By Caitlin Kelly
Silence. Wind. Birdsong.
The tang of burning coal. A whiff of the Atlantic.
The fuchsia of hollyhock and heather and the brilliant yellow of gorse and buttercup.
Piles of peat, cut up and laid out in rows to dry before burning for fuel.
This is my fifth visit to Ireland, the first for my American-born husband. My great-grandfather was the schoolteacher in Rathmullan, County Donegal whose son emigrated to Vancouver, Canada, where my father and I were born.
Hence, back to Donegal!
We’re now in a rented cottage in Dungloe, Co. Donegal, the furthest northwest one can get in Ireland one can go; I found it through a quick Google search and hoped for the best. Then we’ll be back to Dublin for another week, with a likely trip north to Belfast to see the Titanic Museum and maybe a Game of Thrones location tour.
We love our new home for the next week: It is totally silent, filled with light thanks to its multiple skylights, and with clear views for miles across the inlets and hills. Custom-built for a local businesswoman and architect-designed, it’s simple, clean and modern, even with its gorgeous stone exterior.
We flew Aer Lingus into Dublin on Bloomsday, June 16, and spent four nights with friends in Rathmines, a lovely residential neighborhood a mere four tram stops from St. Stephen’s Green, the heart of the city.
I wandered around to get oriented, too tired and jet-lagged to take in official sights. We enjoyed a meal out at Peperina, a neighborhood bistro and a drink at a local pub — just in time to watch a race from Royal Ascot on television. I had a fantastic meal at Avoca, a cafe/shop in Dublin, scored a great pair of suede sneakers and we drove the 4 hours north to Donegal.
There’s so much light! In Dublin there was still light in the sky at 11:45 pm, fully sunlit by 5:00 a.m. — here, further north, there’s even some light in the sky at 3:30 a.m. and it’s fully bright by 4:00 a.m.
While in the north we plan to: visit Rathmullan and Letterkenny, drive around the headlands, visit a few local islands, listen to traditional music, eat some lobster. I’m also hoping to get an Irish-language tutor for an afternoon while we’re in the heart of the Gaeltacht, those few remaining parts of Ireland where most people speak Irish and many road signs are only in Irish.
It’s a gorgeous-sounding language and I’d be thrilled to learn a bit of it.
Here are some photos of our trip, so far; with no phone or Internet access at the cottage, we have to head to a pub for that. Perfect!