Blog 4 from Ireland: Ireland in 3 days–Road Trip with Fr. Kemmy
Happy Christmas to you all! I am in Fr. Philip’s car nearing the end of a road trip that took us all around the sites of Ireland which I didn’t get to see along my bike pilgrimage. Over the past three days we have covered over 770 miles with three different groups of past friends I had met during my visits up along the northwestern part of the Island. Here is how the whole thing came together. I was fortunate enough to catch Fr. Philip just before the Christmas break where I stayed with him in the Parochial House in the village of Convoy, Co. Donegal.
On Christmas Eve I headed back down to Knock Shrine where I celebrated an amazing Christmas with the Lacken family there. On St. Stephen’s Day (Commonly called Boxing Day in Ireland) I headed by bus back to Donegal, where I stayed the night with the McGloin Family in Ballybofey.
On Tuesday morning Fr. Philip drove myself, Hugh McGloin, John O’Hara and Tim Jackson around Co. Donegal for the day. He brought us to Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) in the far southwest corner of Donegal. The cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare are more famous than these sea cliffs, but these sea cliffs are the highest in Europe. Unfortunately all we could see was the lower half of the cliff face because there was so much cloud covering it over. Fr. Philip assured me that it is spectacularly beautiful – on a good day!
From Slieve League we made our way eastward through the fishing port of Killybegs then back through the town of Donegal and south to Rossknowlagh Beach and the nearby Franciscan Friary. Though icy cold on the beach – many brave souls were heading out into the water with their surf boards – Hawaii it most certainly wasn’t but the waves were certainly worthy of note. To all our surprise we saw lots of fishermen on the beach, but they seemed to be fishing in the sand. I’m sure there was a completely rational explanation as to why they weren’t actually casting the line into the water – but we didn’t stick around long enough to find out.
We headed back northwards to Donegal Town – finding the little restaurant we wanted to eat in closed we settled for a ‘meal’ in the 4 lanterns – you might call it a local version of McDonalds. After Lunch we headed way up to the opposite end of the county to the Inishowen Peninsula. Our first port of call was “An Grianan of Aileach”, an ancient pre Christian site perhaps as old as the pyramids, where once there stood a sun temple (Grianan in Gaelic), and where later, for a time, the seat of the High King of Ireland was situated. The present day structure is relatively recent, a supposed reconstruction of the sun temple built in the last couple of centuries. It was windy on top of that Hill of Grianan and though it boasts spectacular views of Lough Swilly andLough Foyle and the North Atlantic in the distance to the north and wonderful panoramas of the hills of Donegal to the south, we hurried to the warmth of the car and headed on our pilgrimage northward. We passed through the town of Buncrana and onwards toward Mamore Gap – a mountain pass with a grotto to our Lady and St. Bernadette, a statue of St. Padre Pio, and St. Eigne’s Holy Well. Every year on the 15th August the local parishioners from the foot of the pass make a pilgrimage up here to pray. Here too we were treated to spectacular views and here too we saw the vast North Atlantic Ocean stretch out before our eyes – next stop, Iceland!
Travelling through Mamore Gap we made our way through the area known as Urris and then on to the village of Clonmany (in English Clonmany means ‘Monk’s Meadows). Fr. Philip pointed out that in the local graveyard 4 generations of his family are buried.
Heading back to Buncrana, we had time for a coffee before making a Holy Hour of Adoration in Buncrana’s Adoration Chapel, then back to Ballybofey we went in time for Dinner with the McGloins. But Fr. Philip wasn’t finished yet – he took me then to visit the home of Tony and Sheena Foy on the outskirts of Ballybofey. The parents of 7 children – the eldest 14 – they welcomed us into their home and we got to sample some of Sheena’s delicious home cooking. When you’re with Fr. Philip – you’ll never go hungry!