Three weeks in Ireland — the first few days…

By Caitlin Kelly

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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 LingusΒ  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!

From inside a terrific local seafood restaurant, The Lobster Pot, in Burtonport, Co. Donegal, The Lobster Pot, owned by a Minnesota emigre
From inside a terrific local seafood restaurant, The Lobster Pot, in Burtonport, Co. Donegal, owned by a Minnesota emigre
Along a local walkway -- the site of a former railway
Along a local walkway — the site of a former railway
The view from across the road. Can't walk down to the sea very far -- thorns and bog!
The view from across the road. Can’t walk down to the sea very far — thorns and bog!
The cottage, 3 bedrooms, great views
The cottage, 3 bedrooms, great views
Jose gazing out the window of our rented cottage
Jose gazing out the window of our rented cottage
I've never heard of a washed rooster -- Irish potatoes on sale in Dublin
I’ve never heard of a washed rooster — Irish potatoes on sale in Dublin
The range of shawls, sweaters, caps -- in the most gorgeous colors! These are shawls in Avoca, a Dublin shop
The range of shawls, sweaters, caps — in the most gorgeous colors! These are shawls in Avoca, a Dublin shop
Interior of the International Bar, Dublin
Interior of the International Bar, Dublin
A serious Dublin dive bar, founded in 1833, where my bar-mate offered me a quarter of his roast beef sandwich (Delicious!)
A serious Dublin dive bar, founded in 1833, where my bar-mate offered me a quarter of his roast beef sandwich (Delicious!)
A Dublin doorway
A Dublin doorway
My one-way ticket, 2 euros, 20. The fun bit? The voice telling riders to take their ticket and their change -- and announcing every tram stop in English and Irish -- is that of my Dublin friend, a career broadcaster
My one-way ticket, 2 euros, 20. The fun bit? The voice telling riders to take their ticket and their change — and announcing every tram stop in English and Irish — is that of my Dublin friend, a career broadcaster
The Luas -- a two-line tram system running through Dublib; Luas means
The Luas — a two-line tram system running through Dublin; Luas means “speed” in Irish

17 thoughts on “Three weeks in Ireland — the first few days…

  1. If you have a chance while in Northern Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway in and Bushmill’s distillery Co Antrim are well worth a visit if you have the time. Irish whiskey has a very different taste and the distillery is amazing. My family is from Castlerock, Co Londonderry, and I went there with my Dad and brother nearly 20 years ago to find that locals still remembered my Dad from when he was a boy! Ireland has felt like home to me every time I’ve been there.

  2. If those first four lines are anything to go by, where you are in Ireland is very similar to the Hebrides! I love the smell (and warmth) of a peat fire, but they’re very rare at home these days. Sounds like you’re having a wonderful time πŸ™‚ Good luck with the Irish lessons too!

  3. Ok, please pick up one of each shawl and send it my way. The view looks amazing. The northern reaches are amazing in summer. Whether I was in Alaska, Northern Germany, or even northern BC, that twilight at ridiculously late (or early) hours was always fascinating. You feel energized to keep going when really you should go to bed. I want to sit where Jose is sitting and write poetry.

    Have never been to Ireland but with my name (Kathleen Mullen) you would think I should. Someday I will go to County Cork and see the places the Mullens and the Whelands left for Kansas.

  4. I love that you’re always having some new travel adventure:). No such luck for me this month but have managed to wrangle transferring to a new computer, fixing my wifi and not being driven to drink in copious amounts because of the technology angst:). Living vicariously through you as you gaze at the verdant hills!

    1. It’s always been my/our priority as soon as we have any time or money. Congrats on the new computer!

      Today was astoundingly beautiful. We kept pulling over to take photos — will post more later this week. Glad you enjoyed this post. πŸ™‚

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