Thursday 19 July 2018 Killary Harbour – Ballycroy National Park
- Assleagh Falls
- Ballycroy National Park
First stop this morning was Aasleagh Falls on the R335 just past Leenaun village on the River Erriff. The waterfall at the moment is only small due to the lack of rain but is still picturesque. There is a path that leads to the falls and salmon fishing is very popular.
We then drove back to the N59 through Westport, to Mulranny with its fine cut stone seven arch railway viaduct which spans the Black Oak River. The railway line itself is closed but you can walk across the viaduct.
The last stop of the day was Ballycroy National Park and Visitor Centre just near Ballycroy village and comprises of 11,000 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and mountainous terrain. Inside the centre there are interactive exhibitions and short films on topics such as turfing and knitting and information on nature trails. We decide to camp in the carpark for the night and go for a short 2 km loop trail in the morning.
Friday 20 July 2018 Ballycroy National Park – Ballycastle – Sligo
- Ceide Fields
- Downpatrick Head
As it rained throughout the night and was still drizzling this morning we decided not to go our planned walk. Instead, we drove along the N59 and then turned left onto the R315 and then left onto the R314 to the Ceide Fields Visitor Centre 8km west of Ballycastle. The fields, the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world, consisting of field systems, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs almost 6000 years old, the oldest known in the world and extend over thousands of acres. The remains are preserved beneath a blanket of peat.
We watched an audio-visual show on the history of the area and then went on a guided walking tour through the drizzle and saw buried walls and rock walls that have been discovered by centuries old method called probing, which is using thin steel probes which are pushed into the ground through the peat to locate existing walls. The visitor centre has excellent displays on the people, their way of life and the unique ecology of the bog land and the ever-changing landscape and the huge influence a subtle change in climate can bring about.
Across the road is some of the most spectacular cliffs and rock formations which can be seen from a viewing platform positioned on the edge of the 110m high cliff.
We then drove through Ballycastle village and out to the windswept outcrop of Downpatrick Head. The first thing you see from the viewing area and walkway is the spectacular blowhole that plummets down to the ocean below. Then as you walk along the headland there are the ruins of a church, holly well and stone cross which together mark the site of an earlier church founded by St Patrick and the remains of a World War II bunker. Last but not least looking out to sea is the lone sea stack called Dun Briste (broken fort). The sea stack has beautiful layers upon layers of multi coloured rock strata.
After saying farewell to Greg and Renee whom we have been travelling with for the last 7 days we drove along the N59 to Sligo and then turned off the R292 to find our wild campsite for the night. When we arrived at the campsite near Lough Gill it was closed due to logging, so we returned 2km along R292 to Dooney Rock where we camped for the night. A great little carpark at the beginning of a 1.2 km track through coniferous forest.
Saturday 21 July 2018 Sligo – Donegal
- Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery
- B. Yates Grave and Drumcliffe Church
We headed off this morning to our first place Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, near Sligo. It is the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland and is one of the oldest, with monuments ranging from 5000 to 5800 years old. Inside the cottage is an exhibition about the site and there are 60 tombs of which 30 are visible. Each monument was built on a small level platform of earth and stone with stones packed around the base locking them in place. All the tombs are in a roughly oval shape surrounding the largest monument. The largest tomb has a passage with three large boulders beside the central chamber and under the cairn. We walked around the site with an information sheet which explained each tomb.
We left Sligo following the N15 and stopped at Drumcliffe to see the final resting place of revered Irish poet W.B. Yates and Drumcliffe Church. His grave is located in the churchyard and is marked with a simple headstone with the inscription ‘Cast a cold eye on life, On Death Horseman pass by’ which was Yates’ self-penned epitaph. His grave is very simple, exactly as his instructions. This is also the site where St Columba founded a monastery in 574 and all that remains is a 10th century high cross and a fragment of a plain high cross. Across the road which dissects the former monastic site is the remnants of a round tower or bell tower which dates to the 10th/11th century.
We arrived in the afternoon to Donegal and camped at Donegal Bay Pier with 3 other motorhomes and lots of cars. By 7 o’clock there were 10 motorhomes parked. The pier is 500 metres from the town centre and overlooks Donegal Bay. After dinner we walked into town and watched the second half of the All Ireland Championship Gaelic football match between Dublin and Tyrone. The game appears to be a mixture of soccer and Australian rules and was very exciting with Dublin winning by three points. We then walked along the main street and found live music at McCafferty’s, so we called in.