Dazzling delight in Donegal

Fermanagh is beautiful, it is my wild home and we explore it every weekend – we could keep doing that until we move on from this wor1ld and still not have explored every nook and cranny; but the lure of the sea, sandy strands, secluded coves and dazzling vistas of nothing but sparkly blue, lure us from time to time. When we need to feel the salty breeze it’s to Donegal we go, normally we never need to travel more that forty five minutes, but over Easter we decided to go further, explore a small part of the Wild Atlantic Way and travel to Gleann Cholm Cille (Glencolmcille – valley of Colm Cille) Saint Colm is one of Ireland’s trinity of patron saints; including St Patrick and my favourite St Brigid. It is an Irish Gaeltacht rich in culture and heritage and lies on the south west coast of Co Donegal.

It is a place of wild and rugged beauty and we were incredibly lucky with the weather. We had swirling misty mornings, and the afternoon brought a light so intense, every colour shone with dazzling delight. The beaches were beautiful with the softest sand, some sheltered by the vast Atlantic wind and some so open they took our breath away with their gusts, even on a sunny day.

A few of the beaches we went to were so quiet, we practically had them to ourselves. e could play, watch the soaring gulls, the low flying cormorants and collect treasures with hardly any interruption. It was sheer bliss and much needed after the crazy few weeks I’ve had. I could breathe out and not worry about school work or the upcoming dance performance I was due to do a few days later (I did it and it went just fine;). I really wish I lived near a beach, that I could run down the road and hear the crashing waves, swim and watch the meadow and rock pipits dancing on the grass and craggy ends. The hills here were covered in lesser cleandine, buttercup, daisy and dandelion and the hum emanating from the grass was symphonic. So much life from what some regard as weeds and not flowers of huge and significant importance to our eco system.

Green veined white butterfly, I’m not sure if this is a meadow or rock pipit as I couldn’t see its legs (I find it really hard to distinguish the two to be fair!) and a Common Carder Bee.

As well as exploring and playing on the beaches, we also did some cleaning up, we try to do this as much as possible and always carry doggie and bigger bags, just in case we need them. The beaches we went to were not too bad but there was still work to be done. Most of the rubbish was probably washed ashore rather than littering on the beach. I have lost count of the amount of fishing twine and rope we have seen on beaches. This is so harmful to birds and wildlife as they can swallow or get tangled in it. I have seen some very disturbing and upsetting images showing this, so I feel the responsibility to clean up, should I see rubbish. If we all did a little bit, it could make such a difference.

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The highlight of our trip was our climb up Sliabh Liag (Slieve League), one of the highest cliff faces in Ireland, standing tall, jagged and majestically proud at 2000 feet. I have been to the more famous and touristy Cliffs of Moher but to me this held a bigger space in my heart and mind. We made the trek on a misty morning from the bottom car park, many people drive the whole way up to the viewpoint but where is the adventure in that?! I felt the breath of all who had gone before me, ancestors, saints, scholars, early farmers this definitely felt like a pilgrimage through time. Ewes with their lambs followed us throughout, with the background screech of gull. The small hopping shadows of Wheaters, lovely companions towards the stunning views as the wild atlantic showed us her power and colour, despite the wraparound mist. The mist was so tight around us, it was almost impossible to take any good photos but the experience of walking through the ceochán made it more atmospheric and exciting.

As we made it to the viewpoint we sat and stared at the ghostly plunging Gannets and gulls, the vapour started to rise revealing the swirls underneath.

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We walked further on, wading further into the depths of fog that still covered the higher points. We realised after seeing how misty  ‘one man’s path’ was, we needed to turn back and as we did a silent, gliding shape moved above our heads. A majestic Peregrine Falcon decided to reward our efforts and we watched in awe as it then speared down in front of the cliff in search of sustenance. What a sight, what a privilege. I love those unexpected moments when you’re not searching, not waiting for something to turn up.

 

As we descended down the rocky slopes the sun started to burn through the cloud, a merry troupe of Pipits danced before us and sang their ten beat song.

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It wasn’t even gone eleven o’clock and already the day felt full. As  we came to the car park we spied a little Stonechat with its elevenses, completely oblivious to us onlookers.

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The rest of the day was spread before us and once again the sun strengthened its dazzling light and shone for the rest of the day; which was spent collecting treasure, eating fish and chips, talking about our favourite parts of our adventure…our language, our culture; so rich and vibrant and full of wonderful wildlife and landscapes. I live on a beautiful island and feel so lucky to do so.

 

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a fantastic week, the sun has been constantly shining here and we’ve had plenty of adventures, so I’ve lots more stories to tell, soon.

Dara

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17 Responses

  1. Great stuff , Dara.So agree about finding the beautiful and unexpected when not really looking. For me it’s orchids. Found them at three sites I was not expecting.

  2. You’re such a great promoter of NI nature. I’d love to visit this area some time and hear the pipits, watch the gulls, feel the breeze. Lovely variety of photo’s!

  3. What a superb spot! Beautifully written piece too Dara – keep up the good work. Hoping to visit W Ireland in July so this is definitely wetting my appetite!

  4. Thank you, Dara for another superb description of your beautiful country. I particularly like the photo of the 3 of you with your bags of litter! Well done to you all! We cannot visit your island, but can see it through your eyes and words – the next best thing!

  5. Well done Dara for letting me read your blog.Can’t wait to visit the Slieve League cliffs. I wish our politicians and fellow citizens had the same passion as you for caring for our environment and wildlife. Keep it up. Proud of you.

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