9. A Lost Credit Card and a Ring Fort on a Hill

Going out in the pouring rain early morn in Donegal because Basil Fawlty’s brother Marty, at our overnight BnB, grr grr, would not accept credit card payment due problems with booking.com, that he expecting the Second Coming was imminent and wanting cash to get a ring side seat. I was in no mood for a debate, so there I am at the Bank of Ireland ATM in Donegals main square to get the cash, its 8am, Ireland’s still asleep, raindrops in quantity are falling all about, theres no verandah, this is Ireland and verandahs were invented in Australia to keep the sun off. The grey coloured credit card my lovely wife gave me, Hers, with the four digit magic code, would not work. I tried a second time. No work. I look at the ATM then up at the security camera then back at the ATM screen which shows a happy handsome couple getting a bank loan to build a verandah. Should I phone Her, the wife, and say either I’m a goose or the ATM is and just perhaps, did I input the incorrect four digit code. She knows I’m a goose at times so reaching into the depths of my grey matter, I decide to use one of my credit cards and it works. It likes me and I get cash to pay Basils brother Marty. I’m a Happy Chappy but this turns to gloom when I get back to ‘Cell Two’ which passes for our room at Basils. I cannot find Her grey credit card. She, my bride, has an ashen look on her face as though I’ve told her that she cannot, at the moment, run off to Lake Como and marry George Clooney. I strip off, search all my pockets, scratch my brain, have several ten second sooks, have another think, search my clothes again, search the car, again, all as Susan thumbs thru the Lake Como on line phone directory. I go to the kitchen and interrupt Basil making scrambled eggs from a tin of powder. He is sympathetic, sort of, so we, my Bride and I, drive into Donegal and search its town square, outside the bank, me again, and then go meet Alan the Garda (police) officer on duty. He thinks its a tad hilarious and brings out a pack of credit cards that have been lost by men. He also has a woman pile much smaller, but alas nothing there.

We drive back to Basils BnB, gather our meagre belongings, and drive off giving Basil the two finger salute as he does the same from his scrambled eggs. Theres a grey cloud in the car hovering over Susan and I. We need our credit card otherwise her husband will end up washing dishes at an Irish Pub whilst she swans about Lake Como with George. Yesterday I was Mister Dribbly sitting on newspaper and today, Im Mister Loser of Valuable Things (MLOVT). We motor on in silence generally in the direction of Lake Como.

We pass thru Ballybofey and Stranorlar where yesterday there was a humungous traffic jam. A righty onto the N15 and into Lifford where Susan suggests we should stop and phone our bank in Oz to let them know that Mister MLOVT has lost his wives credit card. Its a small town, well worn, nothing ostentatious. We find a very small Irish Post Office in a back street and theres God in the form of Jason, bald head, about 35 and he chats to Sue as respectfully as though she is his mum. Here he says seeing her distress, passing his official post office mobile phone across, use dis ere fone to giv ya bank in Orstralia a call. Sue does that and gets the usual call centre, pushes buttons in answer to what was her great grandmothers dog called, the one that had the seven puppies and so on. She hangs on and on whilst I keep out of the way, out of sight and wander about Lifford, check out its population of 1,626 and a place where they may need a dishwasher.

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O’Brien Row Lifford. Marleys Cafe just down there on the right. Scones jam and cream.

Most of them, the Lifford population, pay attention, are still asleep but I do find ‘OBrien Row’ a narrow laneway only a few paces from the Post Office. I go back and chat to Jason God and then have the bright idea, at least for me, to get my mobile out of my pocket. I turn it over and there is an APPARITION just as important as those ones back at the village of Knock. My lovely wife’s credit card, all wet as is my mobile, are stuck together. Credit card to the slippery shiny wet back of my mobile. The Bride sees it and increduously breaks into a wide smile. She kisses Jason, does a jig, and we stroll hand in hand down past O’Brien Row to Marleys Cafe to let off a bit of steam.

The only other thing of consequence in Lifford, besides those 1,626 residents and Jason God, is a replica of the Ogham Stone in Diamond Square which shows the way the very early Irish inhabitants recorded their stories and beliefs. Its a tall narrow stone with a vertical line and off this, notches. The Egyptians had their hieroglyphics, the Irish their Ogham Stones, all very difficult to decipher and understand unless you have a PHd in those scratchings. The Catholic Church Priests had their Latin which none of the congregation at the church I went to could understand. Particularly the men on a Sunday morning. But we all recognised the altar boy dinging the bell which we understood to mean we either stood up, sat down, knelt, genuflected, said amen or farted in unison. Oh and one other thing, Lifford is situated where the River Finn meets the River Mourne and they then both become the River Foyle. Yay.

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Ogham Stone in Diamond Square Lifford

With our marriage back on track and George Clooney a now dim, but always present memory, and who wouldn’t want that, we trundle on heading for the ring fort Grianan of Ailigh. I get us lost travelling up the R265 partly because we are in Northern Ireland and Daisy Trump is speaking distances in her native language, American. Plus there are a lack of road signs. And did I mention that the few road speed signs are in miles per hour. My Nissan Quasimondo only shows speed in K’s per hour. Something else to befuddle my brain just as I’m coming to grips with the windscreen wiper turning indicators and the turning indicator windscreen wipers. So we go around in circles a bit and eventually via a few long twisting goat tracks arrive at the Ring Fort set on top of a well rounded, very high hill. Its an amazing sight and how incredibly difficult it would have been to build all with one aim, to stay alive in Ireland over thousands of years when tribes of Normans, Irish peoples, Vikings, Collingwood supporters and others roamed about looking to plunder, loot rape, burn and build their little empire. It was virtually kill or be killed, a hand to mouth day to day existence. Sitting on top of Greenah Mountain, its not a hill, an imposing 244 metres high, the fort built in the 6th and 7th centuries, has walls 5 metres high and 4.5 metres thick all built in small stones from 10 to 30 cm long. Possibly all gathered from about the countryside over a long long time.

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Ring Fort from the 6th and 7th century set high on a mountain top.

There are three terraces on top linked by stone stairs. Within are two long passages provided hiding places and weather protection for the important personages of the tribe. Back in time, the only opening to the outside world was via a 70cm high narrow tunnel. Today it has a proper door way as nobody wants to kill, loot, rape or burn anybody. Hopefully.

We pass thru Limavady and turn off to have a look at Magilligan Point at the entrance to Lough Foyle. From here, a car ferry chugs back and forwards to Greencastle in choppy waters. We sit in the pub adjacent the ferry pier and enjoy some of Paddys Finest liquids.

Then its off to our two night o/niter near Portstewart at Cronmore Halt U Bewt Hotel in room 10 which is spacious, has a proper full size en-suite and theres no Basil Fawlty’s. Yay. The name Cronmore Halt is taken from the old railway station nearby.

Friday after doing our washing, we are off exploring out to Portrush and onto Dunluce Castle reputedly the most picturesque castle in Ireland. On its day with sun and low wind it would possibly be as its perched on a very steep sided, read vertical, tiny rock ‘island’ of near sheer sides, accessed by a narrow bridge which one big man or two slight women, could easily defend. Surrounded by the Atlantic on two sides, the rest vertical cliff face, it has an amazing defensive position. The castle was constructed by the MacQuillans around 1500 and they were happy and in control until the MacDonnells came by in the mid 1550’s, they descended from the Scottish clan MacDonald, and the MacQuillans were turfed out. Some alive and some dead no doubt. In 1584, Queen Lizzie the 1st was becoming worried about the MacDonnells becoming too powerful so she sent Sir John Perrot, no less a man than the Lord Deputy of Ireland, who besieged the castle and took the castle off the MacDonnells. But after a couple of years of lobbying, buying grand presents, selling off his daughters and a good deal of crawling, just as happens in Canberra today. The head MacDonnell, Sorley Boy, decided finally to forgo his allegiance to Ireland, the Catholic Church, his dadda, and pledged his allegiance to Queen Lizzie. Sorley Boy was handed the Castle back. It was rather spacious for its day consisting of a grand hall, bedrooms at first floor level, with fireplaces, kitchens, a brewery, buttery, and a ‘loo’.

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This is the Dunluce Castle Lavatory, possibly, well most likely, only for the Gentry. You and I got a shovel and the forest. And a handful of straw.

That last item only for the use of the Lords and Ladies. The likes of you and me, were given a spade, a handful of straw and directed to the forest. By the time you got back, all the roast venison and the home brew would be gone but the Fiddlers Three would be arking up on their tin pipes and ukulele whilst the Jester, wearing an eccentric hat like Barnaby Joyce, entertained by telling jokes about getting his girlfriend well paying jobs in the Court of Turnbull. The castle eventually fell into disrepair and locals, the O’Briens, came and stole timbers, rocks, pavings and the ‘loo’ to upgrade their hovels. We went back to our nice hotel bar and had a refreshment. Or two. Then dins.

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The narrow bridge and only access to Duluce Castle. Sue and George Clooney could easily defend the footbridge.

Our nice hotel is located about 2k out of Portstewart a tourist town of population 8,029 but at the moment, it would be near double. The town faces a rocky shelving reef foreshore but just down there to the left, theres 3’ks of sandy beach which is Heritage Listed due to it being sand. Theres also three golf courses. With 48.8% of the population choosing to be Prottos, 34.9% Catholic the rest ‘dont knows’, its nearby twin town of Portrush, population 7,355 has 50.8% protto, 20.8% Catholic and 14% who did not know. These ‘dont know’ people awake on a Sunday morning hearing church bells and looking like Hairy Mammoths. Both towns which are only 4 k’s apart, are fairly crass looking with the main promenades fronting the Atlantic surf, lined the tother side of road with the same bland narrow fronted four storey buildings the ground floors given over to commercial and retail premises with fun and gaming parlours, fish & chip shops, Indian Curry Houses, cafes, fairy floss and sweet shops, crappy looking bars and its all too much for me. I need to sulk away the blues in a decent Irish Inn. And we do find one, up the hill a bit.

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The Anchor Inn Portstewart and/or Portrush. I was having a sook at the time. Go say hello to bald headed Geoff.

The Anchor Inn surviving because of those Wooly Mammoths, a middle aged jolly barman Geoff Miller and Irish Republic holiday makers who generally would not be seen in this town. But after ‘The Troubles’ finished, they possibly visiting family. You need to have saved up the ‘readies’ to afford accommodation in these twin towns but the poorer peasants stay in huge ‘caravan parks’ set well back from the ocean front, all on-side cream clad self contained vans thirty feet long by ten feet wide. Set up on bricks due to some county ordinance, theres row upon row upon row of these holiday chalets come on-site caravans all in neat lines. They go way back over the hill and dale and I guess somewhere in there amongst the cream aluminium siding, theres a shop, playground for the kids, and possibly a pool. Don’t come here unless you want to visit the Anchor Inn. Motor on. Ooroo from Des.