I am currently pee green with envy at all the great photographs of dolphins appearing on the net posted by people who have been lucky enough to have seen them on the Donegal peninsula of Inishowen. The photograph of a common dolphin (above), taken by Ronan McLaughlin being one of the best I have seen.
So last weekend we decided to go in search of our 'Donegal Dolphins'. I did a bit of homework by contacting Ronan McLaughlin, who hails from the area and takes fabulous shots of his native Inishowen. He gave the best spots to go to in my quest to see the dolphins. And possibly the sharks there too.
Normally when we go on our jaunts one of the things we enjoy is stopping off somewhere for a bite to eat and a place to relax a while. But this was to be a serious mission and we could not afford the luxury of relaxing over a meal for an hour or more, we needed to be on alert along the shorelines and not taking time out in a café or restaurant.
So I packed a picnic basked with sandwiches, ham since you ask: mine with mustard, his without, cheeses, apples, ginger nuts and a bag of old bread for the birds on the shorelines. And a big flask of coffee too. Yes, the weather was hot but a cold drink with a ham sandwich? No. A beef sandwich and a cold coke, yes, but not ham.
The weather in Letterkenny was very hot and with a perfect blue sky and reaching Fahan the good weather continued. We pulled off the main road to go down into Fahan because I wanted to get a few photographs of the old pier there and maybe a few of the marina there too.
Along the Swilly I could see clouds sitting over a lot of the Inishowen peninsula further on so knew we would hit fog and mist along the way but in the meantime we enjoyed a little while in Fahan.
Leaving Fahan and driving on to Buncrana the weather held but on the road between Buncrana and Carndonagh the mist descended on us. The road is a long, fairly bleak road with few buildings along the way and driving it encased in mist is really rather weird.
We were heading to Ireland's most northerly point, Malin Head as that seems to be the area with the best chance of sighting dolphins at the moment. Of course they're not stationary and have been sighted in other parts of Donegal too. I was lucky enough to see a pod of about 15 - 20 bottle nose dolphins in south west Donegal a few years back. Unfortunately it was a grey day, pouring the rain and with rough seas. I had been taking photographs of an old derelict church when my husband spotted the pod swimming very fast past the pier we were standing on. Although the photographs of the pod weren't great, I was lucky enough to get one of a mother and her calf which was great. But my quest now is to get some good close ups of dolphins. And the odd shark or whale if one wanders across my view too.
Some of the signage along the road to Ireland's most northerly point must give visitors a twist of fear, not knowing what exactly awaits them around the next bend! Not to mention confuse them once they get as far as Malin Head with two different spellings of Banba's Crown at the junction of the approach road to the 'crown'. For those who don't know, it is BaNba NOT BaMba (someone please tell the people who make the signs).
We wandered all along the most northerly coastline in Ireland, stopping off various places where the pod have previously been sighted but didn't see one. We weren't alone in our quest to see the dolphins however. At Portmór there were a number of people propped up on the pier wall, cameras poised.
A sort of camaraderie abounds at such times with people standing around chatting about the prospect of seeing the dolphins and some with tales of where they had been seen earlier that day or even week.
The port was buzzing with people enjoying the warmth of the day, albeit without much sunshine. Along with we dolphin hunters, kayakers and swimmers alike shared the sandy port.
But no dolphins!
After a while we left Portmór and wandered along the Malin Head coastline, taking off roads and finding new tracks down to the shoreline, but still no dolphins.
At another pier, where the water was a smooth as glass, we spent a while looking for dolphins. Not so much as a hint of one. Wandering along the pier my husband noticed dead fish in the water below and, my heart beating because of my fear of heights, I slowly made my way to the edge of the pier to gaze down into the water below to get some photographs.
The dead fish looked like mini sharks and we wondered what had happened. Then I thought that they might be dogfish. It turns out this was correct. A while later on our trip we met a lovely man and his daughter and the father told us that the dogfish were used as bait to catch lobsters (hence all the lobster pots on the pier) and when they go off they are just chucked over the boat into the water. I have since checked and dogfish are actually a small shark. So we did manage to see sharks albeit dead ones!
Passing the time at the pier I noticed a huge upright rock which was just covered in beautiful flaura and so spent some time taking photographs there.
By now we were pretty hungry and so decided to head off and find a place to have our picnic. We decided to head for an elevated car park at the Head so that we could munch our sandwiches whilst still keeping a lookout for the elusive dolphins. You have to hand it to me, I am determined!
Along the way to the car park we took a side road where the beautiful bog cotton swathed the countryside. I love bog cotton with the little white heads bobbing about in the breeze so was delighted to see so much of it.
Reaching our picnic spot we quickly realised that the probability of seeing very much in the sea below was low. The mist was descending rapidly.
At this picnic table some years back we sad to watch the sunset on Ireland's most northerly point. It was freezing cold and I had to wrap myself in my husbands big coat but we sat at the table and enjoyed a very beautiful sunset, feeling like we were the only two people in the world.
Sitting there with my husband the other day waiting for sharks or dolphins to appear and eating our sandwiches, Talking Heads came on the car radio. We both love Talking Heads and I thought, "you know what? it really doesn't get much better than this". Well, it could have had the mist cleared and a pod of dolphins appeared, but we can't have everything!
So ham sandwiches and Talking Heads but no dolphins. I do however a plan to see them but more of this another day.
In the meantime enjoy these excellent photographs of our 'Donegal dolphins' taken by Ronan McLaughlin. You can view more of his work on his site Ronan McLaughlin or his facebook page here.
We Love Donegal
We Love Donegal is a site dedicated to bring the beauty of County Donegal on the north west coast of Ireland to the world.