This week’s installment of Geeks On Tour brings us all the way to the windy northern coast of Ireland, to the town of Buncrana. As a small town in Donegal’s Inishowen peninsula, it’s about a million miles from what you’d consider a Geek Mecca. Nevertheless, explore it we shall!
While it may not be where I live now, Buncrana is my hometown and where I spent my formative years. I only get to visit it a few times a year now, but when I do, there’re a few spots I always make sure to hit. Check ’em out below so you’ll always know where to go if you find yourself lost in the wilds of Donegal.
Swan Park is a place that puzzled me when I was younger. It was always called Swan Park, but there were never any swans in it. Turns out it was named for Harry Swan, the man who funded its development. The more you know, eh? To get into the park you’ll have to walk along the beach, cross the Castle Bridge and pass an old stone tower. Two old towers, actually. Once that’s done, you’ll be at the start of a path that leads through a wooded area along the bank of the Crana River. If that doesn’t sound like the opening to a few good fantasy novels, you’ve been reading the wrong novels.
Speaking of books, all along the path there are partially sheltered seating areas, excellent for settling down to read in while the river rolls by. Most of them are basic benches, but a few are built from the same old stone as the bridge while one or two others are carved from wood. Whichever you find, they’re all perfectly comfy spots to crack open a book at.
Oh, also, there are fairy doors littered all along the trees and walls. Idyllic as @#*!
The Free Wee Library
A new project that only started a few years ago, the Free Wee Library consists of a series of small boxes filled with – you guessed it – books. Dotted all around town, it’s a public book sharing system that works on the honesty policy. You take a book, you leave a book. Generally they’re located at scenic areas, a few lining the way though the aforementioned Swan Park. They’re a great way to whittle away a few hours and try reading something new. I 100% think they’re something every town should start introducing.
Moving on from the Free Wee Library, we have the normal town library, affectionately called The Library. Converted from an unused Presbyterian Church, the building certainly looks the part as a place where ancient tomes are kept. You can keep your modern, glass-walled behemoth, I’ll stick to my mini-Hogwarts. Inside, the library is open and relaxed, well-lit… and cold. Well, it’s Donegal, what do you expect? Feckin’ everywhere is cold.
A couple of neat little extra features that you might not see everywhere else are a full whale skeleton and a viking longboat. Both suspended from the ceiling. You heard me. The skeleton was gathered from the remains of a sperm whale that washed up on the beach many moons ago. After it was tested and the cause of death determined, it was donated to the library. I dunno what the story is with the longboat. Pretty sure it’s just a reconstruction. Either way, still pretty cool.
Way back in the day, when Fellowship of the Ring had just left cinemas and I had totally missed the craze, this is where I first found Tolkien, Rowling and Salinger. Had this place not opened when I was young, I may have turned out much worse than I did. After all, what’s a geek without a healthy supply of books?
The Lily Rose
Right, after a day of trekking through the woods and picking up books, you need somewhere to settle in, relax, and read said books. This brings us to the Geeks On Tour mainstay, the local coffee/tea house. A relatively new establishment, the Lily Rose is built to feel like a country kitchen. Decorated with plenty of bright pastel colours, wooden chairs and floral table cloths, this is tea at your granny’s house. The tea is hot, the cups are huge and the cake helpings are generous. Few places I’ve been to get rustic comfort as spot-on as this place. Ideal for a lunchtime get-together and a bit of banter, or a bit of solitary quiet time.
The old cinema has but one screen with maybe two showings a day. It also tends to get movies a few weeks after general release, except on rare occasions when the planets align (such was the case with Rogue One, funnily enough). The ticket prices are a tiny fraction of what you’d pay elsewhere and the snacks are an eclectic taste of rural Ireland. Joe & Seph’s popcorn has no business around these parts. Still, there’s one thing that makes this picture house a place to remember if ever you visit: the back half of the seating is dedicated to side-by-side two-person loveseats. A relic from days of yore, I have to wonder why cinemas were ever built without them. These beauties make for the perfect romantic date night movie experience and this may be the only place left that still has them in place.