Category Archives: Ireland 2022

In and Around Derry/Londonderry

Cruit Island

We left the adorable port towns of Narin and Portnoo this morning for Fahan, not too far from Derry/Londonderry. We stopped at Cruit Island Golf Club, a remote, nine-hole course on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. As we approached Cruit Island, the road got narrower and narrower until we came to a one-lane bridge and proceeded the rest of the way on a single-lane road, not much wider than a golf-cart path.

If possible, the views from the Cruit Island course were more stunning than Narin & Portnoo.

Remembering the thick rough at Narin & Portnoo, we stocked up on one-euro golf balls in their club house. Luckily, we didn’t need all those golf balls because the rough was much kinder than the previous course.

I really loved this little golf course. The rocky cliffs, steep hills and blind holes made it challenging, but doable. The friendly staff and golfers contributed to the fun day.


Our day in Derry/Londonderry was much too short. A parking enforcement officer welcomed us to the city in a wonderful way. He and his partner were writing tickets in the car park when I asked for his assistance paying with a credit card. He told me the pay station only took coins (we didn’t have enough) or an app which he said we probably didn’t have. Then he smiled and said not to worry-they would not be patrolling that car park the rest of the day. To be fair, we bought a voucher anyway using the coins we had and sure enough returned later than our voucher time to find no ticket on our window.

Our first stop was the Craft Village, a wonderful collection of shops designed to support existing and emerging artists.

Lunch in the Craft Village

Historic Derry/Londonderry

Derry/Londonderry (the second largest city in Northern Ireland) is known as both Derry and Londonderry. The London prefix was added by King James I in the 17th century. In 1984 the Nationalist controlled council returned to calling the city Derry. Today, both names are used, depending on political perspective. One Irishman advised me that the best approach, and one used by many, is to call the town Derry/Londonderry.

Based on recommendations from the wait staff at Cruit Island, I thought walking the historic walls around the city would be the highlight of our day. Colonists from Britain and Scotland built the walls in the 17th century to keep out the Irish. The walls are considered to be one of the best examples of complete city walls in Ireland or Europe.

The walls were impressive, and we enjoyed seeing the city from the top of the wall.

Bloody Sunday

The morning in Derry/Londonderry was interesting, but the afternoon was more than interesting-it was intense. “The Story of the Irish Conflict and Peace Process-the Derry Connection”, a private walking tour with a guide who had experienced the conflict was the highlight of our day. The tour started at Guildhall, a district government building and museum. Located in front of the building, Guildhall Square is the site of many important events in the city. Bill Clinton spoke there in 1995 at the beginning of the peace process.

As we walked the path that the Bloody Sunday protesters took on January 30, 1972, John, our guide, told us about the events leading up to British soldiers shooting 26 unarmed civilians, killing 14. Many of the victims were shot while fleeing and some were shot while trying to help the wounded.

Bogside, the area just outside the walls, was the location of most of the conflict. Today there are murals commemorating the conflict and honoring the victims. One depicts some of the activists who died from hunger strikes and their mothers.

John showed us an especially moving mural and poem created for the recent fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday on January 30, 2022. The waving white handkerchief in the mural was an important symbol of the protest.

Children’s artwork was the inspiration for a powerful mural illustrating the hope for peace and belief that all people have value. The dove represents peace and the blocks represent all people.

John’s passion and detailed information conveyed the emotion of the events. We left feeling quite moved by the powerful experience.

After the walking tour, crossing the Peace Bridge over the River Foyle balanced the emotions of learning about the Bloody Sunday events and repercussions. The bridge unites two historically divided communities, Protestant Waterside and Nationalist Bogside in a symbolic handshake.

Rosapenna Golf

Another day, another beautiful round of golf. While we were having lunch in the clubhouse before our round, a lovely gentleman from Dublin stopped to chat with us and offered to take our picture.

This time we were not quite as lucky with the weather. We knew there was a chance of rain, but as we finished the front nine, it looked like we would be able to finish our round. Then on the 13th hole, the skies started to darken.

And then it got really dark.

On the 16th hole a drizzle turned into a downpour and by the time we found our way back to the car, we were soaked. Our plan was to go to the clubhouse, put on dry clothes and explore the area. But our plans changed.

A Little Wrinkle in Our Plans

Heavy rain still pounding us, I looked back at Paul and noticed the lower right leg of his pants was soaked in blood. When we got to the car, blood was spurting from his leg. We were in a very remote part of Ireland and not sure where to go for help. The golf shop advised us to go to a pharmacy in Carrigart, a little town about five minutes away.

After the pharmacist looked at Paul’s leg, he called a medic. After the medic looked at Paul’s leg, she called an ambulance. The ambulance arrived in record time, and we were transported to the emergency room in Letterkenny about thirty minutes away. Due to Covid restrictions, the medic wasn’t sure I would be able to go with Paul in the ambulance.

Thankfully they let me go with Paul because I could not drive our rental car to the hospital. I haven’t driven a stick shift since high school and have never driven on the opposite side of the road. I was willing to give it a try, but everyone thought that was a bad idea.

Everything worked out and Paul is fine now. We are so thankful for all the kind Irish people who helped us out-the pharmacist who wouldn’t let me pay for any of the supplies he used; the medic who brought me hot tea because I was shivering in my cold, wet clothes; the wonderful ambulance EMTs who took such kind care of both of us; the man in the waiting room who told us how the taxis worked (we had to get back to our car in Carrigart); the other man in the waiting room who called a taxi for us; and Tony, the taxi driver who spent an hour taking us to our car when he could have been driving people home from the pubs.

A friend taught me to ask the question, “What is the lesson in this?” The lesson in our challenges on this trip is that there is an abundance of goodness in the world.

Narin & Portnoo

Waking up to brilliant sunlight shining through the windows, we couldn’t believe it was only 5:00 AM. We took advantage of getting a head start to our day and enjoyed a very early cup of coffee in front of the fire.

Bundling up, we walked a block from our house to the beautiful Atlantic coastline. Birds and waves were our only company. A definite perk of being up and out so early.

Not far from the coast, we could see the small, tidal island of Inishkeel. In the 6th century A.D. a small community of monks established a community there that became a site for pilgrims to visit. Remains of some of the structures are still visible.

Julie, our host, told us that during low tide, the ocean parts just like the Red Sea did for Moses, allowing a two-hour window to walk from the mainland to the island. I couldn’t visualize how that would work until later that day. We could see the island from the golf course and the path was starting to appear. I really wanted to walk through the ocean to the island, but the timing didn’t work out. And Paul wasn’t convinced I would make it back.

Golf at Narin & Portnoo Links

Our main reason for coming to this area was so Paul could play the Narin & Portnoo LInks golf course. Ever since he read Tom Coyne rave about this hidden gem in A Course Called Ireland he has wanted play it. The locals kept telling us how lucky we were to have such a beautiful day for golf. And they were right-it was a perfect sunny day.

Links courses are the oldest style of golf course, and most are built on sandy coast land. More than half of the holes at Narin & Portnoo Links are along the coast and the views are spectacular. I think I spent more time admiring the beautiful scenery than focusing on my golf game.

I started off playing well and feeling confident. It soon became apparent that the first few holes were the easy ones. The course became more challenging and more beautiful as we got farther from the clubhouse.

I only lost one ball, but I must confess I skipped one hole. Tee to fairway was farther than I could hit.

Glenveagh National Park

Locals gave us such great suggestions for how to spend our last day in the area that it was hard to choose. We decided to make the hour drive to Glenveagh National Park, Ireland’s second largest park. It was a great choice! Admission to all six national parks in Ireland is free.

Once again, we got lucky with the weather. It rained on us going and coming, but while we were at the park, it was warm and sunny.

As the day went on, it got warmer and warmer and we kept shedding layers.

A castle built by John Adair in 1857-59 sits in the middle of the huge park.

Beautiful gardens surround the castle.

I love visiting gardens.

After hiking to the castle, we took the scenic hike to the top of the mountain behind the castle. The hike was steep and the view was stunning.

Tomorrow we say good by to this beautiful remote area and go to our next stop just outside Derry.

Galway to Narin & Portnoo

We said good bye to Deni, our wonderful Galway host whose amazing artwork added so much color and life to our apartment. As we chatted, we realized that we shared similar life philosophies.

The best news of the day was that our luggage was on its way to Dublin. The airline could not assure us that it would be delivered by the time we were scheduled to golf on Monday, so we decided to take a little detour to the Dublin airport to pick it up ourselves. Just as we were walking into the airport, Dave from the airport called and said he had our luggage. He offered to bring our luggage to us at the coffee shop just inside the arrival door-without a doubt the best luggage service I have ever had.

Feeling so happy to have all our travel challenges resolved, we began the beautiful drive to Narin & Portnoo. These tiny towns in northwest Ireland are on the Atlantic coast and home to a hidden gem of a golf course.

We were excited to get to our little house about a half block from the ocean. I am looking forward to building a fire in the cozy wood-burning stove.

Tomorrow we will golf and explore this beautiful area.

Galway, Finally!

We made it to Galway, but it wasn’t easy. Challenges like weather-delayed flights, an unplanned refueling stop, overbooked planes and long waits for assistance almost turned our one-day journey into five. Thanks to help from Delta staff I started calling our travel angels, we arrived just one day later than planned.

Systems May Not Be Working, But People Are

Among the many travel angels who helped us, the most memorable was Candace, the gate agent at JFK, who got us on our connecting flight to Dublin. Deplaning just minutes before our next flight was scheduled to leave, I literally ran to the gate. Out of breath and quite disheveled, I arrived just after the boarding door closed. All of the flights the next day were sold out so missing this flight would add another two days to our travel time. Still breathing hard, I shared with Candace all our traveling snafus and begged her to find a way to get us on the plane.

This dear woman called the plane staff for approval. When she got the OK to let us on, we all exchanged exuberant hugs. I have never hugged a gate agent before. We didn’t realize what a big deal letting us board was until we watched her drive the jet way to the plane entrance. She knocked on the plane door just like you would knock on a neighbor’s door. After she pulled a little lever, the huge door opened. After thanking Candace for probably the twentieth time, we boarded the plane.

Sweaty, sleep-deprived, thirsty and relieved, we collapsed in our seats, not quite believing we were finally on a plane to Ireland.

We arrived at Dublin airport, got our rental car and made the two-hour drive to Galway drama free. Well, we did have one small problem-our luggage was still in Atlanta. Knowing how unreliable flying has become, Paul added a few days in Galway at the beginning of our trip. We wanted some wiggle room in case we were delayed. Thank you, Paul!

Galway Is Still Great

We settled in to our lovely little apartment in the heart of the city and met the owner and manager, an opera singer and a painter. Meeting interesting people is one of the perks of staying in airbnbs. It was fun to revisit pedestrian-only Shop Street, an area we loved for its street performers and energetic vibe.

This great video really captures the Galway energy.

Paul had his first Guinness of the trip at the Buddha Bar, a great Asian restaurant recommended by our hosts.

Making up for two nights of almost no sleep, we slept almost ten hours our first night in Galway and got a bit of a late start to our day. But not too late to catch the Galway market

and the varied music of the many buskers along the street.

The only downer to our day was learning our luggage would not be delivered in the afternoon because it was still in Atlanta..

We ended our last day in Galway with a lovely dinner and stroll by the Corrib River to the Spanish Arch. Built in 1584, it is an extension of a 12th century Norman-built town wall.