Monday, 28 September 2015

River Finn. Ballybofey-Stranorlar. Central Donegal. The End.

                                             ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
I've held this one back until last. This was a day when we didn't have a lot of spare time to climb a hill but did have a few hours in the afternoon to go a pleasant circular walk around the Finn Valley. We drove to Balleybofey-Stranorlar, two small towns that seem to run into each other but the boundary line appears to be the river. Above is a swollen River Finn that bursts its banks occasionally during extended heavy rainfall into the surrounding fields.
The Finn Valley Complex with swimming pool, playing fields and other sporting venues seems to be the fitness hub of the district. There does seem to be a slightly better sporting culture in the Republic, just from casual observation, with folk of all ages out jogging in the various towns and villages we passed through but maybe that's just an outsider viewpoint as you always notice the little things more on holiday but just take it for granted at home. Of all the mountains we climbed in the Republic I would say that hill-walking is less popular here, except for a few special peaks like Croagh Patrick or Brandon Mountain, with religious connections to the climb, but we were not bagging 3000 plus footers so it's hard to tell. Away from the current fashion trend of Munro-bagging in Scotland the lower peaks there are equally empty. Errigal is popular as are the Mountains of Mourne but they are both spectacular and Belfast is only a short drive from the latter. The equally scenic Dartry Mountains though, including the iconic Ben Bulbin and Ben Whisken had only faint paths to the summit, which was a surprise given how much they dominate the landscape. Maybe Ireland's recent history accounts for that though.
Heading out on our circular walk around town. It is sign boarded on the town centre info map and takes about an hour but you can easily extend it to 3 to 4 hours by using the network of minor rural roads that crisscross the upper slopes of the Finn Valley and give extensive views over the area.
A photo taken from the minor road network looking over the Finn Valley in central Donegal. Quiet minor roads ideal for walking or cycling with enough hill climbs and views to satisfy the energetic who think the town trail is too restrictive.
Walking the town trail. Brightly coloured shop.
Kee's hotel and bar.
A nice open stretch and a tree sculpture near the River.
The town centre. The hall is named after a person. Isaac Butt, a local worthy and MP.

A bizarre and colourful mural that has also been turned into a video game. Some Irish myths seem to be more whimsical and fantastic than the strictly practical Scottish equivalent. i.e. boy meets girl- boy gets killed in battle- girl grieves for her hero forever etc.
None of that mundane stuff here.
This link is interesting as it mentions an ancient myth in many cultures, including Irish, about a great eye that can destroy armies and wither the land. No surprise then, given J.R.R. Tolkien's knowledge of that subject ( well read and an expert in ancient mythology and medieval history) that it reappears as the main foe in the Lord of the Rings. Inspiration does not emerge from a vacuum.. but maybe a vacuum cleaner that sucks up everything learned during a lifetime then transforms it in a new way for a modern audience.
Bonner's Pub which has a good atmosphere and has traditional music nights. Seen an excellent folk band in here a few winter's ago singing mostly well known ancient songs I was already familiar with from the "Child Collection," another treasure trove of Celtic mythology, this time in verse.
Can't resist a Michelin Man. Something about a creature made of tyres just seemed to appeal to the child in me... which has never really gone away.. the child that is.
A replica of Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega 5B plane in the departure/arrivals lounge at Derry Airport commemorating when she crossed the Atlantic Ocean solo from Newfoundland in Canada to Ireland in 1932. She left the full sized one where she landed in a field nearby where the local cows apparently found the structure tasty and started eating it. The original plane was eventually rescued from the hungry cows and is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
All too soon it was time to get the flight home. A fantastic trip, great company, weather and hills. Thanks again to Graeme and Marion for being perfect hosts.
Just to show I'm not a fussy eater this was one of my best DIY meals on the trip. A Lidl tin of unfamiliar brand Corned Beef and Baked Beans cooked together in a pot.
"Looks like cat vomit. " was Alex's opinion. "You're not going to eat all that?"
(The bowl has a deep middle section meant for soup so it's a larger portion than it looks here.)
I mention this because I scoffed the lot and it was delicious. So good I had it again the next night.
By comparison Alex and myself were on a walking trip a couple of summers ago and came off the hills starving, wanting a chip supper at a popular Scottish west coast tourist hot spot that shall remain nameless here, but one with a lot of passing trade. I had a steak pie supper, Alex had a hamburger supper and despite being hungry as a Derry cow we only had half of it before leaving it in disgust at how bad it was. There was a large bin on the premises and I opened it to toss in the leftovers only to find it was nearly full to the brim with other half eaten chip suppers of all varieties so it wasn't just our opinion of the meals on offer.
That is a true story and not very helpful for the Scottish tourist board's attempts to promote Scotland. I'm the last person to want posh food as I like cheap and cheerful stuff like Greggs sausage rolls or buns but surely there should be a decent lower standard of chip shop that should at least serve edible and tasty food as it's far from the first time I've had very poor chip suppers north of Glasgow or even in the city itself and throughout the central belt. This has been going on all my life and it's a lucky dip if you get a good one in an unfamiliar place. I don't want all of them to be excellent as you will always get a range but surely tossing away good food because it's so grim you can't eat it after you have paid for it is not acceptable. There are many excellent chip shops throughout Scotland in every area and it might be a difficult industry to earn a living in ( although many of the worse places still seem to stay open alas :o) but it does not create a good impression of Scotland. As I've mentioned before I've not had a bad chip supper yet throughout the English Lake District in different areas and valleys. As a proud Scot it hurts me to say that but it's true.
So my question is... How hard can it be to put out decent chip suppers of a reasonable standard as you would think even the bad ones would improve over time with experience, like in any other profession. This is a serious question. From a personal point of view if I opened a bin to find most of the food I cooked was being thrown away I would either think I wasn't cut out to be a fryer or I'd make sure I learned how to get better fast.
This is a puzzle I've yet to solve as takeaway chip suppers are the No 1 takeaway food I indulge in on trips away if I don't have my usual donkey chunks in the tent and luckily my local chip shop is excellent but why does the standard vary so much? If I buy a Greggs hot sausage roll I know what to expect every time. It doesn't change. Likewise, my favourite camp grub of heated up donkey chunks from a tin.
Not angry.. just disappointed... and genuinely puzzled.


Linda W. said...

Enjoyed your walk around town and insights into Ireland!

Kay G. said...

I like that tree sculpture.
You are brave, I would never photograph any dish I have made. I have made some dishes that I want to bury in the yard, they look so bad! (They usually taste okay though, the way they look really matters to me, I am such a nutcase about this!)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda,
Don't really know if they were proper insights as I struggle to understand what goes on in my own city at times. I like travelling though and seeing different cultures.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
It's called the Matrimony Tree apparently, celebrating an old Donegal tradition, hence the hand-prints and two trees entwined.
I know the meal doesn't look like much and I've made (and photographed)far better dishes for the blog but it was filling and very tasty and that's all that matters after a hard day outdoors.

Carol said...

I think Yorkshire fish & chip shops are among the best! :-)

Cows will eat anything so it's no surprise they tried to eat Amelia's plane - when I rented out my field to cows (well, to a cow farmer), they used to investigate anything new by pulling it to pieces and eating it. I wasn't very happy when it was a new tree I'd planted or the fence! Apart from them being a bit destructive though, they're still just about my favourite creatures :-)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Don't know Yorkshire that well chip supper wise. I do know west coast Scotland and it can be dire unfortunately and has been for decades. Maybe we don't complain enough or there's a lack of competition. My final word on the matter as I may want to eat again outside :o)

Tom said...

I wonder if the popular west coast resort was fort william.....i've certainly had a dodgy fish supper there.

Theres another place much further south where i had a terrible chippy the past summer which likewise ended in the bin but its such a small place i would give the game away if i named it. We had actually picked up some local hitchhikers a few miles out and even they chucked half of theirs in the bin, the curious thing was they seemed to be fully aware of how bad it was going to be from past experience but bought one none the less, perhaps with some sort of distant hope it might turn out ok for once!

At the other end of the scale, i have always found the chippy in the station at Mallaig to be absolutely outstanding!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Tom,
No, it wasn't but that's traditionally been another dodgy place for decades. Since the early 1980s in fact :o)