Dunfanaghy hosts and boasts the most campervan friendly festival in the world; the best pizza on the Wild Atlantic Way and a weekend of music that I just wanted to put on repeat, forever.
Dunfanaghy hosts and boasts the most campervan friendly festival in the world; the best pizza on the Wild Atlantic Way and a weekend of music that I just wanted to put on repeat, forever. And that’s just for starters, as we also hit on a campsite that would be well in the running for our best of the season.
With the fishing out of our system the plan now was for some tunes and to keep a look out for some surf out of the corner of our eye. We were also going to have to make a call on a wild camp or campsite option as we rocked up into Dunfanaghy.
It was Hippy Bill who gave us the hot tip for Dunfanaghy Jazz & Blues Festival.
Camper friendly Dunfanaghy, first up, best dressed gets the pick of the spots.
When Hippy Bill gave us the heads-up on Dunfanaghy he said there was lots of options as the campervans parked everywhere, and he wasn’t wrong. No fuss, no facilities (the public toilets block was the worse for wear and locked up) but there were motorhomes parked up along the pier, the waterfront, the car parks and in any available spot that could be squeezed in to. Self-regulating, first up, best dressed got the pick of the spots and it all seemed to work well and totally hassle free. Dunfanaghy passed with flying colours when it comes to welcoming campers.
The Old Mill is well in the running for our campsite of the season but it also offers inviting glamping and hostel options.
However, just 3km back out the road Ricky and I had spotted an interesting looking place, The Old Mill, which offered the full monty for travellers such as ourselves from camping to glamping, motorhomes, caravans, campervans to hostel rooms, it catered for everyone. Perched on the side of the N56 road the Old Mill/Dunfanaghy Holiday Village is a nugget of a spot, really well laid out, great showers and services, lots of places to hang out – including The Blow-Ins Club – with its curious military memorabilia, views out to the coast line, which was sheltering dozens of swans and to clinch the deal for festival goers like ourselves it is just a €3 taxi ride in to town. The Old Mill was €30 all in for showers and EHU per night. You can check it out at www.corcreggan.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
We were up north for the Dunfanaghy Jazz & Blues Festival but this corner of Donegal had a few more aces up its sleeve before we even settle in to the tunes. There were cafés, craft shops, galleries, hospitality offerings to beat the band, even a dedicated traditional sweet shop!
Arnold’s Hotel is a hive of activity and a buzz with blues and jazz and brass streaming out of every corner, lounge, lobby and ballroom; the Oyster Bar and Shibín are jammers as is Patsy Dans. The Starfish Café and Bistro is run off its feet turning out delicious dishes, for us it’s the all-day breakfast which is great value all day at €17 for two. There are loads of other inviting spots – Arnou, Cove Tapas Bar, Buttermilk Art Café, The Green Man Deli – as Dunfanaghy is a place you are spoilt for choice and spoiled rotten such is the warm welcome around the small town with a big heart.
We sampled the Lisnamulligan Farm produce burger for €6 and it would give any of your gourmet burgers a run for their money, and that’s not just beer talk. But the piece de resistance has to be the wood-fired sourdough pizza from The Rusty Oven(located behind Patsy Dan’s Bar). On this I’m throwing down the gauntlet – this is the best pizza on the Wild Atlantic Way and would put it up to any of your fancy Dan stuff coming out of the Big Smoke for that matter! If you dare, you can compare…as it’s worth going to Dunfanaghy for that pizza alone.
The Rusty Oven has the best wood-fired sourdough pizzas on the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s worth going to Dunfanaghy just for that reason alone.
Dunfanaghy is tucked away nicely on the shores of Sheephaven Bay with Falcarragh and Creeslough down the road in opposite directions from where you can take you pick of forests, parks, beaches, strands and shoreline all steeped in history marked out by a Workhouse Museum to a WW2 monument and a madcap story of the day an American bomber crash-landed on the local beach. Out the road is Horn Head with its signal tower and sea cliffs. This entire region is a haven for surfing, kayaking and windsurfing – we met a few Scots, who were over especially for a week of windsurfing lessons, stopping out beside us at The Old Mill.
Small wonder then that Dunfanaghy should sport the coolest surf shop, Narosa Life, with its own surf school and the perhaps coolest of surf gear in the northern hemisphere; www.narosalife.com
And I almost forgot, The Dunfanaghy Jazz & Blues Festival, which has been one of the best kept secrets for the past ten years. Over 40 gigs in a dozen venues for four days, all free of charge. With names like Bluesy Quattro, The Beekeepers and The Humble Earthworms, this festival clearly has its veterans and a sense of humour, but newcomers are never made to feel out of place, on or off the stage.
Two Time Polka filled the floor from the get-go and sent them home happy and sweatin’ .
Crow Black Chicken, Portabello, and TheGrand Camaros all gave a good account of themselves but it was the Clandestinos that put down a marker with their mellow soulful reggae blend. However, festival favourites went to Ray Barron and Two Time Polka who had the house heavin’ from the get-go, a full dance floor, leaving them wanting more and sent them home sweating from Dunfanaghy for another year, a hard act to follow.
Along the way we bumped in to cartoonist Davy Francis who was plying his talent for anyone who fancied the fun of a four minute caricature, for a song at €4. He’s brilliant, check him out on Facebook at davyfranciscartoons.
The Rickster by cartoonist Davy Francis.
And so to the road home. An overnight in Rossnowlagh so that we could squeeze in a sneaky surf early the following morning to round off a massive weekend. You can’t do that without a pint in TheSmugglers and the Surfers Bar.
With a good bracing surf under our belt we were famished. Only one thing for it, a slap up breakfast at The Salty Fox on the Tullan Strand Road in Bundoran. A big thumbs up for this new spot, another offshoot from the popularity of the Wild Atlantic Way, where we both had the works for €18.90.
Homeward bound, with only one regret that this weekend ever had to come to an end…There is only one cure for that. See you in Dunfanaghy in September.
This year’s Dunfanaghy Jazz & Blues Festival takes place next weekend from September 12 to 16th featuring over 30 bands at venues throughout the town including In Their Thousands, Funk Dawg, Clandestinos, Eirdinie, Grand Cameros, Portobello, Shawn Jones Trio, Hot Tamales and Two Time Polka.
John Whelan is a vastly experienced midlands based journalist and editor who has contributed extensively to the country's leading national and regional titles, as well as broadcast outlets. He runs the media services company, Communicate Ireland www.communicateireland.ie.
John is a keen camping and campervan enthusiast with an interest in music, culture, heritage and outdoor pursuits. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and the Woman's Way on these topics.
He is also an author, and his latest book, The Last Beekeeper, reflects his love of nature, the landscape and our shared responsibility to protect the environment. The Last Beekeeper is available to preview and purchase at www.thelastbeekeeper.ie.