Donegal – Derry – Stroove

Published: June 13th 2015
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Had a bit of a sleep in this morning and headed down to breakfast at 9am having packed up the car ready to go. Finding somewhere for dinner last night at 9pm was hard, well finding breakfast at 9am was just as hard! Finally found a lovely little coffee shop on the other side of the Diamond. Then walked around the corner to Donegal castle for 10am.

“Built by the O'Donnell chieftain in the 15th century, beside the River Eske, the Castle has extensive 17th century additions by Sir Basil Brooke. The Castle is furnished throughout and includes Persian rugs and French tapestries. Information panels chronicle the history of the Castle owners from the O'Donnell chieftains to the Brooke family.”

An amazing restoration with a full banquet hall. It took 4 months for the roof to be completed in the traditional way with dowels and pegs, it was truly a work of art. The stonework in the castle and the workmanship that went into the original building is mind-blowing. I am in awe at the beauty and history of all these places.

Off we then went to Derry or Londonderry as the map has it. Ollie nearly has a fit the poor man when I called it Londonderry and I can totally understand why now. So for me it is Derry, no matter what the Queen says.

“A Short history of Derry - Derry or Doire or Londonderry or The Maiden City located on the banks of the great river Foyle can boast a very comprehensive history. It has been a place inhabited by people since prehistoric times. It was once an Oak grove held sacred by Druids of an elder faith. It then became the site of a monastery founded by St Columb Cille who left the place in self-exile from a rock at Thornhill in the North of the city where a convent now stands. This rock still bears his foot prints and is held sacred to many Catholics and Christians.

Derry is also a place that saw the investment of English Kings, making it a thriving port city and the largest city in Ireland for generations, the name Londonderry comes from this investment by the London guilds. It has also seen the violence of constant attacks and invasions by the English and the Gaelic Lords, such as the famous Cahir O'Doherty who burned the city to the ground after killing the English Garrison. It is a city famous for its walls that have on two occasions helped in its defence during long sieges. The most famous siege was that held by the English King James, in person. Denied the city, he had no strong foot-hold in the North West of Ireland. This factor contributed to his defeat by the forces of William of Orange at the battle of the Boyne. Altering Irish and English History for the nest few hundred years.

Derry has also borne witness to some of the worst atrocities in the history of Northern Ireland’s troubles such as Bloody Sunday. Its history makes it a special place to visit. But it is not only that it has a detailed history that makes it a good place to visit. Its history is in plain view. The Walls still stand, nearly completely the same since the second siege under King James. The famous Bogside is still there and can be viewed from the heights of Creggan of from the walls themselves showing of an impressive array of murals and monuments dedicated to the struggle of its community. In fact the visiting the murals of Derry can take up a whole day. Loyalists and Republican areas now compete to display their history on the walls of their homes. Both communities giving impressive artistic displays.

Derry hosts history from the very ancient to the very modern. It is a city that can boast of a heritage that has affected British society as much as it has affected Irish and Gaelic society. Not only can you instantly see our history but the local people here would be happy to tell you their own.”

We drove in and managed by pure luck to find the street the walking tour we wanted to do was on. Then to find a park. I have to admit I do get a little stressed in the middle of a city I don’t know behind the wheel but so far so good. Found a carpark in a shopping centre and then went straight to the ATM because now we are in £ for a few hours as we are now in Northern Ireland, not that you have any idea when. We saw diesel that was really cheap and stopped to fill up only to realise a few miles down the track it was in £ not € so really it was the same price. Suddenly everything was in miles per hour (a little tricky when your car speedo is in Km), pounds, yards and who knows what else. You don’t pass a sign or anything.

Anyway, found our way back to the Martin McCrossan City walking tours. It was about an hour or so tour and we had Charlene McCossan as our guide. She was fabulous. Derry has so much history, it was so fascinating. The southern part of the river where the walled city is, is 98% Catholic and 2% Protestant, whereas north of the river it is 50/50. The 2% Protestant live just outside the city wall and have the sign “Londonderry west bank loyalists still under siege no surrender” at the entrance to their area. They have the English flag up and the gutters painted red, white and blue. It just seems so foreign to me that there is such a distinction, and I and so grateful that it is foreign to me. Charlene gave a very unbiased view of the troubles and as a young person said that all they want is harmony now and to let it go. She gave many examples of people that have been so affected by the troubles and who have let it go in the name of peace, it would be lovely to see that happen. But when you hear of the history, I am sure there are many that will not be able to do that. I would like to think I would be able to follow Charlene’s recommendation but depending on what had transpired to me in my lifetime, honestly, I don’t know. We are so blessed in Australia.

After the tour we went back to the Cathedral to have a look and then to Austins Department store “Austins predates Jenners of Edinburgh by 5 years, Harrods of London by 15 years and Macys of New York by 25 years! Austins is the world's oldest independent department store, having grown remarkably from its humble beginnings almost two centuries ago.” And then onto the Guild (town hall) and the Peace Bridge (The Peace Bridge gives a tangible sense of the city coming together as one.The Derry Peace Bridge over the River Foyle bridges a 400 year old physical and political gap between two sides of a once, bitterly divided community. Designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects in London and funded to the tune of £14 million by the European Regional Development Fund for Peace it is a very impressive piece of architecture. With two structural arms heading in opposite directions, symbolizing the unification of both communities from the opposite sides of the Foyle river, the Protestant Waterside and the Nationalist Bogside, these two opposed and independent arms are now united in a structural handshake across the river.)

Back to the car and off to Stroove, Greencastle for the night in Inishowen, Co. Dunegal. Back into € and Km’s. Dungaree B&B has only been open 5 weeks. Liam owned a pub for 30 years and then got bored and missed people so the B&B was born. It was beautiful, the nicest we have stayed in and the most friendly. We arrived around 5.30 so headed into town for early dinner. While we were out Liam and Isobel lit the fire in the beautiful sitting room for us and we retired there when we returned home and made ourselves at home. They has their 5 yr/o grandson Rubin with them and he was such a cutie who wanted to just be around us. A Frenchman arrived around 8.30 to book in and we all sat in the sitting room chatting and relaxing. It was our first really cool night and having a fire was a real treat. Slept like a log.

Additional photos below
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15th June 2015

Love from Perth
Hi Robyn. So glad to hear that all is going well. As always, your blog is a source of real pleasure and has lead me off into some reading and research about Ireland. Keep the updates coming. I look forward to catching up for a 'slide night' when you return! Mxx
17th June 2015

Lovely pictures and so much history
Nice Robyn, appreciate you taking time in between all that travel and enriching us with so much knowlege. Nice pictures too.

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