Orla and I are off to Sligo, or just beyond, to meet up with Lisa, Roberto and Rocky for a couple of nights. We have a good three and a bit hour spin ahead of us on a Friday just before lunch time. A much needed break after all the hassle from our neighbours finally coming to an end having escalated beyond ludicrous over the last few weeks. By the time we get to Carrick-on-Shannon the traffic is nuts, apparently there is no alternative route. Thankfully we’re going in the opposite direction! We’ll have to make a mental note to be past this point before it gets ridiculous on Sunday.
We are greeted by Roberto, Lisa and Rocky in Lisa’s family home from home. The most incredible country house, with a stone fire place and low ceilings off the beaten track with views of the mountains and within minutes of some very fine beaches. Truly idyllic.
We take a short drive around the peninsula listening to R.E.M. The views are incredible on the one way drive around a small harbour. You can see Benbulben, shrouded in mist, for most of the drive. It looks almost surreal, as if it has been cut off at the top. Sheer rises, then a flat table like summit.
After a lot of driving it’s time for a really lovely walk on Yellow Strand beach. The lonely beach; according to Lisa. Where a nude man swims every day, the Lonely Planet guide apparently being duped by this into thinking Sligo had it’s very own nudist beach! The strand is deserted and it is absolutely beautiful. The wind blows all the troubles away. A small bit of rain provides the context for Ireland but we make it back to the car just before the big stuff arrives.
Ellen’s Pub is just up the road from us so we pop in for a pre-dinner drink. It’s a proper old school Irish bar. We sit in the kitchen of the old house sipping Guinness and beer, while the trad band for later discuss their battle plan. A German family struggle to get in the old door and Roberto helps them out. Lisa commenting that tourist must really have to do their research to end up in such a pub. Next up is Lang’s of Grange for steak and a pint, followed by one or two more Mully’s Irish Red Ales from Donegal. The perfect end to the day.
We’re woken by the wonderful Rocky. Happy as ever. Such a great dog. He’s a little bit disappointed when we have to leave him to go Kayaking with Sligo Kayak Tours on Lough Gill. Barry from Cape Town is our guide. A great guy, he really knows his kayaking, as expected, but also knows tons about all the small islands and history around Lough Gill. The old lady on Church Island (known locally as Beezie’s Island) who lived alone until 1969, rowing to the main land only to stock up on supplies. Banishing some guy because he threw a stone at a rat. You know; the usual stuff.
The trip is majestic; we paddle for about two hours before beaching the kayaks on one of the islands where Barry treats us to coffee and shortbread which he had packed into the hull of his kayak. Sitting under the trees while the ducks fight the seagulls. Fantastic. The lake is sublime, the surroundings are almost unbelievably serene. The weather has really gone in our favour and we could not have asked for better nor could I imagine it more tranquil. The water is so calm, Roberto is even able to take a few calls from the comfort of his kayak on his birthday.
We paddle back using a variation of our route out and have to pick up the pace to get in before the swimmers cross our path on their 10Km lake race. In nothing but swimming trunks. Brisk. We are almost prevented from getting home by some flesh eating swans blocking our way but for the bravery of Barry.
Afterwards we make a quick stop to pick up Rocky and apologise to him for leaving him behind. He forgives us, eventually, and we head off to walk the Benbulben loop. The car park is rammed when we get there, so I have to park up against the wall on the road and hope for the best. The views of Benbulben are fantastic from the trail. Totally clear skies give it a brilliant blue backdrop. When the clouds do arrive, they are few and far between with no rain, only casting a gentle shadow on the mountain. About half way around we sit on a bench and have a picnic looking out at Donegal.
On the way home we stop in to see the Glencar Waterfall and lake. We walk around a small trail and get some assorted angles looking back at the cascading water. Everything today has been absolutely stunning in the sunshine. Lou Reed must have been talking about days like this, only without the kayaking.
Driving back, Orla gives a shout on how we are fixed on the left at a fairly bad junction, ‘you’re fine……sort of’ as an old BMW speeds toward us. Probably would have put a different spin on our perfect day.
We head into Sligo town for food and drinks that evening. A pint or two in the 150 something year old Hargadons Bar. Then on to the Coach Lane Restaurant at Donaghy’s Bar for dinner. The special is a Tomahawk steak. Birthday boy’s choice. One kilo of rib eye steak between Roberto and me. With all the extras. Holy shit. Amazingly, we end up picking the bones. Totally stuffed, but still eating. Food comas all round. Having convinced ourselves we couldn’t possibly fit anything else in, we order the dessert special. Five different kinds of sweet treats in miniature format. I think I’m going to die, being saved only by a medicinal whiskey.
Back at the house the conditions are perfect outside to see the Perseid meteor shower. It’s absolutely pitch dark for miles around. I get a fierce pain in my neck looking straight up for twenty minutes catching very brief glimpses of shooting debris entering the atmosphere. A really cool bonus to the weekend.
We do a quick clean-up of the house before packing the car and heading to W.B Yeats’ grave. Overlooked by Benbulben, plenty of sheep, goats and busloads of tourists. It’s a funny end to a trip that we packed so much into, and all in just forty-eight hours, give or take. Great company and some pretty amazing activities. It’s definitely left me wanting to kayak more around Ireland. If Lough Gill and Glencar Lough are anything to go by I’m really missing out on some spectacular locations.