A man living in New Zealand has helped make Goath Dobhair through to the final stages of Ireland’s Best Place to Holiday in an Irish Times competition.
Sean Mullin’s graphic description helped the region make it to the last 25 of the prestigious competition.
Sean wrote “The sheer, narrow inlets mash the surf into slosh pits of creamy foam next to beaches of smooth rocks which clack and rustle with each monster wave. I’m in New Zealand now. I still compare everywhere I go here to Gweedore.”
This is his pitch!
The last leg of the journey is where the holiday begins and that has always been when the net of green pasture frays and gives way to rolling blanket bog. A few miles outside of Kilmacrennan, the road turns left and The Derryveagh mountains swallow the agricultural divides. This precludes the rounding of Errigal mountain, where Dun Lewey Lough and the Poisoned Glen glistens majestically below and where, on a clear day you first catch glimpse of a shimmering band of Atlantic Ocean. This observation was first made to me by my brother circa 1988, thus changing the dynamics of the “first to see the sea” game forever. Over that brow is a different world, that’s why “Donegal” for our family never really began at Lifford, instead it began more or less when entering a rough square of about 10 miles each side, bound North and West by ocean and South and East by hills and lakes. It used to be a torture to get to; now the new road eases you into Gweedore and the Gaelteach, as it does your best bet is to look behind you for the sight of the streaked, quartz infused face of Errigal as she looks to sea. Thanks to the cosmetic surgery inflicted ages ago by hungry glaciers, you might get silly, think you are in the Himalayas, except now is the time to roll down the window and take a gulp of salt and peat. The road where Annagary, Bunbeg and Derrybeg clumsily nudge at each other’s elbows will lead you round to the Bloody Foreland, where a black granite headland genuflects into rolling Atlantic surf. The sheer, narrow inlets here mash the surf into slosh pits of creamy foam next to beaches of smooth, pale skull sized rocks which clack and rustle with each beat of monster wave. The people here sing at you when they talk with lilts that are the same time as soft as water as they are sharp like the edge of a spade. Tourism is a lifeline for an area which has always said too many goodbyes to its youth, but it is also a threat. The people here will take you on (especially if you carry more than a cúpla focal) but they won’t take you in fully. You wouldn’t want them to; part of the attraction here is being the mystified stranger. You can mingle easily in Hudi Beags and Teach Leos, where dialects crash and the tunes flow off the instruments like the Guinness off the pipes. You might chance upon the best night of your life. You come here for the light though, which does astonishing things. In mid-summer. when dusk never fully fades into night the prostrate silhouette of Tory Island erupts in bonfires that mingle with the dying embers of the day as the beam from the light house swings. I’m in New Zealand now, a mesmerising “Godzone” of stunning beauty. I still compare everywhere I go here to Gweedore.
Catch the National Park at Glenveagh before entering; Amble up Errigal Mountain by way of the car park off the Mountain Road; Visit the burnt out church at Dunlewey, an oasis of spiritualised tranquillity within an oasis of spiritualised tranquillity, Call at the Big Beach at Derrybeg, to watch the shipwreck slowly crumble.
Stunning coastlines with beach upon near deserted beach vying for your affection; A tight network of stone walls break the hills into smithereens; hop across the boats and score some oysters in the miniaturised Bunbeg Harbour.
Go walking…lots…everywhere; Catch a ferry to Tory Island; Do a spot of Sea Kayaking at Maghergallen.
Earagail Arts Festival nearby in July; Frankie Kennedy Music School in Bunbeg over New Years (brave a New Years Day dip in the ocean if you dare), Mary from Dungloe arrives in late July; Good Traditional Music year round in Teach Leo’s and the Monday session in Hudi Beag’s over summer. Original, locally produced oil paintings from the edge of civilisation across the sea on Tory.
Take the kids to the beaches too inspire a sense of wonder; if it’s raining there are several leisure centres to cater for little swimmers otherwise, a deck of cards is handy….
John McGinley Buses from Parnell Square terminate at Bunbeg; A blistering drive along the R251off the N56; Fly from London, Dublin and Glasgow into Donegal Airport at Carrickfinn; Plentiful local taxis will take around with a bit of character to boot…or just walk, lots.
Eating and drinking
Danny Minnies in Annargary for great local food, travel a little further up the coast to Dunfanaghy for top sea food at The Cove; find the best local spots for gathering fresh mussels and drink in Sean Ogs, The Seaview, Teach Leos, Teach Jacks, Foreland Heights, Hudi Beags, Dodge Disco….
An Chuirt just outside Gweedore for great leisure facilities, lazy riverside walks and great view of Errigal mountain; The “Big Hotel”: Ostan Gweedore by the beach, countless B&Bs and cottage rentals and free camping by the beaches.
Authentic Knitwear at Cladyknit in Derrybeg; pick out a hidden gem at Teach Thomas Bookstore, Middletown, Craft shops here and there about the place.