Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Counties Donegal, Sligo & Leitrim, Ireland

On this trip, we only had four nights in Ireland. This was a fact that BF found incredibly unbalanced, given that we then went to Italy for nine nights. But that's how it worked out this trip, so we made the absolute best of our short time in Ireland!

After the first, incredibly long day of traveling, driving across the country, getting lost in sheep covered countryside, hiking the Slieve League cliffs, and beers and fish & chips, a day of driving around the counties in the north west of Ireland was perfect.

View of the beach from the passenger side of the car!

We started out in Donegal town, and drove south. We drove through Ballyshannon, and showed Shorty & M where we had stayed, and where we had partied, then continued to the coast.

After getting lost down a few rural roads, we found our way to Rossnowlagh, a beach that you can drive your car onto. This beach caused one of the only arguments BF and I had on our first trip to Ireland - I didn't believe him that you were allowed to drive on the beach and he was mad at me for days afterward.

This time, BF made sure he was driving as we arrived, and didn't hesitate a bit before driving down. The beach was beautiful - wide stretches of sand and a very calm sea. We drove around for a few minutes, just because driving your rental car on a beach was such a novelty for us!

Photographic proof of the beach drive!

BF, me and M posing by our cute little rental car!

After the beach, we ventured into County Leitrim, and on a whim decided to follow a road sign to Glencar Waterfall.

TRAVEL TIP: One of the things I love most about driving in Ireland is that there are road signs everywhere pointing you to random, awesome things to see that aren't necessarily on your map or GPS. Following these signs often takes you off the beaten path to some really cool locations. Someday, I'm going to take a trip to Ireland in which we do nothing but drive aimlessly following these road signs.

First, we found Glencar lake.

Then we discovered a parking lot that lead to a "hiking trail" to the waterfall. I use quotation marks there, because it wasn't so much of a hike as a brief stroll.

The stream got more and more lovely the closer we got to the waterfall.

The waterfall! It was so lush and lovely!

After our quick jaunt to the waterfall, we headed farther south. We still had a couple hours to kill before Shorty & M's train, so we found another road sign, this time to Parke's Castle.

Parke's Castle ended up being a pretty touristy spot. It wasn't bad, we didn't get that "wow" factor from it. In fact, I have very few photos from it, which just goes to show that it was a quick stop rather than a place we explored. I did get a really cool shot of the lake the castle is situated on, and that was a pretty amazing view. And it did have some very interesting history, including a bit about the original owner romantically eloping there, and then not so romantically being tried for treason and executed after he sheltered a stranded Spanish Armada captain there.

The view of Lough Gill from one of the tower lookout spots in the castle's courtyard.

After we saw the castle, we made our way back to Sligo town, and to the train station. Shorty & M were planning on taking the train, which my research showed cost €10. Only, we got to the train station, and they wanted €30 per ticket! That's $45! We quickly figured out that the €10 price was an online special, and set out to find a computer.

TRAVEL TIP: Trains in Ireland are often significantly cheaper online than in the train stations. Also, it's not always possible to buy a ticket for a train online last minute - when we tried to get them a ticket for the 4pm train at 3:30pm, the cheap tickets were sold out. We got tickets for the 6pm train without issue.

After the girls were off to Dublin, BF and I headed back to the coast. We spent a few hours tooling around, then ended up in the tourist beach town of Bundoran for dinner. We found a place called Madden's Bridge Bar and had a very tasty meal! Our favorite thing was the Donegal Bay mussels with "chorizo." The chorizo was not what we were used to, essentially it was strips of corned beef cooked in some kind of spicy marinade, but the dish was delicious!

Yummy fresh mussels and "chorizo!"

After dinner we were beat, so we trekked back to our hotel in Donegal. We had full intentions on resting for a bit, then finding a local pub, but those hopes were squashed when we simply crashed - the jet lag had caught up to us!

Next up: Our day in Derry!

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