Our drive from Londonderry to Galway took a turn to the north. Most of our day were spent on the Inishowen Peninsula doing what we tend to do best: blazing trails. There isn’t much happening on the way to Ireland’s most northern point, Malin Head. A few St. Patricks stops that aren’t really worth the fuss and Malin Head itself which is not really anything but the most northern point in Ireland. So we found the one thing in our Lonely Planet Ireland that interested me: a stone circle in Culdaff.
It was hard to find at first. Or at all. I ended up walking into a very small store in the middle of the very small town and asking for help. Help in small town in Ireland is not directions, but an escort! One of the other customers, on their way home, drove us right to the gate of one of two lithic structures, chatted for a bit, then instructed us into our first adventure of the day: cows.
The first three days in Ireland have been soggy. Varying between light sprinkles and sun-pops to downpours. Our farmer’s field was a grassy, muddy, poopy mess complete with standing stones and cows. Never deterred by a little muck, we tromped in. The water from the grass creeping slowly into our shoes. When we reached the center of the field the crazy happened. Cows!
The huge black cows had watched us ascend the little hill and seemed fairly disinterested until we reached the center. Then they were nothing but attentive. It is amazing how quickly an entire herd of cows can circle you. I crawled up on one of the stones knowing that it was a ridiculous attempt to make myself more comfortable in the situation.
My family doesn’t have cows. We farm plants and plants aren’t as likely to, well, move towards you. Many an explanation was inferred onto our situation: they are just curious, they might think we have food, they are crazy horror movie cows that are possessed by the spirits of the stone structure, they are stone-structure god-worshipping cows and we are their sacrifice, but my favorite one was that they were confused by our location in their ritualistic spot and assumed we were there to be initiated.
It is my proud honor to introduce you all to the two newest certified members of the Irish Stone Circle Cow Herd. Thank you very much!
We inched our way out of the field, giving the huge black mommas and their calves some space so as not to offend. Pregnant women don’t run very fast in wet, muddy fields from huge black cows, if you haven’t noticed.
We then crossed the main road and hiked down a soggy country lane and another field to the stone circle (or rectangle as is the case). This proved much less problematic. Sheep are shy and don’t encircle you. I wander what it would take to become a member of a sheep herd?
We continued on to the most northern point of Ireland: Malin Head. There isn’t much at Malin Head. A tower built by the British in the late 1800s and some small cement structures used as lookout posts during World War II. The area itself is rather desolate in a windy, romantic way. There are no trees, just grassy knolls littered with gray, craggy rocks. The beaches are stony and full of treasures. Jon brought me three beautiful seashells from his explorations!
A quick loop around the tip of Inishowen Peninsula and we continued south. We had to skip most of Donegal, Sligo, and Mayo counties because we spent too much time wandering the Inishowen peninsula and hanging out with farm animals. We did, however, make a short detour to the Glencar Lake and Waterfall in the Dartry Mountains.
At this point it was raining hard and the lake had flooded to nearly the road. Waterfalls plummeted down sheep pastures and river levels nearly reached the bridges. The mountains were tall and green with at least three amazing waterfalls cascading down them. It was incredible and horrifying. Like I have said before, however, we would not be deterred!
When we arrived at Gelcar Waterfall, the trail leading up was a small waterfall of its own. We scurried up, soaking our last pairs of dry shoes, to the waterfall lookout. The welcoming pictures had shown a fabulous waterfall much like those of the Pacific Northwest. Ours was twice as big and muddy. What is usually a picturesque spot had turned into a malicious and deadly force. So much for the better!
We daren’t stay long lest all the waterfalls, overflowing and newly made, fill the already overflowing lake and wash over the road. We made our way back to the main road and, once more, continued south.