It was a very special morning, when Martin got up with me for the sunrise over Downpatrick’s Head, one of County Mayo’s magnificent attractions. When we got up it was pouring with rain, but that didn’t put us off. We had only one chance to see these magnificent cliffs so the weather was unimportant. We were very lucky though. By the time we got there the rain stopped and even the moon lit the scene for us for a few moments. With nobody else around, we could savour the peaceful moment to the full.
It was a very eerie feeling to arrive there in the dark and try to find our way to the edge of the cliffs. We could see hardly anything, and the deep thunder of the waves crashing against not so distant rocks was accompanying us all the way. The blow hole with subterranean channel to the sea along the path was fortunately fenced off. Otherwise it would have been very easy to slip and fall into the deep darkness.
The name Downpatrick is derived from a time when St Patrick himself founded a church here. You can still see the ruins of the church building, a stone cross and holy well here today. This was once a popular pilgrim destination, and today the crowds still gather here on the last Sunday of July – known as Garland Sunday – to hear mass at this sacred site.
The St Patrick connections don’t end there though. There is a lone sea-stack standing close to the edge of the cliffs. This sea-stack is called Dún Briste (Broken Fort). Local legend says that when a pagan chieftain refused to convert to Christianity, St Patrick struck the ground with his crozier, splitting a chunk of the headland off into the ocean, with the chieftain on top.
By the time we arrived in Rossnowlagh, a surfing village in County Donegal, my body was screaming for a rest. The hotel room didn’t help – a hot shower, inviting bed and a stunning view of the beach from our window just seemed like the best idea. But the sky started to change its colours and it looked like it was going to be a spectacular sunset. Somewhere deep inside my heart was telling me to stop listening to my body and forget about the creature comforts. With Martin’s encouragement – “you should go out otherwise you will regret it for the rest of our holiday” – my heart won. I latched onto the last burst of energy and walked out. Indeed the sunset was breathtaking. Literally. Even the locals came out to watch it from their car windows. Martin was right, I would regret it, not just for the rest of our holiday. I came back to the hotel room full of energy and happiness. The tiredness disappeared in a blink of an eye.