While visiting the area of Donegal, visitors should make time to explore the Glengesh Pass. Glengesh, or Gleann Geis in Gaelic, meaning Glen of the Swans, is a glaciated valley that sculpts the perimeter of the Banagh peninsula in this amazing area of Donegal. The precipitously plummeting flank of 503 metres (1,653 feet) is off Common Mountain on the glen’s southside. It is genuinely a sight to behold. The Pass is located on the N56 road from the village of Glenties. Between the villages of Ardara and Carrick, this pass boasts a thrilling height, not to mention several hairpin bends. Glengesh Pass also offers visitors intensely beautiful views of the Glengesh and Mulmosog mountains. Numerous photographs and paintings have been inspired by the impressive scenery found only here.
While in the area, there are numerous opportunities for adventure. Sea kayaking is one popular option. Leisure trips, tours, courses and training are offered by fully qualified ICU (Irish Canoe Union) instructors in this coastal area known for its attractive setting and variety. The personal setting is ideal for groups, individuals and families in search of fun and adventure.
Another option is local fishing. The Ardara Anglers Association has fishing available on several lakes in the vicinity of Ardara. Lough Nacroaghy maintains brown trout from banks that are nearly all fishable. Kiltooris Lough, north-west of Ardara, also is available for fishing, and is reported to maintain a complete stock of trout. There are boats for hire by the lake shore from the J McLoone Company. Doon Lough is yet another lake that is reported to hold plenty of brown trout for the fishing enthusiasts. Currently Kevin McHugh offers boats for hire.
Walking is another leisure activity. The Gap Trail is a popular option for those in this area. It crosses the Ownea River, passes through a lovely area of wild forestry, before finally ending at the isolated, but hauntingly beautiful, Lough McHugh.
Visitors can also benefit from numerous art, culture and historical sites located throughout the Pass region. Most impressive is the Kilclooney Dolmen, an outstanding ruin on the horizon northwest of Ardara. It demonstrates the classic characteristics that make this form of monument so famous. The coordinated portal stones and graciously tilted capstone, which sticks out over the cavity entrance, express remarkably good judgment in the architectural knowledge of the site’s creators. Although mere fragments of Neolithic pottery are the only reported discoveries, visitors will be fascinated to know that the ruin is almost entirely complete. Nearby is another similar dolmen, but on a much slighter angle, that has partially collapsed. Both were once mounded over the same cairn, however, today, a modern field wall separates the two famous ruins. History buffs and amateur anthropologists alike will certainly appreciate this site.
The Dolmen Centre, an eco-tourism centre built by the local community, is situated in a natural setting with exceptional scenic beauty and is a must-see for any visitor. This complex is the first green energy building in the Republic of Ireland to use solely renewable energy systems. The facilities are all-encompassing and include a noteworthy field studies room demonstrating how the landscape was moulded, as well as information on the numerous ancient sites and ruins in the area. It also offers the community a gym, sauna, coffee shop, hall and playground. The centre is the hotspot for local educational courses, classes, social gatherings and meetings. The Dolmen Centre is also a local hub for ecology, culture, craft and art.
Adaro has been a centre for weaving for centuries. The Ardara Heritage Centre demonstrates the art involved in weaving; taking the Donegal tweed from the shearing of sheep to the manufacture of the woven cloth. Vintage photographs, displays and models educate visitors on the history of tweed manufacturing in the Ardara area. Weavers at work demonstrate how a loom operates and the different stitches which comprise the famous Aran knitwork. The newest addition to the Centre is a theatre that can seat up to 150 people and is acoustically fitted to benefit the region’s local playwrights and musicians.
While learning about weaving, visitors should stop at Triona Design, a family-run weaving company. While they employ three full time weavers and a selection of half-time and seasonal staff, the traditional aspects of hand-woven tweed are the focus. Nearly all leading tour companies recommend a stop here. Visitors from all walks of life gather here to learn the art of hand-woven tweed and purchase a handmade piece of Irish culture.
If you are a traveller seeking something a little more personal, take the opportunity to meet a local legend, Eddie Doherty. Doherty is well-known for creating Donegal’s fine-crafted, hand-woven, tweed products. All of the products are produced from 100% Irish wool and are hand-woven in Doherty’s private workshops in Ardara. After 40 years of weaving, both privately and for large Irish fabric companies, he currently offers visitors blankets, rugs, capes, scarves, waistcoats, hats and slippers, offered in the traditional herringbone pattern, as well as a more modern, checkered design. Eddie has been fascinating visitors from worldwide and now offers private, international orders as well. If you are in the area of Glengesh Pass, a stop by his marvellous workshop is a must.
Delightful inns, cottages and bed and breakfast enterprises are abundant throughout the Glengesh Pass for those who seek accommodation. Furthermore, delectable eateries, pubs and restaurants are never far away. Locals recommend the lively Narin Inn, which features local fish, local music and lots of local laughs. Interested in something different? At 22 Main Street is a restaurant which offers an informal, festive atmosphere with a variety fare sure to please any palate.
Back at home, no one will have heard of Glengesh Pass, despite its striking views, rich history and skilled artists. However, any traveller looking for beauty, exploration, culture and a first-hand Irish experience should be certain to allow plenty time in Donegal when plotting your next itinerary.
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