An Clochán Liath


One month out in An Clochán Liath, County Donegal, Ireland, a little town in the heart of the Irish-speaking Donegal Gaeltacht. We were originally planning on working on a sheep farm in Westport, but that fell through last minute and we found ourselves with two bus tickets to the western coast of Ireland and no place to stay. Luckily we were able to connect with an Irish couple, Anthea and Ken, who needed some help renovating a property of theirs on the coast of Donegal - a couple hours of work each day in exchange for food and a little caravan to call our own. They picked us up from the bus stop in town, while driving a short way to their property Anthea asked us how long we wanted to stay - we said “a month”, she laughed and responded “well, you just have a look at the caravan first and you may change your mind.” But we weren’t worried, between local’s homes in Nepal, rickety camper vans, and even a brief stint volunteering in rural Cambodia, we’ve stayed in some pretty rustic accommodations. The trailer was simple, placed in the middle of an open field, a chicken coop, a small pond, a vegetable patch, and not much else. But it had running water and electricity, which is more than we can say for a lot of places we’ve stayed before.

Our caravan

Our mornings were spent doing odd jobs on the property, honest work as you might call it - tilling fields, chopping wood, clearing trees, I realized it’d been over a decade since I’d mown a lawn. My favorite task was collecting eggs from the chickens, a little quartet out in the coop that all had their own individual names and personality profiles by the time I was done with them. During breaks I’d wipe the sweat from my brow and just stare out at the country, surveying the endless farmland spanning before me - tiny white sheep dotting the rolling hills, patches of amber flowers, windmills churning against a clear blue sky, each detail standing out as if painted with a fine-tipped brush. You could get lost in it. The work wasn’t glamorous, in fact it could be really boring. But it’s calming, nothing but the sound of birds, maybe the far-away hum of a tractor in the distance. You can hear yourself think out there, something you don’t really realize you’re missing till you get it back. Plus, chopping shit up and tilling those dry Irish fields to death was a great way to exorcise any personal demons while getting some cardio in to boot, and despite those aching muscles it makes you feel alive. After work I’d start up the little electric shower and wash the dirt clumps, sticks, and ladybugs out of my hair.

The farm was secluded but we had a couple neighbors within walking distance, Eoghan just a short ways north, “Cheeky Charlie” a little down the road. Our closest neighbor was James, a Scottish transplant who lived just a few yards from the edge of our property. On sunny mornings James would be outside working when I walked down to let the chickens out, just on the other side of the short stone fence that ran along the property line. We’d chat about his old job researching shipwrecks off the coast, or about how well his potatoes were coming in. He liked to talk politics, too, Trump in particular. He told us about how Trump had purchased a beautiful area of countryside out in Scotland but kicked the locals out so he could make a golf course there, James got angrier as the story went on and Trump got younger - at first Trump was an immature eight-year-old running the country, part way through he was seven-and-a-half, and by the end of the conversation he was “that bloody six-year-old you’ve got in office!”

Weekends were our own, and there’s no WiFi so we kept ourselves busy without it. I had time to study, or we’d pack a picnic and bike to the beach, or to the tiny airport where we’d watch the planes take off. Some nights we’d go to Leo’s, an old pub just a few minutes from our caravan - I’d always wanted to be “regulars” at a small-town watering hole and for one month in Ireland, Leo’s was it. We’d order a Guinness and the special, each, and listen to whatever music was playing that night, sometimes they did poetry readings or plays, too. We’d chat with the locals, they always seemed incredulous that tourists had gotten themselves all the way out to this corner of Ireland, even more surprised when we told them we were staying a month. They always said though, “you couldn’t have picked a more beautiful place”, and we agreed. Some nights we’d pick something from the (very) limited supply of DVDs at the caravan, mostly random movies from the ‘80s that we’d never heard of before. Town was always just a short bike ride, or an even shorter hitchhike away. One weekend we rented a little car and just drove along the coast, winding around the narrow roads as the ocean unfurled in shades of blue before us. I read more, and wrote more. We talked more.

The chickens!!!
The big blue
Pete fixing our bikes
Wildflowers on the property
spring flowers
Beautiful dunguaire castle
Our regular pub - Leo’s Tavern in Donegal
Eggs from chickens!
chicken coop!
fight me
life’s a beach
Tools out in the field
Peter during a hike
Our little garden
Battle of the bands
county donegal
Yellow flowers (and jacket) in Donegal
On the road again
working on the bikes

Time out here passed slowly - hanging out in a trailer studying and doing yard work in rural Ireland doesn’t exactly make it to the top of our list of exciting experiences. A month has passed now and we know we have to move on; we’re both feeling it in our bones, that familiar feeling of restlessness. But I’m still sad to leave this beautiful and peaceful place we’ve been lucky enough to call home, if even for a little while - those blue beaches and bucolic country is something I’ll hold with me for a long time.