Sunday, 25 November 2012

Errigal.Gweedore.Bloody Foreland.

Above is Errigal or An Earagail in Gaelic.This wild and beautiful  region is full of traditional Irish language users and some well known bands grew up or still live here.Enya, Clannad, Altan to name but a few. Errigal is the highest mountain In Donegal and one of the most Iconic with its serrated knife edged ridge and distinctive cloak of shattered screes covering its flanks. 751 metres (752 on my map) or 2,464 feet high.
Luckily the next day was a good one and we set off early to climb it without hesitation.
It lies in the wonderful Glenveagh National park which reminded me of Torridon....
This is the  nearby Poison Glen and its steep cliffs hold many popular rock climbs on 800 foot slabs of  clean Granite. Its also reminiscent of  the Fisherfield area around Loch Maree. Not that much of a surprise when you look at a map as these three areas run in a south north line, being connected geologically in the distant past.
In the other Direction Muckish mountain is more reminiscent of the Caringorms with its vast sweeping Plateau and scooped sides.It has a cross at the far end.This too would make a great hill day.
So many fantastic peaks here.This is the view from Errigal looking east along the line of mountains to Muckish.
After a very boggy start(wet summer here too by the looks of it) from the car park the going became easier and drier following a well trod path to the summit.
We met a couple of girls from Darwin ,Australia up here. Kim and Peta and a handful of locals including a bunch of local guys in training for Hurling. The shinty/hurling Scottish /Irish final happened a few weeks previously with Ireland winning so no doubt they were spurred on by that.(Its a bit like hockey only far more physical and cavalier with the stick action)A heavy stick or ball smashed into your face ,head  or teeth is an occupational hazard :) Being young fit guys they also showed us a clean pair of heels though Alan gave them more of a challenge racing up and down in record time.
We preferred to take our time and savour the ridge which was steep but easy for a short section near the summit. This would be a really dramatic ridge covered in deep snow as it is steep sided and narrow. Great views from the summit with clouds being dragged off the surrounding summits as the wind picked up. You can see a large chunk of Donegal from here.

Looking Towards The Derry Veagh Range.
Easy descent back to the car park with Kim and Peta telling us they were on a month long adventure exploring Ireland.Hope the weather stayed good for them.

From here we visited Gweedore, or Gaoth Dobhair to give it is proper name, to the north which lays claim to being one of the most populated rural areas of Western Europe.Thousands of people live in this small area in  seemingly random individual houses on a wild  but beautiful headland.Most of them still speak Gaelic.Unlike normal populations this size (4000 souls in this parish)which grows up at a slow pace around a central core there does not seem to be any real distinct hub serving the area just a collection of individual spread out shops and a post office.To find out why this is click here. A fascinating place with a scattered collection of offshore islands.This is a zoom of part of Tory island,the furthest out with massive sea stacks and rugged cliffs,full of spectacular views.The St Kilda of Donegal. Tory still has a viable population living on it though being much closer to mainland services.It even has its own king and an incredible history of its own which you can find out about through the same link highlighted above.

We have Graeme to thank for this tour as he sat patiently in the car reading while we climbed Errigal (he'd been up it before) then selflessly took us on a tour round the north west coast and was a gracious and informative host throughout our trip.
We visited Bloody Foreland next ,a coastal peninsula with good views of sea stacks,this natural arch and all the islands off the coast.Tory,Gola, and Aran.Some deserted and small ,others, like Tory with a population still living on this lovely but wild location. Bloody Foreland gets its name not from any battle but from the red granite cliffs seen at sunset.
The seas here were impressive with huge  breaking waves and rollers.On the beach nearby we spotted some surfers who'd been out.Its one of the best spots for this sport anywhere in Ireland but like Tiree (Far flung Island off western Scotland) you would need a really good wet suit or anti freeze in your blood.
This photo gives an idea of how cold it was.We met a shivering polar bear here asking it he could borrow a jacket until the wind died down.
Coldest day of the trip but so lucky with the weather.Still no rain on the fabric.
We also passed a couple of  the new upmarket 'Ghost estates' on the way back, lying mostly empty, built in the days of the Celtic Tiger when people still had the money to buy them.These may eventually have to be knocked down if the economy doesn't pick up as only one or two out of every 30 were occupied.A real shame because they looked very well constructed houses with quality design features.
A surprise came that night as Marion,Graeme's girlfriend, took us on a quick unexpected tour of her local radio building where we informally met some of the presenters of Ireland's No 1 independent  radio station.
Alan looking at some of the radio's cd collection.
We then went to Bonners corner bar in Ballybofey were we sampled a few cosy pints (Tennant's lager seemed to be in most of the pubs over here as well as the Guinness.) A great night in good company with a cracking local band in the pub playing all the local favourites many of which I knew...Raggle taggle Gypsies,Spancil hill etc.

All too soon it was time to go home but it was a great trip and we packed a lot in even in the short daylight hours of November.If these photos in themselves don't convince you I'd recommend Ireland and Donegal to anyone.Friendly people,stunning scenery,great beaches,great pubs.
Don't know why it took me so long to go there.

Special treat. Two videos today.
The noble sport of Hurling and two very talented girls from sussex with a fantastic guitar sound.Returning some new folk music to Ireland.


The Glebe Blog said...

Fabulous Bob. I used to tell my missus I'd climb both Errigal and Croagh Patrick one day and I never have. We spent a glorious day around Lough Veagh and the castle back in the 90's. You never mention Daniel O'Donnel, is that deliberate ? ha ha
He used to say if you were in the area, come in for a cup of tea. There was no one in the day we called.
It's a good 15 years since I visited that part of Donegal so it's great to see it again.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim.
One of Alex old freinds has a cottage beside him.I prefer to highlight new alternative music the general public might not have heard of. Daniel's too well known :)
It was nearly as much effort and time to write these three posts as it was to do the trip.
Over sixteen hours of writing to get it looking the way I wanted and get any facts (Hopefully)right.I started this one at twelve its now six. I'm off for me dinner now!
Just as well the club dont go away for two week backpacking holidays anymore.I'd never keep up.

Neil said...

Hi Bob, I've never been to Donegal; it looks great. It's also years since I was in Northern Ireland and a lot has changed since then. I found Londonderry/Derry fascinating and Belfast was nice also. Really friendly people. Must go back sometime.

Carol said...

Those look pretty nice hills (apart from maybe the generous covering of scree - one of my pet hates). Good paths are always a good thing in my book though :-)

Love your waves shot - really superb photo - I like pictures like that :-)

The polar bear joke's good too!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil.
Just back online after a two week break away from the computer. Its a great area with so many varied mountain groups within a small driving distance. Well worth a visit in good weather.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol.
The scree is not a problem as a good path runs through it up this popular hill.Great area for a visit.
From what I've heard the Blue Stacks are some of the toughest mountains with few paths crossing that range.

Robert Craig said...

Brilliant trip report, want to go back now. Been up Slieve League (in rain and low cloud - saw nothing), always wanted to do Errigal but missed out due to the weather (only decent day in that corner of the world was Knocknarea above Sligo Bay). Good craic in Portstewart, Letterkenny, Donegal town, Glencolmcille. Donegal is an extention of the west coast, scenery wise, some good pubs as well. Would like to go back to Down too, have a go at the Mountains of Mourne!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Robert.
Yeah,just like the west coast of Scotland the landscape is stunning in good weather but almost invisible if its bad up the hills.