TAKING the turn signposted for the Creevy Pier Hotel - off the main Ballyshannon to Rossnowlagh road - plunges the visitor right into the heart of traditional Donegal.
As far as the eye can see, there are hundreds of small fields: a picturesque scene that has remained much the same since the original farmers harvested stones from their fields and expert hands cut and shaped them into place for these traditional dry-stone walls.
The single lane road (with occasional passing places) meanders past what were once little homesteads and farm cottages. While they are now almost all modernised and refurbished holiday homes – it is still the wild Donegal scenery that dominates.
The road then slopes away toward the hidden gem, Creevy Pier. Literally at the ‘end of the road’ the weather-worn stone pier dominates a small sandy bay that in turn sits off the enormous Donegal Bay. Standing beside it is the modest-sized Creevy Pier Hotel.
Just 10 bedrooms, all with a sea view (room seven has the best one) and a restaurant with panoramic views across the seascape and a busy bar that changes from daily bar food to great craic at nights are on offer. There’s also a self catering bungalow just behind the hotel for larger groups.
But the stunning location is just the beginning. Staff are friendly, the food is great, the music on Saturday night – especially if there’s a wedding group attending – is superb.
There’s even a look-alike character from Mrs Brown’s Boys (granddad) who spends most of his leisure time propping up the bar from where he greets guests, locals and strangers alike, with an enthusiasm that would qualify him for a Northern Ireland ‘Welcome Host’ accolade.
The hotel also lies about halfway along the Creevy Path, a way-marked cliff walk that runs all the way from the mouth of the River Erne, near Ballyshannon to just before Smugglers Cove, a great bar and restaurant that looms about the enormous and extremely popular, Rossnowlagh Beach.
Surfing is hugely popular there with suit and board hire available from the friendly folks at Finnegan’s combined post office and shop, five minutes drive along the main road. Look out for their ‘guard dog’ who just loves having her belly scratched though!
The Creevy Path itself has been constructed with considerable environmental delicacy and runs along sheep paths atop the rugged cliffs. Little has been added except for a series of stiles to allow passage from field to field and vista to vista.
Of course the ever changing Atlantic dominates the scenery with the multiple colours of sea that change as the rock formations underneath varies. A heron occupies a prominent position near the wee harbour and swallows constantly swoop low and fast in hot pursuit of flying insects. Robins as robins do, follow walkers, hoping their tread will disturb worms and grubs enough to offer them some grub too.
Toward Rossnowlagh, walkers pass outcrops of bog cotton before coming to some stunning cliff views where wind-carved faces that will have stared out across the sea for 1,000 years can be picked out.
Beside them, the remarkable remains of a castle that once dominated sea passage below can be explored. With an overall footprint that would appear to be as big – if not bigger – than Co Antrim’s own Dunluce Castle – it is clear that the remaining fireplaces and gable walls of the 6th century Kilbarron Castle were once part of a major settlement. Beyond that the 5km of Rossnowlagh Beach looms into view at the end of the Creevy Walk.
Creevy Pier Hotel itself is one of those establishments where the receptionist (if she’s not already serving behind the bar), may pop-up later as a waitress and maybe even helping at breakfast. It’s a small team, but two chefs produce remarkable meals.
Dinner is excellent especially with the picture-perfect panoramas that serves as a sunset backdrop, but beware the wine, with even the cheapest exceeding €20. That said it is the breakfasts that are a wonder to behold.
A full ‘fry’ is a huge undertaking, and each variation of the menu is presaged by a choice of fruit juice, (cereal too if required), toast and tea or coffee by the pot-full. There’s also fresh fruit and yogurt and other options. Lighter choices are available too, with the smoked salmon and scrambled egg being a good one, as a variant that substitutes mackerel.
Certainly more than enough to keep going to afternoon tea, even with a bracing cliff walk afterwards.
Time passes easily in Creevy. During the day, boat owners will draw up at the sloping jetty, launch their wee boats and sail off into the distance in search of that night’s dinner. Local youngsters, who avoid peak season Rossnowlagh as it’s too crowded, will instead drop by to launch themselves off the end of the pier for a bit of fun (though most ‘cheat’ and wear wetsuits).
It’s all great fun to do or just watch. Indeed, there a comfortable stone seat - set into the rocks by the public car park toward the eastern side of the Creevy Path – from which the lazy can just sit back and take in the ever changing view.
There’s also a Sunday market beside the huge Irish Army camp on the Bundoran Road, Ballyshannon that attracts thousands of bargain hunters every week if that floats your boat.
There’s a nearby donkey that likes carrots, (just back up the lane) some inquisitive cattle and a friendly white horse that is paddocked at a sea front holiday home just round from the hotel....but best explore your own options for this short break with a difference. Highly recommended!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Comfortable family hotel at the edge of Creevy Pier, with a breathtaking view over Donegal Bay. All rooms en-suite finished to the highest standard. Swimming, angling, golf and windsurfing at our doorstep. It’s the ideal base to tour Donegal and the Fermanagh lakelands. Cuisine is modern with a strong emphasis on fresh Irish produce, with a particular focus on fresh fish right from our door step, complimented by a fine wine cellar. Vegetarian options also available. Enjoy a relaxing drink in the Captains Bar with its natural stone fireplace. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Creevy Pier Ballyshannon