I'll start with last weekend. It was Jessica's brain child and invented after a glass of champagne raised in celebration of an earlier adventure which does not fall under the remit of this post, having happened almost a month ago. Jessica desperately wanted to go to Donegal (why?) because she dreamed of Donegal mountain men and hoped to fall in love like an Austen heroine. Jessica is leaving for Florence this week - on an adventure of sorts - and when this all happened a month ago it was decided that last weekend would be the perfect weekend for a farewell adventure to Donegal. Are you buckled into your time machine?
Amy was there then, and living in Belfast, and having also consumed some of the champagne, wanted to come too. We agreed on the Five Finger Strand in Inishowen, a place Simon and I had discovered last June on a grander scaled adventure. You'll come to know and love Simon. He's the adventure co-pilot. I wouldn't dare call him a side-kick. Except, well, I just did.
We thought Amy and her Belfast friends could get the ferry over from wherever it is in Northern Ireland that dumps you out in Inishowen, and the Galwegians (Simon and me, Jess and her housemates Conor and Dilletta/Dilly) could come up in the adventure car, Scarlet; you'll come to know her too, she's the Bat Mobile. We planned to make our way to Donegal on Friday evening after work, kick long-suffering Daddy out of the homestead and dispatch him to his fianceé's house with well-wishes, then barbecue and imbibe on his property with great potential for late night cow-tipping. On Saturday we could adventure further north, gather a few other friends from the Donegal area, and meet the Belfastians on the Five Finger Strand.
You will come to learn that the SECRET (shhh) to little adventures is actually putting into action plans made while drunk. I'm going to make that a rule. Wait, I'll put it in the header. Ok done.
We lost Amy. She had an interview. This was not entirely surprising.
I WAS a little surprised when we lost Jess. Jess was sick. We never really expected Conor to come. He hates camping and is crap at adventures. And shortly after losing Jess we lost Dilly too, as their happy little home is now a broken one with Jess jetting off to Florence and Dilly jetting off to Spain and Conor being rather boring anyway, they wanted to celebrate and commemorate their last weekend in Galway together as a happy household.
Feeling a little despondent, I called Gareth. Gareth said yes. Previous late night excited phone calls and Facebook message or two in the last few weeks had got Tommy and Olga in a car from Dublin. Tommy and Olga are seasoned adventurers, and founder members of the Annual Camping Trip which happens 2 out of every 5 years. Dudley went to Derek's house in Donegal Friday afternoon, and they picked up Sean. Lucy invited herself, which was great. (Secret number two; invite yourself to be part of adventures organised by others. I'm putting that in too.) As I write this I realise it doesn't sound so spontaneous. You must understand none of this was hard work. I made a few phone calls. People said yes.
We all met at the homestead in Donegal. Dad was stalwort. He lit the barbecue, and avoided us. The weather was BEAUTIFUL! We sat on my back porch in our tshirts until late that night, enjoying each other's company, catching up, and feeling truly, genuinely happy to be in Donegal. We ate McGettigan's sausages. If you've never had McGettigan's sausages you need to fix that. Go to Donegal. Go to McGettigan's. Choose from the selection. Oriental? Lamb and Rosemary? Pork and Apple? Chilli and chocolate? Or the award winning Mango, ... mango... I can't remember. It was delicious You have to try it.
A lot happened on Saturday. We kept lunch simple in a restaurant in Donegal (Dear Ms. Waitress, I am sorry. We were hungover. We tipped well, we promise.) We bought buckets spades and rakes for the beach, of course. And balls for dodgeball. And funny hats. We split up.
Simon, Lucy, Tommy, Olga and myself headed for the beach, but about a mile outside Ardara I had a flash of inspiration. There is a little old man near Narin who rents boats to Doon Fort, on Doon Lough. He's brilliant. If you find the place you deserve a prize. There is nothing polished about this tourist experience. You are handed a bucket, pointed vaguely in the direction of the lake, and it is assumed you know how to row a boat. Please do not be so bold as to assume you know how to row a boat because you were once on a boat, or you saw a movie about a boat, or you have a certain basic level of intelligence/fitness and it can't be that hard can it? It can. If, for example, you get in the boat backwards to begin with you will fight a loosing battle in a zig zaggedy fashion for your entire lake excursion. Fortunately, with this gang, it's the journey not the destination. It was Hi-LAR-ious! We ran the boat aground. We had a ROUGH time working out the whole row left go right thing.That said, the destination is fabulous too. Doon Fort is in remarkable condition for its age. It WAS restored in 1954, but as best I can tell all they did was slap a little concrete here and there on the 4,000 year old structure (that can't be right?). There is no visitor centre. There is no guided tour. Its just you on the Lough with a tangible piece of history you can walk on and climb over and admire and feel part of. There is a guest book. You have to sign the guest book. The little old man will remind you to do so. The guest book is TEN YEARS OLD! Nobody knows about this place.
We set up camp on Maghera beach. This may be the most perfect place in the world to camp. The beach is truly gorgeous. There are mountains behind you, caves at low tide, and with the exception of a fairly stiff tide really lovely swimming conditions. We dove right in. There is a house beside the parking lot, and if you see the man that lives there give him a few euro for your parking. He's a nice chap, and litter conscious to boot.
I won't harp on about the camping too much. My friends are beautiful people. It was wonderful to be around so many of them. But it makes for boring blogging. We did light Japanese fire lanterns at midnight. It was perfect.