The drive from Dublin to Donegal is about 4 hours and has impressive scenery in the lakes of Cavan and the wonderful Lough Erne. I would have liked to stop and taken some photos but it really was “a day for ducks”, grey miserable and drizzly !!!
It had been my intention to stay in the village of “Carrick” which is quite close to “Slieve League”. However due to my late departure, I did not reach Donegal town until 7pm. In the pitch darkness with howling winds and incessant rain, I decided that as I had not booked anywhere that it might be wiser to stop in “Killybegs”. It`s a small fishing town and there would be more options there. Its also not that far away.
I stopped at the first B&B I could find “Currans”, which was above a supermarket of the same name. The owner was out but the accommodating staff let me in and gave me a sumptuous room.
I decided to explore the local pubs and to see how “St Patrick`s” day was celebrated here. There is a strong fish smell here and it`s easy to see why, when you look down to the harbour and see all the “super trawlers” parked up. There are also a lot of packing plants.
The first pub I tried was very pleasant but being the day it was , there was no chance of a seat. I decided I needed somewhere quieter. I soon found a pub on the main street which specialized in “country music”. It was not quiet but at least I could get a seat at the counter.
It was a bit “rough and ready” but the staff both female, were very friendly and welcoming. When I looked around, I felt like I was stepping back into time. The 1980`s perhaps !!!
On the wall behind the counter, was a poster of an attractive girl bending down to get a beer, with the caption “this is why guys put their beer on the bottom shelf !”. There were also a sign for phone call charges. £10 – we`ll tell you`re wife we have not seen you all night, £15 –we`ll tell you`re wife we have not seen you for days £20 –we`ll tell your wife we have not seen you for weeks and so on. I took a guess, that this was where the local fishing fleet hung out.
The music was a bit disconcerting, as it did not match the images of old style bands played on the “tube” TV`s. However “beggars can`t be choosers” and this being the only show in town, so I decided to “soldier on” !!!.
All was fine for a while, then there was an almighty crash !!!. I turned to find a man sprawled on the ground behind me. He was very drunk and had fallen off his stool. He got up and wandered off.
The stool was left there for a minute or two before a customer picked it up. Nobody seemed concerned at all !!!.
A little while later, the same man came to the counter next to me with an empty glass. He put it on the counter, pushed it to the edge and with his finger “flicked” it over. The glass smashed to “smithereens” on the other side!!!. There was no reaction from anybody !!!
Finally one of the bar girls came over and asked him what he wanted ? He then pointed at me and said “he did it !”. The girl calmly replied she did not think so and asked him what he wanted to drink ? I was beginning to feel I was in the “wild west”.
She gave him a Heineken and he then proceeded to have an argument with another customer to my right.
I had to constantly push his hand away from my face as he reached across me to remonstrate. I kept “icy calm” but was very tempted to punch him. However as much satisfaction as I would get, I had the feeling though he was an idiot, he was their idiot and things could spiral out of control.
I decided to finish my pint and leave. Meanwhile he moved to my right and though he was still bumped into me, I used my sharp elbows to keep him at bay.
If thing`s could not get worse, there now seemed to be a fight, in the foyer. One of the bar girls had now come around now and was monitoring the situation, through a chink in the frosted glass. Nobody in the bar seemed concerned !!!
I was nearly finished my pint, when the band setting up for the evening, made me jump from my seat. There was terrible feedback as they seemed to be doing a sound check for a synthesized drum beat. This went on for ages . I figured I was being given a message !!!.
I decided I would go to the toilet before leaving. I found my early tormentor there having a conversation with an older man. He was happily peeing on the ground, so I decided to use the far end of the urinal. If he came anywhere near me, I was going to hit him !!!.
I managed to escape a request for a cigarette and made my way outside. As I walked back to my B&B, I passed a “souped up” car with alloy wheels and a number plate crudely ” blue tacked” over another. There is no question they are different up here !!!.
Hopefully tomorrow will bring better things !!!
The next morning was quite “drizzly” and after paying for my room (25 Euros / bed only), I had a quick breakfast around the corner and headed off .
There are signs for “Slieve League” but in the rain I missed the turn off in “Carrick”. However this was soon corrected and I was back on track.
There are 2 routes up “Slieve League”, the traditional “Cliff walk” and the new “Pilgrim Path”. The traditional “Cliff walk” is partially closed at present due to “walker erosion” and is being refurbished. I took a picture of the signs showing the routes.
I took the sign posted “Pilgrim Path” and soon arrived at a small car park. I parked in the second but there are 3 in total.
The weather was grey, blustery and very wet but I had not come this far, without making an attempt to go up. There were a couple of cars in the first car park, so I knew I would not be alone.
The visibility was not great but you could see that the view would be stunning in good weather. The “Pilgrim Path” is sheltered on either side by mountains, so once you get going, there is a bit of protection. There is a nice lake created by run off from the mountains.
I met a hardy couple walking their dog and then a shout alerted me to “Ayshu” and “Neerja” from India. They were a bit nervous of the climb and asked if they could join me. We had a nice chat and I took their photo.
The pathway is initially straight before veering to the left after the 3 rd car park. There is a nice waterfall here and then as the gradient slowly rises, some nice views over the lake to the sea.
About 2/3 of the way up, we parted company and I proceeded ahead. It was getting more exposed now as the pathway turned to the right and ascended rapidly. Fortunately it was not cold but there was a blanket of grey drizzle all the way up.
I passed the earlier couple with their dog now descending and then an English couple. I knew I could not be far now. As the path made its way up the side of “Slieve League” it became rockier and rockier. There seemed to be the remnants of a small stone structure. I am not sure if its the remains of a “cairn”.
The visibility was poor but the locals have done a great job with the yellow signs. However I was glad that it was daytime and not later as there are some dangerous cliffs at the summit.
I am not a great fan of “selfies” but with a little bit of positioning was able to take a photo at the summit marker.
It was quite a quick descent though a little “slippy” with all the rain. Just before the 2nd car park, I stopped to fill my water bottle from what looked like a Pilgrims spring. As I filled my bottle I noticed shamrock sprouting among the moss. A good sign from St Patrick and I would have to say the best water I have ever tasted !!! Crystal clear, soft and smokey !!! Amazing !!!!
Before long I was back at the car and able to change into something dry. Irish rain is like “Dulux” it gets everywhere !!!
From start to finish the “Pilgrim Path” took about 3 ½ hours and is fairly accessible to most people with moderate fitness. I would suggest leaving plenty of time to do the walk, as the weather is very changeable down here and I would not like to be at the summit in dwindling light.
I really enjoyed the walk and would heartily recommend it. I would imagine the views in good weather would be stunning and if the “Cliff walk” is open even more so, as the “Slieve League” cliffs are reputedly the highest in Europe.
I may have been unlucky in “Killybegs” but would suggest finding accommodation in Donegal town or perhaps “Carrick” itself. It would be a shame to have a nice trip ruined by others bad behaviour !!! As Donegal is a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area), I will have to forgo my usual “Bonne Camino” for “Slain” which is Irish for “Goodbye” !!!