Narin, 31 October


We got up early this morning to wave Karen and Maisie off – sadly she had to return to Belfast for a work meeting this afternoon. Karen, that is, not Maisie. Everyone a bit stiff and sore after yesterday’s surfing exploits, apart from Wiseman, who claims to have only staved his thumb.

Last night Broon rustled up the most splendid roast dinner, and afterwards we settled around the fire. Played just the one game of Articulate, no need to bore you with the details.

Still no sign of George’s ghost.

Plans today are to head down to Slieve League to see the cliffs there, and then maybe on to Rossnowlagh for lunch, or back towards Narin and Portnoo. Hoping to get some more beach cricket in if the weather stays ok.


Broon is pouring tea in front of the fire. We’ve just had dinner, and are settling down with a cuppa on our last evening here. My sister texted earlier to say that she’s expecting a little brother for Maggie in March. Tomorrow’s plans are discussed. Gilly is stopping off to see her family on the way to the boat. Wiseman and I will plan to make a pilgrimage to the Giant’s Causeway instead. He’s been going on about for so long, it might finally stop him nagging. About that, anyway.

Today worked out pretty much as we’d planned. A visit to Europe’s highest sea-cliffs at Slieve League, which involved the hairiest mountain road I’ve yet driven on, followed by lunch in Donegal Town. We then decided to head back north to the cottage. Wiseman had spotted another beach at Narin that we hadn’t yet explored, so we drove down someone’s lane and hiked across their fields to get to it. Once there, we did a spot of paddling – at least Broon and I did – and then played a few innings of beach cricket. Broon topped the scoring charts, despite Wiseman hooking a couple into the sea for four. The showers of the morning gave way to a glorious afternoon, and we climbed back up the dunes in the late afternoon sunshine, pausing at the top to bid farewell to a coastline of sandy beach, rocks and little islands, with the sun glinting off the Atlantic.

Farewell, Donegal, until we meet again…

Narin, 30 October


Today dawned bright and fair. No, really, it did. The forecast was right. Having got the call from Kevin, our Irish American surfing dude, that 12.30 would be a good time, we headed off early to Dooey Strand, and got some beach cricket in before he arrived.

Halfway through Broon’s innings, Wiseman, who had been claiming that he was “not quite 100%” for days, threw up at midwicket, but we carried on regardless. I had half a mind to reprise Allan Border’s quote to Dean Jones, who, having batted for Australia through hours and hours of 40C heat and high humidity in Madras, had got to 170 and wanted to come off because he stopping the game every over to be sick. Border told him “You weak Victorian. I want a tough Australian out there. I want a Queenslander”.

Charming chap, Border.

Kev duly arrived with all the gear, and we got into our wetsuits, with some difficulty. I felt a little like Catwoman.

Surfing was brilliant fun. Actually standing up on the board proved a step too far. About two steps too far, in all honesty. In fact, even lying down on the board, and riding it into the shallows without wiping out, took a fair amount of concentration. And after a few runs, just getting on to the board at all proved exhausting. But very exhilarating.

We returned to the cottage and put the kettle on while Broon and Gilly made first use of the showers. Two minutes into our own showers, Wiseman and I found the hot water had all gone, and made sharp exits. I came back downstairs, and found I’d been doubly betrayed. Not only had the girls taken all the hot water, but they’d put on a chick flick in the living room. I escaped with Gilly and Broon to Ardara for some more provisions, and came back to find the film much the same as we’d left it – dapper young gentlemen making opaque statements about marriage, and the inferior breeding and education of young ladies. Most agreeable, I am sure.

Narin, 29 October


Last night was spent digesting Karen’s cooking, which was “just” a wild mushroom and pancetta risotto. Then we fired up Casino Royale on the DVD player, so as to be bang up to date with the Bond story before the new one comes out on Friday. Went to bed with a full view of the stars through my skylight.

Woke up with a full view of the clouds through my skylight, and the rain pattering off the glass. Forecast is for rain all day. Drove into Ardara this morning with Wiseman, and picked up an Ian Rankin novel. It’s a day for sitting in the cottage and reading, I think. It’s the final Inspector Rebus novel – the last of 17 in the series. It seems like a good one to start with. At least it did until Wiseman told me how it ended before I’d even opened it. Broon is baking in the kitchen, which is always a happy occurrence. Forecast for tomorrow is better – sunshine in the morning. Perhaps our surfing adventure will finally get off the ground tomorrow, after having been thwarted thus far by the strong winds.


Didn’t go out much today at all, as anticipated. Gillian, Karen and I made a foray into the village in the afternoon, to sound out possible places to eat tonight. There were none. So we headed back to the cottage, getting soaked en route, and after a quick change climbed into the car and headed into Ardara again, where we found a bistro that looked likely. Headed back there for dinner, sans Wiseman unfortunately, who had sardines for lunch and has since been seen only episodically, looking slightly green.

Dinner was good, there was even a minstrel playing folk/country tunes on his guitar and singing along lustily.

Narin, 28 October


Went for a woodland walk this morning, before returning to the cottage for lunch. Wiseman was feeling unwell, so elected to stay put with Maisie (Karen’s dog) for the afternoon, while the rest of us decided to explore another headland.

The first adventure was at Maghera Caves, where, after a 10 minute walk or so, we found no caves whatsoever, but the most gorgeous deserted beach, penned in by high cliffs on one side. We agreed that it would have made a perfect beach cricket beach, but unfortunately the cricket stuff wasn’t in the car.

We swallowed our disappointment and moved on round the coast, stopping briefly to rescue a sheep caught in a wire fence, to Malin Beg and another beautiful beach, this one populated by what appeared to be a large Irish family. There was about twenty of them. Some of their kids were paddling in the waves, in wellies, if you please. Karen and Broon thought that we should show them how it should be done, and so off came the socks (inner and outer) and shoes, and the trousers were rolled up. The water was eye-poppingly cold, and Karen had to do a little jig to try to keep the circulation going, but we did it. A lone sheep, and a sheepdog, kept a custodial eye on us throughout the whole performance.

If the insanity of the idea had not been apparent when the Atlantic first hit our toes, it was once the hail started coming down and we realised we had to climb 167 concrete sheep-dung-covered steps to the car park before we could get shelter, and dry our numb feet.

The weather closed in at this point, and so we headed over the hills to Killybegs, through various peat fire-burning villages and the road home.

Three pairs of feet now thawing out in front of the fire.

Narin, 27 October


Despite gamely tackling the mountain of baps at every available opportunity, it doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller.

Broon made an excellent bacon, french toast and maple syrup breakfast, after which we piled in the car and headed round our nearest headland, through Rossbeg, where we got out and explored the beach and rocks, and eventually on to Ardara. Wiseman was disappointed, once again, at the lack of ice cream vans around. Sadly it was a local bank holiday today, and so we couldn’t visit many local establishments in Ardara. We had lunch in Charlie’s West End café, the West End of the town not being so far removed from the East End to warrant a separate designation in my book, but there you are.

Picked up some peat briquettes and firewood for the fire in the cottage, which is lit and warming my toes as I write this. Also managed to post to the blog from the Spar there. On our return from Ardara, and after a cup of tea, Wiseman and I went for a walk to a sheltered beach just a little further along the coast from where we were yesterday. We only got soaked by a shower of rain the once. Came back and had a bit more of a nap than I had planned for, which bodes ill for getting to sleep tonight.

Gilly is currently in the kitchen rustling up fajitas. Looking forward to that.


The fajitas were great, enhanced further by the addition of some left-over chilli from last night, and some Coronas. Played a couple of games of Baileys-fuelled Articulate after dinner, and then the chat turned to horses, the Highland Show, and Wiseman’s near-death experiences, as the fire gradually faded. The addition of the fire to an already super-efficient central heating system meant the room felt like a nursing home. Or sauna. Or a sauna in a nursing home.

Not a pleasant thought.

Narin, 26 October


I seem to have landed myself another bedroom with an un-blinded Velux window. Top work. We arrived at half past midnight this morning, which was good enough time, especially since the sat nav completely lost the plot and thought we were driving through fields. At times, granted, it did feel like that, but that’s Irish roads for you.

The cottage is wonderful, although the freezer mentioned on the cottage’s website has turned out to be a freezer-compartment inside the fridge. This leaves us with a week’s supply of rolls, which we had banked on being able to freeze, needing to be eaten before Tuesday. Rolls were a compulsory component of breakfast this morning, and shall likely be taken with every meal for the next two days. The washing machine and drier are incarcerated in the shed, which seems reasonable enough. Along with the microwave, which doesn’t.

The previous owner of the cottage was called George, and his hat hangs on a nail beside the fireplace. I feel sure he must haunt the place, but there was no evidence of him last night. I will keep you posted on any developments on this front. No mice either, although there was a spider in Gilly’s bath.

It’s still windy out, although the sun is breaking through periodically. Wiseman is keen to get to the beach, and mentioned this a number of times, enthusiastically, at breakfast. He was on the verge of becoming obstreperous when we pacified him with more coffee and Gilly’s Dad’s jam.


Suddenly aware that the sun was out and there was a patch of blue sky, we downed books and went to the beach just before lunch. I say just before lunch, but we’re back from the beach now, and there’s no sign of any lunch. Looks like I might have to get it myself. Oh well.

It was unfeasibly windy on the beach. Took some photos, but wasn’t a good day for taking photos.


Broon finally cracked, and made lunch. Spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. Not as easy as it sounds. My mind, unpractised in the art of deliberate relaxation, was looking around for something to DO while I was trying to focus it on the pages of the book in front of me.

As it turned out, I fell asleep only a few pages in as tiredness from yesterday’s journey hit.

Wiseman wandered through from the kitchen, clutching a pint of ale.

“Going well?”

“Haven’t started yet.” He chuckled.

Wiseman was on dinner tonight, and was planning to start his epic preparations at 4pm. However, come 5.30, there was still no sign of him in the kitchen. He had fallen asleep too. Dinner might be a little later tonight. No bad thing, we weren’t finishing lunch until just after 3.


From my vantage point in the sun room (yes, the sun room), I witnessed Wiseman going through the whole gamut of human emotion as he prepared a pot of chilli. Contentment, worry, distress, pain, confusion, they were all there. There was much whimpering, and I think I caught some muttering about health and safety, most notably when fingers were burnt on the casserole dish, which had to be pressed into action when it became apparent that the pans available in the kitchen were not built to accommodate Wiseman-like quantities of chilli. All very amusing. And it was all very tasty, as it turned out.

The Donegal Diary

Managed to jot down some thoughts while I was away in Donegal… have posted them in separate entries for each day. Couldn’t post them from Ireland as didn’t have access to the internet. Which made for a refreshing change, actually.

Will make most sense if you read them in order, if you can be bothered…!

Some really good photos, which can be viewed by clicking on the link to the right, or there should be a link in each day’s post.

Edinburgh, Sat 27 October

Vindication. Didn’t have a collapsed lung, but Gilly heard the mouse just after going to bed. Exited her room pronto and slept on the landing instead. I feel my reputation has been restored.

Left the cottage about 9.30am. Gilly left us in Letterkenny to head home for a break with her folks. Shazza led us all a merry dance across Co Derry and Antrim to the boat at Larne.

Managed to bully Wiseman, Shazza and Broon into a game of Scrabble on the boat. They got hockeyed.

Never ones to make the same mistake twice where good food is involved, we stopped at the Kilmarnock Little Chef this time en route back to Edinburgh. Spotted several New Hollands, a vintage Massey Ferguson and some other tractors on the road in Ayrshire. Even one Shazza and Broon weren’t familiar with. No John Deeres though.

And so it ends. A week’s holiday which met or exceeded all our expectations. Back to the daily grind… but only 2 months ’til Val d’Isère 2008…

Donegal, Fri 26 October

Last day. No-one heard the mouse last night, including me, as I had earplugs in.

Gilly and Shazza once again did the honours in the morning, rustling up another cooked breakfast with enough baked beans to keep us flatulent for a few days.

Having had a roadtrip every day thus far, and with the weather not being so kind today, we decided to hang around the cottage. The weather cleared up in the afternoon, so we headed down to the beach for some more cricket.

Followed that up with some wave-jumping (hours of endless fun) with the waves at their biggest all week. Got fairly effectively soaked, but the three girls plotted, along with Wiseman, the traitor, to dump me in the sea anyway. Made sure they ended up more soaked than me.

Weather brightened up nicely by the end. Came back to the cottage for a shower and a roast dinner. Decided that, what with it being cold and clear, and us having a roast dinner, we might as well celebrate Christmas. So we did. Put on some Christmas tunes, and the girls came up trumps with some streamers and party hooters. They even provided some presents for Wiseman and I, Wiseman got a wee bottle of red, and I got a bottle of Calpol. Apparently I had been whining quite a lot about my injuries all week (who’d have thought?)

Watched a couple of slideshows of the week’s photos, and then retired to bed. Developed a pain in my ribs which personally I thought might have been a collapsed lung, but appeared to be nothing a couple of paracetamol couldn’t fix. Eventually got to sleep propped up on about 100 pillows.

Donegal, Thurs 25 October

Up at 7.30 this morning. After getting up at 2.50am to shut Mark’s bathroom window, which was causing his door to rattle. The tinnitus has subsided somewhat today, it having been raging since one of Shazza’s shrieks during Articulate two days ago. Wiseman has been a little deaf on one side as well, but I haven’t seen him yet this morning to discover if it’s coming back. Rumour has it he’s gone for a run, but there’s no sign of him on the beach.

Shazza apart, it’s so quiet here. And dark. When the lights go out, it’s really really dark. Probably helps that we’re the only inhabited cottage for some way.

Broon has been up since very early, baking a cake and some biscuits. Not a bad person to have on a self-catering holiday, Broon. Cake and biscuits today, and she’s slated to mastermind the roast tomorrow night.

Gillian looks entirely unperturbed this morning. I fear she may not have heard the mouse. Enquiries draw a blank. Wiseman has not heard the mouse either. Everyone thinks I’m imagining it.

I have a scar on my ribs this morning which I’m not imagining. Wiseman attacked me with a teatowel yesterday, and I’m putting it down to that. I did, however, retaliate with a sweet flick to his forearm, which drew blood in quite a satisfying way.

Wiseman has been getting into the spirit of doing things differently, and has switched from taking his tea black with no sugar, to milk and two. Not sure this is entirely the kind of switch one should be making.

Had a quality grilled breakfast today, and then set off on an epic road trip to Malin Head – the most northerly point in Ireland.

“I’ve lost about three inches off my spine” complained Wiseman as we were driving along another bumpy road. “And at my age, I didn’t have too much to play with to begin with.”

I hit another bump at speed.

“Make that three and a half. It’s no wonder there’s so many leprechauns here.”

Weather was brilliant again today – cold, but clear blue skies and sunny. Last two days now have been perfect autumnal weather.

As a place to go to get away from it all, Donegal in the autumn is hard to beat, so it is.