Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Ireland. Donegal. Sperrin Mountains.Day One.. A Love Story.

The Sperrin Mountains near Barnes Gap.
A trip over to the Emerald Isle again via the usual cheap deal with Ryan Air. Flight from Prestwick to Derry/Londonderry then car to Donegal as guests of Graeme again. Recruits this time were myself, handsome Bob (not me sadly- I'll never post a selfie...sniff sniff.)and Nathan, an Edinburgh friend of Graeme
 ( N..."think they do salt and brown sauce in chip shops over here?" G... no. N... Why not? It's the only way to eat chips!) It's an Edinburgh/ East Coast thing.
 If Scotland becomes independent we will have to do something about that culture difference between two cities 30 miles apart. Maybe a small electric fence between Edinburgh and Glasgow will suffice... and one between Dundee and Aberdeen so they don't feel left out?
The television weather forecast ( Graeme preferred the seaweed hung on door method) predicted bad weather in the west...ie... Donegal.... so we headed east next morning. To the Sperrins in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. Indeed we crossed the border so many times during this multi day trip my pockets were jingling with Euros, Bank of Belfast notes handed back in change and Scottish currency all mixed together. Tricky work in supermarkets as it was hard to tell where the border was in the smaller towns and what should be used to buy stuff. It was far easier to tell the Catholic and Protestant communities apart just by the murals, colours, and flags than figure out where the line actually was between both countries at any given time.
No problems of that nature in Scotland going by the latest pony express news tidings as we will have proper giant sized electric fences and border guards if we dare to vote yes on the big day. I'm as clueless as everyone else about what happens then. If the SNP lose their battle that might be because too many important questions remained unanswered and people's natural fear or reluctance to change the status quo kicked in. If better together lose it that might be because their campaign seemed
negative and right wing hard line from the start, always threating with a big stick instead of highlighting any benefits of the union. (A privatized national health service, zero hour contracts as standard working hours, Austerity Britain and a Conservative government for the next ten or more years) Hmmm. Big stick then :o)
With a sunny morning ahead of us we parked near Sawel Mountain, one of the highest peaks in the range at 678 metres. Just past Sperrin itself we found a small layby at Goles forest and took the minor road seen above into the hills. Our hill of choice was Mullaghneany.( I think) I didn't have any small scale maps with me and Graeme was our guide for the day as it was a new area for the Scottish contingent.
No sooner had we started up this minor road when two young goats raced towards us down the ribbon of tarmac, obviously delighted to see us. They were both female (I think, no dangling bits on show underneath) and this is not the usual response I normally get from women.
Nathan takes a goat selfie. He's in his twenties and is into that sort of thing. Posting selfies I mean. Being of a completely different species... ie... much younger, he was amazed that we still used wrist watches to tell the time, that we still used paper maps to navigate, road maps in cars to find out where we were going etc.... and was puzzled that we were not streaming photos instantly onto facebook or "goats we fancy" dot com.  "Blogs. They are so retro but maybe they will come back into fashion again in 20 years".              I'll be under the goats teeth by that time :o(
Never has the generation gap been so wide.

We also had another new recruit to the team. Young Nathan. The son of Graeme's girlfriend who was with us for the day.

The goats seemed to delight in our company and shadowed us as we marched up the valley/glen. I soon christened them Britney and Miley as they were both cute and rather horny (pun intended) but ultimately irritating after a while. Knowing we were going up a sizable hill we tried to lose them a few times in the sheltered walk up the stream but they stuck to us like glue, even jumping three foot fences to stay with us. You had to be careful not to stand on their hoofs as they ran between your legs at times. I grew quite attached to them and wondered if they were somebody's pets as they seemed so tame yet all the cottages in this glen appeared empty or ruined. There was no one around to ask.
Still following.
Still with us.
Although we tried to ignore them they followed us faithfully up the hill like two little sheepdogs. I've had various animals follow me up the mountains over the years but never goats before. Weird.
They didn't seem interested in the yellow sheep that dotted these hillsides, just us. The Sperrin Mountains cover quite a large area and remind me of the Moorfoots and the Southern uplands around Leadhills. A scenic range of hills without being dramatically spectacular but good upland livestock
 country. At one point high up on the ridge I thought we were looking at the sea until Graeme informed us it was actually Lough Neagh, the largest body of freshwater on the island.
Two Nathans and two goats brave a sudden but brief squall of hailstones coming off the summit. This part of the Sperrins doesn't seem to get many ascents and paths were few and far between.
Still with us on the return leg. By this time we were growing quite attached to little Britney and Miley, having gone through so much together but they were stopping more often now to munch juicy bits of the landscape and we didn't want them following us out towards the main road. Luckily, hunger pangs proved stronger than true love between species and they soon stopped at a tasty bush and lost interest in us, as there hadn't been much to graze at high level. We made good our escape back to the car while they were distracted eating parts of Tyrone.
 I was distracted as well by a new thought. A large chunk of Scotland vote Labour every election. Faithfully. Like most working class folk of a certain age I've never voted for anything else. If Independence became a reality would England, Wales  and Northern Ireland ever see a non right wing Conservative leaning government again or would Labour just disappear south of the border? Would Nigel F or Boris J just take turns as PM? Now that's a scary thought to end with! Maybe we might need those electric fences and border guards after all when there's nothing left down south to privatize and sell off :o)
Britney and Miley... A true love story. Separated at last? Aw.


Carol said...

I can't believe those Saanens (goats) stuck to you like that - they're friendly but not usually that obsessed. I'm glad they gradually lost interest...

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Yeah, they were pretty cute. The ones on Holy Isle never seemed interested in humans much but these ones were little limpets.
You are up in the Scottish Highlands far more than I am these days. Have you got your passport ready if the border posts go up? I better get my last visits to the Lake District in soon :o)

The Glebe Blog said...

An area I've circled many a time Bob, but have never walked. Looks much like the terrain I know so well around West Cavan (minus the goats).
My walking nephews and nieces in North Antrim tell me it's great walking country. I'm amazed at how walking in Northern Ireland has taken off in recent years. A great alternative to blowing people up.
Look forward to the rest of your trip.

andamento said...

I like the goats!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim,
Yes, it was a productive one despite a mixed forecast and bad weather over the mountain ranges.

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Anne,
They are great little animals and don't have the pungent smell that normal goats have. Really cute and smart too.

Carol said...

Well, we'll still be allowing Scots into England so you don't need to worry about the Lakes... unless you're worried your compatriots won't let you back in if you lower yourself to walking Lakeland hills!