Going coastal in Inishowen
Exploring the wilderness in the northernmost point of Ireland is exhilarating
In Far and Wild’s inimitable style, we negotiated the rocky shore as we went. “Use four-point contact,” McBride said as it became obvious that we needed both hands and feet to scramble up grassy slopes when walking on the beach became impossible. Those of us who wanted a little more adventure had wet-suits and helmets in our backpacks and, just as Five Finger Strand came into view, we changed on the rocks, gave our gear to those who were hiking and coasteered our way back to camp. The high quality neoprene covering us from top to toe, buoyancy aids and helmets meant we could jump and jiggle our way along these wild Donegal surroundings in comfort and with childlike cheer.
As we swam back into White Strand, the words in Neil McGrory’s book on the history of Inishowen, Inishowen: A journey through its past revisited, came to mind. (That is he of McGrory’s Hotel and yes, that’s the sort of bar they have in Inishowen, one that has its own historian at the helm.) At one point he quotes James McParlan’s 1801 Statistical Survey of the county of Donegal when he writes about pilgrims at Malin Head. Apparently, after prayers they finished with “a good ablution in the sea, male and female, all frisking and playing in the water, stark naked and washing off each other’s sins”.
I, for one, was fully cleansed in that case. Although I will always swap nakedness for neoprene in the Atlantic.
They like to do things differently on Inishowen, however. According to Liam Campbell, a cultural historian who joined us as a guide on day two, “Inishowen is isolated but independent, with people trying to do things a little differently here. Which is a good thing and why I like helping out with Far and Wild’s trips. They take a holistic approach. They not only bring people out into the wilds of Donegal, but they show how these landscapes have shaped the people who live here. That is rare in tourism”.
It is also rarefied, I thought. In that this discovery of Dear Old Inishowen has been nothing but pure, unadulterated fun.
Far and Wild offers a variety of packages. The two-night adventure costs €375pps, including all equipment, two dinners and breakfasts, one packed lunch, expert guides, airport transfer, one night’s accommodation at McGrory’s Hotel and one night of camping (0044-7775911198, farandwild.co.uk). Far and Wild are also leading a special wilderness trip to Tory Island, on August 23rd-26th, costing £175 (about €200) for camping or £225 with B&B.