SEA CLIFFS, SHEEP AND FIDDLES: WHAT TO SEE AROUND GLEN

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - ON THE ROAD - KATHY DON­AGHY

The area around Glen­colm­cille on the Slieve League Penin­sula at the south-west point of Co Done­gal is an out­door lover’s par­adise. The area is bounded on the south by the moun­tains of Sli­abh Liag and Lea­han and on the north by Slieve Tooey. To the west lies the wild At­lantic Ocean.

To get there, vis­i­tors drive through Killy­begs, which is a per­fect base to ex­plore what lies fur­ther west. Sight-see­ing tours of the stun­ning sea cliffs at Slieve League can be ar­ranged from here as well as fish­ing trips and boat trips.

Tak­ing the road west out of Killy­begs you’ll find some of the most dra­matic coast­line in this coun­try as the Wild At­lantic Way sweeps through the pic­turesque vil­lage of Kil­car and be­yond to Glen­colm­cille.

Just a few miles from Killy­begs lies Fin­tra beach, a beau­ti­ful sandy beach of­fer­ing stun­ning views of Done­gal Bay as far as Ben­bul­ben Moun­tain in Co Sligo. Life­guards man this blue flag beach from June to Septem­ber.

The vil­lage of Kil­car, where Sex and the City ac­tress Sarah Jes­sica Parker and her hus­band Matthew Brod­er­ick have a hol­i­day home, plays host to its own fleadh kick­ing off next month (Au­gust 6 to 11).

Fur­ther west, from Teelin Pier, you can or­gan­ise boat trips and sight-see­ing ex­cur­sions to the fa­mous sea cliffs and view them from be­low as they tower 600 me­tres above. Some­times vis­i­tors are joined by dol­phins, whales and seals. Bask­ing sharks have also been spot­ted as they feed on plank­ton.

Land lub­bers can drive up to the main view­ing area of the cliffs or, if you’re among the faint-hearted, use the car park on the way and walk the rest. The Slieve League Cliffs are nearly three times the height of their Co Clare sis­ters, the Cliffs of Mo­her, so you’re ad­vised to take care when tread­ing th­ese coastal paths.

On the high slopes of Slieve League there are re­mains of an early Chris­tian monas­tic site, with chapel and bee­hive huts. There are also an­cient stone re­mains that sug­gest that the moun­tain was a site of pil­grim­age be­fore the ar­rival of Chris­tian­ity. At Car­ri­gan Head, on the way to the main view­ing area, you can see a Sig­nal Tower built in the early years of the 19th cen­tury to watch for a pos­si­ble French in­va­sion. Close to the view­ing area you can see stones which marked out the word ‘Éire’ as a nav­i­ga­tion aid for air­craft dur­ing WWII.

In and around Glen­colm­cille, known lo­cally as Glen, lies one of the most beau­ti­ful and of­ten-pic­tured beaches in all of Done­gal. The Sil­ver Strand beach is a horse­shoe shaped cove ac­cessed by steps down to the beach.

The Folk Vil­lage in Glen, oth­er­wise known as Fr McDyer’s Folk Vil­lage Mu­seum, of­fers a glimpse of what life was like in ear­lier times. It’s made up of a clus­ter of sev­eral small cot­tages, called a ‘clachan’, perched on a hill­side over­look­ing the sandy curve of Glen Bay.

Each cot­tage is an ex­act replica of a dwelling used by the lo­cal peo­ple in each of the 18th, 19th and 20th cen­turies and is equipped with the fur­ni­ture, arte­facts and uten­sils of its par­tic­u­lar pe­riod. A re­con­structed school house, fish­er­man’s dwelling and tiny pub-gro­cer of­fer ad­di­tional in­sights into ru­ral Ir­ish life in one of the most re­mote cor­ners of the coun­try.

Tra­di­tional mu­sic, par­tic­u­larly the fid­dle, has a long and vi­brant his­tory in south west Done­gal.

The old-style is fast and at­tack­ing with lit­tle or­na­men­ta­tion. It may be heard through­out the year at seisiún in pri­vate houses and in lo­cal pubs.

The his­tory of the tex­tile in­dus­try is also rich in this part of Done­gal. Since the mid-1700s, sheep­rear­ing and the as­so­ci­ated do­mes­tic in­dus­tries of weav­ing and knit­ting have been an im­por­tant part of the fab­ric of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

One lo­cal knit­ting com­pany mak­ing waves in­ter­na­tion­ally is Fish­er­man out of Ire­land, based in Kil­car. Their motto is that while they’re sit­u­ated on edge of Europe in the mid­dle of nowhere, they ex­port 70pc of what they make to the four cor­ners of the globe.

See www.fish­er­manout­ofire­land.com, www.glen­folkvil­lage.com and www.go­v­is­it­done­gal.com for more in­for­ma­tion

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