waterfall just by the side of the road. Take a few pics and move on, unless one is brave enough to take a dip in the pool under the falls.
Caves of Maghera is a beautiful beach with cliffs on one side. The cliffs have caves that can be accessed during low tide. We got there during high tide so instead enjoyed the beach and sun, and climbed the sand dunes and the cliffs. The parking area at the entrance to the walkway to the beach and caves seems to be private property and we paid €3 to a gentleman for parking.
Lovely view on the road getting to Port Pier and great views on a clear day here. Good for a walk about or just a stop for a few pics and a rest.
Didn’t really expect a traffic jam here…
We then went on to the Glencolumbkille Folk Village, a ‘Living history museum recreating a traditional village, with thatched cottages, a school & a grocer.‘ (source: their website). It did look quite interesting from the outside but we were beginning to get hungry and wanted to find a good place to eat so decided not to go in.
Our next stop, which wasn’t really a stop because there wasn’t any way to reach it, was a Napoleonic Signal Tower, part of ‘an early nineteenth century observation and communication system implemented in response to the threat of a French invasion of Ireland‘ (source: UCC Department of Archaeology). The drive was definitely a lot of fun as a very small bit of it was off-road-ish. A quick pic, a quick turnaround, and we were ready to go hunting for a good place to eat.
The lunch at Hegarty’s Slieve League Lodge was absolutely delicious. It seemed very popular with the locals too. Between us we had the steak, the crumbed fish and chips, seafood chowder, bruschetta, spaghetti carbonara and quite a few desserts. Everything was scrumptious and had a unique take. My favourite was the bruschetta. The chips with the steak were absolutely perfect – brown and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. My mouth is watering just writing this.
The lunch was a good way to cap a wonderful day of seeing the southern part of Donegal, driving through country roads, seeing the swell of support for the local GAA team that was playing the county championships that day (sadly they lost), and playing hide and seek with the weather. On the way back to our accommodation, we stopped off at a couple of viewing points – Slieve League and Glengesh and enjoyed the beauty of the mountains and the valley as the day wound down. Hope to be back in Donegal again one day.