Thursday, March 24, 2011

Donegal and Glenveagh Castle

Donegal is the most remote county in Ireland, on the northwest coast and fairly cut off from the rest of the Republic. It is the area where one is most likely to hear real Irish language spoken, though we heard only our guide at the castle speak a short welcome in Gaelic. We drove miles through brown peat bogs, along estuaries, and through the stoney mountains along the coastline. The scenery is dramatic. The villages are small, but unfortunately, there are hundreds of new and empty houses dotting the landscape - remnants of the banking/mortgage collaspe that has led to the recent economic recession in Ireland. One wonders what will happen to all these empty houses. Will they be removed? crumble into ruins? ever be sold? In the meantime, they make a real impact on the otherwise pastoral scenery.

We drove north to Glenveagh Castle built by an Anglo Irishman named Adair as a hunting lodge in the mid 1800's. He married an American widow from upstate NY who inherited the estate upon his death in 1889. She was very popular with the locals, entertained lavishly and added to the castle and gardens. After being owned by a Harvard art professor after WWI, the property was sold to a Philladelphia mult-millionaire named McIlheney who again added to the furnishings, art work, and gardens. He and his wife enjoyed the castle until his death in 1986, at which time it was bequeathed to the Irish government which created a national park from the property and adjacent land. The lake, this morning, was absolutely calm, like a mirror. McIlheney put in a heated swimming pool which is pictured above. It is difficult to see where the pool ends, and the lake begins. It was amazing this morning with the reflections making it seem as if both are on the same level. In fact, the lake is about 6 feet below the pool.

The gardens must be magnificent in the summer. Today, only a few rhododendruns and a lot of daffodils were in bloom. It was a lovely day, about 56 degrees, with lots of sunshine. We drove back through more of the Donegal peat farms and mountains.

Bill is becoming very adept at negotiating the rough and narrow roads. It takes practice.

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