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Published: September 3rd 2019
Buffet breakfast at hotel. There are a few headaches among the group this morning. On the coach and off we go. It is another drizzly day.
Our first stop is Donegal. Here we visit the Irish House, a family business that specializes in Donegal Tweed, which is handcrafted from Irish wool and Merino wool using traditional methods. A young man, a 6th generation weaver, gives us a demonstration of the loom. I have seen such demonstrations before, but I think this young man is the faster I have every seen.
While Violet examines the shop's wares, I strike out to see more of Donegal. Happily, the weather has cleared a bit, and the sun is trying to break through the clouds. Donegal is a beautiful town with several streets of small shops leading down to a small harbour. There I discover a tourist information centre where I pick up a bunch of maps of areas we have yet to visit. In the opposite direction I find the 15th-century Donegal Castle, in surprisingly good condition, on the banks of the River Eske. The view from the bridge looking back at the castle is particularly pretty.
Back on the bus,
we venture onward to the town of Belleek, where we visit the Belleek Pottery factory and store. This business was founded in 1857. We are given a 45-minute tour of the facilities and taken through the life story of a vase from conception to final product. Every step in the process is done painstakingly by hand and the results are quite beautiful.
We continue southward along the coast, then take a detour down the Mullaghmore Peninsula. At the tip are a series of vertical cliffs leading to fantastic windswept bays where surf crashes against the rocks. In the distance to the south we can see Classiebawn Castle, which was the summer home of Lord Mountbatten, Prince Charles' godfather, who was assassinated by the IRA through a remote-controlled bomb on his boat. As we drive off, Tony points out a line of palm trees, which apparently have no trouble growing here, despite the wind.
We continue towards Sligo. In the distance, inland to our left, we can see a table-top mountain reminiscent of Capetown's Table Mountain. This is the famous Ben Bulben. We stop in the small town of Drumcliffe to visit the grave of the poet W.B. Yeats.
He is buried in a simple plot in the small cemetery of a modest church, lying in the shadow of his beloved mountain, as he requested. His tombstone quotes from his poem "Under Ben Bulben": "Cast a cold eye / On life, on death / Horseman, pass by!" We also wander into the church, which is simple and beautiful inside, with a small pipe organ.
Finally, we reach the sizeable town of Sligo. Before we park, Tony points out that telephone booths are being repurposed as defibrillator locations. What a great idea! We have free time to explore the town. I waste time in a fruitless search for a new camera battery. We have lunch by ourselves in a modern (i.e., chrome and steel) pub on the banks of River Garavogue. Food is decent. The river is quite high because of recent rains, and the churning water is brownish from the peat bogs it has passed through.
Back on the coach for the last leg of our journey today. An hour's drive brings us to Westport and we check in to the Westport Coast Hotel, located on the bank of a sheltered inlet of the ocean.
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