The Ardara Town Trail

The Ardara Town Trail

Ardara-Town-Trail-2

1. The Nesbitt Arms Hotel

The Nesbitts from Direltown, The Shire of Berwick, were first granted land on 20th December,1669. They were mainly responsible for Ardara’s development.

2. Heritage Centre

Site of the former courthouse. (It was officially opened by President Mary Robinson in 1993).

3. Owentocker River

From the Irish “gentle flowing, calm river”. There are many tweed and craft shops and pubs on both sides of the street.

4.The Methodist Church (built in 1832)

5. St. Conell’s Church of Ireland (built in 1833)

The sites of both churches were granted by members of the Nesbitt Family and St Conell’s Church cost £600 to build in 1833. Around St Connell’s Church there are many gravestones. The Nesbitt Family (Landlords) are buried in the vault. One family called Evans, whose members emigrated to Birmingham, invented the hospital bed.

6. Marian Shrine and Grotto

7. Jimmy O ‘Rourke’s House

“Our lady of Perpetual Succour”.  At this grotto of our Lady, there is  a house to your left beside the Methodist Church car park. This was the home of Jimmy O’Rourke.  He was a great story teller and fiddle player. On him the central character of “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” was based. It was researched in the 1940’s. In 1959 the world premiere was shown at the Mansion House in Dublin.

8. Old Church

The land on left was the site of an old church (legend – Diarmuid and Grainne’s Bed) – a buriel ground, dolmen and a stone circle – all gone now due to land reclamation.

9. Pearse Memorial Park

Pearse Memorial Park – Gaelic football pitch opened 13th June, 1939.

10. Turn Option

Walk straight ahead to Long Point or turn right to Owenea Bridge.

11. Long Point

Sit on the rocks here or bathe when the tide is in.

12. Owenea Bridge

On left behind ruins is a large standing stone – Megalithic period, 12 foot high. 4 sided and with 2 cup marks. Legend says that Finn McCool threw this shoulder stone from “Clo na Cleire Mountain”  It may indeed have marked and ancient or modern boundary.  Owenea means “Ring of the Wild Deer”, Cross the bridge and walk upstream about 100-200 yds. Ridges in field and remains of an old house – this dates to pre-famine times.  This river is wonderful for salmon and trout fishing.

13. Iron Bridge

Here is a picnic area and little shed for shelter.  (table and seats and rubbish bins present). Continue along bog road – only used by turfcutters and fishermen and the walker. You walk for approx. 1.5 miles through blanket bog.
Bog:  Turf goes back for thousands of years, back to when this country was covered with woods and a lush growth of plants and mosses.  As they withered and died, layer upon layer of decaying material gradually formed bogland in waterlogged areas. For centuries, turf (or peat) has been saved by people in bogland districts. The upper layers of some bogs have a light, mossy growth from wish moss peat is made.  After harvesting, it is graded and packed in a factory.  Irish moss peat is uded widely throughout the world for improving conditions of soil in gardens and for the growth of seeds and cuttings.  Some of the disused bog has been planted with trees, some ploughed  and reclaimed for grass growing and experiments continue as to its use for vegetable growing.
Views here of Loughross Mor Bay, Tullymore and the Fort.

14. Turn Point

Turn right towards Fort and Ardara or turn left towards Court Tomb and longer walk.

15. Fort

This is the Fort from which the town gets its name. Early Christian settlement 500 AD. Could be used for sheltering livestock from invaders too.

16. Community Centre

The area is known as “cow market”. Was really the horse market ont he Fair Days. Nowadays, a sports centre with playschool facility and toddler group.  Above it is a picnic area.

17. Court Tomb

About 1 mile along this road are the bare remains of a court tomb. (Doohill means Dark Wood). Where the river forks on the other side is a large mound on a hill, an old buriel ground used for unbaptised children and for Catholics to be secretly buried there during the persecutions (during penal times, Catholics were not allowed to practice their religion in public).

18. Bonner’s Knitwear Factory

Continue for approximately 300 m and take first turn tight.

19. Lime Kiln

On left.  This was used by farmers and tenants of a former era to burn the limestones and used on land for fertiliser.  Also used to make whitewash for thatched cottages and a little ‘blue’ was added to enhance the whiteness.

20. Turn Point

Turn right again – walk ahead about 1 mile onto main Ardara – Donegal Road at Lurganboy. Along this road in the Nesbitts’ time it was completely covered in woodland.

21. Turn Point

Turn right to Ardara or left to continue on trail.

22. Turn Point

Right for shorter trail towards Kiltiernan Graveyard.  Straight ahead for longer trail. Spectacular views on this road overlooking Loughross Bay and Magherea.  An old authentic thatched cottage here is still lived in. Ardvalley Hill 325 feet in height.

23. Kiltiernan Graveyard

Worth a walk.  Beautiful scenery. This is an ancient graveyard from pre-famine times and also site of an early church, and a holy well. After the plantations and suppression of Catholicism people generally congregated here.

24. Lime Kiln

25. Turn Point

Turn left towards Molloy’s Factory or straight ahead towards Woodhill. In olden times all this area was wooded.  Then after this period it was turned into green pasture and grain and hay were grown.  The area is quiet, green, very scenic and arable.  The tighes for this area was much higher than the rest of Ardara district.  A ‘tigh’  – 10% of income from the tenant paid to the landlord and/orProtestant Church in early decades of 19 century. There was a     malicious burning of the sacristy of the church in 1907 because of a dispute between people and landed gentry over land and fishing rights. The ordinary person could not fish or shoot without paid permission from the landlord. This he could not afford. For this reason many people died int he famine even though they lived beside the sea.

26. Site of School

Before entering the town, the house on corner of Loughross Pt. And Ardara Road was the site of the 4th school in Ardara.  This was the only Catholic school.

27. Site of Ancient Abbey

Behind Triona Design was an ancient Abbey. Monks were massacred en masse here. There was a standing stone here too.  This has been removed in the last 20 years.

28. Catholic Church

One of the most noted buildings – built in 1903, the 3rd church to be built.  General Tredernick gave land to Fr. Peter Kelly.  He died of pneumonia one month after church was completed.  Of special interest is the Evie Hone window installed in 1953. Evie Hone was crippled by polio from the age of 11, yet an outstanding artist.  Hand-painted depictions of “Word of God”, Ol and New Testaments, works related to gospels symbolise the four evangelists:

Matthew    man      six panels
Mark       lion     King David on top
Luke       ox       Moses on bottom
John       eagle    evangelists in between infant Christ in centre.

Commissioned by Patrick Sweeney (Beagh) – in America.  Supervised by his son James, director of Guggenheim Museum, New York. James’ brother (Jack) was curator of Poetry Room in Lamont Library in Harvard University.

29. Woodhill House

Now a restaurant and guesthouse, this was of course the Nesbitts’ home.  During the famine it was a soup kitchen.

30. Wood House

Rev. George Nesbitt build Wood House (girls’ national school).  General Tredernick inherited     Woodhill 1848, He died in 1880 and the house became uninhabited.  The Congested District Board bought Woodhill int he 20th century.  This was the end of an era.

31. Parish Hall

Site of former ice house for Nesbitts. There were two wells on this land which proved water for the town before town water supply was installed.

32. Gate Lodge

Shed on left was gate lodge to demense.

33. Woodschool

Boys’s National School.
On right after that was Hotel Orchard in 1800’s

34. Drumbarron (sort or bare ridge)

This is a breathtaking walk – overlooking the town and on the valley to your left.

35. Laburnum House

This was the site of 1st Catholic Church. The second church was built int he graveyard area of the present church.

36. Crumlin Walk

A short walk from with lovely scenery. Take a right past the Catholic Church. 1st right to Loughross Point – area to immediate right is called Yellow Banks.  Crumlin means “curved glen”. Crumlin on left. Legend says there was a wooden structure there – the summer residence of the Fianna when they were hunting in the area. 1st left – as you walk along this ascending path many houses are dotted along this valley, to the left. At the end you will see     Maghera, caves, waterfall.  At low tide you can walk towards Ballyganny beach, have a swim or pick cockles. Views from Crumlin to Inisfallen Island, just off Ballyganny. Rocks here have bare remains of a Cattle on them. A socketed bronze axe-head was found here in 1939.

A Unique Landscape

Robert Lloyd Praeger in his 1937 publication “The Way That I Went” suggests that Donegal is the best county to walk in because it embraces hill, dale, lake, rock, bog, sea, pasture and tillage in a closely interwoven unit that allows every turn of the road to open new prospects and every hill-top to reveal fresh combinations of these delightful elements.

William Keogh in his 1984 publication “The Friendly Towns of Ireland” states that to him Ardara is Donegal. Specialist observers who have studied the unique landscape of Donegal show that Ardara is a microcosm of the entire county as it is located near a number of geological faults.  The are attracts scientists because it affords variety in a compact area which would not be encountered without extensive travel over large expanses of land in most other parts of the world in terms of its geological formation.  This coupled with a fortuitous location at the junction of land and sea and climatically influenced by both, as well as by tropical and arctic conditions, has contributed to the development of solis, flora and fauna, which are as rich and diverse as the scenery.  All of these natural attributes remain largely intact, being aloof from industrial development and yet having associations with the events of history.

Evidence of these are found in place names which derive from mythical folklore and are linked to megalithic and prehistoric monuments which are still visible on the landscape.  More modern artefacts on the lands are early Christian crosses and wells which denote the passage and resting places of saints such as saints Colmcille, Connell, Dallan and Kieran.  The development of agricultural systems is marked on the land by old walls which segregated cultivated crops from grazing areas.
The famine, which signified the failure of a particular agricultural system, is commemorated on the landscape by hand-made ridges which have not since been cultivated.  The advent of science to agriculture is seen in the remains of lime kilns while evidence of early industrial development remains in old quarries and mines.  Forestry is the modern land use, is also evident.

The geological map of Ardara shows twelve major rock formation types not counting many sub types which are recorded by authorities such as Turner or the Pitcher/Berger team.  A solis study conducted by a team from An Foras Taluntas in the 1960s recorded eighteen major soil types in the same approximate area.  The botanists McClintick and Fitter in their 1956 publication “A Packet Guide to Wild Flowers” recorded 1306 species of plants and almost as many sub-species which are to be found growing on these Islands.  Samples of most of these species have made their way unaided by man to Donegal, such as the tiny and beautiful American Blue Eyed Grass, the seed from which fell into American streams, washed to the Atlantic and floated to the West Coast of Ireland.  Some species such as Mackays Heath are almost unique to Donegal while this author has found Black Bearberry (Arctous Alpinus) growing here though it was not recorded as being there by my favourite authorities.

Feeding on this wealth of vegetation is a host of insects which entomologists are still in the process of discovering, classifying and recording.  These plants and insects support a large portion of the 354 species of birds which Christopher Moriarty informs us to be on the Irish list of wild birds together with the many regular migratory species and some rare visitors from both arctic and tropical regions of the world.  The area also supports a rich animal life which can be encountered by the keen observer.

As the geological diversity intends to the bed of the ocean the heritage of pelagic plants, plankton and fish is equally rich and the shores receive occasional visits both fish and mammals from both tropical and arctic oceans.  Should you choose to walk on hill, dale, riverside, mountain or shoreline, interesting rocks, plants, birds, insects, fish, cromleachs, dolmens, forts, standing stones, early Christian crosses, relatively modern stained glass art etc., may be observes depending on the pace you set for yourself.  In the evening, relax in the magical link with the ancient past which lies through traditional Irish music, food and beverage.