Today we headed south for about an hour to Rosses Point to play County Sligo Golf Club. Another sunny morning as we left Harvey’s Point. It did get a bit darker looking as we drove down the coast but we had faith that the SUNGRL powers would not fail us.
County Sligo Golf Club started out with a nine-hole course, designed by George Combe (contriver in 1896 of the world’s first handicap system), and opened for play in 1894. At the turn of the 20th century, Willie Campbell extended the course to 18 holes. The famous Colt and Alison partnership remodelled the course in 1927. County Sligo is the home of the West of Ireland Amateur Championship and host to other important amateur events.
It is a typical west coast links course and has views of the Darty Mountains and Benbulben, Sligo’s limestone “Table Mountain” as well as the Ox Mountains where Knockalong is the highest peak. Drumcliffe Bay sweeps around the golf course which has long sandy beaches.
We armed ourselves with more golf balls and off we went. We were joined on the fourth hole by a couple of members – William and Ivor. They were actually from Enniskillen which is in the south of Northern Ireland. They prefer the links course rather than the park courses closer to home so travel about an hour to play at County Sligo.
They were great fun and happy to give us tips as to where to and where not to hit the ball. This is of course is all in vain sometimes as my clubs and ball have a mind of their own. I managed not to lose a ball until the 14th hole and kept my second ball all the way until the end. Ivor was a bit of an eagle eye in respect of finding balls in the rough. Steve was on fire on the back nine having a couple of birdies and lots of pars – the locals were impressed.
I had checked the local weather forecast that morning and it said 24 degrees, 0.2 mm of rain and 100% humidity. I think that was pretty accurate – it was extremely humid. We were joking with William and Ivor saying we don’t know what everyone is going on about complaining about the weather in Ireland – it has been great since we arrived. They said that they get the sort of day we had yesterday – warm and no wind with the sun eventually burning through – maybe 5 days a year!
We had a drink in the bar afterwards and were talking about the conflict in Northern Ireland. Ivor who is 69 said he grew up with it and didn’t know any different as have his daughters who are 28 and 32 – they have never known life without trouble. He told us the story of having to go to Marks & Spencer in Belfast to pick up a suit jacket he had ordered for a wedding he was attending the next day. Just as he got to the door of Marks and Spencer the place blew up. He said he dusted himself off, went to the back of the store and rang the bell. This girl answered, the shop was a mess but she promptly went off and found his suit jacket. Ivor paid for the jacket and then drove home thinking nothing of it – that was life.
We are actually going to Enniskillen where both Ivor and William live to play golf on Thursday. They said there was probably not one building there that hasn’t been bombed at one time or another. They also said there would be quite a few people from Belfast that would never have crossed the border into Southern Ireland.
Ivor recommended taking a drive back along the coast and stopping in at Smugglers Creek Inn for a drink so we did. Smuggler’s Creek Inn, nestling on the cliffs overlooking Donegal Bay and the Blue Stack Mountains in South Donegal, dates back to the early 1900’s. We drove through Ballyshannon to get there which is one of the oldest settlements in Ireland.
The Inn overlooks Rossnowlagh Beach. Rossnowlagh in the Irish language is Ros Neamhlach, meaning “heavenly headland. It was an absolute millpond with the odd wave and there were many people out swimming and surfing – admittedly a lot of them were in wetsuits but wow they breed them tough up here. I doubt the North Atlantic Ocean would be particularly tropical.
After a satisfying snack and drink we headed back to Harvey’s Point. The Lough Eske Castle sits on the property next door to where we are staying – there is a 5 star hotel there so we decided to call in and check that out. Two glasses of prosecco and one free cocktail later we left there! The castle dates back to 1861. Until it was saved by it’s present owners, it rose through the surrounding forest in ruined grandeur, a tranquil reminder of an Ireland long passed. Only the outer walls remained when the current owners started rebuilding it along with the hotel – the total project cost about 50 million euros and took about two years. The hotel opened in 2007.
We arrived back to our hotel about 8pm after having left it at 8am that morning – a very enjoyably day out : )