IRELAND (PART I)
Thorough Guide Series 1909
Letterkenny to Church Hill (10 English miles).
Quitting the town, passing old town station, by the steep hill that drops to the Swilly we follow for several miles the green, well-wooded valley of that river, passing on the right (1 mile) the demesne of Ballymacool, and beyond it, on the opposite side, Rockhill. A little further, beside the road, are the ruined church and graveyard of Conwal, the mother church of Letterkenny. In the stream close by the natives wash their feet before entering Letterkenny to avoid quarrelling with their neighbours before returning. There is also a Holy Well. Then (3 miles) we pass the Glebe House of Letterkenny, a white square building opposite a pretty part of the river. A couple of miles further, just pass New Mills Station, the road to Fintown and Glenties goes off on the left, crossing the river near a small licensed house. Up to this point there is also a road along the sought side of the river.
The Fintown road follows the Swilly almost to its source, beyond which it crosses a wild district and attains a height of 800 feet, descending to Lough Finn, 1 mile short of Fintown Station on the Stranorlar and Glenties line. Distances:- Letterkenny to Fintown Inn, 19 English miles; Glenties, 28 miles. The route is very little used.
Our road, now passing Fox Hall (station), crosses the line and bears to the right and ascends for half a mile, soon affording a wide view in front, in which Errigal appears, and then a strip of Muckish. The again, crossing the line, on the right is the little hamlet of Temple Douglas, and in front a new National School and what was once a "model farm". Then the hilly route to Dungloe goes off on the left.
To the Poisoned Glen, Doochary Bridge, &c. The road, a good one, ascends for some miles and then drops to the level of Gartan Lough, of which a good view is afforded. On the far side of it is the Glenveagh property, purchased many years ago by the late Mr Adair, and the unhappy scene of one of Ireland's tragedies. The tenants were dissatisfied with their landlord, and a couple of his agents were murdered. The murderers were not given up, and the whole glen was evicted, probably to the ultimate advantage of its inhabitants. "They'll live to bless instead of curse," was the remark made to the writer by one who has elsewhere been put down as a "home ruler" whom one would not "like to meet in a lonely road." The district is picturesque but incapable of supporting anything beyond the scantiest population.
At 12 English miles from Letterkenny we come to the hamlet of Glendowan, with a very quaint but clean little licensed house and a P.O. Then, after crossing the strath at the south of Gartan Lough, a long ascent up a wild uninhabited valley of the Glendowan mountains takes us to the col (850 ft.) of the main valley of Donegal, which we strike at right angles, 4 miles from Glendowan. To the right there opens out a fine view down into the narrow trough in which lies Lough Veagh, with Lough Veagh Castle by its side, and a desolate strath northwards extending to Len Lough and the sea beyond it; to the left our own road bends and maintains a level for some distance.
* A rough cart-track (now impassable from land-slides) drops steeply to about one mile south-west from the head of Lough Veagh. This is erroneously marked on the maps as a new road, and so described in our previous edition. Thence, however, there is a private road to Glenveagh Bridge.
To reach the head of the Poisoned Glen from the point at which the roads meet, continue along the chief road towards Dungloe for ¾ mile, and then leave it by a short cart-track on right that leads to a quarry from which stuff for mending the road is got. Here there is a small stream, and by following it up at right angles to the road you have left you will in from 20 to 30 minutes reach a rocky gap (1,400 ft.) in the Derryveagh range, from which the descent into the Poisoned Glen is very steep but practicable. The walking throughout is detestable – heath, bog, and stones – but the view from the gap down into the glen itself with the Dunlewy and Nacung Loughs beyond, and Errigal rising to a peak on the right of them, is very striking. Wise folk will go no further. The scramble down is obvious and, on the right, safe, and in 3 English miles you will reach Dunlewy church, whence it is 5½ more English miles by road to Gweedore Hotel.
Continuation of road to Doochary Bridge. A few hundred yards beyond the divergence for the Poisoned Glen we reach the highest point of the col (850 ft.) and get a good view past Lough Barra into the Gweebarra valley. Hence it is 8½ English miles to Doochary Bridge, 18½ to Glenties, and 16½ to Dungloe.
Our road now makes a smart ascent to a height of about 500 feet, and from it, as also from the train, we have one of the finest views on the route – the length of the Lannan valley, brown, shaggy, and dotted with rocks and small holdings, thoroughly characteristic of the half-wild regions of Donegal. Then another steep fall and rise brings us to Church Hill (the station is 1¾ miles to the east; Wilkin's Hotel, C.T.; St Columb's, C.T.) a conspicuous village in which the chief buildings are a church with a square tower. From the village the road descends a long hill, with pretty glimpses of Gartan Lough through the trees, among which (some years ago) a storm wrought great havoc, to a bridge at the foot of the lough. On the shore of the lough is anew hotel, the St. Columb (well spoken of; fishing).
A good road strikes off to the left a little way down this hill and, after affording a pretty view across the lough with Muckish in the background, joins in 2 English miles the road to the Poisoned Glen and Dungloe a mile short of Glendowan hamlet. This makes a circular drive of about 21 miles from Letterkenny.
Gartan Lough measures about 3 miles by 1. On its east side, among pleasant woods, is the demesne of Belleville. From the opposite shore the moorland rises gradually to the Glendoan hills and hereabouts is the Glenveagh district. Our road, after crossing the bridge, turns to the right up a shallow pass, after breasting which it looks down on Lough Akibbon to the left. This is almost an extension of Gartan Lough, a mile long, and narrow. On the far side of it, some way up the hill, are he ruins of a chapel, in which the story goes that St. Columba was born in 520 A.D. He was educated at the Monastery of Clonade, leaving as an exile to Iona in 564. Beyond the lough we bend to the left, and, passing a poor little licensed house, make a long ascent and enter, 4½ miles from Church Hill, the direct road from Letterkenny to Gweedore, at a point 12½ miles from Letterkenny.
Turning to the left the road descends, with a fine view of Muckish in front, to Glenveagh Bridge (15 English miles), close to which is a small police-barrack. Looking to the left we have a full-length view of Lough Veagh reposing in a deep trough with its modern castle disproportionately large.
The Glenveagh Valley divides the granite tract of the "Rosses" on its west from the main Silurian districts of the county.
Lough Veagh. The road skirting the lough is private and kept up by its owner, Mrs. Adair, who, however, admits tourists (driving and on foot) by ticket obtained at the lodge gate. Motors go to a shelter (1½ miles) just short of the Castle. Horsed vehicles, etc., can proceed to some cottages 1 mile beyond the head of the lough passing (1¾ miles) through the yard of Glenveagh Castle, a modern building with late additions, which can hardly be said to add to the beauty of the scene. Lough Veagh, the most decided and striking in style of all the Donegal lakes, occupies a deep and narrow defile nearly 4 miles long, the valley beyond rising sharply from a height of 150 t0 850 feet in 3 miles. On its east side the steep hill-flank is thickly wooded, a feature being the holly and other evergreens. Close to its far end a still narrower gorge ascends to the left, threaded by a lovely streamlet and flanked by hills on which there is not a bare spot – an oasis, indeed, in the surrounding desert. Thence there is only the cart track (impassable), which in 6½ English miles from Glenveagh Bridge joins the Letterkenny and Dungloe road ¼ mile short of the point at which we turn off for the Poisoned Glen.
The prospect in the other (north) direction from Glenveagh Bridge is dreary, the valley expanding into a flat peat-bog. Proceeding, our road again slightly rises through a region of utter desolation till in a short mile it reaches the side of the Calabber river, which it follows 1¼ miles to Calabber Bridge, where are one or two houses.
Hence a road, crossing the bridge, ascends to Muckish Gap (2 miles; 800 ft.), whence it descends alongside the Bay river to Falcarragh (Crossroads), 8 English miles.
The beautiful but bare peak of Errigal now appears in front, and we have a long ascent of 3-4 miles to a height of nearly 900 feet. From about the top a glimpse on the right of Altan Lough is afforded, lying between Errigal and Aghla More. From the col a fine view opens out in front. Then, skirting Errigal, we descend towards Dunlewy Church and Lough, looking, as the road bends to the right, up the Poisoned Glen on the left. On the south side of the lough, among the woods, is Dunlewy House. Then, passing near the new R.C. Church, with a round tower, we have before us the less interesting Lough Nacung, and 1½ miles short of Gweedore, join the mail-car route from Dunfanaghy.