Saturday, 24 November 2012

Donegal.Slieve League.Glenties.

Friday night was spent in Graeme's lovely house overlooking a broad river valley in the middle of Donegal with views of distant low hills and small villages.After our main meal we then sampled the delights of a real peat fire thoughtfully prepared by his girlfriend Marion who had popped in earlier to set it all up for us arriving. We then relaxed and sampled a few of the local brews before Alex was spirited away to spend the night in Glenties,a small town near the west coast of Donegal where he has relatives he hadn,t seen for many years.Back at the house we relaxed some more and sampled some more local alcohol watching the flames dance merrily in the grate.
I,ve only been in a room that had a peat fire on two or three occasions  and was less than impressed as it just smoldered away with not much visible flame but this time it was constructed by an expert.The whole of Donegal seems powered by peat and a stack of black gold sits in neat piles outside almost every house.
This one was a cracker with bone dry peat stacked vertical in the grate which seemed to make all the difference as it gave out bags of flames and heat.A great night passed quickly.
The photo above taken from inside the car sums up the weather and our heads the next morning.Blurred,distorted and out of focus.
We had arranged to pick up Alex and travelled the twenty miles to Glenties along narrow twisting roads through great unfamiliar scenery and heavy frequent showers of rain. The Blue Stack Mountains were passed but we could only see enough of them to know it wouldn,t be pleasant up there,rain and low cloud obscuring  much of this wild, extremely rugged range.
Glenties,when we arrived,looked as if it had just won the world cup, the main street covered in flags and bunting.In a way it had as Donegal had just won the All Ireland Football Champions 2012 title for the first time in many years and a celebration party was in full swing.Alex when we picked him up said the place had been jumping last night with loads of people crossing between the main street bars.
The man himself looked far from jumping though as he'd been plied with 60% proof best Finnish vodka until it finished him off in the early hours.He was sitting in the empty street waiting patiently with his head in his hands.
We drove off with our full team of four.Graeme,Alan,Alex and Myself.
Every village we passed had decorations of some sort up but Glenties definitely won the prize for the biggest show of bunting and flags.

Our next port of call was the famous Cliffs at Slieve League.This is the road leading into it.At 1900 foot high I was wrongly informed these are the highest cliffs in Western Europe and the fifth highest in the world.( Correction. As of 2015 info I later learned they are lower than Achill Island's Croaghaun in Mayo which tops out at  688 metres or 2,257 feet. According to Wikipedia these are the highest sea cliffs in the Republic and the 3rd highest in Europe. Traditional rival in the highest cliff competition, Donegal, is less than happy about it. and are not giving up yet.) Being out on a peninsula past Killybegs the weather was better here but a fierce wind howling into us as soon as we got out the car meant we lost our hangover pretty sharpish.
This was just as well for what followed.A truly beautiful area with stunning scenery right on the edge of Europe. One of many superb waterfalls pouring into the sea.This is only a quarter of the height of these cliffs as I couldn't fit them all in yet keep the detail. If you click on this waterfall picture suicidal sheep are munching grass just above it.
The wind was so wild in places a large piece of orange peel I found lying on the path refused to go over the cliff edge,flying up into the air to land on the grass behind us every time I tried to fling it off.
A view of Alan and Alex with Donegal Bay below.

Getting higher.From here the nearest land mass out to sea is Iceland,Greenland or Newfoundland in a north to south arc. It felt like it as well.

Pretty cold but at least it was not raining.
Getter higher again.My three companions with the car park just below the small body of water in the distance.
Of course some people are not content with the normal path and have to make things even more exciting.This arete that Alan and Alex went up had a 1200 foot drop straight into the sea on the other side.
A hands and knees job for the steep initial moves as the rock was still greasy from overnight rain.
Graeme and I had a look at it then took the normal route round the side,preferring to be live cowards rather than dead heroes.
The great thing about a zoom is that you don't have to be as mad as they are to get a good close up shot of the action.
Even higher yet.This is close to the summit at around 2000 feet high.Alex and Alan carried on from here to traverse the one man path out to the other top but I had noticed a dark front moving in so Graeme and I wandered back down and just managed to find shelter in a small cave below the summit before a ferocious hailstone shower exploded over us covering the ground in a brief white blanket. Alan and Alex had a more exposed experience as they were on their way back on the traverse when it struck.
We met up again further down the Pilgrims track when it had abated.
This meant a fair walk back round to the car on minor roads but we did feel we had seen a sizable chunk of this part of Donegal.
It was sunset by the time we reached the car.A grand day as they say in this part of the world.
Driving back in the dark.
Given the amount of strong drink consumed on this trip the video just has to be this one.


Carol said...

Ouch! I wouldn't fancy that arete in perfect weather - certainly not in a hailstorm! Superb looking coastline though. Sheep are always grazing in suicidal places - I think they're too stupid to realise the danger. I once saw a sheep fall off a craglet into a gill round here - it landed not far from us and must have fallen about 10 feet. It landed on its back but then got up, shook itself, saw some more grass and just started grazing again like it had forgotten already!

We always had peat fires in the Hebs - they were usually quite smoky though and, by the end of an evening, my eyes used to sting quite badly! But I always take peat to bothies if I can get it (it's getting very hard to buy though).

blueskyscotland said...

No peat smoke in our weekend abode Carol.Probably a good drawing chimney though you could smell it outside at night.Very aromatic.

The Glebe Blog said...

A cracking post Bob, isn't Donegal just unique in these islands.
When I first arrived in County Cavan in the 60's peat (or turf as they called it) was the only fuel. Hardly any house burns it in it's original state anymore although you can buy the manufactured briqettes from hardware stores. Oil has become king down that way. I used to love the long nights with the turf burning, the accordian playing and the porter or poteen flowing. Those day's are gone now.
I've visited Donegal quite a bit but never done any climbing (except of the bar floor)
I'm looking forward to reading your post of Errigal.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim.
I really enjoyed it. So much to do in a compact area. In some ways it reminded me of the Lake district as, although mountainous, both areas have a large resident population scattered throughout in every fertile hollow. The Scottish highlands can appear very empty at times at night in midwinter with long gaps between settlements.