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Tuesday May 18, 2010.  We departed for a full Donegal tour. We were back into the Irish Republic, having momentarily left Northern Ireland. On the way to Glenveagh National Park we came across an interesting monument, Polestar, at Port Bridge, in Letterkenny, a town where trade and goods were landed by boat and distributed by rail and road. It was unveiled in 2006. The artist was Locky Morris, born in Derry where he still lives. After the inevitable photo-op, we continued along the green fields of Ireland, interspersed with not so green areas where I presume there were bogs and peat.

Beautiful Lough Veagh is at the center of the park, and there is a castle named Glenveagh, meaning "glen of life', that abuts the edges of the lake.



The castle was built in1870 by John Adair, who became infamous for evicting 224 of his tenants and clearing the land so his view of the landscape would not be interrupted. It's a granite castle, impressive with all its towers, walls, pools and gardens. We walked on the estate but didn't go in the castle itself, lacking the needed time. It's home to the largest herd of red deer in the country, and the golden eagle, formerly extinct in Ireland, was re-introduced and it's thriving.




The network of informal gardens displays a multitude of exotic and delicate plants from as far afield as Chile, Madeira, and Tasmania, al sheltered by windbreaks of pine trees and rhododendrons. There is a conservatory and a plethora of serene pools and garden statuary.





After posing by a bamboo grove and walking a bit by the lake, we boarded the bus back to Derry, a walled town from the 1600s. Completed in 1618 to defend the city from Gaelic chieftains, it has never been breached, not even during the siege of 1689, when 7,000 people died of starvation or disease. It is now possible to walk right on the walls, where one can see the ancient cannons, as well as the contemporary fences erected during "The Troubles" to separate the warring factions. Before entering  the town we saw a monument called "The Workers", commemorating the generation of men who worked on building the original bridge and train track at the Dry Arch.




We were treated to a wonderful walk and lecture given by the ONLY Irish-Chinese guide in all of Ireland. He was a fountain of information. His father was Irish, his mother Chinese . His name was Rowan McNamara, and he was a perfect example of how people's attitudes are changing regarding prejudice and misinformation. He told us that young people are even marrying in to the "other" ethnic group, and hopefully one day there will be lasting peace. Amidst all the hate signs, students still go to school in relative calm.                                                           




 We walked through one of the wall gates, and we reached the hotel where we had stayed the night before, in The Diamond or main square, where there was a War Memorial erected in1927,commemorating those who served and died during both WW wars. Around the main square there were some interesting buildings, tea rooms and stores.



We also visited the Guildhall, a Neo-Gothic building built in1890 but destroyed by fire in 1908 and by a bomb thrown by a terrorist in 1972. Inside there is a statue of Queen Victoria, whose hands were cut off during "The Troubles". There is also a series of water jets jutting from the plaza at its front.



The names Derry or Londonderry in Northern Ireland, are the subject of a dispute between nationalists and unionists. Generally the the nationalists refer to Derry, and the unionists call it Londonderry. Legally, the city and county are called Londonderry, while the district is called Derry.

Tomorrow we continue the tour to Galway, via Sligo.


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