Britain 09 - Day 13

Introduction

Today we headed west, past Londonderry, through St Columba country, out to the cliffs at Slieve League and on to Killybegs.

Grianan Ailligh

After passing over the border and back into the Republic, where petrol is in Euro and cheaper than in Pounds, our first visit was to the hilltop fort of Grianan. This stone structure is about 2,000 years old, but was substantially rebuilt in about 1870. The view from the fort covers a 360 circle across Loughs Foyle and Swilly. But there was another reason for visiting this site. Below the hill, towards the north lies the small locality of Castle Hill. This is likely to be the place that Sarah Gallagher left to go first to London and then on to Sydney, where a few months later she married Martin Moroney, from County Clare.

Grianan Ailligh
The sign explaining the history of Grianan
Grianan Ailligh
Diagram of Grianan
Grianan Ailligh
The view of Grianan from the carpark
Grianan Ailligh
The entrance. Note the 4.5m thick wall
Grianan Ailligh
Through the entrance to the far wall
Grianan Ailligh
The reverse view: looking across to the entrance
Grianan Ailligh
Detail of the internal steps and wall
Grianan Ailligh
View to the south over River Foyle
Grianan Ailligh
View to the north over Castle Hill

Castle Hill
Panorama from Grianan over Castle Hill

Cemetery at Burt

Beside the main road, below Grianan, lies the local cemetery. As it is the closest one to Castle Hill, we stopped here to look for Gallagher graves. This is a well tended cemetery, with an amazing array of large stone headstones. We found several Gallagher headstones, including one from Castle Hill, that may - or may not - be a distant relative.

Castle Hill
The grave of Ellen Gallagher from Castle Hill
Castle Hill
Closeup of the headstone
Castle Hill
View over the cemetery

Sarah Gallagher from Castle Hill

On her marriage and death certificates, Sarah Gallagher, wife of Martin Moroney, is shown as coming from Castle Hill, County Derry, Ireland. The only location of that name that we can find is the area to the north of Grianan, on the shore of Lough Swilly, looking across to Inch Island. From Grianan, and the Cemetery, we followed the narrow local roads to the ruins of a small church at Castle Hill. Although there are some headstones still standing, and more were visible amojgst the newly-cut grass and weeds, none were for a Gallagher. This is not surprising, as the Gallagher family was likely to have been farm labourers. Sarah was a shown as a domestic servant on the 1881 census in London.

Castle Hill
The road to Castle Hill, with the castle in the distance
Castle Hill
General view of the churchyard at Castle Hill
Castle Hill
The castle on the hill from the churchyard
Castle Hill
The nearby Lough Swilly
Castle Hill
The gate to the churchyard
Castle Hill
View over the ruined church and lough

St Columba Centre and Birthplace

A short drive SW of Castle Hill lies Lough Gartan and the St Columba Centre. We visited this in high expectation, having followed the travels of St Columba through much of Ireland and over the seas to Iona on our visit there in 2003. Much to our disappointment the centre was closed.

St Columba
A very closed St Columba Centre, in early October
St Columba
Cross on the hill - St Columba birthplace
St Columba
Sign at the carpark
St Columba
The track to the cross
St Columba
The cross in the trees, nearing the site
St Columba
The cross and birthplace
St Columba
General view back over the site
St Columba
Closeup of the carving of St Columba on the cross
St Columba
The stone sign beside the cross
St Columba
The Iron-age stone
St Columba
View across the fields
St Columba
Road signs to Birthplace and Abbey

St Columba's Abbey

This site is the remains of yet another of St Columba'sabbeys.

St Columba
The remains of St Columba's Abbey
St Columba
Layout of the site
St Columba
The adjacent cemetery
St Columba
Closeup of the memorial stone
St Columba
One of the ancient standing stones

Slieve League Mountains and Cliffs

From Lough Gartan we headed south on the R254 past the Glendowan Mountains to Glenties and Ardara. We then turned west on the R230 for Glencolumbcille. Unfortunately we were confused by roadworks at Meenaneary so headed south instead of west, but this still took us to Carrick. The west coast of Ireland faces the Atlantic, and many parts of the coast are dominated by cliffs. Those at Carrigan Head on Slieve League are the highest in Ireland, and possibly the highest in Europe. The road west winds across the peninsula, then climbs steeply to the vantage point overlooking the cliffs. From here there is a magnificent view west across the cliffs.

Slieve League
The road south through the mountains
Slieve League
Dropping down the valley
Slieve League
Lough
Slieve League
Climbing the final hill towards the cliffs
Slieve League
View back down the valley
Slieve League
Nearing the top
Slieve League
The road narrows ...
Slieve League
...and disappears
Slieve League
The view suddenly appears
Slieve League
It's a long way down
Slieve League
Small tarn above the carpark
Slieve League
View down onto the carpark

The Port of Killybegs

We stayed overnight at the small fishing port of Killybegs. The only hotel of note in the town is the Tara Hotel, on the waterfront, opposite the wharf. We found the hotel to be comfortable and quiet. The rooms facing the port have small balconies, and a superb view. They also had good Internet access, although the first room we were allocated was one of the few where the Internet did not work. We were quickly given another room - by early October the hotel was not very busy. Nor was the restaurant, where we were impressed with the food.

Killybegs
The Tara Hotel in Killybegs
Killybegs
The port facilities designed to resemble a boat's bridge
Killybegs
The port at night from our hotel room


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Last updated: 16/06/2017