Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sligo - Donegal

Breakfast was a solitary affair as I had expected, perched at one end of a setting for 10 in a room overstuffed with floral-pattern crockery, and other old-ladyish stuffings. After some half-cooked scrambled eggs, and percolated coffee served in a coffee-press I made a quick exit. I proffered some €20 notes, expecting some change, but my hostess pocketed it without looking (without comprehending the amount?), wished me luck and show me to the door in the distant manner of one who could have been the aunt of Lurch, the Addams' family butler.

Sligo is Yeats country. He was born here, wrote of its lakes and waterfalls and was reinterred north of Sligo some years after his death in the mid-20th century. I couldn't quote a line of his poetry so didn't feel compelled to stop by his grave as I passed it on the N15 heading north.

I was however quite taken by the distinctive shape of Benbulben, rising out of the mist and drizzle that had invaded Ireland's northwest on the longest day of the year. After I passed it, I made a turn off to Mullaghmore Head (as suggested by Stella) and stood watching Atlantic waves battering the beaches.

I didn't have far to go before I reached the outskirts of Donegal town, where I found a nice craft village to escape the continuing bad weather. The silversmith/jeweller/sculptor there had some interesting material that looked to be based on some of the interlocking circle motifs I had seen at Newgrange tomb on Monday.

There was not much to see in Donegal Town itself, even with a brief bit of sunshine, so after a quick walk around, we headed west along the top of Donegal Bay. First stop was the very busy fishing port Killybegs. I thought I'd go for some fish & chips to warm me up, with a good prospect of freshly caught fish. Sadly this was married with chips cooked in fat that hadn't been changed since the Vikings dropped anchor.

I continued on the coast road, wishing that the clouds would lift and allow a better prospect over the bays and valleys I was passing. I continued out to Malin Beg, close to the westernmost edge of the Donegal mainland. The wind was blowing a gale, and I had difficulty walking away from my vehicle. I drove back, passing fields harvested for peat, looking for the turnoff to Slieve League, the highest sea-cliffs in Europe (yes, higher than the Cliffs of Moher).

I found the turnoff in Carrick, the sign having been lost amongst a jumble of others on the side of a pub. The road quickly became quite narrow and torturous, with no safety rail between vehicle and a sudden plunge. The already indecent weather seemed to be worsening by the minute, and as visibility declined, I decided that I wasn't going to continue further. There was an opportunity to do a safe three-point turn before the road went around a sudden twist and became (it seemed) narrower and difficult to allow any other traffic past. My guess is that the view would have been limited today in any case by the low cloud. Made a short detour to Tillin Pier below the turn-off to the cliffs.

I wrapped up the day by driving through the very beautiful Glengesh Pass, which reminded me of the road north of Machynlleth in Snowdonia, to Ardara (a cluster of tweed shops and nothing of interest to me) and onto Glenties. Thankfully I spotted my farmhouse B&B from the road without even making an effort to search it out.

I was listening to the audio-book of Robert Rankin's The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse during the drive (which I'd bought incredibly cheaply at a Hay-on-Wye bookstore). It started out well enough, but after about 2/3 of the way, it became incredibly contrived and reliant on a deux en mechanical toy ending. Pity.

Finished reading Robin Dunbar's The Human Story. Dunbar is a professor of evolutionary psychology and wrote the wonderful Gossip, Grooming and the Evolution of Language 10 years before. While the earlier book looked at the sizes of close - relationship networks that humans and primates can manage (in the case of humans: about 150 people), this text deals with things like the number of levels of redirection in theories of mind that humans/primates can manage i.e. I believe that you think that she will do this because she hopes her boyfriend believes that ...

After that I polished off The Wild Numbers by Philibert Schogt, a novella about the working life of a (competent, but not outstanding) mathematician. There were a lot of flashbacks that reminded me a lot of how I wound up doing a mathematics degree, some finite, countable, but I'm-not-going-to-count-them, years ago. I'm lucky it didn't give me nightmares about my honours year.

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