Celebrating Earth and Life at Sliabh Liag (Slieve League)

It was like a dream… Waking up to a beautiful sunrise in Ireland, eating a fulfilling traditional Irish breakfast and venturing out while having the opportunity to take in all the breathtaking views. It was a birthday I will never forget.

Sliabh Liag, sometimes called Slieve League or Slieve Liag (Irish: Sliabh Liag), is a mountain on the Atlantic coast of County Donegal, Ireland. The towering cliffs are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe. From their highest point, it’s a staggering 609m (almost 2000 foot) drop into the swirling Atlantic Ocean below. Full of color and magic, I was awestruck as we climbed higher and took in the view of the cliffs reaching out towards the horizon.

History across the cliffs:

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 World War II.

I would recommend a stop at the Slieve League Cliffs Center and maybe book a guided walk, hike or even a boat tour. A Belfast naturalist Robert Lloyd Praeger wrote in 1939 wrote about one of the many hiking paths found at this location:

 “One Man’s Path”, is one of the most remarkable walks to be found in Ireland – not actually dangerous, but needing a good head and careful progress on a stormy day….The northern precipice, which drops 1500 feet into the coomb surrounding the Little Lough Agh, harbours the majority of the alpine plants of Slieve League, the most varied group of alpines to be found anywhere in Donegal.

Slieve League left me speechless and is a place that I hope to see again; I could easily spend a few days hiking in this area. I promise, our next stop will not disappoint you either! See you soon.

To view Dan’s images from this day, visit his blog at: http://traun-photo.com/dan/slieve-league/

 

River Glen, County Donegal

From Donegal Town, we traveled to Carrick and on through Teelin.  Our goal for this day was to explore the sixth highest sea cliffs in all of Europe; an area known as Slieve League.

The River Glen flowing through Carrick was quite picturesque. I could envision the faerie folk frolicking near the water’s edge.  Closer to Teelin the river widens as it flows towards the coast and fishing boats rested at low tide along the riverbanks. This birthday, April 18th, was unlike any other and it turned out to be so memorable that I remember the serenity of the day perfectly.

See you at Slieve League!

The Town of Donegal and Donegal Castle

On our next leg of the journey, we explored the area between Dunlewey and the town of Donegal. We stayed close to the coast and followed N56, traveling through Dungloe, Lettermacaward and Bogagh on our way to our next B & B, Ardlenagh View B&B, which was a short distance from the town of Donegal. We stayed our third night and started our fourth day in Irelend in this wonderful town. After and good night sleep and fulfilling breakfast, we toured the Donegal Castle and stopped in a few of the local shops. Everyone we ran into so far on this trip was welcoming and extremely friendly.

Donegal Castle is a castle situated in the centre of Donegal Town in County Donegal in Ulster, Ireland. For most of the last two centuries, the majority of the buildings lay in ruins, but the castle was almost fully restored in the early 1990s.

The castle consists of a 15th-century rectangular keep with a later Jacobean style wing. The complex is sited on a bend in the River Eske, near the mouth of Donegal Bay, and is surrounded by a 17th-century boundary wall. There is a small gatehouse at its entrance mirroring the design of the keep. Most of the stonework was constructed from locally sourced limestone with some sandstone. The castle was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan, Lords of Tír Conaill and one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to the 16th centuries.

This was a fun filled day and one of the most memorable birthdays thus far! See you at our next stop.

County Donegal and the Old Dunlewey Church

After spending the morning hiking and taking in the sights of Glenveagh Castle and its grounds, we traveled the roads heading south to our next bed and breakfast and found many treasures along the way.

Not too far from Glenveugh National Park, near Gweedore in County Donegal lies a gem in ruins… The Old Church of Dunlewey. I could only imagine what beauty this church once held and would have loved to see the stained glass that adorned the windows. Constructed of white marble and blue quartzite, I am sure this building will stand for many years to come. It is a beautiful building and is a lasting memorial to a great love affair. That of James Russell, once the landlord of the Dunlewey estate in Donegal, and his wife Jane.

Nestled at the foot of Errigal (the hightest mountain in County Donegal) and overlooking the beautiful Poisoned Glen sits the beautiful ‘Old Church of Dunlewey’.

Jane Smith Russell had the church built as a memorial to her husband, James Russell, landlord of the Dunlewey Estate, who died on 2nd September 1848.  James Russell was laid to rest in a vault under the church floor.  The church was consecrated on 1st September 1853 as a Chapel of Ease to Tullaghabegley.  Tullaghabegley was the parish consisting of the present-day Gweedore and Cloughaneely parishes.

The church is built of white marble and blue quartzite which was quarried locally.  The supply of marble in the nearby quarry has now been depleted.  The red brick in the arches of the windows was produced locally.  Remnants of the brickfield are still visible near Oilean Ghrainne when the level of the lake is lowered.

Stop by and see Dan’s images if the Old Dunlewey Church: http://traun-photo.com/dan/dunlewey-church/

Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal

We would have loved to stay longer in Northern Ireland and will definitely be back one day. Onward to our next stop…  Ardlenagh View B&B  near the town of Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. There is much to see in County Donegal such as, Donegal Castle, Glenveagh, Slieve League (one of my favorite areas), the Atlantic Way, and many others. We made our way around the northwestern tip of the Republic of Ireland and stopped to see the sights that Glenveagh National Park has to offer.

Glenveagh Castle was built between 1870 and 1873 by Captain John George Adair. It stands within the boundaries of Glenveagh National Park, near both Churchill and Gweedore in County Donegal, Ireland. It is built in the Scottish Baronial style and consists of a four-story rectangular keep, surrounded by a garden, and a backdrop of some 40,000 plus acres of mountains, lakes, glens, and woods complete with a herd of red deer. The Irish Gleann Bheatha (Bheithe) translates into English as “Glen of the Birch Trees”.

One could easily spend the day exploring Glenveagh National Park. There are many hiking paths to take in the beauty of this remote wilderness.  We didn’t have much time to spend in the park, but wanted to see the castle and the surrounding garden.

See you at our next stop! Cheers!

Downhill Demesne and the Mussenden Temple, Part 4/4

The Mausoleum was built a distance away from the Downhill Castle to the South. Constructed in 1783 in honor of his lordship’s elder brother George, 2nd Earl of Bristol, who died in 1775.  In 1839, a hurricane damaged the structure which has laid in ruin ever since. The mausoleum stands between the Lion’s Gate and the Bishop’s Gate.

The Lion’s Gate was one of the access points to the property; Bishops Gate is the other access point.

We were not able to visit all areas of the property since time was ticking and we had to be on our way to the next area of exploration in the Republic of Ireland.  We very much enjoyed Northern Ireland and will be back someday.

 

Downhill Demesne and the Mussenden Temple, Part 3/4

Downhill Demesne

The Bishops House at Downhill Demesne (also known as Downhill House or Downhill Castle) is an immense and impressive structure. This image of the structure will provide you with insight in how large the ruined structure is and will help provide scale to the images in the gallery below.

The Downhill Castle was built in the late 18th century for Frederick, 4th Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry (popularly known as ‘the Earl-Bishop’), at Downhill, County Londonderry. Much of the building was destroyed by fire in 1851 before being rebuilt in the 1870s. It fell into disrepair after the Second World War.

During World War Two, the house was used to billet Royal Air Force servicemen and women. The Bruce family continued to own the house until 1946. By 1950, it had been dismantled and the surrounding land sold. The house was acquired by the National Trust in 1980 whereas the Mussenden temple had become a Trust property in the 1940s.

Downhill Demesne and the Mussenden Temple, Part 2/4

Mussenden Temple

Just the night before, we were standing on Downhill Strand which is the stretch of beach below this gorgeous structure.

This morning we decided to visit the Mussenden Temple up close and personal.

Named in honor of his cousin Mrs. Frideswide Mussenden, whose beauty he greatly admired, this was the Bishop’s library. Its walls were once lined with bookcases. A fire was kept burning constantly in the basement. This and its enclosed flue meant that, even in this very exposed location, the books never got damp.

“I intend to build a Grecian temple in Frideswide’s honor…I intend to build it on the edge of a cliff. It will give employment to the poor, to the district and employment.” The Earl Bishop was clearly heart broken when Frideswide died.

Over the years the erosion of the cliff face at Downhill has brought Mussenden Temple ever closer to the edge, and in 1997 The National Trust carried out cliff stabilization work to prevent the loss of the building.

The inscription around the building reads:

Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis
e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem.

“Tis pleasant, safely to behold from shore
The troubled sailor, and hear the tempests roar.”

Downhill Demesne and the Mussenden Temple, Part 1/4

Downhill Castle was built by the eccentric Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry. The building of this massive structure began in 1772 which continued with the rear courtyards until the early 1790s.

Downhill Demesne, the Mussenden Temple, the grounds encompassing the temple, and its manor house (Downhill Castle) is now a National Trust property and is open to the public all year, from dawn to dusk. I would highly recommend a stop if ever in the area; the grounds and what it holds are beyond beautiful.

In the feudal system, a demesne was all the land which was retained by a lord of the manor for his own use and occupation or support, under his own management, as distinguished from land enfeoffed by him to others as sub-tenants.

The Demesne also includes a dovecote, walled gardens, a belvedere, or summer house, built for the Earl-Bishop’s daughter and a mausoleum dedicated to his brother George, 3rd Earl of Bristol, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Travel along with us as we get closer to the remarkable structures that the property contains.

A Beautiful Morning with the Giant

Dan and I had already experienced so much and this, our third day, did not disappoint. We woke up early and drove to our next area on our must see attractions in Ireland. We parked the car and walked the road down to take in this beautiful site… The Giants Causeway. It was a beautiful morning and we had the area to ourselves. The rock formations and basalt columns in this area were formed over 60 million years ago by volcanic activity. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or even eight sides and tallest columns are roughly 39 ft high. While I know the interlocking columns were formed as the result of ancient volcanic activity, but I prefer the story of legend.

The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes that his foe is much bigger than he is. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn would be unable to chase him down. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa.

We didn’t not have much time to explore as we needed to move on to our next location. We will definitely be back as there is so much more to see and hike. Some of the best-known sights include, but are not limited to, the Harp, the Organ, the Wishing Chair or Throne, the Chimney Stacks, and the Camel, who served as Finn McCool’s horse. Can you spot the Chimney in the background of some of the images?