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Killybegs, Glencolmcille, and some Scenic Cruising
Guests aboard Silversea’s Silver Explorer awoke to another gloriously sunny morning today, as we made our way to the small village of Killybegs, Ireland for an afternoon call and excursion.
Captain Golubev continued to impress this morning, altering course to take us on an unexpected sail-past of the tallest cliffs in Ireland, towering over 2,000 feet in height. They even opened up the forward foc’sle on Deck 4 for guests to use to get better photographs.
The cliffs here are tall and windswept, and could almost pass for the Cliffs of Dover if they were white. The wind was blowing ferociously off the starboard side of the ship as we swung around, and it’s easy to imagine this area would have been quite treacherous on a smaller boat or in the days of sail. For the Silver Explorer, the wind doesn’t pose a problem – but I do love how far she heels when the helm is put hard over!
Some photos of this totally unexpected event that ended up being one of the highlights of my day:
Our morning of cruising also allowed time for two lectures. The cornerstone of a Silversea Expeditions voyage, these lectures are delivered by members of the onboard expedition team, each of whom is a master in their own field.
Today, Chris Harbard is talking about the best of Scottish and Irish Birds in the Theatre, while Hans Peter Reinthaler will give guests an overview of the Natural History of Europe at 11:30AM.
Far from being boring or uninteresting, these enrichment lectures provide guests with a greater insight about the things they’ve seen and the experiences that may still lie ahead of them. I particularly enjoyed both as I know next to nothing about birds, and the only flowers I can identify with any sort of confidence are roses and gerberas. But I think I learned more about these two subjects in a single morning than at any other time.
The morning also gave me the opportunity to reflect on this expedition so far, and the number of places we’ve seen and experiences we’ve had. I’ve been on plenty of cruises where the ports are secondary to the ship but on this voyage, the ports (and their relative remoteness) is an undeniable draw. Even our embarkation port of Portsmouth was chosen over Southampton, the de-facto embarkation port for many ships leaving from the Hampshire region.
To show you just how trailblazing this itinerary is, have a peek at some of the articles I found online regarding our arrival in past ports. Make no mistake; the Silver Explorer has a great following in this part of the world.
I doubt whether my calls to places like Nassau or Puerto Vallarta on other ships ever commanded the same amount of media recognition.
Since the weather is so nice today, the Outdoor Grill on Deck 6 aft was once again open for lunch, and dinner reservations could be made outdoors for 7:30PM by ringing up the ship’s Maitre D’. Every crew member I talk to tells me how rare it is for us to be able to do this in the British Isles, which are normally known for their wet, rainy conditions.
But I spent part of my morning relaxing in the Panorama Lounge and enjoying a latte. Well, not just any latte: a smiley-faced latte! Silversea recently adopted new a new coffee and tea strategy fleetwide, installing new machines and coffee products from Illy. The old coffee was good, but the new coffee is excellent (and I used to work as a barista a long time ago.)
I’m not a cigar man myself, but I have to say how much I enjoy the Connoisseur Club onboard Silver Explorer. Located on the starboard side of the Panorama Lounge, there’s seating in here for about 24 guests, and usually only one or two are present. If you crave some quiet relaxation after a long day ashore, settle in here with a nice brandy or cognac and just enjoy the gently rhythmic whump, whump, whump of the ship.
After a lunch on the Pool Deck in the warmth of the Irish sun, guests onboard the Silver Explorer set out on a 3.5 hour tour of County Donegal and remote Glencolmcille – a small Irish-speaking town known for its traditional music and folklore.
On the roughly one hour coach ride, I noticed that nearly every house we passed had their front door propped wide open. Neighbours were out chatting with each other, and sheep lazily made their way across the narrow, winding highway.
We made several photography stops along our way to the Glencolmcille Folk Village, where we would see recreations of typical Irish dwellings in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries before enjoying some tea and scones.
The most impressive of these photo-stops was just outside the village of Glencolmcille, at Glenbay beach.
Looking out over the vast expanse of the Atlantic, the coach stopped at the top of an embankment leading down to the beach by way of 170 individual stairs. And being up for the challenge, I walked all the way down, dipped my toes in the Atlantic, and walked all the way back up again!
This area is quite remote, though, and the Glencolmcille Folk Village did an excellent job of illustrating what the typical family in the region would have lived in, particularly during the time of the Great Famine in the mid 1800’s.
It’s pretty, it’s beautiful, but it’s remote, and I could understand what our guide meant when she said that residents in County Donegal always felt as if they were a little bit forgotten by the boys in Dublin, because nothing could be further from the capital – both geographically and metaphorically – than this.
On the coach ride back to the ship, it again struck me how valuable these tours are, and how nice it is that they are included in the cost of the trip. Some guests, like me, take each and every one that’s on offer, while other guests may prefer to stay on the ship, do their own thing, or explore on their own. The choice is theirs. But for me, I love soaking up as much history and experiences as I possibly can while I am on any cruise, and this expedition-style cruising fits me like a glove.
Once again, we were welcomed back onboard with some refreshing drinks at the top of the gangway, and again on the Aft Pool Deck on Deck 6 – though I imagine the F&B department figured they’d be serving hot tea in every port instead of refreshing drinks!
As Day 8 draws to a close here onboard the Silver Explorer, it saddens me to know I only have three full days left onboard before flying home on Wednesday. But tomorrow promises to be one of the most exciting, as we call on remote Rathlin Island for a morning of birdwatching before heading across to Portrush, which serves as our jumping-off point to two of County Antrim’s best-known sites: Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway.
They’re the only two places on this entire expedition that I’ve visited before – and I cannot wait to return to them.
Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s adventurous Silver Explorer returns tomorrow as we sail into Northern Ireland for a full day of exploring on both remote Rathlin Island and Portrush – gateway to the famous Giant’s Causeway!
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