Donegal Party and the Final Flannery Pub

I hiked back down from the clouds to the muddy base of Mount Errigal, once back on the road I hitched some four separate rides to get myself to Dunkineely, a small town in the north of Ireland where the party was about to begin.

I'd met Damien just a week or so earlier, a pub owner and Couchsurfing host who had an apartment for travelers above his dad's pub, just a few doors down from his own. He was one of the more friendly people I'd met and the area was beautiful, he told me how he'd be having a weekend-long "festival" with plenty or locals and travelers all crashing above the pub to drink beers, listen to good music and explore the area.

When I arrived there were people from California, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and all over the place, all there to have a good time. We all got to know each other that night laughing it up over music and pints below in the pub.

The next day we loaded onto a bus Damien had organized and head to Slieve League, the gorgeous sea cliffs nearby. After some hiking around there we bused around to more places like a waterfall and of course some more pubs for music and the like.

We landed back in Dunkineely eventually for a rolling night or pints upstairs, at one pub and back at the other late into the night long after the doors were locked, then finally back to the hostel across the street from the pub laughing until the sun came up.

The next day was not all that dissimilar, after a lazy start it was back to rounds of Guinness and another night shooting pool, pouring my own pints and roaring into the night until we simply had to crash out.

I woke up to my new friend's voice saying it was time to go, she was from the US as well and would be giving myself and the Canadian girl a ride. We rolled along in a happy half-drunk hungover sort of euphoric delirium, the green hills and green everything waving along beside us.

My destination was Athlone and they'd be going through to drop me off, this is the central little town in the country that was home to the final Flannery pub I had to visit. We paused near the castle at a little bar that claimed to be the oldest in Ireland or perhaps all of Europe and sipped one last Guinness together as I waited for my couchsurfing host to rendezvous with me.

Eventually I parted with my new friends, the Canadian girl gave me a shy kiss on the cheek that made me relive the weekend, but just as quickly I was off into the next dynamic.

My host in town was a designer of sorts and a lover of travel of course, she also lived right around the corner from the bar. After a shower we went out for dinner before rounding up some fishing poles and joining her friends at a park to cast for a while.

Then, before night fell, it was time to reach the final Flannery pub. I'd actually been there a week or so earlier having hitchhiked from Galway only to discover they were closed on Tuesdays and had to turn back to keep my Irish ramblings going.

I walked in the door and the owner recognized me immediately (by this time my picture had been posted in the national paper), she shouted with excitement and the night was on. She introduced me to everyone in the pub as if they were Flannerys like us, "This is Paul Flannery, he's the town baker! This is Tim Flannery, the doctor!", all the way from the dog to the blues band playing. By this point the local paper a few doors down had caught wind I'd arrived and sent a photographer over to take my picture with all of them and conduct a quick interview.

The Guinness never stopped and along with my host and her friends the night roared on and on with whiskey to fill in all the gaps; she wouldn't charge me a penny for any of it. One way or another we made it back home where we managed to keep the buzz of the night going a while longer, but before I knew it I was waking up in a haze mellowing the afternoon sun streaming through the window.

We had a big breakfast and eased into the day, but at some point in all the madness I'd committed to returning to the pub to be filmed for some sort of Irish TV show. Feeling wildly hungover we rallied and made our way back, I only remember it was a Tuesday since the pub was closed, but open for us on this day for this filming to take place. A Guinness was poured and the dog hair began to work it's magic.

After an hour or so of pouring Guinness, sitting hear chatting, sitting there talking, walking down the street talking or pretending to talk, the shoot finally finished. I had to hitch my way to Dublin for a Scotland bound flight the next day, the cameraman gave me a ride to the highway and took the opportunity to get a few more shots of me waiting on my ride.

After he left my ride came, it was a short one to the next town, but a couple more rides after that and I was in Dublin. I came and met back up with my hosts from the start of my trip, then headed into the city to meet another friend for a drink, a farmer I'd stayed with in the west. He was with his brother and wildly drunk, an antagonistic sort of sloppy drunk with an empty look in his eye that most certainly signified that he'd stopped forming memories and couple drinks ago.

I squeezed some fun out of the whole thing there and on to the next bar before calling it a night, the last night in Ireland until a couple years later when I'd next return.

I slept like a rock, when I woke up I slept again, then finally dragged myself under the shower head and out the door to fill my belly with shepherds pie and Guinness one last time before getting myself to the airport with my Glasgow ticket.

At the time I wasn't certain when I'd be back, but I was certain it was just a matter of time. The country had matched my expectations and then greatly expanded upon them. With the added magic of the Flannery Pub missions and all that came with it I was riding high. As always, though, no matter how deep I fell in love with a place, the people and the experiences, I was now up in the sky and eager for the next stop, this time ready to see what Scotland would throw at me. Onward.

June 12, 2015 to June 17, 2015