On Saturday 16th September we set off from home in our VW van fully loaded up with windsurf kit and Mel drove to West Kirby. It was a lovely day so we parked up and had a walk round the marine lake. There wasn’t much wind so there were only a few people on the water, mostly beginners having sailing or windsurf lessons. We had a coffee in the town and then sat in the van until it was time to go to the port at Birkenhead about 25 minutes away.
Check in opened at 7.30.pm and embarkation started at 9.00.pm, all very efficient and straightforward. We quickly located our cabin and after a very nice cappuccino we went to the cabin and watched TV in bed. We had a very comfortable night’s sleep, the sea was very calm and the ferry quiet until the 5.30.am announcement over the tannoy telling us we were nearly in Belfast and should be getting ready to vacate the cabin!
We disembarked on time at 6.30.am to a bright, dry, Belfast morning and set off on our journey to Gortahork in County Donegal. We arrived at the Ostan Loch Altan Hotel about 11.00.am after a very interesting and picturesque drive across the north of Ireland.
We went to the beach at Meenlaragh and Mel had his first taste of windsurfing in Atlantic waves (although they weren’t very big or powerful today). The beach is a typical Irish Atlantic coastal beach with a great stretch of sand, mountain backdrop and stunning scenery in every direction.
We had a meal in the hotel in the evening with all the group on Peter Hart’s windsurf clinic and other hangers on! It was good to meet everyone but Lesley was the only partner here for the week so she is going to have to suffer windsurf talk as the main topic of conversation!
Monday was the first official day of Peter’s windsurf clinic so after a briefing they all went of to the beach at Meenlaragh. It was a lovely day, sunny and dry so Lesley walked to the beach (about 6km) and then sat outside the van watching the windsurfers. There wasn’t a lot of wind but Mel still enjoyed it, tiring himself out in the process. We went for a drink at the nearby pub and then went back to the hotel where we had our evening meal again.
Tuesday morning’s weather was similar to yesterday but a bit more cloud. The windsurfers all went off to the same beach and Lesley set out to walk there again. The conditions for windsurfing weren’t so good so they drove back to go to another beach, Mel picking me up on the way. It was quite a long way away, near Letterkenny but it was another spectacular beach with gorgeous scenery. The sea was a long way out and Mel did a lot of walking and also got rescued by Peter Hart when he kept getting close to the rocks. There wasn’t a lot of wind so it made it hard work and Mel was tired again.
In the evening we went to Lizzie’s place, a restaurant in Dunfanaghy about 15km away. Mel drove us in our van and the others went in a minibus which Brendan had organized. We had a fantastic meal with brilliant service and good company. We met a guy who has windsurfed all around the British Isles on his own with no land support – amazing and crazy!
On Wednesday the team were going back to the beach near Letterkenny so Mel got up early for breakfast and left just before 9.00.am. It was a dull, windy and wet morning so Lesley stayed at the hotel hoping for a dry patch to do a run or walk. Mel came back about 10.30.am as they had decided to return to the beach at Meenlaragh. He came back later in the afternoon as the wind had dropped and it didn’t stop raining until then. After an evening de-briefing and video session we had a meal in the hotel sitting and chatting with Cahill and his brother.
Thursday was a lovely morning and Mel got up early again as they were going to a beach called “Dooey” on the west side of Donegal. Lesley went for a run/walk and really enjoyed the views and countryside. Mel came back in the middle of the afternoon after a good session on the water but he had broken his favourite 5m sail. We had a meal in the hotel again in the evening whilst the rest went off to a pub in Magherorty.
Friday morning was cloudy, wet and windy and Mel’s group went off to “Dooey” again about 11 am after a briefing with Peter. Lesley went for a run to Falcarrah and around the headland which was wet and windy too. Mel didn’t windsurf – he went with the group and took pictures instead.
After checking out on Saturday morning we drove to the Giant’s Causeway where we joined the National Trust. It was wet and windy again so we had lunch in the visitor centre before walking to the causeway. After this we drove to Belfast Docks stopping off at the Portside Inn for something to eat before boarding the ferry for our overnight crossing to Birkenhead.