The weather in Donegal has been glorious recently. Blue skies, sunshine and gentle balmy breezes.
Yesterday, sitting on the soft sands of Fintra beach, the sun on my face and the sound of the sea lapping gently on the shoreline, I thought to myself "this really is my own little paradise". And just when I thought it couldn't get better ... it did!
Gazing out to sea I spotted the very distinctive fins of a pod of dolphins!
Of course excitement set in instantly and nudging my husband from his thoughts I yelled: "DOLPHINS!".
Up we got to get right down to the shoreline to get that bit closer and then next half hour or so (I lost track of time), we watched and photographed the dolphins. They were quite a bit out from the shore but hey, they were there and that is all that mattered!
Anyone who knows me, or is familiar with my blog posts, will know that I spend a lot of time searching for these beautiful creatures and to have them out in front of me, playing and swimming about was fabulous.
The only fly in the ointment was watching some people on a speedboat trying to get closer to them. Part of me was jealous I have to admit but the overriding thought was how stupidly they were behaving! This is calving season and when a dolphin, like any animal, has young around, they want to protect them and we must always remember these are wild animals and strong and dangerous if annoyed. And yet two of the people from the boat thought it a good idea to get in the water and try to get up close with the dolphins! Luckily for them the dolphins didn't bother them. Perhaps there were no calves yet. But that minor annoyance aside, it was glorious to stand for a time in the warmth of the sun watching the dolphins.
Below is a gallery of some of the photos I took. They are not brilliant I have to admit: the dolphins were quite a way from the shoreline and are zoomed in but I hope they give some pleasure to fellow dolphin lovers.
I hope I never get over the thrill of seeing dolphins!
And here is the beautiful Fintra beach which is just outside Killybegs. Fintra has again been awarded Blue Flag status, just one of the thirteen Donegal beaches so awarded making Donegal once again, the county with the most Blue Flag beaches in Ireland.
Michelle (pictured here just to the right of 'Gary'), an avid fan of Take That since she was around 5 years of age and later a Gary Barlow fan, REALLY wants Gary to come to her 30th birthday party in Glenties, County Donegal on the 30th of July.
WHO IS MICHELLE?
In her own words:
"I'm a mother of two I work 5 days a week with adults with intellectual disabilities I'm married to martin 3 yrs in August. So I'd say 1991 a fan since I always loved them ever since when they broke up I was sick from crying for well over a week. I love everything about Gary Barlow his manner, his relationship with his wife and kids, his music has helped me through all the ups and downs in my life and he is such a talented song writer he's fit too... I would love nothing more if he sang for me in Kennedy's bar Glenties July 30th my real birthday is August the 4th. I never got a meet and greet while going to concerts I went to the take that circus tour in croke park 2009,take that progress tour 2011 i was 7months pregnant with Jayden in croke park, Gary barlow since I saw you last tour in the 3 arena dublin 2014 I was 7months pregnant with Sienna and finally that that III tour 2015 in the 3 arena. We also went to letterkenny cinema June 19 2015 to watch them live with the III tour."
Today we took photos of Michelle and her pals and also did a video imploring Gary to make her birthday wish come true.
Here is the video and we will be adding all the extra help she is getting here too. We believe that this weekend our own Daniel O'Donnell and Noel Cunningham are doing something for her appeal and of course, we will be adding that here too.
Please tweet and facebook this post to get as much support for Michelle as we can ... and to GET GARY TO GLENTIES!!! Michelle's twitter account is @GaryToTheParty and Gary Barlow's is @GaryBarlow so please tag them.
So now watch the video (click the link below), sing along AND GET BEHIND MICHELLE TO GET GARY TO THE PARTY!
The Irish TV and radio presenter Noel Cunningham has now joined in helping get Gary to the party:
At the weekend we decided to check out the boardwalk at Aughadahore near Carrigart and Glen village. A number of people had told me it was great and worth a visit and I found they weren’t wrong.
The weather had been changeable all morning but when we arrived the sun was shining and the sky was blue with just a few fluffy clouds. Which was lovely from inside the car. Getting out of the car however, we found it was a different story! Very, very breezy and the wind was bitingly cold. On went the jackets (and a woolly hat on me) and off we went.
The boardwalk is very well made and winds its way through sandy dunes to the magnificent horseshoe-shaped Tramore beach. It is also wide enough that people can pass each other without anyone having to stand aside.
Along the way there are viewing points where walkers can stop off and take in the scenery including great views of Muckish mountain across the water. There are seating areas in a couple of them but sadly none (yet?) further along the boardwalk. Lazy walkers, like me, might appreciate a seat but as the boardwalk is only 1km long they aren’t really necessary.
At the end of the boardwalk you can step off it and straight on to Tramore beach.
The sandy beach is about 7km long so for people who want a long walk, it is there for the taking. Along the beach you can enjoy views back to Muckish and across to Trabeg (the smaller beach that runs alongside the village of Downings).
One thing I noticed about Mamore beach is the abundance of shells there. Many beaches I go to are not as rich in shells as is this one. However, the sand is a bit softer so quite arduous to walk at any pace on. Probably good for toning the legs though.
We walked about 2km along the beach enjoying the sounds of the seabirds and the Atlantic rolling in to the shore.
Once back on the boardwalk and back to the start I noticed the building at the entrance serves tea/coffee and cakes. Fortunately it was still closed so no cakes were damaged in the making of this blog post.
TO GET THERE:
From Carrigart on the road to Glen you come to a fork in the road. The road to the left takes you to Glen village and the road to the right takes you to Lackagh Bridge and on to Creeslough. Take the road to the right and a little way along it you will come to the entrance to Cuan na Ri, a holiday resort. Drive through the large gates and you will come to a carpark. There you can park up and then walk over to the small green gate to the right of the building there and that takes you straight to the boardwalk.
Exciting times for Donegal when the Venture Offshore Cup Race 2016 races into Killybegs. They arrive in Killybegs on Thursday the 16th of June on Leg 5 of the race from Galway and leave on Friday the 17th of June for Belfast with the leading boats expected around noon.
As the boats can’t race into Killybegs harbour, the Venture Offshore Cup organisers have added an extra Leg of the race especially for Donegal and this will take the racing boats past Killybegs and out to Muckross Head thereby affording spectators a chance to see the boats racing past in their full glory.
They then make their way into Killybegs harbour and the brand new marina there to board up for the night of festivities ahead.
Killybegs will have on-street entertainment for the boat crews and the many visitors expected in Killybegs that day to savour the excitement and join in the festivities planned.
Muckross Head, County Donegal
Boat photos by kind courtesy of Aidan Foley, Event Director, VENTURE CUP
Thursday, 16th June 2016 (Leg 5) Galway to Killybegs, County Donegal
Friday, 17th June 2016 (Leg 6) Leaves Killybegs, County Donegal for Belfast
The Venture website: http://www.ventureoffshorecup.com/
Their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/VentureOffshoreCup/
More about Killybegs and more photos of the town http://www.welovedonegal.com/killybegs.html
Killybegs Tourist Office: http://www.killybegs.ie/
'GUTZ' COMES TO LETTERKENNY
'Gutz', an original musical written by David Oliver, comes to An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny this weekend. The production includes a 10 piece live band, twenty five original songs, and a large cast of over 40, all of whom come from Donegal, Tyrone or Derry.
'Gutz' tells of the internship of a young woman called Casey Carson and her journey in New York City as she battles work, life pressures and sexism in the workplace. It is a musical for today with something for all to enjoy.
The show has already sold out at the Alley Theatre in Strabane so book your tickets for this weekend in Letterkenny via any of the links below. (Friday & Saturday, 15th & 16th April, at 8pm). On the Saturday night there is an after show party in the Orchard Inn, Letterkenny where guests will be entertained by the Gutz In House Band.
Following the production in Letterkenny, Gutz will be at the Millennium Forum, Derry on Friday 13th and Saturday the 14th of May at 7.30pm.
"These four begin their internship with the promise that one will be offered a full time position as an associate. This year in the life of an intern creates stresses ...
Casey Carson is a strong, fiercely independent, highly intelligent and very attractive 23 year old from Boise, Idaho. As she works within the ranks of Davis Power Inc, she ambitiously envisages an eventual position within New York City's business elite. In the cosmopolitan hotbed of a 21st century city, where success sees no colour or gender, Casey has left her quaint hometown at just the right time - or has she?
'Gutz' is an explosive, highly charged musical exploration of the seductive, hedonistic and deceptive nature of life in a metropolis, where the surface of 'progress' and 'yes we can' idealism hides the harsh reality that the more things change the more they stay the same. We meet a host of characters consumed with power, ambition and ego, who all, in some way, will have to face the truth behind the hollow mask of the neon lights. The themes of love, harassment, infidelity and personal struggle intertwine to reveal a story reflective of the times we now live in."
TO BOOK TICKETS:
Or telephone An Grianan on 074 9120777 (from outside the Republic 00353 74 9120777).
Read more about the composer of Gutz, David Oliver, and his other works on his website: http://www.davidoliver.info/index.html
It is being widely mooted around the internet today that part of the new Star Wars film (Star Wars: Episode VIII) will use Ireland's most northerly point, Malin Head in County Donegal, as one of its filming locations.
According to The Irish Times, Star Wars scouts visited the area last October and they go on to report that film crews working with Lucasfilm have already booked out bed & breakasts and holiday rental homes there.
It is also being reported that Malin Head will be used as a location for Luke Skywalker's hideout but this is yet to be confirmed. Perhaps if it is, the actor who plays him, Mark Hamill, will get the chance to visit a Donegal family who are distant relatives of his (via the Hamill name).
Malin Head would make a fabulous location to film the new Star Wars film. The scenery there is stunning and although there are small towns and villages dotted about, there are too vast tracts of land with nothing but varying landscapes: from high rocky terrain to green valleys and huge sandy beaches to amazing rocky coastline.
In the words of Darth Vader, "“We would be honoured if you would join us.”
From The Irish Times:
“The makers of Stars Wars blockbusters are to return to Ireland once again after deciding to shoot scenes for the new movie in Co Donegal.
Location scouts secretly visited Ireland’s most northerly point at Malin Head last October.
Minister of State at the Department of Arts Joe McHugh confirmed he was aware that negotiations are at an advanced stage for filming scenes in the area.
“There are still a few things to be sorted with the department including foreshore licenses but I’m confident that will be taken care of,” said Mr McHugh
“This will be a massive opportunity to promote the area globally and . . . I would welcome it ....”
The latest instalment of the Stars Wars story Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the world’s highest grossing movie, was partially filmed on the Kerry island of Skellig Michael.
The cast and crew are filming the first scenes of Episode VIII in Kerry.
Filming in Co Donegal is expected to last more than a month.
But the tourism spin-offs from the locations to be included in the latest Star Wars epic are expected to be huge.
Already a number of bed and breakfasts and rental homes in the Malin Head area have been booked out by film crews working with Lucasfilm.”
And from entertainment.ie:
“Although much was made of Skellig Michael's prominence in The Force Awakens, it looks like another locale in Ireland will be joining the Star Wars universe.
It's been reported by local newspapers that Malin Head in Donegal is being scouted as a filming location for Star Wars: Episode VIII by Lucasfilm. The follow-up to the global smash, The Force Awakens, is already filming currently in Croatia and has turned the historical district of Dubrovnik into a neon-drenched cityscape.
It's understood that a number of hotels and B&Bs have been block-booked for the month of May, with reports suggesting that extras are due to be cast for scenes filmed in Malin Head. It's already been confirmed that Skellig Michael will feature prominently in Episode VIII, as will Ceann Sibeal.
What's more, a mock-up of Skellig Michael's distinctive stone-huts have been sighted at Pinewood Studios by eagle-eyed fans. It's speculated that Malin Head will be filmed as a location for Luke Skywalker's as-yet unnamed hideout, however nothing's been confirmed as of yet.”
Our on-going efforts to get up close and personal with the dolphins of Donegal continued with my booking a holiday apartment overlooking the part of the ocean they are most often seen in.
One of the evenings there we decided to drive the short distance up to Banba’s Crown (called locally ‘the Head’) at Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point.
I didn’t expect there to be other people up there at that time of the evening but I was wrong. There were quite a few cars already there by the time we arrived.
The sunset from the height at Banba’s Crown, with the vast open ocean before you, is sensational. Nothing but golden sun shimmering across the Atlantic before you and the tower behind bathed in the warm glow giving it a soft, sand like colour.
The people from the cars had clearly wandered around the Head as I could see very few people and my husband and I wandered separately taking our photographs from various points.
Later I came upon a couple with whom I got chatting. They were from Derry and own a holiday cottage nearby. They had their bottle of wine with them to watch the sunset, a thing they do each time they arrive to celebrate the start of their time in Donegal.
As we chatted a call went up somewhere on the Head “dolphins!”.
The pod was passing by the Head! We all watched for a moment as they passed quickly by and then, as one, everyone ran to their cars and a mad dash down the now darkening narrow bendy road began, chasing the pod over to Portmor to see if they came in to frolick.
On the way down and back on the main road between the Head and the port, the car in front of us (the Derry couples’ car) was stopped chatting with some firemen in their fire engine (who were probably wondering where the stream of traffic was coming from and going to). I took the opportunity to lean back out of the passenger seat to capture a photograph of the outline of the tower at the head, blacked out with the sun setting beyond it.
Later the guy from Derry was telling us that he was telling the firemen what the chase was about, they had indeed been wondering what the string of cars at that time of night was all about in such a quiet location. It was quite funny to see the firemen all leaning to the side to try and spy the pod of dolphins going by over the sea to our right. I off course took a photograph as I had done earlier of the chimney fire they were coming back from.
So, all down to the port and out of the cars, up on to the heights there to look for the dolphins. But they just kept on swimming.
As one, once again, all into our cars and over to the ‘Wee House at Malin’, the next view point for we dolphin hunters.
At the Wee House there were already quite a few people gathered: some with cameras and some just watching the sunset and looking out for the dolphins. This is normally a very remote and quite spot so it was nice to have a bunch of people gathered there and there was a great sense of camaraderie.
Although we did see the pod passing, and they did a few leaps out of the water, they seemed to be in a hurry to go elsewhere and I only managed to get a few photographs of them. Again, too far away to be impressive (you can see one of the photographs of them below).
However I did get chatting to a man there ~ mainly about cameras and photographing dolphins. We introduced ourselves and it turns out I had seen his photographs before and greatly admired them. I told him about our efforts to get close to the dolphins and our boat trip the day before (more of which in another post). To go on the boat we had had to give up the plan to watch and photograph the Red Arrows who were putting on a display over Moville that day. Michael (the name of the man I was chatting to) had attended it. I told him I knew because I had heard on local radio about the fantastic photographs he had taken. He has now very kindly emailed them to me and I will add them to this blog shortly. And having seen them, I concur with the radio presenter ~ they are indeed fabulous.
Our Derry couple invited us to join them for drinks but we said we had to go to our apartment so we invited them there and had a lovely while having drinks, chatting and watching the sun go down from our balcony.
Later, it was decided a trip Ireland’s most northerly pub nearby was in order .
I will draw a veil over the end of the night when, after some great Guinness and a shortcut walk across the rocks and sand back to our apartment one of us ended up with a very sandy bottom and the realisation that Guinness does not make one a mountain goat!
See also: Ham Sandwiches And Talking Heads ... But No Dolphins!
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.
As anyone interested in nature and birds will know the corncrake population in Ireland is in stark decline, so much so that it is now a Red-listed breed. Although they are now rare, County Donegal is probably one of the best places in Ireland to hear, and possibly see, one if you are very lucky.
Urban development and modern farming methods have played no small part in their decline. I live in the largest town in County Donegal and used to hear the distinctive call of the corncrake every spring until "progress" took away the large fielded site they favoured here. Their sound is very distinctive and described very well on birdwatchireland.ie "The kerrx-kerrx sound of the corncrake has been compared with two cheese-graters rubbed together, producing a sound so monotonous as to qualify the bird as the world's worst singer.".
I have never heard the sound a corncrake makes described like that before but having just gone to the drawer and taken out two graters and rubbed them together, I can confirm that is exactly what they sound like!
Every year I would ring the telephone given for anyone hearing a corncrake so those who kept such records could know where and when the caller heard their first corncrake of the year. (You can hear a corncrake on a link at the end of this post).
In rural areas farmers are asked to mow their fields from the centre of the field out to the edges, a small thing to do as far as the work involved is concerned but a massive help in preserving the small number of corncrakes we have. Mowing from the inside out means that nesting corncrakes and their chicks hear the noise and have time to run to safety, altered as they are by the noise. (Thanks to our commentators below (Ben Quinn and Daniel Mugan for pointing out my previous error in this paragraph).
The corncrake in Ireland has now had the intelligence to move their habitat to places where the landscape makes it nigh on impossible for machinery to get near. I have been lucky enough to sight a corncrake on Tory Island off the coast of Donegal and another island, Owey, where I was lucky enough to not only see it but manage to take an albeit very blurry photograph.
So given my interest in the corncrake and my love of photography, you can imagine how envious I was of a fellow photographer who hails from Malin Head in Inishowen, Ireland's most northerly point, Ronan McLaughlin, when I saw the stunning photographs he had taken of them!
When I said to Ronan about the photos (all taken at Malin Head) and how jealous I was that he managed to get these photos he told me "Patience and camoflague is key to success. Corncrakes by their nature are very secretive. But given time etc every now and again a bird will pop out for what can be a split second view." Patience? That's me out then. Here are the photos and a link to a video of the corncrake and the sound it makes also done by Ronan. Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Donegal Autism Family Support Group at Errigal Tweet-up
The Errigal Tweet-Up 2014 drew lots of friends of the Donegal Autism Family Support Group to TURN ERRIGAL BLUE this year. Here are a selection of the photographs from some of those who took part.
We took the easy option and went to the Dunlewey Centre in the valley below Errigal to take advantage of the boat trip they run out into Dunlewey Lake where we could look upwards to see those dots on the top of Errigal which told us people were up there.
The photo on the left below shows Errigal, Donegal's highest mountain (2,464 feet/751 metres) from the lake and the photo on the right gives you some perspective on the hard climb the people taking part in the tweet-up faced. (Click on the pics to enlarge).
The photos in the slideshow here were submitted by some of those taking part in the climb on Sunday including Clare McCahill (of the Errigal Tweet-Up) and Geraldine Diver, Maria Ryan, Liam Porter and Ryan Keane. Just click at the top left of the lead photo (taken by Maria Ryan and adjusted by me for the lead photo), and the slideshow will run for you. If you need to speed it up, click on the top right of any photo to move along to the next one.
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.