Donegal Gweedore: The Locals

Leo's Tavern

If you have read my previous blog post Donegal: The Emerald Isle, you will know that the natural surroundings and Bunbeg House were enough to make me stay put all weekend but we couldn’t resist trying out the local pubs, and I’m so glad we did. The first night we went to recommended pub Hudi Beags which was just round the corner from our hotel. We were lucky, as the night we went there was a wedding party of musicians still celebrating, playing live traditional Irish music creating a vibrant atmosphere, it gave us a real feel for authentic Donegal nightlife.

The second day on our way back from the culture soaked trip to Glenveagh Castle we stopped at Leo’s Tavern for some dinner, the staff informed us that the entertainment for that night was Moya Brennan performing live. Of course we returned that night to see Moya’s performance. I love how Moya casually strolled through the crowds greeting everyone and when speaking on stage she would stop to say a friendly hello to anyone she knew. I admired Moya’s love for her home, she spoke of such pride and appreciation for her surroundings, unsurprisingly if anyone asks Moya where she is from, she tells them, The most beautiful place in the world. Her voice was so beautiful and even listening to it now takes me to the earthly Donegal hills. After the show I looked in awe at the frames that decorated the walls, stars such as the Script and Bono (who Moya did a duo with) casually hung upon the bar. A local man in his seventies laughed proudly telling my daddy of how Bono approached him, the man asked Bono: Bono? What’s that a band? Are you a country singer? It’s clear that Irish stars come here to experience the normality of life, not only do they get a feel for their heritage, but they get a laugh and a pint like everybody else.

During the day there was so much to do in exploring the area. As some of my family had been before they suggested visiting tourist attraction Glenveagh Castle. The castle was a blend of culture, history and natural beauty. I loved the views of Donegal so much I was worried Glenveagh Castle wouldn’t have this, but I was very wrong. After the tour of inside we had a cup of tea and cake in the most adorable café where the tamed birds sat outside chirping about among the visitors. The grounds of the castle were a magical maze of beauty, each part representing a different culture. The strong colours of flowers, secret stone steps and hidden huts were complemented by the backdrop of the natural landscape. There was a particular part of the gardens that had a long stone lane with a massive metal gate that lead to the openness of Donegal, if that’s not a gate to a heaven on earth, I don’t know what is! It is clear that visiting Glenveagh Castle put my doubts to rest and it turned out the castle basically embodied what Donegal is about.

It wasn’t just the natural beauty of the surroundings that had an effect on me during my trip, the people of Donegal had fresh beautiful faces and friendly realness about them. I have a real admiration for people who are brave enough to completely be themselves and you can just take them as they are, no hair extensions, fake tan or big brash attention seeking mannerisms. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone in Donegal but it’s the general feeling I got. It is safe to say I wasn’t just detoxed by taking in the scenery I was detoxed by the nature of the people, although the fast city life has a lot to be admired there is something very grounded and real about the countryside. It doesn’t hurt to take yourself out of your lifestyle and look at life from another perspective for a while. It’s refreshing to know that your way of life isn’t the only one and when travelling you can bring a part of every culture home with you.

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