The Wild Atlantic North West Part Two

The Wild Atlantic North West Part Two

Co. Donegal

Gartahork rests at the head of Ballyness Bay and Dunfanaghy looks across tidal flats to Sheephaven. The area abounds in hearty sheep that thrive on course grazing and is home to numerous herding competitions. Almost every weekend during the summer, trainers and their prize border collies gather to show off their skills. Dunfanaghy begins its annual summer festival the last Sunday in July with just such an event.

While in Dunfanaghy, Gaelic for fort of the fair haired warrior, the drive out to Horn Head is not to be missed. It's possibly even more dramatic than Maghery, if less heart stopping because there are a few more wide places in the single lane road. From the parking area where the summit road ends, a rocky path leads up a moderately steep slope to a thoughtfully placed shelter, just enough protection for sometimes fierce winds off the Atlantic and for comfortable viewing and photography of an almost 270 degree seascape that sprawls from Tory Island in the West across Sheephaven Bay to the headlands of Rosquil in the east and beyond.

From this shelter, which has a small fireplace, hikers venture down a steep path into a glen that leads to the 150 feet high cliffs that are the Horn itself. In early fall and late spring, a turf fire and thermos of hot tea will be most welcomed back at the shelter. The drive out to the summit and back can be done in an hour. For hiking all the way to Horn Head, plan on 5 to 6 hours. The terrain is suitable for families with children.

To complete this unforgettable experience of the Irish North Atlantic Coast, get back on N56 and go east to Portnablagh then south to Creeslough. Just past Creeslough, take R245, the 11km to Carrickart then R248 North to Downies. Signs will direct you to Atlantic Drive and will advise that a clockwise direction is best to tour the Rosquil Peninsula. You'll meet less oncoming traffic and be grateful. From this aptly named roadway you'll look across the narrows of Mulroy Bay to the more remote and isolated Fanad Peninsula. You'll have to return to Carrikcart and follow Mulroy Bay all the way south to Milford in order to explore Fanad. But the short journey is well worth it. R246 will take you north again to Carrowkeel and Portsalon. From there, an unmarked coast road will take you to Fanad Head and the lighthouse that marks the wide entry to Ballymaster Bay and Lough Swilly. Return to Carrowkeel via the Mulroy Bay Coast Road for another of those wild and wonderful, sometimes heartstopping, absolutely eyepopping, touring experiences.

All along this extensive coast, B&Bs are numerous as are adverts for self catering units and holiday homes. By the end of the week (you can't do it in much less), you'll be ready to stay in one place for a while and will know just where you'd like to do it.


Written by Joy Davis - Summer of Travel 2007

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