Get a new perspective on Donegal with a staycation

Did you know the US air force was partially born in Inishowen?

Moville

Moville on the banks of Lough Foyle. Credit: Peter Mullan

A new word has entered the lexicon as Covid-19 restrictions ease.

With Donegal entering Phase 3 of the ‘Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business’ this week, the peninsula was abuzz with ‘staycation’ options.

Speaking to Donegal Live, Redcastle’s Peter Mullan, who recently obtained his Fáilte Ireland approved ‘Local, Regional and National Tour Guide’ qualification from the LyIT School of Tourism, Killybegs, said this summer was the perfect time to discover the treasures on our own doorstep.

Peter said: “There is so much to see in Inishowen, no matter what it is you are interested in. If it is golf, we have some of the best golf courses in the world, including: Ballyliffin Golf Club, Greencastle Golf Club and North West Golf Club, Lisfannon.

“We also have lots of activities people can participate in. We have tour boats out of Greencastle, which will take you out and show you the wildlife on the ocean and show you the perspective of Inishowen from the water.

“We have Alpacas in Malin Head where you can ride an Alpaca around Banaba’s Crown [www.wildalpacaway.com]. We have go-carting in Burnfoot [www.halfwaykarting.com] and Waterpark in Moville, a fabulous inflatable assault course on Lough Foyle [www.inishadventure.com]. I would just advise people to double check what is open and when before leaving home, just to avoid disappointment.

“Hopefully, all of Inishowen’s wonderful facilities will be available at some stage during the summer as we go through the different phases of re-opening. We are in Stage Three from this week and if all goes well, in July we will enter Stage Four, the final stage,” said an optimistic Peter.

With the whole summer ahead, there will be stacks to do and see in Inishowen in the weeks ahead.

According to Peter, Inishowen has some of the best food offerings in Ireland, in terms of producers, and restaurants.

He added: “We have a famous chef, Brian McDermott, in the Foyle Hotel in Moville, as well as many lovely cafés where people can now sit in and take away. In that aspect, the peninsula cannot be bettered, at home or abroad.

“Over the next couple of months, The peninsula’s visitors and staycationers can explore our many wonderfully safe beaches, including Kinnagoe and Shroove and Culdaff, which have Blue Flag Status.

“And, as if all of that was not enough, Inishowen is one of the most historic places on the island of Ireland. Our history goes back to 3000 BC. You can go to Doagh Island and you can see the stone carvings that were done there by early Neolithic people. You can go to An Grianán Áiligh in Burt, which was the stronghold of the Uí Néill’s.

“You can go to Fahan graveyard and visit the grave of Agnes Jones (1832 to 1868) who became the first trained Nursing Superintendent of Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary. Agnes Jones was described by nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale as ‘one of the most valuable lives in England,’” said Peter.

Fahan graveyard also holds the tombstone of St Mura (550 to 645 AD) the monk who founded the Othan Mór monastery in the area.

Peter said: “One of my favourite Inishowen landmarks is St Mura’s Cross in Fahan. This early Seventh Century cross-slab is six and a half feet in height.

“The intertwined ribbon knotwork is thought to represent the Tree of Life and the five circles symbolizing fruit. The Tree of Life with its roots on the earth and its branches high in the air symbolized a connection between heaven and earth. The seasonal cycles of the tree link it with growth, death, and rebirth.

“It could then be onward to beautiful Inch Island. The Inch Loop is a lovely walk, of which we have so many in Inishowen. Hopefully, it will not be too long until Buncrana’s Swan Park is open again. But there is also a lovely walk along the Shore Front at Father to Heagrty’s Rock to be enjoyed, as well as the Shore Walk in Moville, the town that was founded by the famous Montgomery Family.

“The Monastic site at Cooley also has a very ancient cross, which dates back to the Eighth Century. Carndonagh has a similar cross. So, there is just so much to see in the peninsula,” said Peter.

According to Peter, one of Inishowen’s gems is beautiful Urris.

He added: “A must-see is Beautiful Urris, beautiful Clonmany, accessed via Mamore Gap, which is both historic and fun.

“I wonder how many people in Inishowen know about or have tried the Magic Road where you can stop your car on a hill and have it magically move by itself backwards up the hill. It is great fun for children. There is also a fabulous view from the top of the hill.

“We also have the whole history of poitín making and the Independent State of Urris because of the poitín making. In the 1700s, what happened was the only road into Urris was via Mamore Gap and because of poitín making was illegal, Urris decided to go it alone and declared itself an independent republic and blocked the roads into the area.

Obviously, the independent republic of Urris did not last for long with the sending in of the British Army. The plaque at Mamore Gap said the army was sent in to ‘restore order’ but one possibly proud Urris wag has scribbled out ‘restore order.’ I would not countenance the defacing of signs, but you can almost imagine his or her wry smile,” said Peter.

It would take you at least a week to go around Inishowen and see everything, according to Peter Mullan.

He then nonchalantly mentioned Ture’s old WWI airport.

Peter said: “Obviously, the airport cannot be accessed because it is on private land.

“In 1917, before there was such a thing as an US air force, the US navy built an airport for floating boats at Ture in Muff to defend the supply ships coming into Britain. It operated from 1917 to 1918.

“The WWI airport is located as you come along the Ture Road, past the GAA pitch. Look out to your left and you will see an old red bricked building, up on a height. People may have seen it and wondered what it was. That is the remnants of a WWI United States base.

“The airport itself straddles both sides of the road. The actual base where you would have had people staying, soldiers and sailors, would be to the right coming from Moville. The actual airport is down to your left and all that remains at the minute are concrete slabs where the boats would have been stored. The jetty is still there, where the boats would have been taken from where they were being stored, unto the water so they could launch themselves from the water,” said Peter.

Peter described the WWI airport as a “fabulous attraction” which should be utilised, and its story told.

Peter said: “The Ture airport is one of the first instances of the US investing in airplanes or air warfare.1917 pre dates the US air force. At that time, the planes would have been part of the navy and some of the actual infrastructure is still there.

“Drung Chapel has a few interesting features too. We have a memorial there to John Smith, who was part of the Land League and campaigned against the Carrowmenagh Evictions.

“On December 27, 28 and 29,1881,13 families were evicted from their homes in the village of Carrowmenagh, in Inishowen peninsula. The tenants were behind in their rent payments and had no means of paying the arrears.
Last minute appeals by the parish priest of Moville, Father Michael Farnan to the landlord to accept a portion of the rent fell on deaf ears. The response from the land agent was that it was 'all or nothing.’

“John Smith died of pneumonia because of his participation in the Land League,” said Peter.

The old chapel at Drung was built post 1829, following after the Daniel O’Connell’s campaign for Catholic Emancipation.

The bigger chapel at Drung was built following the repeal of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act in 1871, using some of the stone from this original.

Outlining some of Redcastle’s fascinating history, Peter said: “The modern day hotel was the site occupied by John Doherty who anglicised his name. He was the father of Cathaoir Ó Dochartaigh, the last Chieftain of Inishowen.

“After he was killed in the Battle of Kilmacrennan in 1608, the whole of Inishowen was burnt and ravaged with all private lands being seized and awarded to Arthur Chichester and all the church lands given to the Bishop of the Established Church Bishop in Derry.

“Fahan, Cooley and Straid, all those monasteries were Inishowen’s towns before the other towns were built. They were centres of learning and centres of commerce. Whenever the Church lands were given away, new towns, including, Moville, Malin, Carndonagh and Clonmany had to be built. Those are all Plantation towns.

“A lot of people would have the perception that, whenever the English came, that is when learning and commerce came to Inishowen, as if there was nothing here before then. However, before that, we had thriving towns and thriving centres. It is just that they changed location after the Plantation,” said Peter.

Brimming with enthusiasm, Peter Mullan is adamant there is so much to see and learn in Inishowen.

He concluded: “Inishowen has so much. There is so much to see and learn. This is not even the half of it.

“It is all in our own backyard. Why would anyone go anywhere else? Inishowen is paradise and there is no better time than this summer to discover what is right here on our doorstep.”

If you fancy a tour of Inishowen, Peter Mullan can be contacted at: 0872521441 or via email: petermullan1@gmail.com.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

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