5 Things You Can’t Leave Northern Ireland Without Doing
Things To Do In Northern Ireland
Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap darn I need to put that pencil down. I can’t think of a single thing my mind is filled with dreams. I have to finish my packing list or empty the laundry that has cascaded down the basket. I again pick up my pencil only to start tapping it on my lips. Grr? Why, can’t I concentrate? Focus I tell myself. Who could focus on work when you know in just a few days you will leave for what could be the best trip of your life?
Donegal is the coolest place on the planet according to National Geographic Travellers ‘The Cool List 2017’. It was also voted ‘Ireland’s Hidden Gem’ by Independent Travel readers. It is no wonder I can’t get anything done on my list other than googling things to do in Northern Ireland. It seems the more I try to stay on task the quicker my hands move over the keys. I type things like where to sleep in Donegal?
What are the best hotels in Donegal?
Then I type what are the best restaurants in Ireland?
I practice saying it Donegal DUN-i-gawl in my best Irish voice which is hardly something I would use if I was trying to make friends. I was so excited to travel to Donegal so I put my pencil away since clearly it was impeding my list creation capabilities and I began to type.
Packing list for Ireland
- Passport with a pretty passport cover so you can find it in your purse
- Camera this is the Panasonic Lumix mirrorless camera I travel with, it is light and takes amazing images and video in the dark and light
- Raincoat this is the one I have and love it Columbia raincoat
- Waterproof shoes I have these Merrel for hiking and for boating
- Layer of clothing and I always bring my Under armor cold gear if it is going to be chilly.
- Pants that have a drawstring (I didn’t pack these but after my trip, I realize you need them. You can see what I ate in Ireland and What I thought were the best restaurants in Ireland.
- Bathing Suit read my post and find out why I needed that
- A water bottle that keeps your water cold or your liquid hot! I just never leave home without my bottle it keeps my tea hot
- Something to feed the sheep so they would move out of the road (kidding well maybe)
I packed my bag which was large compared to my travel companions which subsequently made fun of my robust bag. I, however, didn’t have to wash my clothes in the sink so there was that obvious advantage to the mega suitcase. I did, however, over pack and I am not sure why I thought I would need heels in Ireland but I packed them and fancy flats. Ireland is many things but it isn’t the place for fancy walking shoes it is both chilly and wet. I had to get rid of quite a few items to meet my weight limit for the ride home. I blame it on the need to buy Irish chocolate, woven goods, jewelry and Gaelic football jerseys.
These are my favorite for any trip! I can’t live without my packing cubes!
I was packed and ready to go to Ireland. I think I spent my whole life waiting to go to Ireland. I am not sure when it appeared on my bucket list because it had been there for so long I do not remember a list without it. I have always been drawn to the Irish people I had met in America and the images of the countryside with mountains that kiss the sky and greens lands that dip into the ocean.
I know that my experience in Donegal will be like no other as soon as, I met our guides for our adventure on the Wild Atlantic Way. I would like to take a moment to thank Antoinette and Conner and our driver Danny Jo for helping make my adventure in Ireland one I will not forget. If you are looking for the best guide ever I would suggest Conor firstname.lastname@example.org you can tell him Amee from Real Advice Gal sent you. I am sure he will help you out!
I bet you are wondering why I needed a bathing suit? I mean I was going to Ireland not an Island in the Pacific. I will have you know I am a woman on a mission to try new things. You never know until you try and I will try new things until my last breath. I was given the opportunity to surf. Yes, surf on Rossnowlagh Beach, Donegal. Like on a board in the middle of the ocean. I have never surfed but the folks at Finn McCool surf school helped me.
In Ireland, they have a phrase ABC or Another Bloody Castle. I for one could look at castles all day long. I am fascinated by them. The Donegal Castle was originally built in 1474 by Hugh O’Donnell, chief of the O’Donnell clan, Donegal Castle was among the most impressive castles in the country. we crawled around in the back stairways only to find the potty. I highly suggest this tour.
Ireland is rich in history and one of the things I enjoyed most was the walking tours. It allowed me to understand what we were looking at. We visited the Old Abbey, the Railway Heritage Centre and the Pier.
One of my favorite parts of my trip was going to the Reel Inn, recently voted the ‘Best Pub in Ireland’ at the Irish Hospitality Awards. It was just charming the owners sang to us. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Please, excuse the shaking of the hands. Listen to her sing it is incredible!
Then we headed to Donegal Gaeltacht. I felt myself looking at the window not wanting to miss a single thing. It is so peaceful in Ireland. I imagine it looks pretty close to what it was 100 years ago in some places. We had the pleasure of seeing a weaver create the most beautiful textiles each area has its very own pattern. Cyndi Graham Handweaving at scenic St. John’s Point works in a 17th century thatched cottage, overlooking Donegal Bay.
Northern Ireland County didn’t disappoint as we journeyed onwards towards Ireland’s Ultimate Sea Cliff experience at Sliabh Liag, the Cliffs near Teelin, are said to be the highest and finest marine cliffs in Europe with a 600m drop into the Atlantic Ocean that creates a breathtaking and unique view. I will admit I am not a fan of heights but the breathtaking views made me push my fear aside as I climbed the mountain. I imagine everything you do when you are close to the heavens. I breathed in the fresh air and let the wind touch my face as I just lived in the moment. I knew this was the place where dreams had landed.
We then traveled to Glencolmcille Folk Village. The Folk Village Museum is a cluster of several small cottages, called a ‘clachan’, perched on a hillside overlooking the sandy curve of Glen Bay Beach in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) of South West Donegal. The Folk Village is one of Ireland’s best living-history museums. This is the Gaeltacht so expect to hear a ‘cúpla focal as Gaelige’ word or two of Irish. We had a great time making crafts and hearing tales in an authentic setting. It was a place I would suggest traveling. It left you with an understanding of the ways of the Irish.
Just across the road from Glencolmcille Folk Village, you can view a stunning 15-foot map of Ireland with each county carved in local stone. Clocha na hÉireann is a collaborative 1916 commemoration work between stone masons from every corner of Ireland. They each used stone native to their county to produce a magnificent carving that represented an aspect of their cultural identity.
When then drove over the Glengesh Pass which is 900 feet above sea level (known as Glen of the Swans). The Glengesh Pass is a glacial valley and provides a stunning photo opportunity at the Glengesh Pass viewing point. This is the valley that connects Glencolmcille to Ardara. Journey through Irish farmland and desolate moors passed thatched cottages. In this tranquil setting, you will feel like you have stepped back in time to the Ireland of long ago.
Burtonport towards Arranmore Island
Burtonport is another important historic fishing port in Donegal. We got onboard the Elsie Jayne with local skipper Jim Muldowney from Arranmore Island. The boat ride was filled with history and fun facts the scenery was only eclipsed by the heart-stopping journey in-between to rock creations. The Dive Arranmore tours are ones you should miss.
Who could forget being at the at Errigal Mountain? Errigal is a 751-metre mountain near Gweedore in County Donegal, Ireland very popular with walkers who hike to the summit. Errigal Mountain is the highest peak of the Derryveagh Mountains and the tallest mountain in County Donegal. It is like a painting that draws your eyes to the valley and beyond.
We arrived at ABC. I am just kidding. We arrived at Glenveagh, Donegal’s National Park, Castle. Glenveagh Castle is a 19th-century castellated mansion and was built between 1867 and 1873. Its construction in a remote mountain setting was inspired by the Victorian idyll of a romantic highland retreat. There is much history that fills the rooms of this castle the lands that it sits upon offer luscious gardens and indisputably gorgeous hikes leave no doubt that seeing the beautiful castle set against the park is worth the uphill climb.
We travel to Letterkenny, the largest town in Donegal and gateway to the North West voted Tidiest Town in Ireland 2015. It was stunning and everything I would want if I decided to move to Ireland.
We can not forget that Ireland is composed of small business owners. It was my pleasure to learn about the beer brewing industry at the Kinnegar Brewery. At Kinnegar they pair the brewing tradition with a contemporary sense of adventure to produce clean, crisp, full-flavored farmhouse beers. The brewery is named after the nearby Kinnegar Beach just north of Rathmullan in Donegal. I could tell that their brew was good by the way that my travel companions only put down there glass long enough for another pour.
When you are in Ireland you must realize there is a combination of the new and the old. There is a place that is steeped in tradition and people who are creating a new tradition. We visited the Stone Fort of Grianán of Aileach which sits on a hilltop in Inishowen County Donegal. 250m above sea level, the view from Aileach are incredible.
When you have traveled so far and seen so many castles there is really only one thing to do. That is to see more of Ireland on horseback. We had the pleasure of riding horses on the beach. The family that runs the Tullagh Bay Equestrian Centre made my trip a trip of a lifetime. You see each day, each moment, and each person changes us. It was one moment in time that makes me smile weeks later. The smile may be from my petite friend Paula riding the biggest horse I have ever seen. I have to hand it to her.
Watch my Northern Ireland Video to see more of my pictures.
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