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Dun na nGall or Donegal a Big Part of Magical Ireland

Aug 17, 2007
Geographically in the north - politically in the south- this is rugged country.

Wild coastlines, deserted beeches, looming mountains and expanses of bleak bog land make this one of the most magical places in this 'Emerald Isle'.

Its beauty is startling. The beeches here are for the most part deserted - no sunbathers here! Although the climate is officially described as 'temperate' a good warm jumper and waterproof windcheaters are essential luggage items!

Donegal Town
Donegal town provides a good starting point for any traveller to these parts. It consists of a diamond shaped centre (appropriately called 'The Diamond') crammed full of hotels, shops, galleries and restaurants. Here you can buy anything from an original piece of artwork created by a local artist, to a piece of turf complete with burner. The evocative smell is what reminds exiles of home!
There are many comfortable hotels to choose from each providing entertainment to accompany your pint of creamy Guinness after a days touring.

When touring Donegal be sure to have a guide book and map - it is easy to get lost and some interesting historical sites are devoid of information!

The Irish Famine
Evidence of this tragic period in Irish History can be found about the countryside with abandoned shells of cottages dotted about. There are a few centres where you can discover the historical facts and consequences of this devastating event and the impact it had on the area from which it has never fully recovered.

The most comprehensive of this is the Doagh Visitor Centre.

After a good cup of Irish tea and a slice of soda bread you can take a tour of the many displays of life during the 'Great Famine' of 1845. Also you can find out about many Irish customs such as 'the wake'. Many of our common sayings today have their in these old customs. Find out where the term 'dead ringer' comes from and many more interesting facts.

Doon Rock
Situated near Lough Gartan Doon Rock, this is the place where the O'Donnell Kings were crowned.

The stone has the imprint of the feet of the original chieftain cut into it. The elected ruler would remove his footwear and stand in the imprint. Here he would swear an ancient oath to the clan and be presented with an 'An Slat Bhan', a straight white rod to symbolise kingship and the idea that the sword was no longer needed to rule his people.

Also on this site you will find one of the many 'holy wells' which are popular places of pilgrimage. Beside the well is a tree from which hang tokens ranging from babies teethers to rosary beads left by hopeful visitors. The holy waters are said to have healing powers made more powerful if you circle the tree seven times saying prayers. These sacred wells and trees demonstrate how pagan practices were not simply abandoned but absorbed into the Christian religion.

Walking up the little wooded track to the rock you will also find a little shrine to Our Lady, adorned with candles and prayers of the faithful. This is a magical little place that makes you pause for thought.
On the right of the well there is a hidden priests stone - a simple stone alter where mass was said during the days of catholic persecution. Again you will find prayers and candles showing that these places are regularly visited by believers - although when I went there was not a soul to be seen anywhere which added to the natural, spiritual atmosphere.

There are so many other places to visit in this area but it is the little places like this that offer you the most touching insight into the mix of magic, paganism and Christianity that makes Ireland and its people so unique.
About the Author
Ann Coveney is a freelance writer and part time school teacher. She can be hired to write articles on a wide range of topics. The web site she uses the most for low cost travel and hotel booking is http://www.AskVicki.co.uk
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