Saturday 27 April 2013

Ireland: Day Five - Donegal, Belleek, Silgo and Westport

Last night after posting my entry a group of us went down to the hotel bar to listen to some Irish music. There were dancers - which I was told were amazing - but I missed them as I didn't get back from swimming in time. On the plus side, the hotel pool was amazing and I had it all to myself.

The bar atmosphere was nice and cozy - very much showing the history of the hotel. It's actually the oldest hotel in the country being run by the same family - it's been passed down through generations. The music was great, but there was far too much American music then Irish. We wanted to hear Irish songs not Johnny Cash and Elvis which he was singing. He did play two Irish songs.... But the rest was American Blues, Oldies and Country. One of the guys requested some George Jones in tribute (I had broken the news that he had died) but he didn't know any. The group stayed out later then we should have, but since I was only drinking water it was amusing to watch everyone else up there dancing and letting loose - especially those in their 70's and 80's. It was a nice change from the structure of the daily bus routine.

At some point on the trip I seem to have become the unofficial tour guide - as a bunch of people tend to ask me the plans for the day/hotel etc (rather then the guide) and the bus tech support person. I keep being asked questions regarding wifi, cameras etc. I have been given devices to help people get online and for tomorrow my services have been "booked" for breakfast (to get someone online) and after dinner (to help import pictures to a tablet). I don't mind helping, but it's amusing because at home while I know tech, I am never the tech go to person as that falls to Brian or my uncle.

Today we drove through Donegal to a town called Mullaghmore for views of the Donegal Bay. Then we went on to Belleek to visit the famous porcelain factory. However it was a bit disappointing as the factory was closed, so rather then see it being made we were shown a VERY outdated video and given access to a small museum and store. The video demonstrated the passing of time the kiln needs to fire by jumping to an ocean sunset and then sunrise... It was laughable. The porcelain however is beautiful stuff so we did end up buying from the store. Luckily they ship to Canada so we don't have to worry about breaking anything. I do think that we should have been told the factory wasn't operating, and though our guide said he was just as surprised as we were, I find myself doubting that as the hours are clear, so they obviously never work on Saturdays. The guide and company must know that because this isn't a new tour...

Afterward we drove to Drumcliffe where W.B Yates is burried and visited his grave. It a very old and beautiful cemetery. Truth be told I never quite got the whole cemetery tourism/attractions - but this past year since being in a few I am seeing how fascinating they can be. It was enjoyable to walk around and look at the old graves/monuments. We stopped in Silgo for an hour - which as per usual was only enough time to have lunch. That's the biggest downfall of this trip - not enough time to really see and explore some of the places we stop. Then again, we are seeing so much that the pro tends to outweigh the con. Dad and I had lunch at an Italian cafe (I think he is getting sick of potato and leek soup which we have had about 3 times for lunch thus far!) where we had sandwiches. Mine took longer then his (the downfall of being picky) so we had hardly any time to look around Silgo. We did manage to pop in a "wee" shop (I am going to start talking Irish to ye in my posts) and were able to buy a fold up duffle bag. We need something as both our suitcases are getting heavy.

Our next stop was Ballintubber Abbey which was built on the site of a church founded by St. Patrick in 441, 276 years before Columbus discovered America. This place has a fascinating history as its considered the church that refused to die, because it continued to be operational despite being destroyed and taken over numerous times. It is said to be the only church still operational that was formed by an Irish King, and Pierce Brosnan was married there (two fun trivia facts for you).The story and history of it is fascinating - I suggest googling it. It is a beautiful church, which is now used as a Catholic parish. We briefly saw the priest as we were coming in just as a wedding was finishing. The bride and wedding party looked great - it reminded me of my own wedding at the Old Mill Chapel.

Finally we got to Westport where our hotel for the next two nights is. It's a great hotel, facing the beach and my room has a large bed at last! Dad and I are across the hall from each other which also works out well. I went for a swim once we got here and this hotel by far has the best pool yet. It's odd, a lot of these hotels have "leisure centres" attached but consist only of a pool. Many people are annoyed at the lack of gym, but as long as there is a pool I am happy.

After dinner we went down for more Irish music at this hotel pub... Which was an odd experience. First the bar is at the back of their restaurant which is seafood based/themed. It actually looks more like a higher end Red Lobster then an Irish pub. I get that it's near the sea and all, but not at all what we were expecting. The music was done by a French singer who again knew hardly any Irish songs and sang blues and oldies. I opted to not stay long, and left dad down there with the group. It's been a busy few days and I find it catching up to me. I debated skipping tomorrow but upon research found we see some great things. I will likely skip on Wed/Thurs when we are in the same town for 3 nights.


1: Me on the bus
2: Irish Countryside
3: Belleek Museum Display
4: Outside of Belleek
5: Another shot of me
6: The view of our bus (I always sit in the back as I don't like seeing the narrow roads and lack of barriers!)
7: An operational "summer home" left in the family of a former lord whose name escapes me.
8: Beautiful Scenery
9: More beautiful scenery
10: Just one more...
11: W.B Yates Grave
12: Ballintubber Abby 1
13: Ballintubber Abby 2
14: Ballintubber Abby 3
15: Ballintubber Abby 4 - This is the ruins of one area that was destroyed at one point
16: Ballintubber Abby 5
17: Ballintubber Abby 6
18: Dromcliffe Chruch where Yates is buried.
19: More scenery
20: Last scenery picture of today!

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