I recently spent a long-weekend in Donegal, Ireland. My Dad grew up in Donegal until the age of six, when he moved across to England. I’ve visited his home-town twice before, but my last visit was around 20 years ago, so I was keen to go back when the opportunity for a family holiday came up.
We stayed in a beautiful area of the country called Ballyliffin on the Inishowen Peninsula. The beach was a short walk from our hotel and we were surrounded by lush, green mountains and open space full of adorable baby lambs. A 10 minute drive from Ballyliffin is the small town of Carndonagh where my Dad grew up. A walk around the town took us on a tour of my Dad’s old haunts, including the house where he grew up, his old school, football pitch and favourite pub!
I took the chance to fit in a run while I was staying in Ballyliffin and it was the perfect way to explore the local area. I was up early on Saturday morning for a 9 mile route which took me in a loop along Pollan Beach to Carrickabraghy Castle then back inland past rural farmland with the Donegal mountains in the distance. The scenery was incredible and I stopped frequently to take photos and admire the views out over the sea.
I met a lot of grazing animals on my run and was chased along a lane by an escaped sheep!
Later that day, my family drove up to Malin Head, which is the most Northerly point of Ireland. The craggy headland offers panoramic views of the Atlantic- on a clear day you can see all the way to Scotland. We spent some time scrambling over rocks on the coastal path and exploring the concrete huts which were used as lookout posts in World War Two. It was very windy up on the headland- my hair was out of control!
We headed on to the stunning Culdaff Beach. The clean, secluded sands were better than some of the beaches I’ve been to in the Mediterranean! We were lucky with the weather, as the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky. After the beach, we stopped at a traditional Irish pub for a lunch of creamy seafood chowder with soda bread.
Our reason for visiting Ireland was a surprise party for one of my Dad’s Aunt’s 80th Birthday. The sit-down meal was held at our hotel and we met lots of our extended family from all over Ireland. My Dad has 52 cousins- it was impossible to remember everyone’s name! Potatoes featured heavily on the set menu- my turkey roast came with several varieties- roast, boiled, mashed and chips!
We really ran out of time to see everything that the Inishowen Peninsula has to offer. I was keen to hire bikes and explore more of the coastline, but we were short on time. We also heard that the Glenevin Waterfall is worth visiting, but a few hangovers after the party meant that we didn’t make it to this natural landmark, before having to head back to the airport!
A few days of enjoying the countryside, fresh air and sunshine with my family was just what I needed to recharge and relax.