We arrived in Ireland’s County Donegal from County Sligo. The remote county’s bays and sandy beaches etched into the shoreline, and the uncertain weather had turned downright exhilarating. Clouds scudded in from the Atlantic, bringing mist and squalls, interspersed with transforming shafts of sunlight. Offshore, Tory Island is said to have been the home to Balor, Celtic god of darkness. A bit inland, glens and waterfalls draw hikers and visitors seeking a rural idyll. From the splendid Sliabh Liag peninsula to windswept Inishowen, Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is a nature lover’s dream.
The Wild Atlantic Way begins & ends here
County Donegal has the biggest Irish-speaking community in Ireland, and road signs along some roads appear only in Irish. We stopped in the picturesque Gaelic-speaking estuary village of Teelin for a simple, warming meal before visiting the imposing cliffs at Slieve League.
Donegal is all about nature: raptors wheeling overhead; dolphins playing in Donegal Bay; streams rustling through shallow canyons. On higher ground, the wind is a constant companion. Hospitality is warmer than the peat fires used for heating, and in genial contrast to the harsh blows dealt by history here.
Sliab Liag (Slieve League)
Nature & folk ways
This large stone-walled fort, located on a hilltop with views over Loughs Foyle and Swilly and counties Donegal, Derry and Tyrone, was the royal citadel of the northern Uí Néill from the 5th to the 12th centuries. According to our local guide, mystery surrounds the Grianan’s origins: it was probably built around the birth of Christ; and the earthen banks encircling the structure could be part of an earlier Bronze Age or Iron Age hill fort.
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