Photography, Travel

A terraced cemetery in Ardara

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Imagery © 2016 Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO Landsat. Map data © 2016 Google.

Margaret and I loosely followed the Irish coast as we worked our way south from Ireland’s northern tip. This frequently put us on the Wild Atlantic Way, a byway of sorts that traces the entire western Irish coast. When we figured out what it was, we decided to follow it wherever we could.

This led us directly to Ardara, a town of less than a thousand in County Donegal. (See the pinpoint on the map.) Cheerful and tidy just like every other small Irish town through which we passed, we decided to stop and look around.

We found the tourism office, where a friendly and helpful woman told us of all that Ardara had to offer. But the one thing she didn’t need to tell us about was the church — there’s no way you can miss it as you drive into town.

Church of the Holy Family, Ardara, Ireland

The Church of the Holy Family is surrounded by a tightly-packed cemetery. Both Margaret and I like cemeteries. Neither of us knows exactly why.

Church of the Holy Family, Ardara, Ireland

The property leads up a hill, which was terraced to provide level ground for more graves. We’d never seen anything like it, and we’ve walked through a lot of cemeteries.

Church of the Holy Family, Ardara, Ireland

Concrete stairs took us to the top. The view is commanding. On the left, a bay that lets out into the Atlantic…

Church of the Holy Family, Ardara, Ireland

…and on the right, Ardara itself.

Church of the Holy Family, Ardara, Ireland

What it it about being at the top of the hill that makes a man want to linger? I stood up here for quite some time, breathing the air and considering the views. I concluded nothing of merit, but I still felt better when I came down.

But I didn’t come down before I looked behind me. Some horses were grazing in a field below me. The road into Ardara wound through the countryside just beyond

Behind the Church of the Holy Family, Ardara, Ireland

The Church of the Holy Family was built in 1903. It’s not as grand as the cathedral in Letterkenny, but Letterkenny has more than 20 times the population. This is a fine and lovely house of worship for the people of Ardara.

Church of the Holy Family, Ardara, Ireland

The woman at the tourism office told us about a nearby waterfall and also about a deep scenic valley called Glengesh Pass. We drove around for a half hour on frighteningly narrow back roads but never found the waterfall. Glengesh Pass, however, was impossible to miss. I’ll share stunning photos from there in an upcoming post.

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Last updated on 13 February 2020 by Jim Grey

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5 thoughts on “A terraced cemetery in Ardara

  1. hmunro says:

    What a charming town! The cemetery is indeed unique — as is the architecture of its neighboring church. I’m curious about why the woman at the tourism office would have missed mentioning it, though. You’d think a town of this size would be quite proud of such an edifice!

    • I’m so used to decaying Midwestern small towns. Every small town we passed through in Ireland was lively, tidy, and vital. Ardara is just one example!

  2. Ron says:

    I did a bike tour in Donegal last year and took pictures of the same church! Ireland is beautiful, and Donegal is especially appealing because it’s not completely overrun with tories. Your pics make me want to return.

    • I figured that’s what you meant! I didn’t see how British conservatives would interfere at all with your exploration! :-)

      Ireland by bike would be wonderful.

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