Ireland’s best kept secret

It’s official! Met Éireann figures prove that while the rest of us got drenched all summer, Donegal was bathed in sun, says Paddy Clancy

WHILE most of Ireland, particularly the south, was wet this summer, the weather was fantastic in Donegal.

Folk there didn’t want the sunniness kept quiet. In a county where jobs have vanished by the thousands and the young have emigrated to Australia, business and tourism providers wanted everybody to know.

Word got around, but no thanks to RTÉ weather forecasters, according to local politicians and tourism providers. Paul Diver, of Sandhouse Hotel in Rossnowlagh, said: “It’s very frustrating in Donegal, watching the weather on RTÉ. If you had looked at it the other night, you wouldn’t have put your nose out the door the following day. Yet it turned out to be a day of glorious sunshine and there were families right along the beach.”

Mr Diver is not alone in his criticism of the RTÉ weather reports.

Letterkenny mayor Dessie Larkin also blamed RTÉ’s weather forecasts for depriving his home county of tourists.

Mr Larkin said: “We’ve had a decent summer and it has allowed for some amazing local festivals. But if you were to believe RTÉ, Donegal is constantly awash with rain and dark clouds.”

Several years ago, county councillor and hotel owner Sean McEniff threatened to sue the meteorological office because of its forecasts for Donegal, but didn’t proceed, due to legal advice.

Mr McEniff no longer monitors RTÉ weather forecasts. “I actually remember someone from the Met office saying on RTÉ that they just can’t forecast the weather for the North West.”

Whatever the reasons for the secrecy or misrepresentation of Donegal’s weather — whether it is dubious forecasting or not — the sun really did shine in the county for much of June, July and August, while rain fell, sometimes in a deluge, further south.

This month, for example, there were days when Met records showed zero or near-zero rain at Finner and at Malin Head stations in Donegal, while up to 14.1mm and 18.1mm were recorded at Cork Airport. Even when there was rain in Donegal, there was far more in Cork, where the airport one day recorded a fall of more than 28mm.

One Co Cork family who fled to Donegal were the Dilloughreys, from Curraglass in East Cork.

They moved house in June, from Crosshaven, and were reluctant to spend extra cash on a Spanish holiday for a family of four.

Their minds were made up when the airline fares rocketed in August.

Lucy Dilloughrey is from Sligo, and she has family there and in counties Leitrim and Donegal. Her family told her about the marvellous weather, and the Dilloughreys set out on Aug 9 for an apartment they owned in Creevy, Co Donegal.

Lucy, a nurse, said: “We were really fed up with the weather in Cork. Then, my mother and sister told me about the fantastic days they were having on the beaches of Sligo and Donegal, so we decided to go to the apartment.”

Her husband, Alan, an accountant, and 17-year-old son, Stephen, and 14-year-old daughter, Vivienne — and their tiny dog, a mini Jack Russell called Josie — headed off on a five-hour journey by road, via Portlaoise and Mullingar, to Creevy, just outside Ballyshannon and close to Rossnowlagh.

Lucy said: “The weather was unbelievable. We based ourselves in the apartment in Creevy and went all over the place.

“Alan played golf at Rosses Point, in Sligo, with Knocknarea Mountain several kilometres away, across the bay, very clear in the sun.

“The children jumped off Creevy pier, swam in Rossnowlagh, and climbed to the top of Sliabh League, one of Europe’s tallest cliffs, overlooking the sea. That was a really warm day, probably the hottest of our stay.”

She said: “We even got an overnight in Northern Ireland when we went to visit the Giant’s Causeway and went to the Titanic Museum in Belfast.

“We had the holiday of our lives that we didn’t expect to have.

“OK, we know when you go to Spain that you are guaranteed good weather, but, really, what else does it have to offer?

“When you get the weather in Ireland, there really is no place else you would want to be, with the fantastic scenery and the craic. We have a beautiful country to see.”

Lisa told of calling into Sean Rooney’s butcher shop in Ballyshannon, and hearing of a family who were so tired of the weather in Dublin that they decided, at 6am, one day to go to Donegal, and, within minutes, were out the door, into their car, and on their way to the north-west. Lucy noted one drawback. She said: “We had a fabulous holiday, because we already had our own apartment and were able to cook our own food.

“We did eat out on a few occasions in Bundoran, but, for the times that are in it, it was pricey. I also heard of people charging €750 for a week for a house.

“People in restaurants, and with homes to let, should come down in price to encourage people to travel around their own country.”

While the Dilloughrey family were enjoying their Donegal holiday, torrential rain flooded a stream running past their own house, in Curraglass, and it pushed two inches of water into their nearby pub.

She said: “There is no doubt the sunny weather made our holiday and we might not have known of it, except that I have family here.”

Lucy’s reflection that holidaymakers are watching their money was mirrored in Caroline Timony’s Forget Me Not craft shop in the centre of Donegal town.

The town has been throbbing with tourists — including 10,000 German visitors in organised coach tours between May and October — but shops that used to stay open late are closing during normal hours.

Caroline said: “We’re the only shop open late at night now, and even we close an hour earlier than we used to — at 8pm instead of 9pm.

“I think the town did well this year. It was up slightly compared to last year, and July and August were particularly good. There is a lot of footfall in my store, but they are spending carefully.

“We maintained figures on last year and percentage is slightly up. But, in these times, that’s good.

“I would definitely say it’s the weather that brought the people here.”

Surfing is big business in Donegal and Sligo, and experienced surfers from all over the world crest the waves in the region in autumn and spring.

But large numbers of schoolchildren learn the craft during the summer, when the waves are lower.

Neil Britton, who runs the Fin McCool Surf School and Lodge, where guests are accommodated at €20 per night, said his business is up because of the weather.

Neil said: “The weather was always warm and there were no deluges. I have had reports from other surf schools around the country that it was too stormy and they had to close.

“We got a lot of people extending their holidays in the hostel, from one or two nights to four or five. Business was up for the surfing school and the hostel was definitely up, but the shop retail side has not been that good.

“They are paying for the experience, but not buying the T-shirts and other souvenirs. Everybody is saving.”


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