Wednesday, September 16, 1998
It was raining slightly this morning when we awoke. Today was going to be a "driving" day. After a not so good breakfast (cold toast and a bug in the milk) we left for the Grianan of Aileach. This round fort is located on a top of a hill just to the southeast of Londonderry.
We drove back into Letterkenny then along the River Swilly towards Londonderry. I spotted the Grianan of Aileach from several miles back. The visitor's center is located in a church at the bottom of the hill. The road to the top of the hill is very steep and very narrow. It seems that you climb and climb and climb. Amazingly, there was a tour bus at the fort when we arrived. They were pulling out as we pulled in. There were no other cars in the lot so we had the fort to ourselves.
The Grianan of Aileach is a remarkable structure. The inside has three levels with stone stairs all over the place. From the top the view is marvelous. You can see the Lough Foyle going into Londonderry on the east side of the Inishowen Peninsula and Lough Swilly on the west side of the peninsula.
Our plan for today was to take a tour of the Inishowen Peninsula. We would drive the west side and down the east into Londonderry and Northern Ireland. After taking a few pictures we went back down to the visitor's center. It was just opening as we arrived. The visitor center is built inside an old church that had fallen into disrepair. What they have done with it is wonderful. A restaurant has been built that is four stories tall (a unique use of space in a tall church building). A final story at the top has been turned into a local museum.
After buying a few postcards we left for the peninsula. The road to take is the first left after the visitor's center on the main road to Londonderry. The route of the peninsula is well marked with signs labled, "Inis Eoghain 100". This is a 100 mile route. This is a beautiful drive through small villages, country, hills, coastline, and historic sites.
We stopped at the Dunree Fort Military Museum. It was closed so we continued on our way. Our next stop was in the city of Carndonagh to view the Carndonagh Cross. This cross and two other stones are dated back over a 1000 years. We drove on north through the Mamore Gap. This gap has spectacular views of the valley and ocean beyond. We finally reached the northern most point in Ireland, Malin Head.
This high hill overlooks the ocean. There are several old buildings on the site. The wind was blowing so strongly here that you could lean into it and it would keep you from falling. Oh, if I only had a kite. Back on the road we continued on around the peninsula.
We stopped around 2 p.m. to eat lunch at Osano's Pub in Moville. The food was delicious and cheap. We also found a country station on the radio. It seemed all the music they played was of dead singers (Loreatta Lynn, Patsy Cline, etc..). We also heard them announce a song from Shania Twain. Of course they pronounced Shania as "Shawn-Knee-uh".
A couple of other things that I had noticed but not mentioned until now. All over Ireland are signs proclaiming public works (or as they say "public schemes) being financed by the EU (European Union). The EU flag was also to be seen in many places. Personally, it seems as if Germany's failure to conquer Europe militarily is now being accomplished without bloodshed through economic means. Ok, I had to throw in a little conspiracy theory.
On a different note, I also had noticed that road signs stating the distance to the next town were opposite of those in the states. In Ireland the town that was furthest away was at the top and the town that was closest at the bottom. In the states it is just the opposite.
After eating we stopped to fill the tank (for the last time) before we got into Northern Ireland (where gas is more expensive). Driving on south I suddenly realized we had entered another country. The only way you know that you are leaving Ireland and entering Northern Ireland (on this road) is that the name of the road changes. We were soon in Londonderry (or Derry).
The walled portion of the town consist of only 15 to 20 blocks. There are parking places and parking lots in the walled city in which to park. I was surprised that the old town is actually built on a very steep hill. We parked at the top of the hill and walked back down to a bank to exchange some money. For $100 USD we got back around £57 British Sterling. Yowchh!
The walled portion of the town is very interesting. I wish we had more time to stay there but we had to press on towards the Giant's Causeway. We did stop in a shopping mall to use the phones. I made us a reservation in the Beardiville Farmhouse near Bushmills just five miles from the causeway. We spent sometime walking on the walls overlooking the valley below. But we had to get going if we were going to make it to the farmhouse.
There are several things you notice about Northern Ireland. There is a greater police/military presence. We saw many police stations that looked like fortresses. There were twenty foot walls topped with razor wire and guard towers. You know something is wrong with a place that must go to this length to protect its police force. There were also many gated communities. We saw very little of Northern Ireland. It is as beautiful as the rest of the Island. I would like to have spent more time there and hope to go back some day.
As we were driving along Mom suddenly started yelling, "There was a sign for Biddyville, stop, Biddyville was back there." I had no idea what she was talking about because just before this she had said that we should soon be at Beardiville. I kept driving. She finally got it through to me that "Biddyville" was "Beardiville." So we turned around and soon found ourselves at the farmhouse.
Beardiville Farmhouse is located on a HUGE dairy farm. The house was nice and our hostess was very friendly. We talked for a long time. We discussed the differences between the Catholics and Protestants. Our hostess was Protestant but told us that she had many Catholic friends. It reminded me very much of people in the states who are white who say they have many black friends (or vice-versa). I guess no matter where you are or who you are, there is always a "different" group. It is sad that these differences cannot be settled.
After dropping our bags off, Mom and I drove on over to the Giant's Causeway to look around. Sallie and Jody didn't want to go. The visitor's center was already close so we walked around to the trail down to the ocean. The wind was blowing very hard and we were tired so we decided to wait till the morning before hiking out to the actual causeway.
Back at the farmhouse, Jody, Sallie, and I played some more Farkel. I then went to my room to read for an hour or so before going to bed. Each room was en suite and we payed £5 per room extra.