The ‘Living List’ : Amazing Grace Country

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Ever since arriving in Ireland I have been drawing up a list of places I would want to visit. I would like to think I would achieve them all in my lifetime, but given that the list is incomplete and I just keep finding more and more places I doubt that will be the case. Now on this list were two entries: Buncrana, and Father Hegarty’s Rock. I didn’t realise when I added them that they were in the same location!

Lough Swilly August 2021

When I got my job one of the lovely ladies I work with told me how she often visited Buncrana, and how we should visit it. So on Thursday which was a warm reasonably sunny day we decided to take the plunge and go. Oh My God was it worth it!

A late Summer’s day at Lough Swilly Buncrana

Being an empath I often pick up vibes from places, from what we are reading at the moment I understand now it is the energy that I relate to, Buncrana was one of those places where you just relaxed the minute you stepped out of the car.

Wiglet on Gull Patrol

Buncrana is situated on the Inishowen Peninsular, on the saltwater Lough, Swilly. It is steeped in history and reading the historical facts boards that were dotted about I realised I wasn’t the only one who felt the energy of this place, especially where John Newton was concerned which led to the area getting the name ‘Amazing Grace Country.’

John Newton

John Newton was a sailor, and primarily a slave trader who lived in the 17th century. He was by all accounts a real scoundrel. But after being caught in a storm for four days off the West Coast of Ireland he prayed for salvation, and it came in the form of Lough Swilly. After coming to rest in Buncrana he thanked God for saving him, and it was this event that began a train of thought that would eventually lead him to not only give up the slave trade but to become a man of the cloth, and to start the mechanisms that eventually led to slavery being abolished in England. John Newton used his knowledge of slavery (after even being made a slave himself) and mentored and supported William Wilberforce who was eventually successful in his mission to have slavery abolished.

There is more to this story though. After becoming a Vicar John Newton then penned the famous hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. Knowing the history of this hymn it makes the lyrics all the more poignant.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.”

I can understand the inspiration, Buncrana is a calming place, the classic example of how ‘Life’ offers so much, and it’s all so simple. It is, quite simply, beautiful. As I sat on the grassy knoll by the side of the Lough, with one of the best coffees I had ever had, I watched the sun shimmering on the Lough as it nestled amongst the mountains and countryside. With Mouldy Hill Mountain in the background, and the famous forty shades of green rising up the mountain, illuminated in the late summer sunshine, I could have sat there all day looking at that view, whilst Wiglet and Harley chased the seagulls and crows.

I had a ‘This Is It’ moment. One of those times when you are reminded again that this is all there is: nature, and now. We are all nothing, we come from nothing, we will go back to nothing, and in the grand scheme of things, like mountains, and loughs, and sky we, and all the problems we think we have, really are insignificant.

The Crana, The Lennon and The Swilly rivers all converge on Lough Swilly, answering that ever eternal call to the sea. In the 14th Century it made it the perfect spot for a castle. Buncrana was the land of by the O’Doherty clan who built The Keep on the side of the river in 1333, and there story is another tale to tell. By 1608 it was burned to the ground by the English as a punishment for the rebellion by Sir Cahir O’Doherty which resulted in the destruction of Derry. He himself was killed in battle and the castle and his land was seized, resulting in the castle and Buncrana ending up in the hands of George Vaughn.

The Keep, the only original piece of the O’Doherty’s castle

Sir George Vaughn, the first Governor of Donegal, then built the manor house, known as Buncrana Castle, and the bridge leading to it. He also moved Buncrana’s main street to the place it is today. He and his family remained there until 1718, and it remains a private dwelling.

Buncrana Castle

Despite the house being private the bridge still belongs to the people, leading to walks in the woods, past the dovecote and down to more of Lough Swilly.

The Dovecote from the Buncrana Castle

There is so much history in Buncrana, it’s steeped in it. From battles for Irish independence to current day issues. But I will be returning there and I will share some more.

So if, as the song says ‘you ever go across the sea to Ireland’ I would recommend a visit to Buncrana.

I am loving this ‘Living List.’



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