I’d read that being on the west coast of Ireland is like being at the edge of the world and, as we drove along the final stretch of road to the eco cottage in Port, Donegal, it certainly felt like that. My husband had booked the cottage for three nights as a surprise for my birthday. After a day of travelling (we took the ferry from Cairnryan to Larne), we had found our way to the launderette in Ardara to pick up the bedding and linen and were now making our way over the Glengesh Pass and on to Port.
Port, Donegal is an old abandoned fishing village. There are a few ruined cottages dotted about the landscape. The cottage we were staying in was bought by the now owner’s father back in the sixties and used for family holidays. It was originally just the main room and bedroom with the big peat stove as a focal point for heat, hot water and cooking. Now the cottage has been extended to include a kitchen and bathroom at the back and an extra bedroom with two bunkbeds and shower room to the side. A small bothy alongside also houses twin beds and a peat stove all of its own, making it a cosy hideaway for older children. All in all, the cottage sleeps up to 10. The original tin bath, used by the family for bathing by the stove, hangs in the shower room for old time’s sake.
In hindsight, February was not the best time of year for visiting, unless you like a biting wind! However, we soon had the stove stoked up with peat and blasting out some heat. It was lovely and cosy and the hot water was scalding hot. Although there is a secret plug socket powered by renewable means (there is no mains electricity at Port), we had decided to properly get away from it all for the three nights we were there, so no tablets or phones were used. We had tea, lit all the candles and played games or told stories at the table until bedtime. With it being so cold, the children slept on the settle by the fire and we slept in the main bedroom.
Next day, we awoke to pouring rain and decided to explore Ardara and stock up on some peat for the fire. I’d heard from the owner of the cottage, Roland, that the fish and chips in Charlie’s West End Cafe in Ardara took some beating, so I had that in mind for lunch. We checked out the amazing tweed shop – Eddie Doherty’s, then Kennedy’s and a few other gift shops, where the children bought some souvenirs, before heading to the West End Cafe to dry out from the rain and fill our stomachs. The fish and chips were indeed very good, especially washed down with copious amounts of tea. Once we’d stocked up on peat for the stove, we headed back to the cottage.
The next day was bitterly cold but beautifully sunny and dry. We decided to attempt the walk over the cliffs to Glencolmcille, knowing that we couldn’t make it all the way with the children, but aiming to get as high as we could. The views were amazing, really breathtaking. We took a diplomatic vote and the decision was made to come back down to the beach at Port to eat our picnic. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so awed in my whole life as I did standing looking out at the Atlantic Ocean from Port. The people who inhabited the village on a permanent basis in the past must have been made of stern stuff to withstand those elements.
One more night of tea and games by candlelight and it was time to head home. There is no waste collection at the cottage, so all rubbish has to be taken home with you. This totally ties in with our values, so we were fine with this. We separated our rubbish as we usually do and binned the small landfill bag at the service station on the main road to Ardara. Then we happened to pass a waste recycling centre on our journey back through Ireland, where we got rid of the recyclable waste. The compostable waste came home with us. Also, the cottage is self-serviced. Essentially, you leave the cottage as you would wish to find it. We gave the bathroom and kitchen a brief clean and swept all the floors before leaving. The bed linen and towels were all bagged and dropped back off at the launderette in Ardara.
We absolutely loved our stay in the eco cottage at Port, Donegal. It was undoubtedly one of our favourite holidays. We’ll be back again one day in warmer weather and for a longer stay, because we’d love to explore more of the area my husband’s family are from. If you feel like really and truly getting away from it all, Port, Donegal is the place for you.
(My husband booked the cottage through Air BnB and our ferry was with P&O Ferries. You can contact Roland and Zoe about staying in their cottage on their contact page here.)