Thursday, May 01, 2008

Derry good

Here's a slightly more detailed synopsis of our Irish trip, if you want it:

We flew from Bristol to Derry with Ryanair for the princely sum of 1 penny Sterling per person each way. Ryanair being Ryanair it didn't quite work out as cheap as that, what with credit card booking fees and various sneaky mystery surcharges levied at the airports, but we still got to Ireland and back for around ten quid each, which is pretty good.

Day 1 (Saturday) we just hung around Derry, checking in at the excellent Abbey B&B in the Bogside, which turns out to be an ideal base for checking out the city. We had a walk round the city walls and then went to the pub to sample the local Guinness - and very nice too.

On the Sunday we went over into the Republic Of Ireland - the border is only a couple of miles from the city, and in contrast to the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s you'd barely know you'd crossed it apart from the change in the format of the road signs and the speed limits changing from miles per hour to kilometres per hour. We drove out via Donegal town to the Slieve League cliffs, which claim to be Europe's highest sea cliffs, though this seems to be a subject of some dispute. They are certainly extremely impressive, though I would say a cliff purist (if such things exist) would probably prefer the Cliffs Of Moher near Galway. Why? Well, the Slieve League cliffs are essentially just a large-ish (a smidgen under 2000 feet) mountain that happens to be next to the sea, and thus one face falls impressively precipitously (though not vertically) into it, while the Cliffs Of Moher are a proper level-bit-of-land-sudenly-ending-in-a-vertical-drop kind of thing. Here's a photo of the Cliffs of Moher, taken by me on our boys' drinking trip to Galway and Connemara in early 2006:

And here's a graphical representation of the comparative topography (not to scale, obviously, Slieve League is considerably higher), just to illustrate that it all depends on how you define "cliff" (not like this, I would suggest):

Anyway, whatever the respective merits, we gazed upon the rocky majesty of the cliffs from the car park, at which point I suggested that we really ought to go and climb up on top of them. My very understanding and tolerant girlfriend agreed, so we did (photo link in previous post).

The following day we went north-east into County Antrim to visit the Giant's Causeway. Since we didn't come to Ireland especially to visit it I don't feel qualified to comment on Dr. Johnson's famous quote, but it was pretty impressive, so I suspect Johnson of being, in this particular instance, a bit of a johnson. We also visited the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and the Bushmills distillery. Unfortunately we were too late for a distillery tour, but we bought some miniatures which we necked back at the B&B, which seemed to do the trick.

On Tuesday morning we took a guided tour of Derry organised by the people at the Museum Of Free Derry. And very fascinating too - if you're of a similar age to me, your earliest memory of The Troubles will be of the coverage of the IRA hunger strikes, and Bobby Sands in particular, in the early 1980s, and the bizarre reporting restrictions involving having an actor read Gerry Adams' words over footage of him speaking in the 1980s and 1990s, but of course the conflict has much deeper and more complex roots than that, including Bloody Sunday which, it turns out, happened not 100 yards from our B&B in 1972.

The current peaceful power-sharing situation really does give even a raddled old cynic such as myself cause for optimism: if what seemed like a completely intractable conflict can be resolved as satisfactorily as this then there may be hope for other similar problems as well (and God knows there are plenty of them) in other parts of the world. Most remarkably, it seems that bellowing old demagogue Ian Paisley will more than likely be remembered with some affection by people on both sides of the conflict following his recent retirement from front-line politics, something that seemed utterly impossible when I was growing up.

Anyway, I seem to have gone on a bit, but my point is that this is a part of the world well worth a visit - Donegal in particular deserves a bit more than the day we were able to spend on it. So, to summarise: dere's more to Oireland.....dan dis.


everlands said...

Your post and our impending trip reminded me of this.


electrichalibut said...

Nutters! Apart from the Guinness consumption, that bit makes perfect sense.