Buncrana to Dunfanaghy

The Carriage hostel
The Carriage hostel

After a wonderful night’s sleep, we left at 8:30 in a steady light rain to catch the 9 o’clock ferry. We thought that would give us plenty of time but there was not a single sign for the ferry in the town so we had to ask directions, and there were surprisingly few people about. We found the terminal just in time, but the boat didn’t dock until nine, then an oil tanker drove on to refuel the Foyle Rambler. The vessel eventually left at 9:23, we were the only passengers. The ferryman told us the tanker was supposed to have been there at 8:30 and they didn’t dock until it arrived because if it hadn’t turned up, the ferry would have had to stay put. He charged us all the child/senior rate as we’d had to wait, though it wasn’t much of an inconvenience.

It was rather wet when we disembarked at Rathmullan, nobody was waiting to board so the return service went back empty. A local told us that heavy rain was forecast for the next couple of days so rather than head up into the mountains, we opted to ride along the north coast. We booked into the Carriage hostel near Dunfanaghy, which we thought was on Horn Head as our map displayed a red triangle there. As it happened, the rain soon petered out and the sun shone, but we enjoyed the continuing coastal scenery. We were tired by the time we reached the small village of Dunfanaghy, where we shopped for food. We crossed over the long bridge onto Horn Head and wound our way wearily up the hill, but there was no sign of a hostel. We asked a passing motorist who advised us it was on the main road, 3km after Dunfanaghy. We phoned the hostel to verify this, then decided we may as well climb to the top while we were there, and were rewarded with marvellous views along the coast and out to Tory Island.

The hostel is an old railway carriage with bunk beds, we had a 4-berth. The owner, Desmond, bought the hostel five years ago, after which the seller opened a rival hostel next door (the Corcreggan Mill). Desmond was understandably very bitter, as the other hostel is probably more appealing. The carriage is rather damp and fusty smelling, there was no running hot water except in the showers. The showers and toilets were outside the carriage so it felt more like camping than hostelling. At 17.50 Euro each, it was the poorest value accommodation of the holiday, but staying somewhere weird is normally an integral part of our holiday so it fitted the bill. I was suspicious of the width of the coach so checked the knowledgeable Irish Railway News site.  Here, I learned: “it is not a complete carriage but the sides of an ex-GNR (Great Northern Railway, not County Donegal Railways) six wheeler which came from Giles Quay, near Dundalk, where for many decades previously it had been in use as a holiday home. There appear to be parts from the sides of two such vehicles, but not the complete parts of either one. They are simply used to front a wooden-built holiday hostel building. The interior is designed to resemble the interior of a carriage of the type it appears externally, even having a softly curved overall roof.” Thanks to jhb171achill for the information.

The kitchen was well kitted out and there’s a pleasant dining room decorated with County Donegal Railways posters and a lounge whose walls are adorned with art prints. Some of these have been hung upside down or turned through 90 degrees, a strange place indeed. It’s all rather decayed but atmospheric and Desmond was very chatty and helpful, a real character. We were sad to later read that Desmond had died a year after our stay and his property is now part of Corcreggan Mill, he’d have hated that.