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On the Road to Donegal
All Other Attractions in Donegal
Member Name: happybunny75
All Other Attractions in Donegal
Date: 29/08/01, updated on 29/08/01 (337 review reads)
Advantages: Lovely scenery, Friendly, (The usual pros of Ireland!)
Disadvantages: Modernisation (?)
I have heard tales of “God’s Country” and it’s utopia of green fields; breathtaking scenery and mythical mysteries but I’ve never believed in fairy tales…err…well…na, I won’t go that far!
However, having visited Donegal I can understand why Ireland has such a reputation for it’s outstanding beauty, hospitality and of course, story telling.
I’m about to take you on a trip I recently made to Donegal and I fear it’s only a fraction of what Donegal and Ireland has to offer – my apologies to all those effected by my ignorance. However, this is what I got up to (steady!) for 2 days. Enjoy!
DOAGH FAMINE VILLAGE (Doagh Island, Inishowen)
I don’t normally enjoy exhibits or museums, but if I do enjoy one it’s normally because it’s visually interesting or I learn something quirky. For example, did you know that the phrase “to snuff it” (as in dying, non-existing, gone forever kinda-thing) originates from the Irish Catholic tradition at wakes, whereby a plate of snuff was (and still is in some places!) laid on top of the deceased’s stomach, and those paying their respects would take a pinch whilst celebrating the life of the relative or friend. Good eh? That’s one of the quirky things I did learn (I hope that comes up in a pub quiz someday!).
This isn’t exactly a museum however but a replica village, where each building (or hovel) illustrates the homes of Donegal inhabitants over the last few centuries. Our tour guide related stories to us of the Irish potato famine and the lives of both Protestant and Catholic inhabitants: both communities having to face the same hardships that were brought about by natural disasters.
There is a small cluster of buildings as you enter the village though, that are original. One, we were told was once occupied by our guide’s family up until 1983. It was a one roo
med house: bedroom, kitchen, living room all in one – I didn’t see any toilet facilities though – I didn’t like to ask!
The Doagh Village venture is privately run and gives an insight into Ireland’s past and relates quite fittingly to the present (famine in third world countries, poverty and religious divisions). The commentary by our guide was very precise and entertaining with many anecdotes and stories of superstitions. It was only £3 and included a tea/coffee and biscuits, or a slice of Irish wheaten bread!
MALLIN HEAD (Inishowen)
Forget John O’Groats and Land’s End, Mallin Head is a sensational point on the Donegal coastline. It is famously the most northern point of Ireland (including Northern Ireland). The unusual thing is that it hasn’t been overrun with the usual tourist trappings. As you drive up there are various points where you can park and admire the coastline scenery: with the green hills on one side and the jagged rocks submerged in the fresh sea on the other, it really is a spectacular site. One thing I did notice was the smell, which was fresh and salty. “That’s how it’s supposed to smell”, I hear you say. Well, unlike British resorts I didn’t smell any pollution.
There isn’t a great deal at the top of Mallin Head, except the spectacular views and the history – so if it’s tacky tourist shops you want, forget it! There’s an old lookout tower and a couple of small bunkers. Yes, these were imperative to Ireland’s defence during wars in order to spy the enemy. Interestingly enough there’s also an arrangement of white rocks as the hill descends to the cliff. The arrangement spells ‘EIRE’, again during World War Two, this was used to notify the German’s that they weren’t about to bomb Scotland or England, but lovely Ireland. Very considerate, don’t you think? Others have follow
ed this trend and other groups of rocks spell the names of more recent visitors to Mallin Head.
From my two days in Donegal I was amazed by how unspoilt it all seemed. The scenery and culture of Ireland reminds me a little of Cornwall, but unfortunately as with other British resorts, even there has submitted to the garish commercialism and tacky-Blackpool-style arcades and souvenir shops. Towns such as Cardonagh remain small and friendly and popular visitor areas don’t seem to attract crowds of people. Our guide at Doagh Village said however that Ireland had changed since its membership to the EU in the 1980’s. Money has been ploughed into Ireland, and travelling through Donegal I noticed housing developments being built in some areas. Modernisation and progress are one thing, but ruining a rare, unspoilt place such as Donegal is another. We shall see.