Donegal to Belfast

Donegal to Belfast

After saying goodbye to half of the #Shamphonny crew (Steph and Johnny) in Westport, Amanda and I had 4 more nights in Ireland and Northern Ireland to explore. We first made our way to Donegal city, with a quick stop in Gortarowey Forest along the way for a hike. The hike had great views of Benbulbin mountain, as well as a centuries-old ring of rocks thought to be a family’s home. Coincidentally, our hike was on Arbor Day, which made the presence of logging feel all the more depressing.

Benbulbin and my happy wife on the trail
New life on Arbor Day
Single family home

Donegal, where we stayed that night, has a sweet castle and a great nearby dinner spot, the Olde Castle Bar & Restaurant. We didn’t pay to go inside the castle, but got good views from outside. Olde Castle was some of the best food we had in Ireland.

Donegal Castle
Castle and river
Venison pie and mash
Salmon + crab salad

The next day, we ate a hearty breakfast at the Ard Na Breatha House B&B, then headed north to Glenveagh National Park for the day. Glenveagh is known for its castle, but as usual we were more interested in the hiking and wildlife opportunities. We did the waterfall hike along Lough Beagh, the long freshwater lake adjacent to the castle.

Glenveagh Castle
Lake and mountains
Happy tree
Clovers (I don’t see any 4 leaf)

That afternoon, we crossed the border into Northern Ireland and arrived in Derry to stay the night in the Bogside neighborhood, known for its murals, Catholic residence, and The Troubles that occurred there for decades. It was weird to cross into another country, and into the UK, without any border control. The signs on the road immediately switched to miles instead of kilometers. The currency also switched, of course, which meant we needed to find an ATM and pull out Pounds.

Our AirBnB host warned us that we should refer to the city as Derry instead of London Derry when in Bogside so as not to offend the locals, definitely a good tip. It turned out there was a jazz festival going on that night, which meant most restaurants were booked full. We ended up eating an affordable chicken dinner at the local Nando’s, not such a bad thing.

Iconic sign, which has sadly been tagged
Boy with gas mask

After Derry, we made our way to Giant’s Causeway with its hexagonal basalt columns and tons of tourists. When arriving there, you’re supposed to park at the visitor’s center and pay 10 Pounds per person, but we opted to risk parking on the street and skip getting scammed. The views were breathtaking and the geological formations interesting, but I couldn’t look past the hordes of tourists, even knowing that we are 2 of them, of course. A recent landslide meant we couldn’t walk the entire trail, but we still got nice shots and felt like we saw it.

Giant’s causeway
Hexagons are cool
Legendary Finn MacCool was here
Land of the Giant
More formations in the distance

When we stopped for lunch, we grabbed the camera to admire some little lambs nearby. Being springtime, we’ve seen tons of newborns all over Ireland and were glad to finally have a good spot to take photos. Our timing was good, as Farmer John was just coming out to bottle feed them, and invited us to participate. It turns out they were orphaned and on formula.

2 black and 1 white, blind lamb
Dream come true
The sheep herder

We also stopped at the Dark Hedges, a road lined with Beech trees used in season 1 of Game of Thrones when filming a King’s Road scene.

The King on his road

We called Belfast home for the next two nights, and had a chance to do laundry and catch a movie (“Get Out” by Jordan Peele) like normal humans. We returned our car in Dublin and hopped on a plane to Glasgow to begin our Scotland adventure. Overall, we really liked Ireland, especially because we had quality time with Steph and Johnny. We also couldn’t stop thinking this place is #sogreen, and were surprised by the dramatic landscapes. Maybe Ireland doesn’t make the top 3 places we’ve been, but I’m guessing we’ll be back nonetheless.

Peppa Pig!
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