After leaving Slieve Russell and driving three hours on beautiful but steep and narrow, sheep-inhabited coastal roads, we arrived at Rosapenna Golf Resort, our home for the next three days. We went from a golf-course view at our last stop to a North Atlantic Ocean coastal view here.

Located in a remote part of County Donegal in Ireland, Rosapenna lies farther north than most of Northern Ireland. Learning that this part of Ireland is west, not south, of Northern Ireland made me realize I needed a geography lesson.

Ireland-North and South

Even though I have been to Ireland four times, I never thought about the geographic border between the two countries. In my mind, all of Ireland was south of Northern Ireland. Not so!

I knew from previous trips that the border between the two countries meanders through the top part of the island. Driving through the area, our GPS would switch between miles and kilometers depending on the country. Not always being sure which country we were in, we needed to ask if we should pay in pounds or euros.

Once I started thinking about not all of Ireland being south of Northern Ireland, I wanted to know why. So, I did a little research and learned that the establishment of the borders, like Irish history, is complex. The simple answer is the territorial extent of Northern Ireland, which came into existence on May 3, 1921, was defined by reference to six of the nine counties of Ulster. The desire for a Protestant majority determined which Ulster counties would be included.


Ever since we were rained out on the 16th hole of one of the Rosapenna golf courses two years ago, Paul has wanted to return to golf and explore the area. So, he was especially happy to be golfing Old Tom Morris and Sandy Hills, the two courses we missed on our first trip. Benny, the almost-eighty-year-old starter, was a great ambassador for the courses and the area.

All of the Rosapenna courses are links courses, the oldest style of golf course. Generally built on sandy coast land, they offer stunning ocean views. The beautiful views definitely distracted me from my game.


Downings, the nearby village, is on the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,600-mile trail along parts of the west, north and south coasts of Ireland. After multiple people suggested driving the Wild Atlantic Way six-mile loop around the Downings penninsula, we drove the beautiful route one evening.

Every chance we got, we pulled into a cut-out to enjoy the view and take pictures.

Beach Walk

We planned to walk the beautiful beach right outside our window one morning, but a hotel staff member recommended we drive a half mile from the hotel and walk along Sheephaven Bay. It is usually a good call to follow locals’ recommendations, and this was no exception. We easily found the tiny parking lot and almost-hidden beach entrance.

Only four other people shared the beach with us. Walking along the quiet shore in the soft light was a serene and beautiful way to start our day.

At first glance, I thought I saw a woman walking on water. Looking closer, I could see that she was on a barely-visible sandbar.

The day was cloudy, but the colors and light were amazing.

Summer Solstice

Coming back from our beach walk, we saw two helicopters on the ground by the pro shop. Inquiring minds wanted to know what was going on, so we asked at our hotel. The front desk attendant told us some famous people were here to play all three Rosaspenna courses in one day to celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

When we got to the golf course, we learned that she wasn’t quite accurate. Jack Nicklaus’s son and grandson were the golfers who helicoptered in. They were playing one course at Rosapenna and flying off to play a different course later in the day.

However, Rosapenna was hosting a summer solstice event for fifty-four players who played all fifty-four holes in one day.

Not sure if they celebrate the summer solstice this way every year, but this one warrants special celebration. It is the earliest summer solstice date, June 20, 2024, in 228 years.

As we were leaving we talked with two of the summer solstice golfers who had nine of their fifty-four holes left. They were walking the entire course. After walking eighteen very hilly holes that day, I was quite impressed with their endurance.

A Little Reunion

On our way out of the area, we had a reunion moment with the Carrigart pharmacist and assistant who had helped us when we were here two years earlier. When Paul’s leg started bleeding uncontrollably, the golf course staff directed us to the Carrigart pharmacy for help. Not only did they remember us being there, the pharmacist wanted to know how Paul’s leg was doing. We ended up having a lovely chat with both of them.

It seems like the Carrigart pharmacist is always coming to our rescue. We stopped in this time because I had forgotten my prescription arthritis medicine and wanted to know what they would suggest for a substitute. The pharmacist took all my information, including my doctor’s name, and was able to give me a two-week supply of my prescription.

A Special Place

Many times during our three days in the area we talked about how we could live here. To be honest, I talk about living in almost all of the beautiful places I visit. But this area feels uniquely appealing. It is an interesting combination of wild and dramatic and serene and welcoming. Not sure if I will return, but I will always remember how much I love this area.