DONEGAL AND THE CAUSEWAY COAST (Horn Head, one of Ireland’s Best Beaches and Fanad Head Lighthouse)

Day 3: Horn Head Walk

Pleasant breakfast next morning, fruit and cereal and toast then off I set to Horn Head, a short scenic drive from Dunfanaghy.

It’s a wonderful area of steep cliffs and big ocean. The start of the walk was a bog fest, but coming from Scotland, I’m used to that. The track soon improved and it was a fine easy hike out to Horn Head itself. Great coastal and cliff scenery all around.

Really well worth the couple of hours I spent here. Met about half a dozen people all in.I’d say the cliffs were as impressive as Slieve League but quieter and with more impressive, wider coastal views; you really could see a long way up and down the coast. Then finished off by driving the Horn Head loop and had another wander down a little track to get a better view of the cliffs.

Back to Dunfanaghy and I never like missing a good cafe, so into Muck and Muffins for tea and a scone.Very nice little place.

Quite an area altogether but now it was off towards Tra Na Rossan beach and what turned out to be  – along with Sheskinmore Nature Reserve – one of the loveliest unspoilt areas I’ve yet seen in Ireland. Firstly,  through the very busy resort of Downings (huge caravan parks) which I was glad to leave behind. Then a great scenic drive round the quiet coast and a wow moment as the beach itself came into view.

No caravan parks in sight thankfully, to spoil a beautiful area. A short walk from the car park led to the really gorgeous sands. I made for the far headland and walked out as far as I could above the craggy coastline. It was a stunning area, hardly a soul out where I was, just wild flowers- harebells and heather  – and the big turquoise bay with views to Horn Head itself. Socks and shoes off on the way back, to enjoy a paddle through the clean,  clear cold water.

I’d quite fancied the hostel that sat behind the beach but it didn’t work it with travel that day.Maybe another time.The views from the low hills round here must be superb.

Stopped for lunch after this at a brilliant wee pub ‘The Singing Pub’ in Clontallagh just beyond Tramarossan bay. Sat outside and had fantastic cocktail crab claws in a beautifully dressed salad. Excellent.Very quaint looking place, maybe a bit touristy looking but very attractive.

The weather was looking threatening but I was keen to visit Fanad Head Lighthouse, about 30 mis drive away. It was a short walk from the car park but the heavens opened big style. Like a numpty, I forgot to put my waterproof trousers on, so I was soon drenched from the hips down. Yet the low dark clouds made the whole area look very ominous and wild – it really is a fantastic spot even in the rain.

Having got the shots I wanted, I raced back to the car.One of the staff took pity on the lone nutcase braving the elements and looking like a drowned rat and waved me to come into the office until the worst of the rain eased off. It really was now bouncing off the tarmac, which – on the downhill section – felt like walking on an ice rink. Had to change trousers and underwear and socks in the café toilets, I was soaked through.

Nice drive to Port Salon, with some great views across to Inishowen and the mountains. Stopped for a wander at Ballymastocker beach, orangey sand in a fine location but a bit busy for me and not to me as charming as where I’d been. Very lovely though, these Donegal beaches and kept very clean.

I didn’t have too long to wait for the Lough Skilly ferry which took me over to Buncrana, saving a bit of a drive round the peninsula. Had a great chat with an elderly , local chap and his wife heading over to Malin Head. In fact, you need never be lonely in Ireland as – and Scotland is the same – someone is always ready to strike up a conversation about where you are going etc. It’s a lovely aspect of both countries.

My trusty wee red hire car

Aras Owen Hostel

I’d made a quick booking in Aras Owen hostel near pretty Ballyliffin village, well placed for travelling out to Malin Head next day. A good decision because it was very cheap, didn’t look much from the outside yet it was a real gem of a place. I was now in the beautifully named Inishowen Peninsula (Eoghan or Owen’s Island).

Set in well kept gardens, it had a lovely library with a stove , a big windowed dining area and two tidy, well stocked kitchens. Very quiet with only one family staying and a chatty hostel manager, who reminded me of an ex  – priest for some reason.Nice big room, all to myself and clean showers.

Robert insisted on making us both a pot of tea when I arrived and we had quite a chat.He was elderly and seemed fascinated (rather too much I thought) that I was on my own. It finally got a bit wearing and I was glad of the excuse to part company and make some food as I really was starving.

I’d stocked up in Buncrana so got some pan fried spicy chicken and peppers on the go, with a green salad and avocado. It was great to finally relax with a glass of fizzy wine, look over the photographs I’d taken of today’s fine sights and plan tomorrow.

Next Day:DONEGAL AND THE CAUSEWAY COAST (Malin Head, Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge and the Giant’s Causeway)

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