Our 90 year old mother sat, perched on the centre seat of the slatted wooden bench, scarcely believing she had made it to this glorious place. She was surrounded by her four daughters. We were enraptured by the cascading rugged cliffs as the salt air invaded our nostrils, fusing with the smell of fresh coffee and sweet ice-cream.
We occupied a picnic table on the viewing platform overlooking the majestic cliffs of Sliabh Liag in County Donegal. A rare Irish blue sky, its spring sun and scudding clouds tossed scurrying shadows across the mountain. The cliffs soared above us like a monstrous king reigning over the ocean. The sea roared. The wind whipped through our hair and threatened our ice-cream cones. We sat, in awe.
Sliabh Liag (Grey Mountain) is anything but grey. It should be on every visitor’s ‘must see’ list when in Ireland. Irish people should flock there in droves. But, by all accounts it is never overcrowded. These magnificent marine cliffs rise 600m or 2,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a phenomenal sight – a constant heroic battle between the turbulent ocean and the defiant rocks. From here, the Bay of Donegal leads to counties Leitrim, Sligo and Mayo. The Atlantic Ocean stretches to the Western horizon.
A short walk from the viewing platform leads to Pilgrim Path - a hiking trail to the top of the mountain. The climb is only for those clad in appropriate hiking gear and with a head for heights. Thank goodness we didn’t qualify on either count – mea culpa.
Our expedition hadn’t been without its hiccups. As our car negotiated the narrow winding road to Sliabh Liag, my fear of heights caused some slight in-car disturbance. At a particularly daunting rock-strewn u-bend, mother calmly announced that our family would be significantly reduced in numbers if we proceeded any further. My already challenged confidence plummeted. I was on her wavelength. The other three women were fearless - random genetics at play. Mother announced that she had the casting vote. She was over-ruled – a brave move on a number of fronts. The driving sister offered to get out to check the remaining road on foot before proceeding.
We conferred, and unanimously agreed (read – severe emotional blackmail) to continue together in the car.
This decision was helped along by a steady stream of cars already accumulating behind us.
We made it to the car park. My deep, audible breaths went unnoticed. The brightly coloured ice-cream van with its chalkboard menu of delights was a welcome sight. Armed with vanilla cones and steaming coffee we inched our way to the table closest to the edge (my sisters are sadists in disguise). I questioned the stability of the fence. I was ignored. I always question the stability of fences.
Sliabh Liag - our primary destination on day three of our four day visit to County Donegal, a county I thought I hadn’t visited in all my fifty-four years until my mother reminded me that as children we were brought to Rossnowlagh Beach where we almost lost our granny to the waves. But that’s another story.
Welcome to one of the most impressive landscapes in the country. It will wow you and scare you. It will entrance and entertain you. You won’t leave it without a renewed respect for nature, and its incessant battle not only to survive, but to triumph against all the odds.
Visit Sliabh Liag. Feel small as you stand above the ocean. Enjoy a very special moment, on top of the world in County Donegal, a truly magical part of Ireland.