You will never forget the first time you head north out of Rathmullan. Lough Swilly is on your right; Knockalla mountain on your left. As you wind along, gently twisting and climbing, there comes that moment, after you round one particular bend, when the beach appears below, and you can scarcely believe your eyes. The sight is so extraordinary, there's a place to pull in. You cannot believe this is Ireland. Then, every time you make this journey, you are filled with anticipation, waiting for that moment when you first see the golden sands.
I know, because I did that journey again recently. It was the first time in a while, and I was positively giddy. There was the added bonus of a brilliant blue sky, a temperature which hovered obligingly around 20 degrees, and a family day on the beach that I'm sure rivalled any we could have had anywhere in the world. Ballymastocker Bay is beyond beautiful. This is the place which, for me, seems so much to encapsulate the essence of Donegal: its ruggedness, its beauty, its simplicity, its remoteness.
Across the Lough, on the Inishowen Peninsula, there is more of it for another day. The road to Malin, our most northerly point, is paved with gold. A favourite is the Doagh Famine Village, near Ballyliffin. We went there again this year; our fourth visit. Each time is like the first, especially when tour guide Pat is on duty.
On, then, towards Malin and back down the eastern side of Inishowen. To the coastal towns of Greencastle, Moville or Redcastle . . . thinking of Van Morrison's line from Coney Island: "Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time".
Sunday Indo Life Magazine