Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

The wind, the whiskey and the Wild Atlantic Way

The wind, the whiskey and the Wild Atlantic Way

Old Sep 7th, 2023, 08:51 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 10,233
Likes: 0
Received 3 Likes on 1 Post
Wonderful companion piece to AlessandraZoe's recent report! Thanks.
Fra_Diavolo is offline  
Old Sep 7th, 2023, 01:09 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,381
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, chepar and Fra_Diavolo!

County Donegal, part 3

Our other excursion from Donegal town went slightly north of where we were the day before. We took the narrow little road (no number that I can find on the map) that runs along the coast on the south side of Loughros Bay – first to Assaranca Waterfall, which we had to ourselves, and then on to Maghera Beach (small fee to park). At low tide (which it wasn’t quite when we were there), you can walk out to the Maghera caves. This was a nice scenic drive with very little traffic.

This was fairly common in our drives...

Assaranca waterfall all to ourselves

Through the dunes on the walk out to Maghera Beach

At low tide, you can walk to the caves

Our next destination was the Kilclooney dolmen – dating from about 3500 BC and thought to be one of the best examples of a portal tomb in Ireland. Our rough information said to park at the Dolmen Center in Kilclooney, cross the street, and then take the path to the left of the church. OK! It started to sprinkle as we got out of the car, so we grabbed our raincoats. Of course, it was very windy. We found the path easily enough. Soon, we had to go through a gate into what appeared to be someone’s yard, and then another gate, and then climb a ladder over a barbed wire fence into a pasture. But there was still a path – although no dolmen in site. We kept going. Through another gate or two. Finally, we saw the dolmen ahead. We were about half way there. The rain picked up, and we were starting to get quite wet. “In for a penny, in for a pound” we said. Through another gate and over another fence and past some mules. It was now quite muddy and we had to get across a drainage ditch. I wasn’t wearing the water-repellant hiking shoes I dragged all the way to Ireland. This was a bit vile. But we made it. The dolmen was a nice shelter for a bit, until the rain subsided and we could start back to the car.

The Kilclooney Dolmen - 3500 BC

The gatekeepers

With rain expected the rest of the afternoon, we detoured to the town of Glenties (another “tidy town”), where the warm roast of the day at Thatch Bar & Restaurant hit the spot for lunch.

Up next: On to Northern Ireland
ms_go is online now  
Old Sep 7th, 2023, 04:20 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,381
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Northern Ireland: Derry

There are no formalities, but two things we noticed immediately upon crossing from Ireland into Northern Ireland:

Union flags flying on homes and posts all along the road.

Significantly different speed limits. Why do they drive slower here, we wondered? Then we realized the challenge of driving an Irish car in Northern Ireland. The speed limits are now in miles per hour (as per UK), while the speedometer is in kilometers per hour (and our car only had KPH, not dual). We actually had to do math to drive here! Or find an app to convert.

Derry was a stopping point on our trip north to the Antrim Coast. It has a completely walled old city – one of few in Europe. The walls date to the early 1600s. You are able to walk all the way around, getting on and off at points of interest. We did that in our short time – visiting St. Columb’s Cathedral (one of Britain’s first post-Reformation churches) and St. Augustine’s (a “wee church” with nice gardens on the site of St. Columba’s first abbey, 546 AD).

The popular Derry Girls mural, from the wall

Along the wall

St. Columb's Cathedral

Derry from the wall

St. Augustine's

Derry was also a flash point for The Troubles – the conflict is considered to have started here in the late 1960s. We would learn much more about the conflict (which is still very much a thing) two days later in Belfast, but today we visited various sites in the Bogside neighborhood, just outside the walls, which stand as reminders and memorials.

Finally, a walk on the Peace Bridge, opened in 2011.

We enjoyed our short stop and wish we had more time to spend in Derry.

For those on a quick visit as we were, there is a large, convenient car park adjacent to the Foyleside Shopping Center. Yes, I was nervous about driving into this city as well, but GPS did a great job of getting us in and out.

Next: probably the most memorable experience of our trip.
ms_go is online now  
Old Sep 7th, 2023, 04:48 PM
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 4,267
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Wow! Your report and photos from Derry, Northern Ireland is so interesting. I haven't read anyone's report about Northern Ireland. The murals are amazing. I assume the mural labeled "Innocent" are of people killed during the Troubles. How many nights did you spend in Northern Ireland?
KarenWoo is offline  
Old Sep 7th, 2023, 05:18 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,381
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by KarenWoo
Wow! Your report and photos from Derry, Northern Ireland is so interesting. I haven't read anyone's report about Northern Ireland. The murals are amazing. I assume the mural labeled "Innocent" are of people killed during the Troubles. How many nights did you spend in Northern Ireland?
The murals are very moving (more to come from Belfast). The "Innocent" mural commemorates the Bloody Sunday massacre (Jan 1972). We unfortunately only had four days and three nights. Not enough...

Northern Ireland: The Giant’s Causeway

A couple of weeks before our trip, we changed our accommodation from a hotel in Bushmills to the Causeway Hotel, a National Trust property right at the Giant's Causeway. While it's a little more expensive, it has unrestricted access (and included parking). We set our alarm for 6:30 am, fixed a quick cup of Nespresso and then hoofed it down the path – and WE HAD THIS ENTIRE MAGNIFICENT SITE ALL TO OURSELVES, before the visitor center opened to the public. We also went after closing time the evening before for some great golden hour color. There were still plenty of people around then, but nothing like the hundreds or thousands who are crawling all over it during the daytime. Amazing!

The walk from the hotel/visitor center to the rocks takes about 15 minutes (this is the evening visit)

Evening visit

Evening visit

Evening visit

Morning visit

Morning visit

Morning visit

Morning visit

Oh, and our hotel room had a patio with sea view

ms_go is online now  
Old Sep 7th, 2023, 06:33 PM
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 3,154
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Still really enjoying your trip. I really like the idea of staying at a hotel on the Giants Causeway. Loving all of the photos.
Paqngo is offline  
Old Sep 7th, 2023, 07:20 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,381
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, Paqngo. I'm enjoying reliving it. Better than working...

Northern Ireland: The Antrim Coast

This was the last part of our journey along the Wild Atlantic Way. I’d read that the Antrim coast is extraordinarily beautiful, and those reports aren’t wrong. We spent about four hours driving from the Bushmills area to Belfast, with stops at Dunluce Castle and ruins of the 13th Century Franciscan Layd Church near Cushendall. At the church, there is also a nice one-hour out-and-back coastal path. We were the only people there.

Dunluce Castle - there were tour buses and lots of cars out front, but it didn't seem all that busy

I didn't watch much of Game of Thrones, but this was the inspiration for one setting that was a castle with two parts separated by a bridge over a deep divide

Coast from Dunluce Castle

Antrim Coast

Ruins at the 13th C Layd Church near Cushendall

Ruins at the 13th C Layd Church near Cushendall

Cushendall coastal walking path

Oh, and this area is where the whiskey comes in. We toured the Bushmills Distillery. I actually booked this tour a couple of months in advance. The tour groups are small, and I wanted to get the last slot of the day, given that we were coming from Donegal via Derry. The tour was fun, and it ended with samples – not just of the ordinary stuff but the good stuff (10- and 12-year). The distillery is huge, and there’s a brand-new facility just coming on line. Photos not allowed in the production areas, but here are a few.

Flavor profiles

Samples - 10-year and 12-year

Lastly, I should make note of the Notre Dame-Navy game that was taking place in Dublin in a few days later (the day we flew home). We had no idea that was happening until we started seeing Fighting Irish swag early in our trip. Notre Dame drew 40,000 people to Ireland for the game, and they were everywhere, including our tour of Bushmills. When we were at Dunluce Castle, there was a couple with two young adult sons in ND gear who asked us to take a photo of them. That led to a bit of a conversation. “Where are you from?” “The Chicago area.” “Oh, so are we! Where abouts?” Turns out, they live in our suburb, about two miles from us. Small world!

ms_go is online now  
Old Sep 8th, 2023, 01:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 3,682
Received 19 Likes on 4 Posts
It’s been wet and windy here, so I settled in to read a trip report.

I imagine the wet and windy you experienced there was next level, though.

So enjoying this, and wonderful photography.

Adelaidean is online now  
Old Sep 8th, 2023, 04:53 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,381
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, Adelaidean. I can't complain too much about the rain. We had one day where it was pretty wet for a few hours. There were other intermittent rain showers, but for the most part those really didn't deter us from doing what we wanted. The wind, however, was next level at times. I meant to mention above - we had virtually no wind when we were at the Giant's Causeway - another good thing about that experience.

Last edited by ms_go; Sep 8th, 2023 at 05:01 AM.
ms_go is online now  
Old Sep 8th, 2023, 05:06 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 11,650
Likes: 0
Received 7 Likes on 1 Post
Love seeing all your photos again!
yestravel is offline  
Old Sep 8th, 2023, 06:09 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,381
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by yestravel
Love seeing all your photos again!
I think there are more here than I put on FB because I'm going through them on my computer - where I can actually see them better!

Northern Ireland: Belfast

This is the hardest part of the report. As children/early teens in the 1970s, we saw news about the violence and tragedies in Northern Ireland – but we haven’t heard so much about the area since the peace accord in 1998. Here, we learned and saw that tensions are still present. Like many visitors to Belfast, we took a private tour (roughly two hours) of the murals and sites with a driver who grew up in and has lived through “The Troubles,” past and present. The tour covered both sides of the conflict. This was an eye-opening experience. We did not know there is still a peace wall, 50 feet high in some places, dividing neighborhoods – and that the gates still close at night. As our guide said, calling it “The Troubles” is glossing over the reality. I don’t have a lot of photos, and the ones I do have aren’t great – but the images and stories will stick with us.

Many of the murals are remembrances of people and events

The peace wall is at the far right. The metal fixtures in the backs of the houses were to deflect Molotov cocktails thrown over the wall

The Bobby Sands mural is the most famous one

We went from one tragedy to another – the Titanic Museum. The Titanic was built in Belfast, and “new” museum opened in 2012. We hadn’t made plans to visit, but literally everyone we talked to in our first week in Ireland asked us if we were going when we mentioned we’d be in Belfast. So, a few days before, we bought tickets online. We thought the museum was very well done. We’ve seen documentaries (and the movie of course) and knew of details about the sinking and some of the personal stories. The history of the shipbuilding industry in Belfast was new. And looking out the window and seeing the outline of where the ship was as it was built – and then walking around that later – was interesting.

SS Nomadic, Titanic's tender

Titanic Museum

When in the city center, you’d never know of the history just a mile or two away. There’s a colorful, trendy restaurant and bar scene downtown. We had very good meals at 2 Taps (Spanish) and Dumpling Library (Asian).

The Big Fish on the riverfront

River Lagan

Pedestrian bridge across the River Lagan

The Duke of York (and surrounding bars) is a popular evening destination

Belfast City Hall

Harbor on the River Lagan

There was a lot to like about our accommodation – Edward St. Apartments (via booking dot com). We had a lot of space, a washer/dryer, and free parking in a good location (St. Anne’s Square garage).
ms_go is online now  
Old Sep 8th, 2023, 07:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 7,311
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
'There are only 7 types of rain...'
LOL! Love it!
I am done. the murals
zebec is offline  
Old Sep 8th, 2023, 11:04 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,381
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
zebec, fortunately we didn't experience any of the 7 types of rain in Belfast. It was very nice there!

One last day

As mentioned earlier, we originally planned to depart from Belfast but had to change our return to Dublin when Aer Lingus discontinued service to Belfast. That ended up working out – as it gave us a chance to visit the Brú na Bóinne prehistoric site.

But first… We had to turn in the keys to our apartment by 10 am, which means we had five hours to kill before arriving at Brú na Bóinne. The direct drive is about 90 minutes. We plotted a route with some scenic drives and possible places to stop, depending on what we felt like at the time.

Our first stop ended up being Castle Ward, a sprawling estate in County Down with gardens and a quirky 18thCentury manor house. The couple who built it had different ideas about the décor – he wanted classical and she wanted gothic. So, half of the house is one way and half the other. Some areas of the estate were apparently used for filming GOT, so that is a draw for some.

Castle Ward: sunken garden

Castle Ward: his study, the book collection here is notable

Her dining parlor, described in the signage as like "eating under the udders of a cow"

In one of the rooms, boxing squirrels (courtesy of some taxidermist)

I'm sure this was somehow featured in Game of Thrones

We stopped for lunch in the town of Downpatrick, at Denvir’s Coaching Inn, the oldest coaching inn still operating as such (established in 1642). Downpatrick looked like an interesting town, with a museum in the old jail and history associated with St. Patrick. We would have liked to checked out some of this, but it was now raining and we had to be at Newgrange by 3 pm.

Brú na Bóinne is the site of three prominent neolithic (5200 years old) passage tombs: Knowth, Dowth, and Newgrange (the best known). Access is by tour only. Tickets go on sale one month out. Tour slots are capped at about 25 people, and some sell out right away. The visit starts with exhibitions in the visitor center, then a bus takes the group out to the tombs. The first stop is Knowth, where we spent an hour or so, most with a guide and some free time. There’s a platform for walking on top of the tomb, but you can’t go inside this one. Then, we were bused to Newgrange, where we did get to go inside in smaller groups. No photos allowed inside. It was a little like going into the pyramids in Egypt, which we did earlier this year – except this is older. There was that moment when the guide turned out the lights to talk to us about how the entrance passage is aligned with the rising sun at winter solstice. In all, we were at the site for three hours – some of it bright and sunny and some of it with a brief thunderstorm (fortunately while we were inside).

Knowth and some of its satellite tombs

Most of the rocks around Knowth have carvings, but they don't really know what these mean

One of the satellite tombs of Knowth


Newgrange from the backside (but this is mostly about the sky)

Very few of the rocks at Newgrange have carvings

And that’s pretty much a wrap for our trip. From Newgrange, it was an hour to the Dublin airport, part of that in the aforementioned thunderstorm. We bid farewell to our trusty Dacia Sandero, which took good care of us (and we of it, aside from a few light scratches from roadside shrubbery). We spent our last night at the Radisson Blu at the airport, since we had a 9 am departure. It was nice to go through US customs and immigration preclearance in Dublin and not have to mess with the arrival hall, Airtrain, and security at Newark.
ms_go is online now  
Old Sep 15th, 2023, 05:20 AM
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 16
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Terrific report! Visited Newgrange when the site reopened after Covid but sadly, you still couldn’t go inside.Will just have to return.
Scotlandmac is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Apr 1st, 2018 08:36 AM
United States
Dec 1st, 2012 09:49 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -