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Archive for the tag “Inishowen”

Following Bliss

Have you ever stumbled upon a place that, for a reason you can’t quite put your finger on, just feels right, like it’s a place you’ve been missing but you never knew it was missing until you found it? Before we moved to Ireland County Donegal was not really on my radar, even after moving to Dublin I’d never thought to myself ” I need to go to Donegal!” But, one family holiday, I found a beautiful thatched cottage for rent on the Inishowen Peninsula and, upon arrival, I fell in love with the Peninsula; it was wild, rugged, remote, the mountains touched the sea, the beaches stretched for miles, it was full of ancient history, it was perfect and it became a place I returned time and again.

Within this perfect place was the spot I’d been missing and had just never known until I found it, a tiny speck of land called Doagh Island. When my husband was in Iraq I took two holidays by myself, renting a thatched cottage on Doagh Island. I spent hours roaming the beaches of Doagh Island, gathering rocks and shells, and I felt more at peace than anywhere I’d ever been. It’s hard to explain, there are a lot of places that make me happy, Doagh Island brought me beyond that, it brought me to bliss.

When we went back to Ireland this past April and May we spent our first week in Inishowen and I, again, spent hours wandering the beaches of Doagh Island. In this perfect, blissful spot, is a beach called Pollan Bay–it is the heart of my bliss. I don’t know why, it isn’t any prettier than any of the the other beaches, it just is, and I’ve stopped trying to figure out why, I just accept it and feel blessed that I’ve found my spot.

Our last morning in Inishowen was spent wandering Pollan Bay, my family knows how I feel about that beach and they always indulge my “just one more visit” mantra. It was very cold, very windy, completely silent except for the sound of the waves crashing on the sand, and I walked the beach one last time with tears in my eyes. I know I will always return but that doesn’t make it an easy place to leave– the one downside of finding “the spot” is that you know what is missing when you’re not there. I leaned into the wind with my full weight, held my arms out, and closed my eyes. I stood like that for a good minute or so, letting the wind hold me up, letting it roar against my face and dry my tears, knowing the one thing I can do is hold the way I felt in that moment with me until I returned. I will always return, it isn’t an option not to go back.

I have a hard time putting how I feel about that spot into words, it seems easier to do in pictures and some of my favorite quotes …

"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls." Joseph Campbell The road that leads to Pollan Bay, my bliss

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell
The road that leads to Pollan Bay, my bliss

"Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old." Franz Kafka My boys exploring Pollan Bay

“”Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.” James Joyce
My boys exploring Pollan Bay

 

 

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order." John Burroughs Pollan Bay

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” John Burroughs
Pollan Bay

"I believe in God, only I spell it nature." Frank Lloyd Wright Sunset over Pollan Bay

“I believe in God, only I spell it nature.” Frank Lloyd Wright
Sunset over Pollan Bay

 

"Do not feed children on a maudlin sentimentalism or dogmatic religion; give them nature. Let their souls drink in all that is pure and sweet ... They will absorb it as a plant absorbs the sunshine and the dew." Luther Burbank My kids absorbing the sunset over Pollan Bay

“Do not feed children on a maudlin sentimentalism or dogmatic religion; give them nature. Let their souls drink in all that is pure and sweet … They will absorb it as a plant absorbs the sunshine and the dew.” Luther Burbank
My kids absorbing the sunset over Pollan Bay

 

 

So that is my little spot of heaven on earth, the place I was missing and didn’t know I was missing until I found it. I wandered onto that beach, by chance or fate, one afternoon a handful of years ago and something inside of me clicked on, as if to say “look, you’ve found it, finally!” I remind myself that even when I’m not in my spot, my spot is always there, always gorgeous, always wild and untamed, waiting for me to return.

 

 

 

 

 

Cottages of Donegal, Ireland

Some of my favorite memories from Ireland were made in traditional cottages in Donegal. From the first time we stayed in a traditional cottage I was smitten–their charm, their traditional beauty, their history, I was completely enamored. In all I stayed in three cottages on five different holidays, all of them I recommend with a loud and hearty “YES! GO THERE!” I found them on a fabulous website called Donegal Cottage Holidays where you can search for cottages based on location, size, cost, and other important factors. Without exception the landlords were warm, welcoming, and helpful without being at all intrusive. One of the cottages where we stayed, Miller’s Cottage in gorgeous Ramelton, was originally built for the family of the miller and was around three hundred years old. In an unbelievable move that can only be classified as “DOH!” I forgot my camera for that trip, I still can’t believe it. It’s no longer available for rent but there are some other adorable cottages in Ramelton, which is a sweet, tiny village with very friendly people. If you go make sure you check out McDaid’s Wine Bar and Conway’s Bar, both define Irish village charm.

Cloverfield Cottage is a cottage I went to twice, each visit for a week at a time. I took my “alone” holidays when my husband was in Iraq, they were crucial for recharging my batteries. I dropped the kids with my folks who were living in Belfast and went off on my own, the kids got spoiled by grandma and grandpa and I got to do all the stuff I can’t do when the kids are around–sleep in, take long, quiet walks, drink wine with lunch, eat Doritos for dinner, that kind of stuff. After dropping the kids off I would stop at Marks & Spencers (M & S), buy all my favorite foods, including pre-made dinners I only had to heat up, pile back in the car and head off to paradise, this cottage:

                                 Charming Cloverfield Cottage

This cottage was perfect for me, just enough space for me to relax and remote enough that I could gather my thoughts and enjoy the solitude. Sitting in front of a living room window of the cottage, watching the sunrise over Trawbreaga Bay while sipping tea was lovely, especially since I could climb back into the warmth of my bed and drift off to sleep before waking up and taking a stroll along the road that led to some of the beaches on Doagh Island (not actually an island, though it was a very long time ago). I got to pass by friendly horses who would always come over for nose tickles

I soaked in views like this one

Overlooking Trawbreaga Bay

I stopped off at one of my favorite patches of earth anywhere, this little alcove under the hills and along the bay, where I never saw another person

Continuing on, past a few farms, I stopped off at the local ruined castle

Carrickabraghy Castle

 

I always ended up at what I think of as my favorite beach anywhere. I spent hours on this beach, both with my family on other holidays and alone. There is something about it that I found peaceful and restorative, I would stroll from one end to the next collecting shells and rocks, trying to find new ways to implant it in my memory so every time I closed my eyes and thought of it I could hear its surf, feel the spray on my face, feel the sand crunching under my wellies, and remember how good I felt standing on that beach.

 

Then I would sigh and turn back towards the cottage and the serene beauty of Trawbreaga Bay

 

 

Grace’s Cottage, which is over one hundred years old and has been lovingly restored

 

 

This cottage is the perfect place for a family, in part because it has an addition that provides a lot of extra space so it has three bedrooms and three full baths. One of our favorite things about it is the big, traditional fireplace and an unending supply of turf.

Another favorite thing of ours about traditional cottages in general are the beautiful, deep windowsills

 

On our first trip to Grace’s Cottage we took full advantage of the sites that were close by. We went to a ton of fun places, including Grianan Ailligh, a ring fort from the Neolithic period; Fort Dunree (in English it is Fort of the Heather, which I particularly like); Doe Castle, built in the early sixteenth century; Inishowen Museum and Planetarium; Doagh Famine Village, which teaches visitors about the Great Hunger in Ireland as well as about Travelers and the Civil War in the North; and Donegal Friary, founded in 1474. We also hiked through Swan Park, which is not only gorgeous but has quite a lot of historical significance as it holds the spot where Theobald Wolfe Tone, leader of the United Irishmen, was arrested in 1798.

We spent an enjoyable, and mostly dry, day in lovely Glenveagh National Park, 16,000 hectares of beauty nestled in the Derryveagh Mountains

 

We explored Donegal Town and got to step back in time by touring Donegal Castle, which dates back to the 15th century and was built by the O’Donnell Clan Chieftain

The kids playing in one of the massive fireplaces of the castle

 

We also explored another castle, Greencastle Castle, which has not stood the test of time as well as Donegal Castle but is lovely in its own way

Then, of course, there were the beaches. Our favorite family beach is Five Fingers Strand

 

 

Inishowen, Donegal pretty much defines “perfection” for me!

 

 

 

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