Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fall Cruise from Mayo to Donegal. Part 2: Inishkeas to Teelin

Crossing Donegal Bay in shades of grey again.
(Click on photos to enlarge.)
We left the anchorage in the Inishkeas rather late, thinking we would stop in Broadhaven or Killala for the night. But then we came up with the brilliant idea of pushing to get to Teelin and having a another day off to visit Slieve League while we were there. The seas had calmed but there wasn't enough wind to propel Aleria, so we motor sailed up the Mayo coast. 



Gannets flying to a feeding frenzy.
Some quick calculations told us we'd be coming into Teelin after dark. That's the drawback of sailing this time of year. If our guess about the incoming tide giving us a little push proved correct, we'd be in around 8 pm. Not too bad. We've been there before and know the straightforward approach and the spacious anchorage. We decided to go for it and revved up the RPMs on the diesel.

There were gannets flying in from all directions. Then we spotted the reason. The word had gotten out that there were fish to be had and there was a feeding frenzy underway a short distance away. We could see the gannets dropping out of the sky from high above to snatch their unsuspecting prey. How they got the word out to all their friends who were flying in remains a mystery.
Dolphins in Donegal Bay.

Common dolphins bow riding.
Whatever wind there was of course was on the nose as soon as we turned the corner into Donegal Bay. So, once again, we took down the sails and motored. Traveling at about 7.5 knots we were making good progress and steadily increasing speed with the incoming tide. I was thinking, "What would make this a really great trip would be if we saw whales or dolphins, even a basking shark would do," when out of the corner of my eye I caught a splash. Dolphins!

Such a happy sight.
Cameras started snapping within seconds and we saw them divert from their trajectory to make a beeline toward us. It was a pod of 6-8 common dolphins and we got some good photos of them riding our bow wake. This is the species most likely to do that. It's such great fun to watch. It made us feel like children again. They stayed with us for quite some time, then veered off and frolicked away.

Dropping the sails.
We watched the sun set dramatically behind us as we headed northeast toward Teelin Harbour. With GPS and chartplotter as well as AIS, there really isn't that much concern here especially on a calm night this time of year, although we did keep a close watch out for fishing boats heading into or out of Killybegs. What we didn't expect was just how easy it would be. As we neared the entrance, the street lights all around the harbour lit it up perfectly. The lights shone down on the water and with my Steiner binoculars at the bow I could make out every boat, every mooring and any other obstruction on the surface. There weren't many boats in the harbour and the anchorage was wide open. We came in dropped anchor and tidied up just enough. We could finish in the morning.


Sunset over the wild Atlantic Ocean.

We overnighted in beautiful Teelin harbour in the shadow of the spectacular Slieve League (Irish: Sliabh Liag) cliffs some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. It was a very quiet night. No swell, little wind. In the morning, we could see that the visitor moorings were still in place. Once again, we launched the dinghy and went ashore.

Teelin Harbour pier, plenty of room to tie up.
Fish processing facility on the pier.
View from the pier.
View from the road overlooking the harbour. Stunning.
The huge pier at the fish processing plant had a few boats tied up but the harbour was otherwise deserted.  We tied up to the end of the pier where the stairs are most convenient and started walking towards the village.There is a great deal of history here. Teelin was one of the most important fishing ports in centuries past, processing even more fish than Killybegs in its day. 

The Rusty Mackerel
Teelin village is about 3/4 mile from the harbour. There's a pub there called the Rusty Mackerel that was closed mid-day but a good choice for a pint and an evening meal. Once owned by Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, a member of one of Ireland’s most famous folk acts Altan, it is now owned by British publicans. Indeed much of the village consists of new homes with British plates on the cars in the driveways. Not surprising as it's quite close to Northern Ireland. Yet there is still much of that warm Donegal welcome around.

Ti Linn Restaurant and Craft Shoppe
What is surprising is that there is a large new parking lot and a new craft shoppe and restaurant on the road leading to Slieve League.  Ti Linn offers cafeteria style food  in a casual atmosphere. Attached to it is a craft shoppe displaying beautiful local Donegal knitwear and other goods, tastefully displayed and priced for tourism value. The parking lot is a bus stop providing shuttle bus service to the upper parking lots near the top of the cliffs. It's about 4 km from the village to the top, mostly along a well traveled road. There are two more parking lots and a tourist office about half way up. The tourist office is not yet open but Port a Potties were in place for the walkers. The gate to the commonage land is closed, but plenty of drivers opened the gate and continued on almost to very the top of cliffs. They are clearly expecting large crowds. If you can go now, go before the tourism office creates a paid for spectacle.
Shed with character

We walked up, way up, from the harbour to a point high up on the cliffs. The views were spectacular. The photos we took, though lovely, don’t quite do nature complete justice. Those images will be nurturing our souls for some time to come. There are spots for picnicking, views over Donegal Bay, a Napoleonic Tower, birds and animals grazing.  There are also boat trips from the harbour to the cliff for views from down below. We had the benefit of having sailed along the cliffs on our last visit. It is a very different point of view and well worth the trip.

The road to Slieve League
There are actually two paths. The Pilgrims Way  is the route we took along the road.  The walk commences in Teelin where walkers can slowly climb the Pilgrim’s Path to the church ruins and holy well on the eastern summit of Slieve League. Walkers have the option to proceed along the One Man’s Pass to the trig point. Walkers may also be given the option to descend the mountain via Bunglas or return via the Pilgrims Path.

A second more treacherous path along One Man's Pass at the very ridge of the cliffs is apparently severely eroded. Walkers are asked to avoid that route until significant repairs can be made. It's not for the likes of us anyway. It's literally a path wide enough for one pair feet with precipices to negotiate along the way. Not for the faint of heart.

The lighting was spectacular, at times surreal. We felt blessed, until we realized we had all that way back to go. Most of it was downhill, thankfully. But by the time we reached the harbour we were spent and it was only 1500h. Nevertheless, we pulled up anchor and made our way to Killybegs. We were scheduled for lift out at 10 am the following morning.  We anchored overnight in a small delightful bay directly across from Killybegs town. In the morning, on the high tide, we would motor over to Mooney Boats.


Mesmerizing light.

A curious native.

The second car parks and tourist information center.

Off the beaten path to a viewing point.

Photo opps throughout.

Beautiful day makes me happy.
Beautiful views over the cliffs.

Viewing platform and walkway to the summit and One Man's Path.

The happy tourist.

Napoleonic tower and tour boat below.

The natives of the commonage.
Traditional wooden craft built by McDonald Boats
in Greencastle Donegal since 1750.
Massive slipway adjoining the pier.
Pier and slipway across the harbour in Teelin.

Time to go on to Killybegs.  Mix of sand and mud retrieved.


Fall Cruise from Mayo to Donegal. Part 3: Killybegs

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