Back to the Republic

We woke before our alarm, so took our time getting ready to head downstairs for breakfast. We ate in the little sunroom, with the weather appearing fair to middling. Good enough. As a number of the Irish mentioned, as long as it is not raining, it’s good enough. Works for us.

We left the Causeway route after a short bit and headed to the town of Coleraine, mainly due to the fact that they had several banks. When I travel I usually end up with some extra currency, which I stash in separate, labeled bags. Works great to start me, or any traveling family and friends with a little cash when we go back. Before we left home I pulled out euros, pounds and Danish kroner. Several days into travel here in the North I went to pay for coffee and was politely informed that I had outdated currency. Hmmmm. Apparently between now and my last trip to the UK they have changed some of the bills and coins. No problem, I was told. Just take it to a bank and they’ll exchange it for you. Well, I kept forgetting to do that until today. Now I’m current!

We headed back to the Causeway Coastal Route looking for a particular beach Mandy thought would be nice to walk, near Downhill. We no sooner got there when Kevin spotted a GoT sign! She got us on that one, as we had no idea. The good thing was that it was a gorgeous beach, with huge, flat sands, rolling waves and we had it basically to ourselves, at least to begin. We had a pleasant walk-about, admiring the cliffs in the background. I saw a narrow, steep road heading up those cliffs and began to worry that Mandy would want to head up that way. And I was driving. Sure enough, that’s what she proposed, as she’s been our trip navigator. I agreed as long as Kevin would take over the drive up.

He agreed and up we went the Bishop’s Road. Yet another crazy cliff road. Along the way we stopped at Gortmore, to enjoy the view and see the statue of Manannán Mac Lit, the Celtic God of the Sea and the Broighter of Gold. Further along we reached the top through the Binevenagh Forest, there was a lovely little lake, along with some hills leading up to the cliff edge. While driving to the car park we passed a large group of men and women walking out and wondered what they were about. We soon found out when two gentlemen came over to chat. Turned out they were in charge of the UK’s largest search and rescue groups and they were having new volunteers go out on a 5 mile hike to see how they’d manage. They gave us some fascinating insights into their work. We walked out to the cliff edge to enjoy the view. Even with the overcast weather we could see across Lough Foyle over to County Donegal, where we would head next.

We drove on, down the hillside toward the town of Limavady. Mandy mentioned that she saw there was a classic Irish pub where we might want to stop for some refreshment. Sounded good to us. Looked like a quintessential pub, called Owen’s. In we went to a small place where no sooner were we in at the bar when the bartender led us down the hall. Kevin and I were confused until we stopped at an intricately carved door. Aha! The light dawned…. It was the second such door we’ve seen. When a tree from The Dark Hedges came down the wood was saved, made into 10 doors and each one individually carved to represent scenes from the GoT. This one was of the Night King. They are placed in different areas and different establishments near where the scenes were filmed. And they are amazing.

As we were there in a cozy pub around noon, the kids thought having a pint was a good idea. The old designated driver said fine, since I could have a nice latte. We had a wonderful chat with the bartender, the few locals at the bar and the bar owner when he came in. A delightful break.

We drove on, avoiding Londonderry and drove up yet another steep, narrow lane to Grianán Ailigh. We paused to make ourselves some lunch then walked up to see the ruins. Actually, it’s an amphitheater like stone fort that offered fabulous views of the surrounding loughs. It is thought to have existed at least 2,000 years ago, but the current structure is a reconstruction built between 1874-1878.

Once down the hill by way of a crazy, narrow, local lane that wasn’t even named on the map, we headed toward Letterkenny. There we paused to go through the local museum. They had a display on Donegal history and one commemorating 100 years of women in politics here. But my favorite part was the quilt made by a group of locals in tweeds and fleece depicting the Gweedore Sheep War. It was phenomenal.

After that it was onward through the Glenveach National Park and the Derryveagh Mountains. We passed Errigal Mountain and found our way to the hostel for the night. As it was still relatively early the kids decided to head back out and climb the mountain. I decided to stay in and have a nice shower and rest. They returned with great stories, videos and pictures. And I’m happy I chose not to attempt it, no matter the beauty.

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