There’s a working-class beach town called Downings in northern County Donegal, Ireland. Located right on the Atlantic, the views are lovely, and Sheephaven Bay shelters this surprisingly long, sandy beach.
Oceanside Car Park
The Irish treat Downings’ Beach a lot like a local park. And here’s the funny part: They drive their cars right onto the beach and park them surprisingly close to the water. (I suppose it’s because that’s where the sand is hard-packed after the receding tide.) Still, it’s astonishing to see people use the sand as a “car park,” as they call it here. Many families set up beach chairs and picnic right beside their car!
Sunday on the Beach
I took this photo late on a Sunday afternoon in August, after most of the action died down for the day. (That’s why there are only a few parked autos—earlier at least 50 of them were lined in neat rows.)
The horse wagon is for the wee kiddies to ride, whereas the boys in the foreground were more interesting in net fishing. Or were they butterfly hunting?
Downings has a several hotels and pubs (which favor country-western music over fiddles and Irish tin whistles most nights of the week.) The tiny town was once a getaway for folks from nearby Northern Ireland fleeing “The Troubles.” There’s still a large caravan (trailer) park in Downings.
—Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor
Originally posted in March 2009
Read more about my travels in Ireland:
- An Irish Dolmen and a Magical Dog
- Full Circle: Standing Stones & Driving in Ireland
- Time Traveling to Ireland’s Temple House
- Take a Celtic Seaweed Bath
- Legendary Green Spa in Ireland
- Jedi Knights Arrive in Ireland
- My Hunt for Irish Sheela-Na-Gigs
- Archways into the Irish Past (about sheela-na-gigs)
P.S. For more tips on places to visit in Ireland, visit Discover Ireland.