Out of the motel, late again but hard to be early when breakfast serving does not start until 8:30am, and heading for Donegal. More of the relatives come from this area so a stop was obligatory. Checked out the ruins of the old Donegal Friary. The story behind this one is interesting, especially in light of what I said yesterday about how the castles were destroyed. The Friary was built by Red Hugh O'Donnell in 1474. It was plundered by the English in 1588 and they in turn were driven out a few years later, and the Friars repaired the buildings. In 1601, during another siege by English forces, the gun powder store exploded wrecking the building. Located in what is now a cemetery, it's hard to align the current peaceful place with the violence of previous years.
After the Friary, we head into the centre of town to check out yet another castle under restoration. Donegal Castle is believed to have also been built by Red Hugh O'Donnell around 1474. Historical records show that the castle underwent some changes over the years and a Manor House was added to the the tower in 1623. Some of the stones are believed to have come from the destroyed Friary.
Having to walk back from the centre of town of course meant stopping at shops. As is the way, check-out discussions led to family history and we were pointed in the direction of two McMonagle brothers in the stone, marble and heating businesses.
Back on the trail we headed for the little town of Convoy to seek out the Beltany Standing Stones ring. Located on a hill between Convoy and Raphoe, we walked up the hill to view the stones. Believed to date from around the period 1400 - 800BC, the circle is made up of 64 stones but there may have been up to 80 at one time. The view back over Convoy and surrounding farm land was great and would have been even better, especially for photographs, if the ever present rain would go away.
From the Stones, we headed for Derry also known as Londonderry, soon crossing the border from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland. Derry was a walled city and its 17th century wall, and the seven gates, are still intact.
Next on the list was Castlerock. It was never going to be much more than a go-through point on our way round but late research uncovered an interesting set of buildings built by one Earl Bishop Frederick Hervey from around 1722. The total size of the structures must have cost a fortune even then so I reckon the Bishop must have had a very generous flock. The Downhill House looks like a castle with a front that looks more like a 17th century house but the size of the building was bigger that most of the castles we've seen. In addition to the house, there is also the Mussenden Temple built right on the cliff face overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean. Must have been a hard job building it if the weather was like today, the wind coming up over the top of the cliffs was extremely strong. Other buildings include a Mausoleum dedicated to his brother , a walled garden, house, ice-house and dovecote to provide food for the main house and another house for his daughter. All this on a sprawling property on top of a mill of cliffs. The house was actually in use by the owner at ther time until 1922. The site and the building were used by the army as a camp during the Second World War and the building has since fallen into disrepaiur.
Cold from exploring, we headed through Coleraine into our accommodation at a B&B on a farm just outside of Portstewart.
Tomorrow we head for the Giant's Causeway and Antrim.