A drizzly start when I left the excellent Sheep Island View hostel near Ballintoy.A 20 minute drive on winding but virtually deserted roads took me to the car park adjacent to the Dark Hedges Hotel. I’d spent a lot of time making sure I got the directions right, because I’d read of people getting lost in this area.Easy to do.
A 5 minute walk through a wooded area took me to the really quite sensational Dark Hedges road, now closed to tourist traffic. It’s a short road arched with beech trees which create an other-worldly atmosphere difficult to describe.It really was one of the highlights of the whole week – unexpectedly so.I got there at the back of 8am so there was only one other person wandering around; no crowds to spoil it all.(I think local traffic must still use it as a white van came hurtling past at one point, unless he was just being cheeky.)
With a late afternoon flight, I wasn’t under any time pressure as Derry airport was only about 75 mins drive away.
The rain had started again after a brief respite and I’d thought to stop off at one or two of the ruined castles on the coast but by the time I drove back there it was pelting down.So headed on west to find a good tea and cake stop.It took a while until I finally stopped in Bridgend and the excellent Gap Coffee Company; good tea and a fine scone. This was very near my next objective – the Ring Fort of Grianan Aileach(1700 BC). I was now back in County Donegal again.
It was a drive uphill to the car parking at the Ring Fort, the rain now just a light drizzle.A short walk took me to the wonderful and very large stone structure , absolutely beautiful.As usual, it was possible to walk around some of the ledges inside.
Outside, given the fort is 250m on top of a hill, the extensive views were to Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle and Inishowen – in fact, where I had been yesterday.Perhaps a typical Irish inland landscape of a patchwork of vivid emerald greens and golds and dark blue loughs; very, very lovely.
Another wonderful short trip to the Emerald Isle – I love it.And will, I hope be back (if, as my MIL always says, I’m spared.)