Day 131, Thurs 11 May
I hadn’t allowed for the extra mileage to yesterday’s visit to the newest RNLI Station in Ireland, so today’s ride back to the coast at Ballyshannon and around Donegal Bay is likely to be one of the longest legs, if I intend to stay on schedule. Not essential, but simpler if I can.
After just 14 or-so miles, today’s visit is to the Enniskillen (Lower Lough) ILB Station, to be found within the Lough Erne Yacht Club. What a beautiful setting on yet another gorgeous May day. As with yesterday’s visit on the Upper Lough, all is quiet here today. Quite deceptive. This Lifeboat Station is often the busiest in all of Ireland. And this Lough is vast!
There was also something else about the setting of this place. Something familiar and quite atmospheric. The concrete approach road, large areas of concrete hard-standings and a very typical 1930s large brick and steel structure with huge doors. It was the abandoned aircraft hangar that finally gave the game away. That familiarity of a number of RAF Stations that were my home as a child and later as an RAF airframe technician. But this one is a bit different. It turns out that this was a major base for flying boats during WW2. RAF Coastal Command Sunderlands and USAAF Catalinas took off from and landed on this very lake, right here! Take a look at this old BBC NEWS link.
Thanks to Neil (acting LOM) for the appropriately punctual and military style of opening the security gates on my well-timed approach. Many thanks also to Jimmy (ex DLA, Station Mech) for sharing so much fascinating local history, both “ancient” (WW2) and modern (RNLI), plus the added treat of being invited a little way along the shore for a cuppa and high energy fudge chunks (thanks Mary) at their lovely 1920s Dutch barge, now their home. Coincidentally, the barge was high & dry on the flying boat hardstanding, having just had its six-yearly inspection and bottom-scrub & re-paint. Apparently the 90 year old steel hull, originally 6.0mm thick, is now down to 5.7mm at its thinnest! I think that’s a “pass”. Back in the water tomorrow.
The next 40+ Northern Irish miles, along the East and North shores of the Lower Lough Erne, were particularly green and pleasant. Idyllic scenes of anglers competing with Mayflies to tempt the fish to bite.
Another important land mark on today’s route, between Belleek and Ballyshannon, is the famous hydro-electric power station on the dammed and locked stretch of the Erne. Why don’t we make much more use of nature’s powerful forces?
Back on the coast road, the last stretch up to Donegal and along to Killybegs was a little slower, with more climbs rewarded with good views across Donegal Bay, back towards yesterday’s Benbulben and Truskmore Mountains of Counties Sligo and Leitrim.
Killybegs was a big surprise! I had no idea that this was such a busy fishing harbour, on a massive scale. Excellent evening light used to best advantage for a complete change of scenery here in Killybegs Harbour.
A longer blog than usual, to go with one of the longest day rides so far. A couple of circuits of the harbour would have pushed Garmin’s total for today to 80 miles.
Time for bed. Arranmore Island Lifeboat Station tomorrow, via some big climbs on the long and winding roads.