The 8th: Southern Donegal: Murvagh, Rossnowlagh and Bundoran
On paper, one of my toughest golf club-carrying walks to date was the 28km from Killybegs into Donegal Town; but fortunately the decent weather had returned and once again I was able to imagine the road rising to meet me and the wind always at my back (or maybe the mushrooms I'd had for breakfast caused me to hallucinate) ... Either way, it proved to be a relatively painless walk via Dunkineely and Mountcharles - and Donegal Town itself is quite charming.
If I woke with a spring still in my step, this time it was caused by the allure and magic of Murvagh: the marvellous 'hidden-in-the-woods' peninsula setting of Donegal Golf Club to the south of the town just beyond Laghy. It had been at least two decades since my last visit to Murvagh (as everyone seems to call the club) yet I was greeted like a long lost friend and treated like a favourite son. The golf course - a very challenging and true links - is one of the finest in the north west and its well-bunkered 4th hole will test most golfers' mettle. Well, it certainly tested mine! But it was a lot of fun nonetheless.
From Murvagh I journeyed to Rossnowlagh and was joined by my wife Teresa as I took a couple of days' rest. There cannot be many more relaxing or more beautifully appointed places than the Sandhouse Hotel which overlooks Rossnowlagh's magnificent beach - and we were blessed with amazingly fine weather. In addition to generally unwinding there, we had the coincidental good fortune to bump into a fellow long-distance charity trekker. Ten years ago Stuart Hamilton (and friend) walked across the United States from coast to coast: a 5,000 mile trip that took them the best part of two years - partly because they were forced to stop midway when Stuart had to be treated for cancer. While I'm loath to direct you away from this Blog, I recommend you some time view their very entertaining and brilliantly illustrated website, walkingthestates.com. And Stuart, if you are reading this, there's no truth in the rumour that I have recently acquired the site walkingthestates-withgolfclubs.com.
So after a splendid short stay in Rossnowlagh, it was time to hit the road again. I've already mentioned how pleasant and surprisingly mild the weather was in Rossnowlagh, well it grew even more pleasant, and long before I'd reached Bundoran I was adding a second coating of sunscreen lotion (yep, late March in northwestern Ireland and I'm trying to avoid the pink lobster look). The sunset in Bundoran that evening was astonishing - as much purpley-blue as reddy-orange, and it capped what I suspect may be the finest three consecutive March days ever experienced in County Donegal.
And it was my last evening in Donegal. The following morning I played the par four, Stroke Index 4, 4th at Bundoran GC with the amiable Adam, one of the club's professionals - it being my eleventh 4th hole of this Wild Atlantic Way campaign - and I then set off in the direction of Grange which is over the border in Co Sligo. (Actually it's the other side of Co Leitrim since you pass through a thin sliver of that county en route).
So as I head into Co Sligo, a very big thank you to the 11 clubs of Co Donegal and their Members - every one of whom made me feel exceptionally welcome.
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