In our technological age, many of our guests love stepping back to a simpler time, free from modern worries. Green woodworking is the perfect chance to slow down, and experience the sense of achievement which comes from making something with your own two hands.
Although many of us spend our days looking at screens, master craftspeople in Ireland still work with ancient techniques, creating unique and timeless pieces, from sustainable materials.
We’re proud to partner with Tom Campbell, to offer our guests a range of courses on green woodworking. From beginner taster session, to in-depth guidance for experienced woodworkers, Tom has helped countless students gain an insight into his craft.
Here’s everything you need to know about green working.
What is Green Woodworking?
Green woodworking takes its name from the fact that it involves working with fresh, unseasoned timber, as opposed to the heavily dried and processed wood which is used in modern furniture making.
Undried wood is much softer, making it considerably easier to work with using hand tools, such as axes, blades and chisels. This means that every green woodworking piece is entirely unique, while also ensuring that the whole process is as environmentally friendly as possible.
Although green woodworking has been used around the world for thousands of years, it has boomed in popularity in recent years, as people seek out ways to reconnect with their roots, and move away from disposable, mass-produced possessions.
What is Involved in Green Woodworking?
Green woodworking is a broad term, and the techniques can be used to make a wider range of different items. No matter what your project is, the same ancient tools and techniques are used throughout.
Here are the four key steps to any green woodworking project.
Preparing the Wood
The first step of any green woodworking project is to prepare your timber for shaping. Since you’ll be working with recently felled wood, this means beginning with a log, and getting it ready for woodturning.
The logs are quartered, by splitting them in half, and then doing the same with each of these pieces, using a traditional hand axe.
As the raw wood is split along its own natural grain, this results in a much stronger piece of wood than the log in its natural form. This means that recently felled timber can be used for burden-carrying furniture, like chairs and tables, without the need for extensive treatments, or incurring the carbon footprint of importing foreign materials.
Using a Shaping Horse
The next step is to transform the quartered logs into a round shape, ready to be worked on. Here, the wood is clamped into a traditional device, known as a shaping horse. The wood is held in place using pressure from the operator’s feet on the shaving horse’s pedals.
The rough edges are first removed from the quartered logs using a hand axe, before the bulk of the material is removed using a two-handed blade known as an ‘adze’, before fine adjustments are made with a spokeshave.
Throughout the shaping process, the wood is manually turned, by releasing pressure on the shaping horse, freeing the piece up to move around. Once the wood is sufficiently rounded off, it can be moved to the pole lathe.
Using a Pole Lathe
A pole lathe is an essential tool in green woodworking. Unlike modern lathes, a pole lathe is unpowered, using pedals to turn the wood as it is worked upon. Simply operate the pedals, as you would on an old-fashioned sewing machine to turn the piece as you work.
This makes it much easier to control the speed of the lather, compared to modern, motor powered machines.
Here, you can begin to create the final shape of your green woodworking project. Simply hold a chisel against the wood as it turns, to begin creating different shapes and ornamentation.
The pole lathe itself is made from freshly cut timber, creating a springy and direct feel. This makes the machine much easier to control. The lack of the motor also makes the pole lathe one of the most environmentally friendly woodworking tools around.
Ancient Joinery Techniques
Over the centuries, green woodworking has been used to create tight and durable bonds between different pieces of wood, without the need for adhesives or other fasteners, like screws and nails.
For example, when making chairs and tables with green woodworking, the majority of joints are created using a round mortise and tenon. A round hole is cut into the base of the piece, and a corresponding shape at the top of each leg is inserted into this.
When working with kiln dried timber, this would typically need to be reinforced with wood glue.
Since green woodworking materials are largely undried, this is not necessary here. Instead, the insert piece is dried, either naturally or in a kiln. The dried tenon is then inserted into the mortise of the furniture base, which has not been dried.
As this wood dries naturally, the mortise dries around the tenon, creating a tight bond, without the need for adhesive.
This technique has been used for centuries, and is still adopted by Amish communities in the USA and Canada.
What Can You Make with Green Woodworking?
Green woodworking techniques can be used to make a wide variety of items. From simple bowls, spoons and ornaments, to larger pieces, like chairs, tables and pedestals. The only limits are your imagination, and the time you’d like to spend on your project.
You can even learn how to make your own woodworking tools, including shaping horses and pole lathes, using traditional hand tools and techniques.
Whether you simply want to try your hand at using ancient woodworking techniques, or you have a specific project in mind, green woodworking is the perfect way to create unique, sustainable and durable furniture, ornaments and gifts.
No matter their background or experience with woodworking, our guests always come away with a new insight and sense of accomplishment.
As a master of his craft, Tom Campbell is able to tailor each session to the exact goals and experience of his students. Whether you’d like a simple taster, or you’d like to build your own tools and work on a larger project, Tom offers a range of different packages.
Even better, guests at Finn Valley Cottages can enjoy a 10% discount on green woodworking courses. Use your stay in our scenic landscape to reconnect with your roots and learn a new skill.
At Finn Valley Cottages, we love nothing more than providing unique experiences for our guests. Tom Campbell’s woodturning for beginners experience is a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike.
Visitors flock to our area to escape the busy stresses of modern life, and enjoy a slower pace, in the beautiful open countryside. Woodturning is the ideal, meditative activity to relax, and gain a new perspective on the world around you.
You’ll learn new skills, enjoy time working with your hands, and get a chance to try out one of the oldest crafts in the world, all under the expert eye of master woodturner, Tom.
Here’s why we think woodturning for beginners is the perfect activity for Finn Valley guests.
What is Woodturning?
Woodturning is the craft of creating furniture, ornaments and other objects using hand tools and a lathe. Unlike other woodworking methods, hand tools are held still, while the lathe spins the wood, creating an even and symmetrical effect.
As one of the oldest crafts in the world, woodturning dates back thousands of years. On our woodturning for beginners experience, you’ll have the chance to try your hand at the same traditional techniques that locals have used to create furniture and tools for centuries.
It’s also one of the most accessible forms of woodworking, and one of the easiest to pick up.
Unlike modern methods, using traditional hand tools and a manual pole lathe is incredibly safe. Since you work slowly, there is little risk of injury, or damaging your project and having to start over.
This makes woodturning for beginners ideal for anyone who’d like to try their hand at woodwork, even if they have no previous experience.
Tom Campbell only works with recently felled, sustainable woods. This means that his woodturning experiences are highly sustainable, while also utilising soft woods which are easy for beginners to work with.
Who Can Try Woodturning for beginners?
Our woodturning for beginners experience is popular with guests of all ages, from a variety of backgrounds. No prior experience or knowledge is needed, with Tom giving all guests a flavour of the traditional methods used in woodturning.
The woodturning for beginners experience is particularly popular with history buffs, professionals who want to try a more hands-on craft, and international guests who’d like to experience traditional Irish country crafts.
As a slow and meditative process, woodturning is an excellent option for anyone who wants to escape the fast past of modern life, and harken back to a simpler time. Against the backdrop of the Irish countryside, our guests find woodturning to be highly relaxing and therapeutic.
What Can I Make with Woodturning?
Over the centuries, woodturning has been used to make a wide variety of items, including furniture, ornaments, plates and bowls, and even parts for viking long ships. As a master craftsman, Tom’s work is highly sought after, and furnishes country houses around Ireland.
What you can make depends on how many sessions you’d like to book with Tom. Many of our guests choose two to three full-day sessions, allowing them to construct their own sawhorse and pole lathe, before working on their projects.
Others prefer to come for a shorter half-day taster session, where they’ll get to experience the key techniques involved in green woodturning.
As a true master woodturner, Tom offers courses for all abilities and levels of expertise. Whether you’re an experienced woodturner, or you’d simply like to try your hand at a new craft, you’ll find working with Tom an incredibly rewarding experience.
Some have a deep interest in local history, or prior experience of different woodworking methods. Others simply want to try their hand at a methodical and relaxing outdoor activity.
Here are four incredible reasons to book a woodturning for beginners experience during your stay with us.
Enjoy a Sense of Achievement
These days, not everyone gets to have the experience of creating something with their own two hands. The modern age has brought many advantages, but nothing can beat the sense of joy which comes from carving something out of wood with hand tools and ancient techniques.
Many children today have never had this privilege. Getting the chance to build something from scratch can give children and young people an enormous sense of accomplishment, which helps to build their self-confidence.
Who knows, Tom’s experience might even be the beginning of a life-long love of woodturning.
Experience Local Heritage
Our guests also love the chance to reconnect with their heritage, and experience life from a different age. With over 40 years of experience of his craft, Tom is the perfect guide to the rich heritage of local woodturning in the North-West region.
Generations have used the same techniques to create vital wares, including furniture and tools. We’re proud to give our guests an opportunity to take part in this rich local heritage, and gain a better understanding of local life over the centuries.
Spend Time in the Great Outdoors
We’re blessed to be based in one of the most scenic and tranquil locations in the world. The rolling hills, forests and streams of counties Donegal and Derry are famed around the world for their natural beauty.
A woodturning experience is the perfect opportunity to get into the outdoors, and work directly with locally sourced, natural materials. You’ll love getting the time to unwind and enjoy the local landscape, while you work.
10% Discount for Finn Valley Guests
Best of all, we have developed a great relationship with Tom over the years.
Based just a few minutes drive from us, outside the town of Sion Mills, he’s practically our neighbour. This means that guests at Finn Valley Cottages can enjoy a 10% discount on his woodturning experiences.
We’re committed to supporting the local economy, by working with other like minded tourism businesses. Speak to our proprietor, Ann, or contact us today to find out more about what to do during your stay at Finn Valley Cottages.
Nestled on the Irish border, Strule Cottage is the perfect accessible accommodation for respite and relaxation. Ideally located close to Donegal, Strabane and Derry, it’s popular as a destination in its own right, or as a base to explore the local area.
The scenic Irish countryside is a world away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Strule Cottage boasts views over the rolling hills and surrounding countryside, creating a peaceful atmosphere to unwind and escape from daily stresses.
With easy access to nearby towns, villages, streams and forests, Strule Cottage is a haven for guests with mobility issues, seeking to take a break and escape to the peace of the countryside.
We’ve designed Strule Cottage specially to be enjoyed by guests with mobility issues.
With additional indoor space, easy access, and a range of dedicated accessible accommodation facilities, we’re committed to offer the most welcoming and comfortable experience to all of our guests.
Where is Strule Cottage?
Strule Cottage is located just a few minutes drive from the village of Clady, on the Irish border. It is also within easy reach of Strabane, Derry and Letterkenny, making it the ideal hub to explore Donegal and the North-West.
For visitors from further afield, our cottage can be reached from Belfast International airport in around one and a half hours.
There are also countless international tourist attractions right on the doorstep of Strule Cottage, including natural beauty spots, historic homes, museums and thriving shopping towns.
Our modern and luxurious accessible accommodation is your gateway to everything that the region has to offer, no matter your taste.
The cottage itself features a private patio and outdoor area, which provide a tranquil space to enjoy the sights and sounds of the surrounding countryside, along with outdoor cooking, barbeque and covered drying facilities.
Our Premium Accessible Accommodation
At Finn Valley Cottages, our mission is to help everyone enjoy a peaceful rural retreat, no matter who they are. Strule Cottage provides luxuriant accessible accommodation, with all of the facilities you need to make your break as enjoyable as possible.
Throughout the cottage, you’ll find ample space to move around in a wheelchair, on a zimmer frame, or using other mobility aids. The cottage is built on a single story, with an open-plan kitchen, living and dining space.
Strule Cottage can accommodate up to six guests, with three en-suite double and twin rooms, making it the ideal choice for families and groups, or guests who require additional space for carers.
We’ve also added a wide range of modern facilities for guests with mobility issues. These include:
XL Wet Room
We’ve installed an extra large and accessible wet room in Strule Cottage, for the comfort and convenience of guests with mobility needs, allowing them to bathe in comfort and dignity.
There is space inside for one guest, along with up to two carers or helpers.
Like the rest of Strule Cottage, the wet room is fully accessible for wheelchair users, or guests using other mobility aids. Our wet room is also well-lit, and features modern fixtures, to provide a luxurious and relaxing environment for all of our guests.
We can also offer additional accessibility aids for all of our guests at Strule Cottage. A shower stool can be provided on request for the comfort of guests who have difficulty standing for longer periods, or who are at risk of falling.
Our multiple en-suite bathrooms and ground floor layout are also ideal for guests who need quick and easy access to the washroom, both during the night and day.
Access for Guests with Mobility Issues
Access to Strule Cottage is easy for guests of all levels of mobility. We offer a large free parking space, which is suitable for larger vehicles, or those which have been modified for passengers with limited mobility.
The front entrance to our accessible accommodation features a gentle paved walkway, free from obstructions, obstacles and trip hazards. Our large french doors open onto your private patio, which can be shaded from the sun during the summer months.
Comfort During Your Stay
Guests at Strule Cottage love nothing more than to curl up indoors with our wood burning stove and panoramic views of the nearby Donegal hills. The living area features extensive natural light, and a range of modern and comfortable facilities including two leather reclining settees and free WiFi.
The kitchen is equipped with a high standard of fittings, making it ideal for preparing a family meal. The Cottage also features an on-site utility room, with facilities for washing and drying.
All guests are also provided with an information pack, containing details on how to access key services during their stay, including contacting a local doctor.
Activities at Strule Cottage
In addition to luxurious accessible accommodation, Strule Cottage offers a range of activities and facilities which are suitable for all guests.You’ll enjoy access to our on-site games room, complete with a pool table, and a range of toys which are suitable for children of all ages.
Finn Valley Cottages is a tranquil setting for families and friends to spend quality time together.
We offer ample outdoor space for children and adults alike to play and explore. In the evening, our guests love to dine outdoors in a truly majestic setting. Speak to your host, Ann, and find out the best places to source local produce for your BBQ or banquet.
Accessible Things to Do Nearby
Despite our quaint and peaceful setting, we’re lucky to have a variety of world-class accessible tourist attractions right on our doorstep. Many of our guests choose to explore the nearby North Coast and Wild Atlantic car, for some of the most scenic drives on earth.
We’re situated close to numerous National Trust properties, natural beauty spots, and locations of historical interest, including Mount Stewart and Florence Court.
The Giant’s Causeway is just over an hour away by road, and offers wheelchair friendly shuttle service from the visitor centre to the Causeway itself.
There are also countless accessible pubs, restaurants and cafes in the nearby towns and villages, with Donegal Town, Castlederg and Ballybofey being particular favourites with international guests.
In the internet age, many people are choosing to escape large cities, and work remotely in the countryside. Our luxurious accommodation for professionals offers the perfect combination of rural tranquillity and modern connectivity.
Our cottages are popular with a variety of business professionals, including managers, IT workers, tradespeople, construction workers, artists, and even rally drivers and motorbike enthusiasts.
Whether you need a base for a project in the North-West, or somewhere restful to focus on your work, look no further.
Each of our modern cottages can accommodate between two and eight guests, with ample space for work, storage and relaxation. We provide all of the modern conveniences, with a rural twist, ensuring that your stay with us is as comfortable and productive as possible.
Where are Finn Valley Cottages Located?
Finn Valley Cottages are located outside the Village of Clady, just minutes from the Irish border. The site also offers easy access to Strabane, Derry, Londonderry, Lifford, Stranorlar, Ballybofey, Letterkenny and Donegal Town by road.
This makes Finn Valley ideal for guests who need to commute to nearby towns during their stay.
Our accommodation for professionals is located in the heart of the local hills and countryside. The secure site offers astounding views over the local landscape, giving you the perfect chance to relax and reflect after a productive day of work.
Who is Finn Valley Cottage Suitable For?
Our cottages are popular with all kinds of people. From high-level managers who need space and quiet to finalise major projects, to groups of builders and other tradespeople who need accommodation close to work sites, our accommodation is popular with a variety of professionals.
Of course, although we offer accommodation for professionals, it’s not all work at Finn Valley Cottages.
We’re also a popular destination for corporate trips, team building events and other retreats. Offering private luxury accommodation, with easy access to a range of world-class golf courses and other outdoor facilities, Finn Valley is the perfect choice for a corporate retreat.
Recently, we’ve also had a number of guests who’ve opted to take a ‘working holiday’. Over the course of lockdown, many remote workers have struggled with working from home in their bedrooms or at their kitchen tables.
These workers come to Finn Valley Cottages for a change of scenery while they work. Many of them even bring their families along to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Irish countryside.
Facilities for Remote Workers
At our luxury accommodation for professionals, you’ll enjoy all the modern amenities you need to work on your daily tasks. All of our cottages feature speedy and reliable internet, which is ideal for working on complex projects, or taking Zoom calls.
Unlike many rural destinations, we’re also lucky to have strong telephone signal from seven different network providers at our site.
Each of the cottages is appointed in a clean, modern yet timeless decor, with white walls, light woods and ample natural light. Every room is clutter-free, creating the perfect space for focus and deep work.
Each of our cottages also features a large, open-plan kitchen, living and dining space, giving multiple options for setting up your home office during your stay.
Facilities for Tradespeople
We also offer the ideal accommodation for tradespeople working in towns and cities in the North-West. With ample space for large and small groups alike, we offer comfort, security and luxury to our trade guests.
During a project, tradespeople work with a variety of expensive specialist equipment. Our site is completely secured, with extensive CCTV coverage of the entire grounds to ensure maximum security. Our on-site games room can also be used as secure indoor storage for valuable equipment.
Alternative accommodation providers in the region normally only offer on-street parking, and don’t have enough indoor space to store goods in the property itself. This forces tradespeople to leave equipment in their vans overnight. We give all customers complete peace of mind during their stay.
As such, Finn Valley Cottages is the preferred accommodation option for any professional in the North-West.
Our site also offers outside washing and drying facilities, for when you return from a building site.
Parking at Finn Valley Cottages
During your stay at our luxury accommodation for professionals, you’ll enjoy extensive, private and secure parking. Our site is fully gated, with CCTV coverage of all outside areas. This is perfect for domestic and commercial vehicles alike.
With four different cottages on the site, we offer extensive parking for numerous vehicles.
We can also accommodate more specialist vehicles. In the past, our guests have used the yard to store vans, articulated lorries, and specialist construction vehicles, with minimal difficulty.
Guests at Finn Valley Cottage have also taken advantage of our spacious games room to dry-store rally cars during the Donegal Rally. No request is too large or small for your host, Anne.
Relaxation and Leisure at our Accommodation for Professionals
Of course, people don’t just visit Finn Valley Cottages for work. Guests from around the world flock to our site, as one of the premier destinations in Ireland for rest, relaxation, and outdoor activities.
Our site is a scenic haven away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. After a long day of work, it’s the ideal place to rest and recuperate. Each cottage features its own private outdoor seating area, to enjoy the views of Tyrone and Donegal.
Our guests love nothing more than spending the summer evenings barbecuing in the stunning Irish countryside, or cosying up beside our woodburning stoves in the winter nights.
Attractions Near Our Accommodation for Professionals
We’re lucky to have a number of world-class tourist attractions right on our doorstep. From the pubs and restaurants of the nearby towns, to internationally famous sites, like the Giant’s Causeway, there’s no shortage of things to do during your stay.
For corporate groups, we’re also situated close to a range of golf clubs, historical houses and outdoor activity providers. Finn Valley Cottages is the ideal destination for both work and play. Contact our team to find out more about what to do during your stay at Finn Valley.
Embrace a Giant Spirit – Northern Ireland – made for golf
Northern Ireland is the home of world renowned golf courses – each with wonderful fairways and unbeatably smooth greens and other exclusive facilities! The best courses within easy travelling distance of Finn Valley self catering cottages include Royal Portrush, Portstewart, Ballyliffen, Rosapenna, Portsalon, Narin & Portnoo, Donegal (Murvagh), Castlerock, Lough Erne Resort as well as local courses at Newtownstewart and Strabane.
A number of famous golfers originate from Ireland – Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Christy O’Connor and Graeme McDowell to mention a few.
You can follow in their footsteps and enjoy the quality courses that they have always taken for granted.
Do you play golf? Finn Valley Cottages is the perfect location for a few rounds of golf! Whatever your level there is a course nearby to Finn Valley Cottages waiting for you to come along and sample! You can be sure of a very warm welcome and a high quality game.
Anne is a very keen golfer – and has recently been the Lady Captain at Newtownstewart Golf Club – Anne has played all the courses mentioned here so when you stay at Finn Valley Cottages she can guide you to the best courses, with the most competitive green fees and other details to help you find the most suitable courses for you during your stay.
Royal Portrush Golf Club – home of The Open in 2019 – is one of the many excellent links courses available within easy travelling from your lodgings at Finn Valley self catering cottages. The Dunluce course has again been awarded the No. 1 golf course in Ireland.
During the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush, visitors staying in Finn Valley Cottages went daily to spectate there – it was so convenient. What a joy it was also for Anne and her golfing friends to sit in the best grandstand seats at the 18th and join in the celebrations as Shane Lowry collected the Claret Jug. It is not unusual to see Darren Clarke on the course at Portrush.
There are 2 courses adjacent – The Valley Links which tends to be used mostly by the ladies and the great Dunluce Links which is a challenge for both the men and the ladies. Calamity Corner – a 210 yards par 3 is unforgiving when you do not reach the green. Short of the green will see the ball disappear into a large chasm of long grasses, interesting plants and difficult to negotiate the terrain. The much easier 18th often yields a good score which always makes me eager to return to this championship course.
Royal Portrush Valley Links
The Dunluce took over 2 of the best holes from the valley for “The Village” for the 2019 Open Championship. Mackenzie & Ebert added 2 excellent holes to The Valley which provides a lovely finishing stretch.
The ladies clubhouse serves extremely high-quality food – so much so that it is often appealing to swap time for pre-play warm-up with another cup of coffee and delicious apple pie and cream.
Portstewart Golf course – The Strand
Portstewart Golf Course. Although there are 3 courses at Portstewart, I have played only The Strand which hosted the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Open and has been confirmed as the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open host venue for 2022.
Again I had the privilege of a great seat at the 18th on the 2017 final day to see Jon Rahm win. The bunkers don’t seem as daunting as the deep bowl-type bunkers at Royal Portrush, but accuracy is important.
The 1st hole has a lovely elevated tee followed by a dog-leg to a beautifully manicured green between two sand dunes. The entire course is maintained to an extremely high standard and gives great confidence to intermediate golfers as the ball runs so far on the fairways. As most of the links courses along the wonderfully scenic coastline, it is the wind that creates so much of the thrill and the challenge. One quickly learns to play more “off the right foot“ to play long and low to reduce wind interference. The clubhouse staff are very welcoming and with an excellent restaurant, it is the ideal way to finish a round. One can enjoy an excellent meal and observe how other players are dealing with the final hole.
Castlerock Golf Course
Castlerock’s Championship Mussenden course is great for all levels of golfer.
There are plenty of challenges, but nothing looks impossible and there are some very inviting par 3s.
The 4th is definitely inviting but you need to be accurate. Just concentrate on the green and don’t get distracted by the railway line on the right and the stream on the left. Martin Hawtree upgraded the bunkers and added 2 new greens making this course a real joy to play.
The views like most of our links courses are excellent with views across to Donegal in one direction and towards Scotland in the other. The restaurant is extremely good and very reasonably priced. Serious golfers who play Royal Portrush and The Strand, Portstewart like to include Castlerock in their tour.
Lough Erne Resort, near Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
The Lough Erne Resort Faldo course was designed by Nick Faldo. This is a Par 72 course measuring 7071 yards for the men.
I love playing this course in a 4-ball when 2 of the players are men. I feel that the ladies have the great advantage with the ladies tee-boxes being very far forward, consequently making it very enjoyable (and in my opinion easier) for the ladies. The course record of 68 was set by Rory McIlroy.
The club house facilities are excellent – albeit the restaurant more expensive to eat in than the neighbouring Castlehume Golf course clubhouse – a very short distance away. The Faldo course has excellent refreshment facilities at the 9th where you can purchase tasty fish and chips – a great treat on a cold day.
There are several very tempting shots across water, but from experience it not always a good idea to take the short route as all too often I have underestimated the distance. Very frustrating when I could easily have taken a longer iron or a wood!! My favourite hole is the 10th – a par 4 where definitely it is best to play your second shot short as any extra distance results in the ball accelerating across the green and disappearing into the lough! There is water around two thirds of the green. It is such a joy to watch the second shot land short on the side of the hill and roll gently down to the edge of or just onto the green.
The course is always immaculate and make for a truly great game of golf.
The 18th green has plenty of landing space and with your drive going over the reeds in the wetland it makes a great hole to finish on.
Cruit Island Golf course. (Pronounced critch)
This little known golf course in the wilds of Donegal is an absolute joy to experience and well worth a visit even if you don’t play golf! It is a nine hole course with different tee boxes for the second nine.
Many serious golfers wouldn’t even consider playing a nine hole course, but I can assure you that Cruit Island also presents a golfing challenge.
The scenery is stunning by any standards, and provides amazing views from virtually every hole. It is officially an island in the Rosses area of Co. Donegal, but it is linked to the mainland by a bridge so access is not a problem. Located near Kincasslagh it is famous for the home of singer and TV personality Daniel O’Donnell. Cruit island is about 3 miles long by 1 mile wide and enjoys 12 sandy beaches.
There are buggies for hire. Although there is a limited menu on offer, if you enjoy fish and chips you are in for a real treat.
Don’t under-estimate the golf as there are numerous challenges on the way round. The advantage of this challenging 9-hole course is that it gives you the opportunity to have another go at some of the really testing holes which you would have had a great score at if only…….
A day to Cruit Island is a wonderful outing. The scenery on the way there is superb and you can finish the day by eating in one of the excellent gastronomic pubs in this remote part of Ireland.
Rosapenna. (Sandy Hills and Old Tom Morris)
Located on yet another fabulous scenic part of The Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal, the Old Tom Morris links is adjacent to Sandy Hills which was developed in 2003 by Pat Ruddy.
Old Tom Morris
In 1891 Old Tom Morris was a guest of Lord Leitrim and as he was driving around Donegal he discovered Rosapenna as an ideal place for golf. Tom had come from St Andrews and on his return he told others about this wonderful Donegal paradise for golf.
The course was frequented by famous golfers such as Harry Vardon and James Braid in the early 1900s. Harry Colt of Sunningdale upgraded the course in 1911. In more recent years Pat Ruddy of the European Club ensured that the course flowed easily from start to finish.
There are superb views out over Tramore beach, Sheephaven Bay and Mulroy Bay.
Lady Captain’s outing from Newtownstewart to Rosapenna
(following tea/coffee, home-made scones with jam and cream plus complementary bottle of wine for the course!!)
Pat Ruddy in 2003 used the big sand dunes to create a stunning course with fabulous views from every hole. This 7,255 yard course looks across the Old Tom Morris course and towards Sheephaven Bay. I usually treat myself to a buggy on both courses when at Rosapenna. Those of us who hit shorter shots but keep on the fairway and out of the Marram grass can have a great round.
The club house has excellent facilities . There is a statue of Old Tom Morris near just outside the clubhouse. The views from the bar and restaurant or from the outside balcony are stunning.
Rosapenna is one of my favourite places. Perhaps this is partly due to the superb restaurant in the Rosapenna Hotel which is part of the resort. You can pick up a buggy either at the hotel or from the clubhouse. It is worth booking early for the restaurant to guarantee a table overlooking Downings beach. This is a very safe beach where the rest of the family, if they are not golf enthusiasts, can spend a day on the beach while you enjoy the golf.
Downings beach with Rosapenna Hotel in the background.
Rosapenna usually have their annual open week around the 1st/2nd week of August. Rosapenna is one of the 3 courses in the Donegal Links Classic in conjunction with Portsalon and Ballyliffen.
Narin & Portnoo
Portnoo with its blue flag beach (Naran) is yet another panoramic beauty spot on the Wild Atlantic Way. The sand dunes are designated a Natural Heritage area with a very diverse range of habitats.
Gil Hanse upgraded this course with some new holes and new greens in 2020. It is now in private ownership and all facilities are excellent. The quality of the entire course has been raised to an entirely new level. With long sweeping fairways on the par-5s the ball “takes legs and runs”.
I always treat myself to a buggy at Portnoo. Each year, usually held at the end of July, Narin & Portnoo is one of the three courses in the Lough Erne and Links 3 day challenge – the other courses being Lough Erne Resort and Donegal (Murvagh).
I am very lucky to have good friends who are members at Narin & Portnoo so it is even more enjoyable to have a catch up and good craic on the way round. They keep me right as to the best point to aim for.
Ballyliffin The Old Links and Glashedy Links
Ballyliffen offers two championship courses. The Old Links and Glashedy Links
Ballyliffen is very much on The Wild Atlantic Way with the emphasis being on the “wild”. Much of this course is exposed to the sea breeze or the strong winds which can play havoc with the best of well hit shots. Even players like Rory McIlroy who knows the course well got into trouble in the rough during the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
Again the scenery on this Donegal coastline is stunning.
The par 3 at the fifth is very inviting albeit guarded by 4 bunkers. The next par 3 at the seventh presents another great opportunity but you need to keep low on a windy day, otherwise the ball can easily fly towards the Atlantic ocean!
I have played here as part of the Donegal Classic which is played annually at the end of August. 3 days playing Ballyliffen, Portsalon and Rosapenna.
Pollan Links. 9-holes at Ballyliffen.
In 2020 a new 9-hole course designed by Pat Ruddy was opened. It is slightly more sheltered from the wind coming off the Atlantic ocean.
This is a great addition to cater for every level of golfer wishing to play at Ballyliffen.
Rory McIlroy in the rough at Ballyliffen in the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
Rory McIlroy preparing to chip out of the rough ain the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffen.
Ballyliffen and its sloping green.
Portsalon Golf Club
Portsalon golf club is currently rent in one of the top 20 in Ireland. Golf has been played here since the 1880s and originally designed by Charles Thompson of Portrush. The most recent changes were guided by Pat Ruddy in 2000
The 1st and 18th are much easier since the very wide stream crossing the fairways was covered with a grid. At the 2nd it is very tempting to cut the corner, but it is no real advantage as the second shot is more important in terms of getting onto the green without “slipping into the drink”. The views from the 4th across the beach. Ballymastocker beach across Ballymastocker Bay provides yet another blue flag beach along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Portsalon ranks as another of my favourites. Each time I look forward to playing the 16th which depends on laying up – but not too far away – before the final chip shot onto the green. The course is very well maintained and I always enjoy the refreshments in the clubhouse.
Donegal Golf Club (Murvagh)
Donegal golf club is located at Murvagh about 10 minutes drive from Donegal Town. The course was originally designed by Eddie Hackett and was referred to as the Muirfield ofIreland.
Pat Ruddy has guided recent updates and with its new clubhouse in 1998 it is another of my favourite golf courses. Within easy reach of Finn Valley Cottages I play in their winter league.
Darren Clarke describes it as one of his “favourite courses in the world”.
Despite knowing this Donegal course well every game presents a new challenge.
My favourite hole is the par-3 over the Valley of Tears. It is so rewarding to land the ball on the slope to the left of the green and watch it run down towards the flag. I will not describe the feeling when the ball falls short and ends up down in the valley.
Perhaps the most cruel shot is to land on the green and watch as the ball runs off into the bunker or bounces off into the steep drop on the right.
There is another lovely par-3 at hole 16. This is known as the Temple, named after the owner of Magee’s of Donegal which is a famous tweed shop selling Donegal tweed clothing throughout the world. This is an easier par-3 if you can avoid the fairway bunker just before the green.
The 18th named after Barnesmore Gap in the Bluestack Mountains is a great way to finish, but you must make sure to get up onto the elevated green on your final approach.
The 19th hole is excellent. I always enjoy coffee and a fresh scone on arrival in the morning and look forward to a meal afterwards with friends .
All the courses mentioned above are in the top 45 of Ireland’s best golf courses.
I was born and brought up here on a small mixed farm exactly where Finn Valley Cottages are now located. It was typical of farming in Ireland at that time, where many farms had a mix of cattle, sheep, pigs and hens. My father kept pigs, chickens and cattle and I adored helping him with the daily livestock and other farm chores. I really enjoyed feeding the pigs and going up the fields with my father to count the sheep and cattle.
In my childhood I vaguely remember hen houses in the fields and all livestock was free range. I was very much an outdoor person and loved helping on the farm. I wanted to carry buckets of water from an early age and frequently remember spilling the water down the inside of my welly boots as even the small milking buckets were really too big for me to carry! I hear you ask what is a “milking bucket”. It was a small metal bucket which the milk went into when hand milking. We had a quiet white cow who allowed me to milk her, but insisted on kicking the workman when he tried to milk her. She was also happy to let my father milk her and he held her tail during milking. That was a skill that was too advanced for me and so I had her tail occasionally swiping right around my head as I squeezed the strands of milk out. My mother was not happy when I came back into the house with my hair and clothes smelling of cows! Like the workmen, I had a pair of dungarees to go over my clothes but I did not wear a hat or a cap.
When I was about six years old I got the best birthday present ever. I was told my present was outside and I still remember the joy when I found a brown and white calf with a tiny greetings label around its neck and standing in a warm and cosy pen made with straw bales in the barn. It was a sad day when I said goodbye to my precious grown-up calf 18 months later as it made its way to market in a very large cattle lorry.
I loved going places with my father and I was very occasionally allowed to go to the cattle market and the pig market in Strabane. The cattle market was on the site of where the library and Alley Theatre now stand and the pig market was in what is now Dock Street car park. Dock Street was where the canal came all the way into the centre of Strabane. A hundred years ago it was possible to get on a canal boat in Strabane and go to Derry/ Londonderry and then board a ship to emigrate to America.
I was a very practical child and was lucky enough to get a donkey. The only item of harness that I initially possessed was a bit – the remainder of the bridle was made from rope. There was no saddle – instead I had an empty meal sack – a jute sack that the pig meal had been in. This was a great way to achieve good balance when learning to ride. When I progressed to a pony the donkey followed the pony over the jumps. A major thrill was to become the very proud owner of a real saddle with stirrups.
Growing up on the farm was a mix of hard work and fun, but it was not much fun when I had to do my school work. My Mother was Principal at Tullywhisker Primary School and so homework took a great priority.
I have an older brother, Hall, who was far more studious in his approach to life. I was the naughty outdoor child and he was the reliable young man who always “did as he was told” – especially where homework and study was involved. Today he is a Bishop in the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Mahajanga in Madagascar – (having retired some years ago from being a rector in a London parish – he remains a workaholic, instead of enjoying a well-earned retirement!)
When my father became unwell in the late 1960s I ran the farm and at the same time attended Loughry Agricultural College to study for an HND in Poultry Production
My first ‘proper’ job after college was as a lecturer in Poultry production at Plumpton Agricultural College in Sussex. Quite a change in cultures from rural Ireland to southern England! After a few years there I moved to Harper Adams College in Shropshire to their poultry department for another few years, before returning to Plumpton as the new Head of the Poultry Department there. Teaching was not my real love as it was so restrictive. I completed a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA), part time ,at what was then Brighton Polytechnic (now Sussex University). I joined a commercial poultry/food firm Daylay, near Newark in Nottinghamshire as technical manager on the agricultural team. This was much more interesting and I eventually moved to North Yorkshire as their area manager in charge of a group of poultry farms and their associated 90+ staff. During all of this time I continued to manage the family farm from afar.
After 10 years in industry I returned home to Ireland in 2000, to start my own business from scratch. Since returning home I have done poultry consultancy, and farm quality inspections for the industry both in Ireland and the UK.
In 2012 as part of a farm diversification scheme, I began to develop redundant barns on the family farm to create Finn Valley Cottages, and as they say the rest is history!
One of my goals in life was to marry a farmer, but instead I married David, who is a Church of Ireland Parish Priest in Taughboyne in Donegal. You may see him around at the cottages when you visit. He is interested in churches and history so he can help you to trace your family roots in the area or take you on a guided tour of churches – including Derry Cathedral where he might play your favourite hymn on the organ.
Finn Valley Cottages is my retirement project!. I have been very privileged to meet some very interesting people and I thoroughly enjoy meeting the guests.
My interests are horse riding, golf and fishing. My favourite golf courses are Narin and Portnoo, Murvagh, Rosapenna, Portsalon , Cruit Island and Royal Portrush as well as being Lady Captain 2020 in Newtownstewart
My favourite fishing is on the Mourne, the Owenkillew , the upper parts of the Finn and the Derg.
The salmon fishing can be very good from the end of May onwards, with the peak months being June and July, but can fish well from March until the end of September. The River Finn is a spate river and there is fantastic fishing shortly after heavy rain – which is a frequent occurrence in Ireland!!
The Mourne is not a spate river but like many other Irish rivers, it fishes best as the water fines down, but because of its size it usually fishes well for 3 or 4 days after the flood waters have receded. The Grilse will often press on unless the water is really low.
The Grianán of Aileach is a hill top fort located on the western edge of a small group of hills. Situated on Greenan Mountain at Inishowen, County Donegal in Ireland that lie between the upper reaches of Lough Swilley and Lough Foyle. A short drive of about 25 minutes from Finn Valley Cottages.
Grianan at sunset
Although the hill not very high (244metres), the summit dominates the neighbouring counties of Londonderry, (Derry), Donegal and Tyrone. Located at the edge of the Inishowen peninsula, it is 11.25 kilometres (7 mi) northwest of the ecclesiastical site of Derry. The views from the carpark and from the fort are spectacular. A wheelchair friendly path links the car park to the fort.
It is believed that the currently existing hillfort was built by Northern Ui Neill around the sixth or seventh century AD, but the first settlement, also a fortress, was most probably created around the 1st century.
The round fort is built largely without mortar. The interior has three terraces which are linked by steps. The wall is about 4.5 metres (15 ft) thick and 5 metres (16 ft) high, with two long passages within it. Originally, there would have been wooden structures were built against the terraces to provide accommodation. Just outside it are the remains of a well and a tumulus. The outline of Bronze Age or Iron Age ramparts can be seen below the fort. Legend states that the giants of Inishowen are lying sleeping but when the sacred sword is removed they will spring to life reclaiming their ancient lands.
It has been identified as the seat of the Kingdom of Ailech and one of the royal sites of Gaelic Ireland. There is much legend and historical material related to the Grianán of Aileach. The Irish Annals record its destruction in 1101. The main monument on the hill is a stone cashel, restored in the nineteenth century, but probably built in the eighth century CE. The summit’s use as an area of settlement may go back much further. A tumulus at the Grianán may date back to the Neolithic age. A covered well was found near the cashel in the early nineteenth century.
Who is this lady? Have you heard about her? You will no doubt have heard of and probably sung ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ and ‘There is a Green Hill far away’ and ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. Mrs Alexander wrote these hymns and has some interesting local connections!
She was born in Dublin in 1818 to Major John and Mrs Elizabeth Humphreys. Her father was invalided out of the Royal Marines following the Napoleonic wars and became the agent for the Marquis of Abercorn. The family moved in 1833 to Milltown House just outside Strabane.
Cecil Frances wrote her only work of prose ‘The Lord of the Forest and his Vassals’ which ran to 5 editions. A year later she wrote ‘Hymns for Little Children’ for which she is best known and intended to explain Church Catechism to children. It included the 3 hymns mentioned above.
On 15th October 1850 Cecil Frances married the Reverend William Alexander and took an active role in parish life.
Points of and places of interest linked to Cecil Alexander:
Milltown House Strabane
Strabane Parish church – demolished and replaced by Christ Church
St Bestius Church Termonamonagan , Killeter near Castlederg
Derg Lodge in townland of Aghyaran 5 miles from Castlederg
1855 William was appointed as rector of the parish of Upper Fahan on the shores of Loch Swilly
1860 appointed Rector of Camus-iuxta-Mourne, or Strabane – the rectory overlooked the weir on the Mourne at Sion Mills.
1867 William became the Bishop of Derry and the family moved into the Bishop’s palace on Bishop Street Within, close to the cathedral. This is now the Masonic Hall.
14th October 1895 Cecil France died aged 77. There was an astonishing display of affection and mourning across Ireland and especially in Derry. She was buried in Londonderry City Cemeteries. Today the Music Room in the grounds of the cathedral is named in the memory of Cecil Frances and on Carrigans Lane off Bishop Street Without, a number of alms cottages completed in 1901. Were named the Alexander Memorial Cottages in her name. The are now in private ownership
A blue plaque commemorates her life in the Bishop’s Palace, now Freemasons Hall in Bishop Street.
1986 William was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland.
He resigned in 1911 and retired to Torquay where he died in September 1911.
Stained glass window in memory of Cecil Frances Alexander, in St Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, Northern Ireland. Dedicated on 20th March 1913
The LH window – depicts Once in Royal David’s City
A brand new adventure concept favouring slow, immersive experiences that engage with remote, wild and nature-rich places was revealed at an exclusive launch event in the Walled City Brewery in Derry.
One of the new slow adventure packages, aptly named, ‘slow adventure’ fosters an engagement with nature and provides an opportunity to not only partake in an activity but also to learn aspects of the local area such as the produce, wildlife and environment.
Over ten new visitor packages have been put together by thirteen local tourism businesses from the Derry and Strabane area and are now available to experience. Each package has been carefully crafted to make your introduction with slow adventure as memorable as possible. You can now walk through the Glenga Valley in the heart of the Sperrins foraging for food along the way, bake your own bread the traditional way in the farmhouse kitchen of Bradkeel Social Farm, see how artisan cheese is produced or have a go at traditional fishing on the River Foyle and cook your catch on a wild camp fire. Other packages include interactive cooking demonstrations with local hand-picked ingredients, Irish walking tours, horse riding in the Faughan Valley as well as deer stalking, bird shooting and salmon fishing in Strabane.
Visitors to the Derry and Strabane area can experience these new slow adventure packages over the weekend of Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24thSeptember as Derry City and Strabane District Council host the first ever ‘Slow Adventure Weekend’.
The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh “The council are delighted to bring this new adventure concept to Northern Ireland and more specifically to Derry, Strabane and the surrounding rural areas. We are the first and only area in Northern Ireland to offer slow adventure experiences and believe it is an amazing way to journey through the breath-taking landscapes and engage with the wilderness and nature”.
At the launch, James Huey from the Walled City Brewery, one of the local tourism businesses offering a slow adventure package commented, “There is something very special about participating in a slow adventure. It’s not just about taking part in an activity, the crux of a slow adventure is to give people the chance to really get away from it all and create memorable experiences”.
This new concept has been introduced to Northern Ireland as part of a transnational programme to promote slow adventures in Scotland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Slow Adventure in the Northern Territories, or SAINT Programme, is a three year programme with support from The Northern Periphery and Arctic 2014-2020. The Northern Irish project partner, Derry City and Strabane District Council, has been working with local tourism businesses since September 2015 to create the new slow adventure packages using their learnings from the other destinations across the world also involved in the programme.
Visit www.slowadventureni.com to see what’s on offer during this year’s Slow Adventure Weekend and throughout the year to start planning your next adventure!
Fly fishing holidays for salmon, wild brown trout and sea trout on the Rivers Mourne and Finn
One weeks accommodation in Derg Cottage with 1 or 2 Anglers sharing. One guide for the duration of your stay. Airport Collection by your guide. 7 days small 4×4 hire (Toyota Rav 4 or similar)
Total price £2808 Per person if sharing £1404
One weeks accommodation in the Finn Cottage or Strule Cottage, Up to 3 anglers not sharing. One Guide the duration of your stay. Airport collection by your guide. 7 days Large 4×4 hire (Toyota Hilux or similar) Total Price £3600 Per Person £1200
One weeks accommodation in the Finn Cottage or Strule Cottage. 4 or 5 anglers sharing. 2 guides for the duration of your stay Airport collection by your guides. 7 days hire of 2 Small 4×4 for 4 guests. For 5 guests, 1 small 4×4 and 1 large 4×4
Total price for 4 £5502 Total price for 5 £5934 Per person for 4 £1375.50 Per person for 5 £1186.80
One weeks accommodation in the Finn Cottage or Strule Cottage. 6 anglers sharing. 2 guides for the duration of your stay. Airport collection by your guides. 7 days hire of 2 large 4×4
Slow adventure – inspiring connections with the outdoors. A chance to explore and engage with wild, open and natural places. To journey through breath-taking landscapes at a slower, immersive pace. Creating memories through meaningful experiences as you invest time in a place, in its traditions and community. Surrendering to the natural forces of the environment as you reflect, reconnect and become closer to nature.
Slow adventure brings together people who enjoy sharing their sense of place with visitors by sharing traditional skills, local knowledge, storytelling and spending time together in nature. Each slow adventure has been crafted to offer unique experiences by working with carefully selected people and businesses.
Slow Adventure forms part of the Slow Adventure in Northern Territories Project which is co-financed by the European Union’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme.