Ireland is the land of mystical beings such as faeries, leprechauns, and banshees with folklore dating back to the beginning of civilization. It is also the land of whiskey, spray-painted sheep, and green landscapes encompassing little towns that seem to spring right out of the 19th century.
I decided to take a road trip around the Irish country with my Mom, who of course is never too keen on me driving, much less on the opposite side of the road from what we are used to over here in the US of A. But with deep breathing exercises and heaps of luck we managed to get from one end of Ireland to the tippy tippy top of Northern Ireland in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights, and our version of a pot of gold.
Malin Head is Ireland’s most northerly point, located at the top of the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal County. Steeped in history and Irish folklore, Malin Head is a renowned piece of Irish beauty for its coastal landscape of green hills full of roaming sheep with numbers spray painted on them as there are no fences. It is also known for its half-rocky half-sandy beaches, interesting rock formations, the largest sand dunes in Europe, and narrow coastal roads.
The Tower was constructed here in 1805 by the Admiralty and was later used as a signal station which served as the most important news links connecting America and Europe during the wars.
My Mom and I drove up from Dublin to take a chance to see the Northern lights. There are a few great websites to track the skies and give you information. It was a long shot as you have to plot your travel around a clear day, and a clear day is a rarity in Ireland.
Important side note. Underline this if you print it out. You drive on the opposite side of the road in Ireland, so stay to the left.
We booked a few nights at The Seaview Inn for the proximity to the beach and a truly authentic experience of staying at an Inn that triples as the local pub and restaurant. Sheep roamed behind, the sea rolled in front. It was perfect.
After seeing our pick of the Malin Head sights, such as The Wee House of Malin and St Muras Cross, we go back to get eat fish and chips and rest up so I can monitor the skies as the northern lights sneak up in the wee hours of the morning. This particular spring day was crisp and clear but as dusk set in rain clouds did as well, ruining our chances of seeing the Aureus Borealis ( The Northern Lights.)
The next day we travel to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge which is around 2 hours away, but worth the drive if you want to see the coastline, feel like being ever so slightly a daredevil, and have a thing for pretending like your Indiana Jones.
Upon our return and dinner at Farren’s – Irelands most northernly pub –which doubles as a restaurant – we get back to our Inn for some rest to wait for those unearthly northern lights. Tonight it looks like we have clear skies. Mom and I start our hike around midnight, listening to a few disgruntled sheep bahh as we set up blankets.
Around 1 am they start to appear – blasting through the dark sky like Pollock throws green paint on a canvas.
1. AN grianan of aileach
A prehistoric enclosure built of dry stones that rises on 808ft high and is a Neolithic burial chamber
2. St Muras cross. On the site of the ancient abbey of st mura founded in the 7th century, the abbey has been used for over 1000 years.
3. Wee house of Malin is a cave where folklore has it that no matter how many people enter it will hold all of them. Might be some faeries and leprechauns who live there ☺
4. Northburg castle was built by the norman lord Richard de Burgo in 1305
Rock and Pier fishing
Take in the breathtaking views
Paintball at old foundry
Enjoy a 4 Course meal, music, dance and storytelling at the Angrianan hotel
Farrens Irelands most northern bar Eat
The red door
Kealy’s seafood bar
My Mother and I explored Ireland together. We flew into Dublin then rented a car and drove all the way to the top of Northern Ireland to Malin Head seeking out the Northern Lights. We knew that it was a long shot even though we checked the weather and plotted our trip. The drive through the Irish country side was beautiful, lush and green. At night we would lay in bed and watch Darby and the Little People and other shows we could find about Irish fairies and leprechauns. I am so grateful for my Mom coming on this trip with me, I couldn’t pick a better travel partner who is curious and easy going and fun. We set our alarms and every hour checked the skies until we saw a slight touch of green that looked spray painted on the dark skies. There it was, the aurora borealis in full effect.
The best way to get to Malin Head is to rent a car and drive. You can see the countryside, stop along the way at pubs and restaurants, picnic areas, hikes, and take in the country.