Today would not be a great distance driving day but still one covering some remarkable terrain in the high north of the country. We had a wonderful full Irish breakfast at the Mountain View B&B and set out for Glenveagh National Park just 15 minutes away. Here we visited the 19th century castle/mansion on the shores of Lake Veagh. With extensive gardens and pathways, abundant wildlife (the European Robins were singing their heads off) and a backdrop of mountains, lakes, glens and woods, this castle is a classic beauty.
We stayed an hour and then moved on, winding our way north through the Derryveagh Mountain range through quiet little towns and jaw dropping scenic vistas like Ballymastaker Beach and the view across to Malin Head (Ireland’s most northerly point) until we came to Fanad Head. Here is the most beautiful lighthouse in all of Ireland, perched on the edge of a 100 foot rock gut that cuts inland for several hundred meters. You can’t take a bad photo of the Fanad Head Lighthouse. Last night (we read on google news) the northern lights were performing for those lucky enough to be there after dark. Not us though. we had to move on again to get to our accommodations in Londonderry before the sun went down.
The route from Fanad Head to Londonderry goes through Letterkenny so we stopped for 20 minutes to take in St. Eunan’s Cathedral and its magnificent glass windows. Of all the cathedrals we have visited in Ireland so far, this one is the most impressive for the sheer amount of stained glass. There are at least 30 or more windows, some of them 20 feet high including 8 by Harry Clarke (although they are not like his usual colorful and illustrated style but are more structured and grid-like). Some of the others, however, are unbelievable for the amount of work that has gone into them.
Leaving Letterkenny, we had a 30 minute drive to Londonderry and found our B&B with the help of Mon’s I-phone gps. We settled into our room quickly and then set out on foot for the downtown to see the famed “Walled City” from the 16th century British Rule. The wall encloses a 3-4 block area of the city which was the original British establishment in the 1600’s. This is where it all started in Northern Ireland – the British strategic positioning to prevent the Spanish from invading through Ireland, the inequity of how the Irish were treated, the resistance, the “Troubles” and ultimately the civil rights movement. Walking to it, we passed by several revolution murals painted on the sides of buildings and anti-British graffiti on the wall itself. Although Londonderry is a bustling and vibrant city, the section we walked through to get to “the wall” is dingy by comparison to other cities in Ireland. It has an industrial look and smell. Litter lines the street gutters. Homes are rather drab in color. However, inside the walled section is totally different. British influences are evident in the well maintained streets and opulent buildings and statues. Such a contrast from inside to the outside. Such fascinating history and you can feel it as you walk through it. We’ll learn more about it later in Belfast, I’m sure.
p.s. we saw one more cathedral – St. Eugene’s and it is just a breathtaking at St. Eunan’s Letterkenny. There was a young lady practicing her solo and the acoustics are phenomenal. Here is a 20 second clip.