back soon,' Andy had said, when I left Bunbeg House
the first time.
it had taken me three years, but I was finally going
to return. And my god was Andy going to be surprised.
Andy and Jean Carr are the proprietors of the best B&B
in the whole of Ireland. I had originally arrived there
with Anne, my travelling companion at the time, after
our trip to meet the King of Tory. Andy's father in
law owned the hostel across the road and so we'd had
to pop into Bunbeg House in order to get a room there.
What's special about Andy is that he is a famous character
in the Tony Hawks book Round Ireland with a Fridge,
which I was carrying with me at the time. Andy also
runs a nice little bar and restaurant alongside his
B&B, so after arranging for us to stay in the hostel
across the road, he had invited us back for a drink.
Andy didn't yet know was that he is now a famous character
in my new book, Hot Footing Around the Emerald Isle.
I was looking forward to being the first to show him.
my current travelling companion, and I set off from
Carlingford and drove to County Donegal through Northern
Ireland. This was the first time I had been in this
region. The only recognisable difference was that the
car number plates were different, and the road signs
were just like they were in England. We crossed the
border without actually realising it. There wasn't even
a sign to welcome us to Northern Ireland.
rained all the way through Northern Ireland, but once
we had crossed into County Donegal and were in Letterkenny,
the rain had subsided. Upon first arrival in Letterkenny
you could be forgiven for thinking that it isn't a particularly
exciting place in which to spend the night. But when
I had first arrived here three years ago I had been
overwhelmed with the immense friendliness and hospitality
of the people here. It soon became apparent that this
hadn't changed when I entered the bookshop and newspapers
to begin promoting my book. Most bookshops before had
simply taken my book on sale or return and wished me
luck. In the ABC bookshop however, they were not only
welcoming of the book, but talked with me for ages about
how I could best publicise it here in Donegal. The newspapers
were equally keen to help.
left Letterkenny an hour or so later feeling extremely
happy. My intention was to take the road north and then
branch off across the Derryveagh mountains to Bunbeg.
But that wasn't to be so, because I quite obviously
missed the turn off and continued north to the coast.
I followed the road through the lovely villages of Dunfanaghy
and Falcarragh until finally reaching Magheroarty, where
Anne and I had originally caught the ferry to Tory.
Here we pulled over on the cliff top and admired the
stunning views of the Tory Sound and Tory Island itself.
The sun was out now and the wind was blowing strong
against us. This entire coastline is rugged and treeless
due to its constant battering by the strong winds that
prevail here. Magheroarty is just a small village with
a pier and school.
here we drove on along this bumpy coastal road which
led us through the area known as The Bloody Foreland
(so-named because of the colour of the rocks). Here
each turn you take is fraught with danger, due to every
section of the coast providing a view that you just
cannot keep your eyes off. We pulled over countless
times to admire and take pictures of the rugged, windswept
inlets and the vast number golden, unspoilt beaches
that adorn this remote wilderness. The whole of this
coastline is scattered with small villages, or lone
houses sitting atop the cliffs or hills. This truly
is a wild paradise.
we made it safe and sound into Bunbeg Harbour. This
harbour is a small and sheltered place and very peaceful,
even in the summer. Bunbeg House sits right at the harbour's
edge and is a welcoming sight indeed. I parked up alongside
the water. It was quite late by this time and so I knew
exactly where to find Andy: in his bar.
good to see you working hard as usual,' I said, as I
walked inside to find him chatting to one of his guests.
looked at me, a little confused.
probably don't remember me,' I said. 'But I was here
three years ago.'
on,' he said, his thick Cockney accent still apparent,
'gimme a minute, and I'll remember you.'
perhaps this'll remind you,' I said, and handed him
was even more confused now.
showed him the chapters and told him a few things to
jog his memory. A smile came to his face as he remembered
and leafed briefly through the chapter he was in.
Jean,' he shouted into the kitchen, 'another bloke's
written a book about me now.'
was very excited to be famous again. 'Can I get you
a drink?' he asked.
be great!' I replied.
never got our drink, he was too busy looking at the
book and talking about it to the others. I signed it
and he put it up next to the Tony Hawks book behind
his father in law's hostel was now closed for good,
although he still hadn't sold it. For a brief moment
I considered buying it and turning it back into a hostel,
until Andy informed me he wanted half a million for
it. So we slept in the van by the harbour.
graciously allowed us to take a shower in one of the
rooms before its occupants arrived, then we joined him
for a drink, which we got this time.
spent the evening drinking Guinness and swapping
stories. Andy reprimanded me for describing his
boat as a little Zodiac. 'It's a big Ospray,'
he said. I stand corrected, well I was sitting
room where we had showered was booked for a TV crew
from TG4, the Irish speaking channel here. They were
going to film Andy jumping the waves in his Big Ospray.
So this was certainly going to be Andy's week for fame
in Ireland. The instant they arrived Andy supplied them
with a drink and then proceeded to draw out his plan
for their filming tomorrow. He wasn't happy with their
ordinary approach and wanted to make it more exciting.
Soon he had devised a masterpiece of his own which involved
him falling off the boat and being pulled in again.
With the plans set, we all went off to bed.
had invited us to go out with the film crew the next
morning. However, a low tide meant that he had difficulty
getting everyone out on time. Nika and I couldn't get
on at the harbour because the weight would have proved
too much. Instead we were directed to the pier a few
miles away. But when we arrived they had already left.
The camera crew were behind schedule, so it was understandable
that they wouldn't wait for us. Also, having discovered
soon after that we were on the wrong pier didn't help
much. As I walked along the coast I soon spotted the
other around the corner.
Andy returned later on he took us out, along with a
couple from his B&B and his two boys. Andrew, the
oldest boy, was the spitting image of his dad. 'I cloned
him,' said Andy.
sun was out and the sea was extremely choppy. Andy
chugged out into the harbour and soon whizzed us
on an amazing ride around the islands, surfing and
jumping the waves. Each of us got completely soaked
in the process, but it was so much fun we didn't
care. The area around Bunbeg is dotted with tiny
islands laden with abandoned villages. Many of the
houses are perfectly preserved, and it looks almost
as though there had been a nuclear holocaust on
just these islands. The government had pretty much
moved the people off the islands and on to the mainland
years ago. But Andy explained that there were plans
to put electricity on the islands, so the people
might move back.
is without doubt one of the most beautiful places I
have ever visited. The islands and coastline have some
of the country's best beaches and rocky coves. The fact
that it's so far north and prone to bad winters means
that the tourist season is very short. However, as Andy
explained, even in the winter the weather in the area
of Bunbeg can be extremely nice. Andy allowed us to
take turns steering the boat as we whipped our way across
the waves and eventually back to the safety of the harbour.
I for one, was extremely glad to be back in this part
of the world and in the company of Andy and his little
bar, and definitely not in any hurry to leave.
House 075 31258.
the Bunbeg House website