best of ireland: not on the map

I spent the summer of 2003 driving around Ireland, Scotland, and the north of England with my sister. The best parts of Ireland are the ones you can’t find on the map.

What you see in this picture in the lower right hand corner – where the grass is a little lighter – is literally the end of the road. On my old print map (since this was 2003, prior to the advent of the nav system), there is one word hovering in an ambiguous size, font, and placement, and in italics: Port. On Google maps, there’s nothing. Just drive due west from Ardara, Co. Donegal.

While in Ardara, we stayed at The Green Gate. I dream of going back. The smell of the peat fire in the hearth, the bathtub looking like it was filled with tea because of the peat, the thatched roofs and whitewashed walls. And that great Irish breakfast every morning.

We had to ask for directions about 20 times to find The Green Gate. The Irish aren’t terribly good at giving directions… what do you do with, “Oh, you can’t get there from here.”? But frankly, I look for any excuse to listen to the Irish talk, and they don’t need an excuse to begin. Perfect.

This was our trusty motor car. I can’t remember now if it was a Fiat, a Vauxhall, a Peugot, or what… but what I do remember is, if we didn’t tuck the side mirrors in when we entered a town, they would make a racket getting knocked back when I brushed a building. Village lanes in Ireland are tiny.

Can you tell that in this picture the car is filling up at the gas station? Yes, that is the gas pump. Outside the wine shop.

So, without further ado, here are some things my sister and I found while getting lost in the northwest of Ireland.

This waterfall:

This farmhouse:

These woolly sheep:

The road kept beckoning.

I’ve travelled all over the world. Seen all the continents except one, and even had a job offer in Antarctica. But there are few trips that I would love to relive day for day like my driving tour of Ireland with my l’il sis.

Oh, and – are you seeing this Trader Joe’s – part of the fun of travelling with my sister is the surprises that come out of her suitcase. Clearly I was enjoying this one.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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