Hidden Gems Competition - Highly Commended

Catherine McGrotty describes Kinnego Bay

From Redcastle, visitors drive north and take the road that forks left after Moville. At the fork in the road you are in Ballybrack, where Hugh carragh lived after he lost Redcastle in the 1600s. Follow this road for a mile and turn left at the crossroads by the church. This is the road to Kinnego Bay and the same route that the Moville McLaughlins eventually took, when they were dispossessed by the English and moved to the glens around the bay.

The road climbs high into the hills and, as the fields are left behind, you get a stunning view of the Foyle and Greencastle below. Unless it is a cloudy day – in which case you may find yourself in the interesting position of driving through a cloud – a pea-soup fog which delighted my soul as a child. ‘We’re in the clouds Daddy!’

Once the brow of the hill is reached,  you see the Atlantic ocean and descend into a few secluded fields at the very edge of Europe. Here lies Kinnego Bay.

God made Kinnego as difficult to access as possible. If the tiny, winding Donegal roads don’t defeat you and you actually manage to find it in the first place, you then have to contend with the narrow, sheer drop from the top of the cliff down to the beach itself. All of this, however, only serves to remind you how worth it this magnificent cove is.

The cliffs sweeping down to the beach are a verdant and lush green, reminiscent of tropical forests; the sand, so ancient and so finely worn by the sea that it is like powdered silk through your fingers and toes. It glitters in the sunlight. If you are down early enough during the summer you might see mussel hunters gathering a rich harvest from the rocks and pools along the beach.

Even on the calmest of blue-sky days,  the crashing surf along the shore reminds us why La Trinidad Valencera – one of the largest of the Spanish Armada ships – foundered off the rocks here in 1588. The sea here is rough and the shoreline rugged. How many Spanish sailors were washed up here on the beach you wonder. In 1971, two amateur divers stumbled across the Valencera’s wreckage while diving for sea urchins just off the point. For 500 years Kinnego kept her sunken Spanish treasures safe. In the early 70’s marine archaelogists and amateur divers mounted a rescue operation to save them from the sea. Kinnego gave them up gracefully.

The exhibition of La Tinidad Valencera artefacts is in The Tower Museum in Derry, including the 7ft Venetian cannon, which so surprised Archie Jacks and Pat Stewart when they found themselves staring down its muzzle in January 1971.

A mecca for divers and rock climbers, Kinnego has had even more interesting visitors in the past few years. A pod of Orcas (killer whales); mother, father and child were spotted here only last year. They had to be shooed out of commercial fishing lanes.

By Catherine McGrotty

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