Irish Adventure: Belfast, Dublin & the Northwest Counties

Day 07 - Saturday, September 15, 2018 - Sheep Farm Visit; Visit Drumcliff; Overland to Donegal

“When sheepdogs dream, they dream of sheep

Circling around they sprint, then creep.

Masters in charge of wooly flocks,

They guide sheep home through fields and rocks.”

By Mairéad

Today was another travel day, our longest on the bus. We followed along the Famine Roads where the Irish from the country sides walked into the cities such as Clifden to beg for food or get any help they could find for their starving families.

The skies were totally overcast with a light mist. It was 54 degrees as we started our day at 8:30. Thomas thanked us for our promptness and positive attitude and we have all been talking about the camaraderie of the group.

Killary Sheep Farm was located at Bunowen, Leenane, County Galway. Our host Tom welcomed us and gave us a long rain coat and a tall pair of Wellingtons for our time on the farm. The first discovery was to watch a demonstration of Silvy, the four-year-old Border Collie, working a flock of sheep.

Tom would use four major voice commands, “away” meaning go right, “come by” was to go left, “walk up” was coming straight on, and “stand” signaled stop or stay. The amazing strength of the young dog and her agility as she moved the sheep was phenomenal.

Although Tom never raised his voice, Silvy could hear him because the dog’s hearing is 9 times more acute than a human’s. Tom explained that a man has to train his own dog for the bonding and emphasized that dogs are not pets; they wake up in the morning to work.

Silvy recently had five puppies that Tom will not keep as he already has his three working dogs. Within a few weeks a farmer can recognize a good puppy. A good working dog is one who keeps his/her eyes focused, his/her head and tail are down, and the dog does not nip or stress the sheep.

At five years old, Silvy will be able to work the sheep with the other two dogs as a team. She will be at her best at nine and retired at 13. Retirement is the most difficult time for a dog as they still get up to work, but are not able to preform.

Tom put Silvy back into her kennel and we went for a hike up into the hills to see where he harvested the peat for heating their home. Peat is an organic fuel formed over thousands of years as layers of trees, grasses, and mosses decay.

There are two types of peat bogs, raised and blanket. Tom’s land is the blanket that covered the ground in layers. He demonstrated how the peat that is 90% water, was dug by hand with a shovel called a slan.

We hiked back to the old farmhouse and had a cup of tea and a biscuit, or a cookie. At 11:15 we turned in our rain gear and boots and were back on the bus heading north for Castlebar in County Mayo where we had our lunch at 12:45.

Lunch was at Horkans Garden Center, at the Bay Leaf Café, the most beautiful garden complex we have seen. Seasonal flowering plants and bushes gave a rainbow of colors to the massive displays. The weekend special was spring bulbs, but Vic told me I could not buy any live plants or bulbs.

Thomas and Richard gave us a special treat and took us to visit The Turlough Graveyard. The church dated from the 5th century and was believed to be started by St. Patrick, himself. The 11th century round tower, was restored in the 19th century and the graveyard was still being used by local families taking very good care of the plots.

Continuing our drive, we went north on the Wild Atlantic Way through small towns and villages. We made a brief stop at the village of Drumcliff and St. Columba’s Parish Church where W.B. Yeats was buried in 1939. His gravestone was inscribed with his famous lines, “Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by!”

When we arrived in Donegal at 5:35 we checked in to our hotel and settled in our room for the next three nights. Dinner was scheduled for 6:30 so we had to hustle to get as organized as we could. We returned to the room at 9:00 after a stimulating dinner conversation with Richard and Tom and Marjorie and Joe.

It was after 10:00 by the time we organized photos and finished posting the summary of our day. Thank you all for continuing to follow our adventures and for your comments.

Accommodations: Mill Park Hotel - Meals included: B, L & D

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Irish Adventure: Belfast, Dublin & the Northwest Counties
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I would have loved to have seen the sheep demonstration. I’ve learned how to knit since I retired and have also enjoyed learning about different breeds of sheep.

Susan P   September 16, 2018 - 5:00am

So interesting! I haven't been getting your trip info but obviously got this one. Looks like a great trip.

Dee   September 16, 2018 - 1:28am

YOu're having a wonderful trip!

Becky Richardson   September 16, 2018 - 1:02am
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Silvy, the Border Collie - Herding Sheep at Killary Sheep Farm

Silvy, the Border Collie - Herding Sheep at Killary Sheep Farm (5:11)

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Oísin from County Mayo, Ireland

Oísin from County Mayo, Ireland

Silvy and the Sheep

Silvy and the Sheep

Tom Harvesting Peat

Tom Harvesting Peat

Turlough Graveyard and Church Tower

Turlough Graveyard and Church Tower

W. B. Yates Tomb

W. B. Yates Tomb

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