Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Inishowen: An Ancient Landscape

By Denise Henry, Marketing, Inishowen Tourism
Inishowen is an ancient area that spans 1000s of years, visible archaeological monuments, that occupy the landscape testify to that fact. Yet recent discoveries at Cooley Moville, pictured above and Carndonagh have proven, that much more can be learnt about our ancient landscape and its important ecclesiastical past by looking beneath the surface.

The Bernician Studies Group (BSG) based in the UK have been instrumental, alongside the Lands of Eogain Group formed in 2015, in increasing the profile of Inishowen as an area of important historical and archaeological significance. The BSG have visited Inishowen over the last five summers and within that time are responsible for locating the existence of four double precincts (boundaries) of monasteries located at Cloncha, Carrowmore, Cooley and now Carndonagh. 

Archaeological Finds at Cooley

Cooley is an area representative of an important ecclesiastical site which, as you can see above, overlooks Moville Town and the expanse of the Lough Foyle. In a field behind Cooley Graveyard, the BSG, based on a previous Geophysical Survey, carried out a small excavation through a section of the identified boundary ditch.
You can see the team, pictured above, alongside local archaeologists and undergraduate students from Newcastle University, excavating in a 3 metre test trench. Some of the finds pictured below include; metal, glass (to the right) and possible Souterrain Ware pictured on the left below. Max Adams, Excavation Director at the site, stated this indicates possible industrial activity such as Iron working as "early monasteries were centres of fine liturgical craftsmanship". Another promising find was evidence of a palisade trench, only further excavation will allow us to learn much more about this complex and ancient site. 

Geophysical Survey Results at Carndonagh

Located in the field opposite Donagh Church in Carndonagh Jack Pennie and Geoff Taylor from the BSG carried out a geophysical survey. The survey identified a double ditched boundary that captures within it the stunning Marigold High Cross. You can see the type of geophysical survey work called Magnetometry carried out below. Magnetometry is a technique used to measure and map patterns of magnetism in the soil. As you can see below this is a non intrusive technique.

A Celebration of Heritage: The Lands of Eogain Festival

The Lands of Eogain Group was established in 2015 with the aim to develop heritage in Inishowen by collaborating with local and international heritage groups. 2016 marked the second successful Lands of Eogain Festival. The event drew academics from Ireland, England and Scotland to Inishowen to discuss the strong links between the peninsula to other ecclesiastical sites in the above areas. As you can see below the festival generated a lot of interest and support from local archaeologists, historians and communities throughout the Inishowen Peninsula.

More to Discover!

Each year the BSG, in a voluntary capacity, have made significant discoveries, despite a lack of funds available to carry out archaeological research. Due to the efforts of, the BSG, The Lands of Eogain Group and continued support of local communities, I have no doubt this will be the first of many articles relating to new archaeological finds in the peninsula.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Mabel R. Colhoun; Our Guide to Heritage in Inishowen

By Denise Henry, Marketing, Inishowen Tourism

Who was Mabel R. Colhoun?

Mabel Remington Colhoun, pictured above, was a pioneering female involved with archaeology at the turn of the 20th Century, who spent over fifty years of her life devoted to researching, recording and surveying heritage in the Inishowen landscape. Her life's work in the area is best illustrated in "The Heritage of Inishowen: Its Archaeology, History and Folklore" published in 1995 following her death. What is so significant about Mabel's work is it was the first of its kind in the region and to date her research has been a guide to many who wanted to expand on the current knowledge of heritage in the peninsula. 

The Inishowen Connection

Mabel's ancestral home originated in the area of Knocklglass Malin, Inishowen, pictured above. Her grandfather was a farmer from that region and her father later moved from Inishowen to Derry City where he set up a successful building company called the Colhoun Bros. Mabel herself was born at North Lodge Derry/Londonderry in 1902. With this in mind Mabel was born and raised in the city, but from an early age had spent many childhood summers in Inishowen with her family.  

On the Road to Archaeology

Mabel, pictured above on the right with her mother Lizzie Gordon, was raised in a household passionate about history, archaeology, built heritage and nature.With this in mind it is no surprise that Mabel herself would become heavily involved in these areas. Mabel acquired her initial training in archaeological field work in the 1930s & 40s on digs across Northern Ireland. As you can see below Mabel documented photographically the progress of excavations at Dungiven and Tamnyrankin, Co. Derry/Londonderry. Using the skills Mabel gained on these digs and from the persuasion of experts in the field; Esytn Evans and Oliver Davies, Mabel would begin her own survey of the Inishowen Peninsula in 1940.
During the war years, when their was a petrol shortage in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Mabel would travel to archaeological sites by bicycle. This would mean a distance, of in some cases, 32 miles to travel from her home in Deanfield, Derry/Londonderry to sites in Malin Head, Inishowen. A staggering distance considering Mabel would have had to carry survey equipment, notebooks and maps. You can see from the image below that Mabel was dedicated to learning as much as possible from heritage sites in Inishowen. The image is taken from the "Skull House" as it is described locally at Cooley Graveyard in Moville, Inishowen.
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More to Come!
This is part one of a series that will explore the life of this unique lady and by following in Mabel's footsteps we will explore and learn about archaeology, history, local folklore and myth in Inishowen. Using Mabel's archive, that is cared for by the Tower Museum in Derry/Londonderry, we will explore the wealth of documents, artefacts and photographs to find out more about the work carried out by Mabel in Inishowen. A special thanks to the Tower Museum for facilitating my research!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Inishowen benefits from Film Crew attention

By Tourism Development Officer - Heidi Woods

It has been a busy time leading up to the summer this year. There is no doubt that a combination of factors have definitely had an impact on Inishowen now being highlighted as a “must see and explore” destination; filming at Malin Head for Star Wars has encouraged film crews to investigate the area for other productions, positively promoting the iconic scenery and landscape that surrounds Ireland’s Most Northerly Point. Inishowen Tourism has experienced an upsurge in enquiries to assist film crews with itinerary and information on possible options for particular features. In the coming weeks there are several organised meetings to facilitate these visits in order to maximise promotion and development for the area and its knock on effect for the business community involved in tourism.
Last week the hugely successful Clonmany Festival attracted visitors from all over Ireland with the programmes flying out the door on request. Additional radio stations and broadcasters travelled to the Peninsula to celebrate the electric atmosphere and buzz around the week’s music and activity.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Inishowens Largest Portal Tomb

Denise Henry, Marketing, Inishowen Tourism
The "Morton God Dolmen" as it is known locally, is an impressive archaeological monument set in the ancient area of Eskaheen/Iskaheen. In the Irish language 'Uisce Chaoin' translates to mean "Pure Water". The name is thought to have originated from a holy well in the area that had curative powers. 

Inishowen's Largest Portal Tomb

The monument pictured above is located 3km North West of Muff Village and 3km from the West side of the inner end of Lough Foyle. On a visit to the site you will notice that there are commanding views of Eskaheen Mountain and the Lough Foyle. A Portal Tomb, as it is described in archaeological terminology, is constructed with two large upright stones forming the entrance or portal to a single chamber with a large capstone or roof stone resting on top of the supporting portal tombs.
This example has a partially collapsed capstone, which you can see in the video above is split, possibly due to its size which is thought to weight around 30 tonnes! This Portal Tomb is the largest in the Inishowen Peninsula and one of the biggest in the wider area of County Donegal. 

Then and Now: Iskaheens "Morton God Dolmen"

In the 1940s the site was recorded by Mabel R. Colhoun (1905-1992), who was at the time an authority relating to archaeology in the region. During her survey Mabel noted that the site had another name associated with it "The Grey Rock Dolmen" and recorded the remains of a cairn at the base of the monument. A cairn is taken from the Irish word "carn" which means a "heap or pile of stones". The picture above was taken by Mabel in the 1930s during a group outing to the Peninsula. This image provides us with a look at the site before it became, in sections partially overgrown by hawthorn bushes.

The origins of the unique name "Morton God Dolmen" is unclear, but what has been determined by archaeologists are sites like the Eskaheen Portal Tomb would have been used to house the remains of important members of the community at the time. The age of these sites vary but largely they date to the Neolithic Period between 3800 to 3200 B.C. 

Inishowen is blessed with a Peninsula that houses a variety of archaeological and historic monuments. Stay tuned for future blogs as we examine and learn more about these sites and the wealth of myth and folklore that are associated with them.

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Monday, 22 August 2016

Hidden Gems At Moville Boutique Hostel, Inishowen

By Denise Henry, Marketing, Inishowen Tourism 
Located close to the picturesque seaside town of Moville, Inishowen, is Moville Boutique Hostel.
Arriving at the site you will be welcomed by quirky colourful signage and an inviting exterior, pictured above. Inside you will meet Cressida Canavan Manager at Moville Boutique Hostel, who kindly gave me a tour of the property. For all of you that love your pets you will be delighted to hear that Moville Boutique Hostel is pet friendly. This little lady pictured below gave me a greeting as soon as I arrived.
Indoors you will find a games area, kitchen/dining room and for those of you who enjoy reading, there is a library on the second floor, pictured below, which overlooks the vibrant green woodland surrounding the property. At the property you will find a range of accommodation,  with rooms that have unique themes and finishing touches. Adding to the charm of the building is traditional stonework  found throughout the Boutique Hostel. This is a product of the conversion of the hostel from farm buildings originally located on the grounds.

Overall there is a feeling you will get at the property of being in the countryside but in reality you are beside a town. On the grounds there are two rivers running close to the hostel, one of which is called the River Bredagh. Four bridges are present in total and guests are welcome to fish for brown trout and eels that have been spotted in the rivers. From the property you can follow a scenic trail, along the river and through the woods to Moville town, a short distance away.

One of Irelands Oldest Bridges at Moville Boutique Hostel

A little gem on the grounds is a traditional stone bridge, argued by many to be one of Ireland's oldest bridges. The bridge itself is thought to date from the 6th Century and according to legend was built by St Patrick who stopped here on his way to a nearby ancient site at Cooley. On the footage above, you can see the bridge and the peaceful grounds surrounding it. 

For the Love of Camping at Moville Boutique Hostel

On the grounds is a camping area, pictured above, with facilities to pitch a text, have a small campfire and BBQ, which adds to the outdoor and rustic feeling you will experience during your stay at Moville Boutique Hostel.

An added bonus during your stay is the chance to see some of the adorable farm animals, pictured above, on their working farm located at the rear of the property. These animals include chickens, hens, geese, rabbits and goats. Stay posted for my next blog were I learn all about the work carried out between the Boutique Hostel and local communities in the area.

For More Information on Moville Boutique Hostel

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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Art of Printing at Ballagh Studio, Inishowen

By Denise Henry, Marketing, Inishowen Tourism

Today's trip takes me back to the creative and picturesque Ballagh Studio in Inishowen, to meet Tim Stampton, Artist, Illustrator and Print Maker. The studio, pictured above, houses creative pieces by both Tim and fellow artist, Ros Harvey.

Tim Stampton: A Skilled Potter

Tim Stampton, was born in the UK and later moved at a young age with his family to Canada. His early career involved work in the printing industry and lithography. Tim, studied at the Canterbury College of Art and spent a number of years at Leach Pottery in St. Ives, England. At St Ives, he received training by and later worked alongside Bernard Leach, who is considered the Father of British Studio Pottery. With this in mind Tim would become an acclaimed potter, setting up his own ceramics studio in Nova Scotia, Canada and teaching in universities in both Canada and England.

At the studio you can view examples of the range of pottery he has crafted over the years from brown earthenware pottery, made in Canada to wood fired stoneware pictured above. Tim explains that the medium used e.g. the type of clay and how it is fired (electric, gas or wood kiln) effects the type of finish you will see and feel on each pottery piece.

From Pottery to Printing at Ballagh Studio, Inishowen

Moving to Ireland in 1988, Tim set up his own print workshop, illustrated in the video above, at Ballagh. At Ballagh, he moved away from pottery and focused his energies on producing wood cuts and prints. Tim kindly invited me to his workshop to gain a better understanding of how he creates his prints. Entering Tim's workshop you will notice an abundance of creative sketches, prints, books, and equipment. In viewing his work you will see that Tim is inspired by local myth, folklore and legends.Tim uses traditional methods of printing to incorporate these mythical tales and images into his work.


Traditional Printing Methods at Ballagh Studio, Inishowen

The Lithographic press, pictured above, was rescued by Tim from an art college in the UK, partially restored and as you will see is now frequently used. Lithography is a term used to describe the process of printing from a flat surface that is treated to repel the ink, except where it is required for printing. In the following video Tim introduces the press and provides a demonstration of how to use it.

Within the workshop there is a host of other traditional printing equipment. Each piece of equipment has been carefully restored and has different applications, which create the unique variety of work you will see in the studio. Stay posted for my next piece of traditional printing techniques used by Tim in his workshop.

Find Out More About Tim Stampton and the Ballagh Studio
Ballagh Studio is open Mon-Sun 9-6. After hour visits are by appointment.
See the following links for more information:

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Behind the Scenes at Tropical World

By Denise Henry, Marketing, Inishowen Tourism

A Day as a Head Keeper at Tropical World

Tanya Jacob, Head Keeper at Tropical World has an opportunity on a daily basis to engage with a range of interesting wildlife. Tanya describes her daily routine starting with "In the morning I walk around the grounds and make sure all the animals are alright, go to the kitchen and prepare food for feeding, where staff meet and take charge of a section. Pens are then cleaned out and at 12.30pm I prepare a handling session for visitors. Next step is to give snacks to the animals followed by some more cleaning.

You will gain the sense that this role is demanding and rewarding but is very much a team effort. I was slightly envious when I learnt about "enrichment". Tanya describes it as "the most interesting and fun part of the day”. Enrichment is a term used to describe a process to engage with and challenge animals so as Tanya explains "they don’t get bored", “they are like our family we take the time to look after them and entertain them”.

Following enrichment, at 3.30pm there is the final handling session, and the process begins to “settle animals down for the night followed by a final check and where possible squeeze in paperwork”.

Handling Sarah the Snake at Tropical World

During your visit you get the chance to handle some of the wonderful creatures at Tropical World. Pictured above, is the beautiful corn snake, Sarah, a breed native from North America. Feeling slightly nervous, Tanya gently places Sarah around my neck, immediately you will notice how smooth she feels, not at all like some dramatic movie references of snakes being slimy to touch. Meanwhile Tanya discusses the breed of snake, its habitat and diet. A crowd has gathered and I carefully hand Sarah back.

"They are Like our Family" Wildlife at Tropical World  

I then asked the tough question: what is your favourite animal? Pausing for a second Tanya replies: “We love all the animals but a personal favourite is Rickey the Racoon, pictured above huddled with his family, "he was one of the first animals we had and he is a real pet”. On your visit you will notice animals have been assigned quirky and fun names e.g. Snowy the Barn Owl and Gordon the Great Grey Owl.
Another little gift to the Zoo last Christmas was a baby geoffrey marmoset appropriately called Nicholas. Your heart will melt when you see this little family of marmosets, pictured above. Like most family's they have their little arguments. I was told by Lewis Alcorn (who works at Tropical World) "the mother would carefully carry her young around her neck and when it was the fathers turn he roughly throws them onto his back, causing them to squeal. The mother then shouts at him and takes them back" Initially I thought this mean, but Lewis reassures me that "its the fathers trick to get the afternoon off" and that "working here you get to understand the personalities of each animal, for which there are many”. 

Tropical World: "A Place for all the Family"

Aside from the buzz you will get from engaging with wildlife, tropical world is 70% undercover, which is perfect for those occasional rainy days in Donegal. You will notice that there are lots of safe and fun areas for children to roam; from a large padded play area, pictured above, monkey swing play area and dens to explore and discover. On site you will notice picnic areas both inside and outside, gift shop, restaurant and refreshment area. During your visit you will notice that Tropical World is a diverse and engaging environment where you can have fun while you learn.

Find out More About Tropcial World

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Friday, 5 August 2016

Getting Creative at Moville Pottery, Inishowen

By Denise Henry, Marketing Assistant, Inishowen Tourism

At Moville Pottery you have the opportunity to get hands on and be creative. A particular example is the "Paint Your Own Pot" activity which takes place in the workshop adjacent to the shop. You have the option to chose the design and type of pot you will paint and an added bonus is you get to view the process of pot making happen right beside you. 

Lowry Wasson and Brian McLaughlin, owner, director and potter at Moville Pottery, invited me to their pottery workshop to see how and where their pottery range is hand crafted and created. In the above, behind the scenes shot, a selection of mugs are being air dried before they are given the first of two firings in the kilns pictured below on the left hand side.

The Creative Process: How to Make Pottery at Moville Pottery

Having never made pottery before, Lowry steps me through the process. Pictured above on the right hand side is a pug mill where clay is passed through to get rid of any air or lumps.

The Art of Throwing Clay in Inishowen

The clay is carefully measured into individual balls, pictured above & hand thrown on the potter's wheel. You can see Lowry below giving a demonstration of this artistic process. Lowry was trained by some of the best "Throwers" in the World, training in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Europe. You will notice Lowry makes it look very easy!

After the handcrafted pots have half dried, they are put back on the wheel and additions, like the handles for the mugs can be added. After the first firing, the pots are skillfully hand glazed & decorated. The last stage is for the pots to be packed into the kiln and fired to 1220 degrees Celsius, which Lowry explains "creates a shiny effect" on the pottery and "being fired to this temperature allows the pottery pieces to be microwaved and placed in the oven without cracking"

The artistic and creative process is then complete and the pots are cooled and ready to be shipped, collected by the customer or placed on display for you to view or purchase in the shop, pictured above. 

Stars go Potty for Moville Pottery

Moville Pottery is not only popular with locals and visitors, but also with famous movie stars. Lowry & Brian, "were delighted to place an order for iconic movie stars like Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp and local star Art Parkinson, who played Rickon Stark in Game of Thrones.". Recently the team had a stand of Moville Pottery in a scene shot during the popular TV production "Jack Taylor".

Whether you visit to view Moville Potterys range of pottery and local craft on display in the shop or to get hands on in the workshop, you will leave with an appreciation of the skill and artistic craft involved in making pottery.

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Thursday, 4 August 2016

42 International photographers showcase Inishowen on Elena Shumilova Workshop.

By Tourism Development Officer- Heidi Woods

Brendan Diver from Photos from Ireland recently held another photography workshop, commencing on Sunday 3rd of July with an action packed week. There was a keen demand for places due to his highly successful event last year. On arrival the large group of international photographers spent their first night at the Strand Hotel, with an evening of entertainment provided by local artists and an opportunity to network professionally. The Inishowen Tourism team supplied a Welcome Pack of the “what to see and do” with Failte Ireland contributing Wild Atlantic Way promotional items in support of the event.
A key theme was to include local iconic scenery and historical sights of interest. Capturing the natural elements, community and indigenous wildlife was the focus of the photo shoot. People, animals such as horses, dogs, and birdlife created an authentic photographic experience for the visitors. Elena Shumilova world renowned photographer hosted the party. The participants were from near and far, Ireland, UK, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Romania, USA, Moldova, Georgia, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, Cayman Islands, Poland, Lithuania, Belgium, Germany, France, and Italy.

The world famous Russian photographer Elena returned to Ireland from the 4th to 8th of July 2016 for her second series of workshops, nine months after her first on her world tour.  Elena has a following of over sixty million people online and is one of the top eight children's portrait photographers in the world. Up until last October Elena had never taken a workshop outside of Russia. Brendan Diver from Photos from Ireland had been following her posts online and had consistently admired her work.  He contacted her initially to ask if she had any plans to do a workshop in Ireland as he was eager to learn from one of the world best photographers.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Horsing Around at Malin Head, Inishowen

By Denise Henry, Marketing Assistant, Inishowen Tourism
Florian Wagner, an adventure photographer from a small town in the Bavarian Alps, and his team, have been making headlines all over Ireland during the past two months. Their epic journey would take them from Mizen Head, Cork, all the way to Malin Head, in the Inishowen Peninsula, Co. Donegal. Florian said that "After having completed a similar trek in Germany one of my sponsors suggested Ireland as our next destination, since I had always wanted to explore Ireland, I jumped at the opportunity"
This was no ordinary road trip, the team would complete over 800 miles on horseback, capturing the diverse and beautiful Irish landscape along the way. You can see the team above, at the iconic, Wild Atlantic Way signature point; "Banbas Crown", a Napoleonic Tower, which marked the end of their long journey.

Florian noted that "Irish people have really proven their hospitality big time from the very start, the first friendly person we met was a truck driver on the ferry over". Through word of mouth and an eagerness, as found by Florian "within the Irish horse community, who all seem to know each other" people throughout the country "offered to stable the horses" and put them up for the night.

Meeting Florian and the Team at Malin Stables, Inishowen

Myself and Sally Toland, from Inishowen Tourism, reached out to the team when we heard of their journey to Malin Head. On arrival at Malin Stables we welcomed the group, pictured above, and were on hand to assist with their itinerary. The teams itinerary in Inishowen, Donegal, included; visiting the Doagh Famine Village located on the Isle of Doagh, traveling on horseback through varied terrain and picturesque beaches at Shroove, Pollan Bay, Trawbreaga Bay and Malin Head itself.

The crew enjoyed the hospitality of the Malin Hotel, The Seaview Tavern Bar and Restaurant and as you can see above, the team enjoyed a few drinks and some traditional music in Farrens Bar, Ireland's most northerly bar.

The team expressed gratitude to Malin Equestrian Centre, who stabled their horses and who were on hand to guide them along trails. A highlight for Florian and the team during their stay was a trek guided by Kane Gurney from Malin Stables, which took them "along the beautiful east coast of Inishowen from where we could see Scotland".

Highlights and Challenges on the Journey to Malin Head

Florian said that "Some of the most epic moments were at the Slieve League Cliffs, Donegal, Achill island off the West Coast of Mayo and Malin Head. "I just thought Malin Head was some place at the end of the world, some magazines say there are hardly any roads and no-one lives there but we found it the total opposite. It is remote in that it's not over populated but there are a lot of people and they're very nice and there are fantastic stable facilities at Malin Stables"

The main challenge for the team was a lack of sleep "We were working very hard before we left Germany so we were tired even before we started. We soon got into the rhythm of fighting through long days". With a jam packed schedule it was hard for Florian and the team to see and do everything that they wanted to in Inishowen. Florian wants to return "to ride along the sea when the tide is out which I haven't done here in Inishowen and so I would have loved to do that and I really want to come back"

Find out more about Florian and the Teams Journey!

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