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Scotland Day 9: Dark Culloden's Field of Gore

(Today's title is taken from the song "Sound the Pibroch.")

sunny 44 °F

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A beautiful morning at the castle on our last full day in Scotland. We had a breakfast of porridge and toast instead of the very large and filling full breakfast. It was also very good.
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Catherine's first time driving on the other side of the road. She only drove in the parking lot, then Daniel drove the rest of the way back to Edinburgh.
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Culloden Moor, where the Battle of Culloden took place in 1746. This was the final decisive battle of the Jacobite rising, where the forces supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie were defeated. It's a very sad and melancholy place to visit. The people who run the battle site placed red flags where the government army lines were, and blue flags where the Jacobite lines were. It was a somewhat overwhelming place to see: its remarkable to think that the quiet field we see today was once a place where people fought and died. Some of the plaques at the visitor center are from descendants of people who fought there: many who live in Scotland and England and many who live in the United States. This battle was a major turning point in history: it ended the realistic chances of the Jacobite cause and established the Hanoverians in power.
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There are several memorials to the various clans that are buried here in mass graves. It's remarkable that people still place flowers and crosses on the stones.
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Catherine had been hoping to see highland cattle, and she got her chance here. They have them here to eat the vegetation (they appear to mostly eat trees) and keep the natural landscape looking similar to how it looked at the time of the battle.
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We stopped at the Culloden Moor Inn for a quick lunch: a baked potato and chicken korma.
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After lunch, we started our drive down to Edinburgh. We saw some beautiful scenery, and went through a little town called Aviemore which seems to be a skiing destination (although there wasn't a lot of snow in the mountains for skiing yet). We got past Dalwhinnie before sunset, which was nice because it meant that we got the chance to see the southern part of the drive in the daylight on Saturday and the northern part in the daylight today.
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We arrived in Edinburgh and checked into our airport hotel. Unfortunately a number of issues came up, causing us to go first to an occupied room (thankfully our keys didn't work), then a room that needed repairs, and then finally to our room. We went over and dropped off our rental car, then got a taxi into Old Town for a last dinner there.
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We had dinner at Vittoria on the Bridge, which was a wonderful meal.
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We could see McEwan Hall in the distance and had a beautiful last night in the Old Town area before taking a taxi back to the airport hotel. We have loved our time here and are very happy that we had the chance to come to Scotland for this graduation.

Posted by danielcatherine 19:55 Archived in Scotland Tagged dinner castle battle war highland cattle culloden porridge mcewan_hall jacobite Comments (0)

Scotland Day 8: A Fresno Girl Perhaps?

sunny 47 °F

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We started our day by splitting the "full Scottish breakfast" at Kincraig Castle, where we were staying. It included scrambled eggs, a tomato, black pudding, haggis, a "tattie scone" (very much like a pancake), and a mushroom. It was not bad.
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Some pictures around the castle in the morning. After breakfast we drove into Inverness to attend the Ordinariate mass: groups of Anglicans who converted to Catholicism were allowed to use a modified form of the Anglican church service. Their liturgy is very interesting and it was a nice opportunity to attend one in Inverness.
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The drive to Inverness.
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The chapel where the Ordinariate mass is held. According to the priest the chapel was built as an ecumenical chapel originally at the hospital, with three separate front areas for Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Catholics. The ordinariate mass uses the Catholic section.

During the after-mass conversation, the very small group of members came over and talked to us. Catherine said that we were from California, and one of the people said "a Fresno girl perhaps?" and then refused to say how he had known that. Catherine admitted to having been born and raised in Fresno, but the person who asked would not reveal how he knew that. Catherine thinks he somehow guessed, but Daniel thinks that we must have met this man in passing somewhere in our lives and forgotten about it.

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Some views of the River Ness. Catherine very much wanted to find Nessie, and it was here on the river (and not the loch) that St. Columba is said to have first seen the "water creature" that may have given rise to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.
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After that we drove to Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness.
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Some pictures around the castle showing the defensive structures. St. Columba came here to baptize a Pictish chieftain, and the castle was part of a variety of wars that occurred, as well as constant raids by the MacDonald clan, eventually being blown up by its own holders during the Jacobite wars.
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Looking for Nessie.
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Some more pictures around the castle.
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A strange object in the water. Probably not Nessie.
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Some more pictures of the castle.
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Daniel in a window, and a random person in the door.
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A bird's nest in a corner of the castle.
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The trebuchet.

After exploring the castle, and hearing a very fascinating talk about the defensive structures of the ditch and the windows, we headed into the village to buy some souvenirs and then to Inverness for dinner.
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We went to a Turkish restaurant which was delicious. We ordered the two-person meal, which included appetizers and a main meal for each of us. The appetizers were delicious and filling. We got the chicken kebab and the vegetarian moussaka, which were both delicious.
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There was a pub across the street from the Turkish restaurant that was having a "trad session," so we walked over and listened to some music. It was a wonderful end to our night before returning to the castle.
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Sitting by the fire at the castle after our day of exploring the loch.

Posted by danielcatherine 19:54 Archived in Scotland Tagged church river music castle fire mass inverness loch_ness urquhart fresno nessie ordinariate trad_session Comments (0)

Scotland Day 7: In the Highlands

rain 56 °F

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Goodbye, Edinburgh!
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We got a taxi to the airport rental car section and picked up our car. It's a Toyota hybrid, just like our Prius (and like the car we had when we were in Ireland), and so it's very familiar.
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Crossing the bridge over the Firth of Forth.
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Our first stop was Dunfermline, where Dunfermline Abbey was formerly located. There is currently a church there where King Robert the Bruce is buried (as evidenced by the huge tower with "King Robert the Bruce" written all the way around it). This was once the capital of Scotland, where some of the earlier kings ruled.
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St. Margaret of Scotland was also buried here, but her body was moved during the Reformation for safekeeping by Mary of Guise, and its current whereabouts seem to be unknown. Anyway, this is where she was buried. She was the daughter of Edward the Aetheling, and married to King Malcolm III of Scotland (who is the real-life version of Malcolm in Shakespeare's Macbeth. She founded the abbey here and was later made a saint, and the chapel atop Edinburgh Castle was dedicated to her.
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Some pictures in and around the ruined abbey.
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We stopped at a little village called Dalwhinnie and had a delicious lunch at a small cafe there. We had sausage rolls, crisps, and a caramel shortbread for dessert. It was very cold, windy, and rainy outside but the cafe was exremely cozy with a nice fire burning.
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The options for fillings on a baked potato here are very different from what you would get in America, and don't really seem that appetizing from an American perspective. They seem to be very popular here though: there are several dedicated baked potato bars in Edinburgh and many places outside of the city seem to have them on the menu as well.
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After lunch we went up to the Dalwhinney Distillery, which claims to be the highest and coldest distillery in Scotland. It definitely felt cold and windy as we got out of the car.
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A quilt made by students at the local school (which we later learned was shut down...Dalwhinnie appears to have somewhat faded away as a village. That is sad, but it is easy to see why with modern transportation technology a person might not want to live in such a cold and windy place.)
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The process of distillation is fascinating. Catherine has a great interest in invention and how an inventor's mind works. After the tour she said "if you had barley, water, and yeast in front of you, would you honestly come up with all of that?" It is an interesting thing to think about how people came up with the whole process.
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There is a tasting at the end of the tour. At the beginning of the tasting the tour guide asked who was driving, and gave each of the drivers three small bottles in which to pour the samples. It was really a nice solution to the problem of tastings when you have to drive. Catherine tried the samples and liked them, especially the first two. We ended up buying a bottle of that first whisky.
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The beautiful castle where we are staying. There is a cozy fire and a beautiful lounge.
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Dinner in the castle. Delicious bread pudding for dessert.
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A dram of whisky by the fire after dinner.
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The castle is beautifully decorated for Christmas.

We had a wonderful day, and we had a beautiful drive from Edinburgh to the highlands!

Posted by danielcatherine 23:58 Archived in Scotland Tagged christmas castle highlands bread distillery pudding inverness dunfermline dalwhinnie st._margaret Comments (1)

Scotland Day 3: A Glimpse of France

semi-overcast 46 °F

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We started our day with a small breakfast of tea and some pastries that we got from a bakery across the street.
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Then we set off on a walk towards the university. On our way we saw a sword store and an Irish pub.
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And then some statues closer to the university.
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We arrived at the Old College at the University of Edinburgh. Despite having completed a Master's degree at the University, this was Daniel's first time on the campus!
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We stopped at "Elephants and Bagels" which was a fun place to stop.
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Catherine got a university tartan scarf at the gift shop. We took these pictures by McEwan Hall, where the graduation will be held on Friday.
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The statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog that faithfully sat by his master's grave for years
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A narrow building by Greyfriars Bobby.
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St. Giles Cathedral, and some other buildings, statues, and memorials.
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Some views from our tour of Edinburgh Castle. The castle is an amazing place to tour, and our tour guide was excellent. One thing she mentioned was that she used to believe there are no stupid questions, until a guest, pointing north across the Firth of Forth, asked "is that France?" Later on in the tour, the guide mentioned that the British authorities were worried in the late 18th century about French and American ideas of republican government spreading to Britain. Catherine said "I mean, France is right over there..." which cracked the tour guide up. (Her later comment, to a docent who had done her Masters and PhD on the Jacobite wars, that she would just learn about all of that by watching Outlander, horrified the docent until Catherine unjoked her.)
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This statue of Douglas Haig is apparently somewhat controversial. It now sits in front of the hospital area, but formerly was outside the walls until there were concerns about it getting vandalized. The tour guide said that in the UK, they don't tear down statues, they move them. She pointed out that you can't un-destroy a statue if you regret destroying it, but you can move it around.
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Views from the lookout by the hospital. It's amazing to see the city, especially since we came in when it was already dark.
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Us at the castle.
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Some more views in and around the castle. The castle is built on an extinct volcano called Castle Rock, which our tour guide says causes every child growing up in Edinburgh to become concerned about volcanic eruptions at around the age of seven. Also, most of the tour guides seem to think that Scotland is especially literal in its naming of things, but given that we live in a large, central valley in California called "The Central Valley" right next to a snowy mountain range called (in Spanish) "The Snowy Mountain Range" we are unsure that such literalism it is unique to Scotland.
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St. Margaret's Chapel, which is the oldest building at the castle. It was spared during the First War for Scottish Independence, which led to the pope at the time recognizing Robert the Bruce as a legitimate king of Scotland. The chapel is small but very interesting. Also on the top of the hill is a large war memorial, mostly based on World War I, and the royal palace where Mary, Queen of Scots lived and where King James VI and I was born. In the palace you can also see the Honours of Scotland, as well as the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny, on which British monarchs are still coronated. It will be going to London for the coronation of King Charles III next year, but presumably returning to Edinburgh afterwards. This stone has a great deal in common with the lia fáil at Tara in Ireland.
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Some underground sites at the castle. They weren't very well marked, and parts were blocked off. Catherine captioned this scene "a little kid...killing someone."
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Inside the Great Hall.
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The English Lion and the Scottish Unicorn in front of the war memorial.
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Mons Meg, a giant old cannon.
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Inside St. Margaret's Chapel. St. Margaret was the wife of King Malcolm (the son of Duncan who appears in the play Macbeth.36CF0077-D7AD-4F1C-9A67-C006090FB79C.jpeg97320FF9-EEDF-425A-92F4-EDD7CE5D7AEB.jpeg
The Royal Mile from the castle.
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We went for a quick and late lunch at an Indian restaurant called Treacle. It was delicious. We got some samosa chaat (samosas with chickpeas and sauce) as well as some noodles.
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Our next tour was a whisky tasting and folklore experience in the Waverly Bar.
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We tried these four whiskies. Probably our mutual favorite was the Old Pulteney. Catherine liked the Glengoyne and Daniel liked the Balvenie and the Bowmore. The songs and stories that accompanied the tasting were also wonderful. It was a great experience.
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We got fish and chips for dinner at a place near our AirBnb. We also tried a "chip butty," basically a sandwich with butter and chips/ fries.
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After that we went to an Irish pub called Finnegan's Wake. They had live music, a mix of Irish music, rock, and country. They also had a number of GAA jerseys on the wall, but unfortunately no Mayo jersey. It was a wonderful first day in Scotland!

Posted by danielcatherine 01:07 Archived in Scotland Tagged whisky france volcano folklore breakfast university castle cafe tasting chapel edinburgh_castle st._margaret Comments (3)

Ireland Day 12: Moher To See

overcast 64 °F

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We started the day by driving to the city center and finding a parking garage. We went to the Claddagh Jewelry shop and got a Claddagh ring for Catherine. While Daniel had purchased other jewelry for Catherine when he was living here, for some reason he hadn't gotten her a Claddagh. We got one today.
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Then had a delicious lunch at Busker Brown's before heading to Co. Clare.
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On our way to Liscannor, where we were staying, we stopped at Dunguaire Castle, which is a restored castle that can be toured. It was built in the 16th Century and is a fascinating thing to be able to see. It is really more of a "tower house" than a castle, as it was not really intended as a strong fortress but more as a fortified home.
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Some pictures inside the castle. The different floors are arranged to show different eras: the 17th century is depicted by the banquet hall, and the 20th century (when an Englishwoman restored the castle as her home) is depicted in the top floor. The castle hosts a "medieval banquet" which the staff was preparing when we were there.
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The passages on top are very narrow and difficult to get through.
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But there are beautiful views from the top once you get out there.
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Us at the top of the castle.
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More views from the top.
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More pictures from outside.
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The burren, a barren landscape of limestone in Co. Clare. It is strikingly different from the landscape of the surrounding area, and seems to lend itself to the preservation of ancient sites, or at least make them more obviously visible.
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Yes, it seems like something you would see on a postcard from a rural area: "Co. Clare Traffic Jam" with a picture of cows walking down the road. And yet, it happened to us in real life. These were dairy cows being taken to be milked, it would seem. We only had to wait a little: the farmers moved the cows fairly quickly. Of course, it was a frightening experience for Catherine after her run-in with the calf the day before.
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Some pictures in Liscannor, where we stayed. Our hosts there also owned a pub, and they have a house across the street from it. We drove to the pub, and our host had us follower her to the house and checked us in. It was a wonderfully comfortable room, and our host recommended that we go to the Cliffs of Moher (which were right next to the house and pub) after 9PM so that we wouldn't have to pay to park. We decided to go to the village for dinner, then go to the cliff.
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Dinner in Liscannor before going to the cliffs.
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The O'Brien Monument in Liscannor, right near the pub. This was constructed to honor Cornelius O'Brien, who was a well-liked landowner in the area despite being part of the British power structure (the O'Brien family has an interesting history: they are descended from Brian Boru, and are thus native Gaelic nobility, but the senior heirs of the family embraced Anglicanism and fought for the English and against various rebellions by other Gaelic nobles like the O'Neills and O'Donnells). Cornelius, however, was known for building projects and other well-regarded projects in the area.
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St. Brigid's well is right next to the O'Brien monument. It is unlike any of the other holy wells we have visited on this trip: less "polished" than St. Catherine's in Killybegs, but far more trafficked than St. Dymphna's and the others. There were rocks that people had written "thank yous" to St. Brigid, and a statue in a glass box.
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The upper shrine. There is a graveyard hear, as well as some more small objects that seem to have been left by people frequenting the wells. There were also ribbons tied to the trees, which apparently are left by people who have prayed for something there.
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The really numinous part of it is the lower shrine, where there is a tunnel leading to the well. The inside has all manner of offerings: statues, cards with prayers written on them, funeral Mass cards, missing person reports, stuffed animals, candles, rosaries, scapulars, icons, photographs, etc. It was an amazing thing to see, and a testament to belief in another plane of existence beyond the world we see around us. Most striking were the "thank you" notes: letters detailing how St. Brigid helped a person. Really a small, easily-missed thing but one of the most intriguing places we saw on the trip.
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Then, it was time to see the cliffs. The parking lot was now closed, which meant that we could park for free and walk to the cliffs. Unfortunately, it meant that all of the visitors' center buildings were closed, including the tiny "meditation room" which Catherine pointed out should probably be unnecessary, considering that a person who wants to meditate about the cliffs should probably do that...at the cliffs, and not in a tiny windowless room sort of near the cliffs.
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There's not much to say about the cliffs. They are stunningly beautiful, and the pictures sort of speak for themselves. It was nice seeing them in the semi-darkness: no crowds, and the light seemed perfect. Since they are on the west coast it was a beautiful sunset and a great way to spend the evening.
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More views of the cliffs as night fell. It was an incredibly peaceful night: we were the last to leave the cliffs as far as we could tell.
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More of the cliffs after dark.
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The twinkling lights of the village.
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A drink at Considine's Bar, across from our AirBnB and owned by our hosts. It was a nice, small pub, not too packed but not empty. There is a house attached, but the Considines no longer live there, and apparently use it for storage, etc. The house where we are staying is rather new, having been built around six years ago. We loved our stay in Liscannor and would highly recommend it to other people staying in the area.

Posted by danielcatherine 00:37 Archived in Ireland Tagged cliffs village meditation pub beautiful castle farm cows burren clare moher the_cliffs_are_closed st._brigid o'briens considine traffic_jam dunguaire_castle Comments (0)

Ireland Day 4: O'Donnell Abu!

(the title is also the name of a great song. And, our day started at Donegal Castle and ended at a Middle Eastern restaurant 😀)

storm 55 °F

We had a wonderful night's sleep at our B&B in Mountcharles. It was extremely comfortable and restful. When we got up, there was a delicious breakfast ready for us: brown bread and toast and tea. We had a very nice chat with our host, ranging from Irish history to modern politics to her surprise that the Americans staying in her house all seem to prefer tea to coffee. She gave us a detailed route to follow, along the "wild and rocky hills" (another lyric from another great Donegal-focused song) up the Wild Atlantic Way. We began by going to Donegal Town.
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We found a place to park in Donegal Town. It overlooked this harbor, where the boat in the picture was blasting Meatloaf's "I'd Do Anything For Love." It proceeded to blast other songs of like nature. The machine did not take cards so we had to get cash. The tourist office had a sign that prominently displayed that they do not change money for the parking lot. So, Daniel walked to a bank (AIB) on the Diamond, or main square of Donegal.
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Donegal Castle is really an amazing thing to see.
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According to the cashier at the castle, the Choctaw Nation donated to the Irish during the Famine. This led to connections between them and the Irish.
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Some more images of the Castle. The empty manor house area was built by the Brookes family after the Flight of Earls.
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The Diamond in Donegal. It is sort of a roundabout, sort of a death trap.
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The Catholic Church in Donegal. It has a replica Irish Round Tower.
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Killybegs Harbor. Killybegs is one of the major commercial fishing ports in Ireland. The ships are really impressive to see.
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Outside Killybegs is St. Catherine's well, one of Ireland's many holy wells. These have small sources of water and involve specific prayers that should be said. Catherine had not seen a holy well before, and she was especially interested because this one was St. Catherine's.
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For some reason, there are stuffed animals tied to many signposts and fences throughout Co. Donegal.
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The Wild Atlantic Way: the beautiful coast of Donegal.
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Sheep in the road.
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While driving through the small village of Glencolmcille, we saw signs for St. Colmcille (Columba)'s well. We decided to take the hike up to see it. We left our car near a farmhouse and began walking up the path. It was lightly misting and the sun was high in the sky. We continued up from a gate that had signs pointing towards then well. We never found the well. The hike was quite long and went through empty, desolate bogland. The storm begin to get worse, soaking us and blowing rain in our faces. We kept going. We would walk to the next trail marker and see the next on up another ridge. Eventually, Daniel said he thought it wasn't safe to continue and we started to turn back. However, we decided to go to one more marker. Daniel got there before Catherine: there was a castle up ahead. Catherine caught up and we looked at the castle together. It was beautiful but slightly creepy. The storm was so bad we had to turn back. We wish we could have seen the well, but we had a great time nonetheless. Side note: while Catherine was hiking to catch up with Daniel who had gone slightly ahead she jumped over a little patch of mud. The grassy area she landed on was more mud than grass and she found herself knee deep in a bog. She barely escaped with her shoes. We thought this accidental adventure led to one of the best days of our lives. Just the two of us on a desolate hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with unbelievable views.
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Some pictures of the hike. Can you believe we were all the way up there?
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It's a whole different muscle group going down.
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"Climb to Colmcille's Well they said. It will be fun they said."
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We were so happy to find our cozy car again and get the heater working. We had a wonderful adventure.

We wanted to stop and eat at a pub in Glencolmcille. Unfortunately, they all look were closed. We tried the next village, Carrick, and they were also closed. In Killybegs most places were closed as well. We ended up getting a pizza to go from a small Middle Eastern restaurant, then going back to eat in the parking lot of St. Catherine's well. We had a wonderful day, and we can't wait until tomorrow when we go to Kilkelly to see Daniel's cousins.

Posted by danielcatherine 16:50 Archived in Ireland Tagged church towers castle pizza round glencolmcille colmcille. columba killybegs donegall o'domnell holy_wells Comments (2)

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