"Paddy," I asked of my companion, "what do you think of when you look out there across the sea?"
I had met this gentle soul a little farther back down the road towards Donegal town on the way to the spectacular cliffs at Slieve League. Soaring nearly 2,000 feet in elevation from the water's edge, breathtaking is a bit insufficient description. We had come a long way to see them, but not so much that we didn't stop at a few scenic overlooks en route, including the one where he now stood with the English woman and her family for whom he was serving as a hired guide.
As I looked out over the beauty of Donegal Bay towards the mist-enshrouded mountains in Sligo on the other side, I eavesdropped as he told them about the various local remnants of a civilization that lived there some 3,000 years ago. "Glen KAW-lum KILL-a" he pronounced a couple of times in his lilt. And when I went to read the sign, we had a short conversation that further fueled my excitement for the day's sights that lay ahead.
When we got to Slieve League, we parked in the lower lot and began the half mile walk to the view point before my sister realized that she could drive my parents up and thus save them some substantive exertion. I decided to walk along with many others, taking in the view over the cliffs to the sea.
After going out on a point to take a few pictures, I found Paddy and his party again when I reached the road. They were concerned that they should have driven him up, but he professed that he was fine, enjoyed the walk and did it all the time. As I walked behind them one lady asked his age, to which he replied brightly "I'm 85."
A short ways further they stopped to take a picture and Paddy kept walking, so I caught up to him and shared a few more moments of conversation. He was a delightful soul, grown sprightly and sage in part by a self-confessed healthy diet of pints of Guinness. He shared lots of interesting bits about life in county Donegal and his childhood.
Before we parted ways, I thanked him for his generosity in sharing his knowledge. Thinking that he might offer some lament for the 4 million Irish who left home during the Great Hunger, his response to my question surprised me. "Vikings. I always imagine seeing their ships moving across the water, and of course I imagine that they weren't welcome. But it would have been fascinating to see them."
We took the picture below and said our goodbyes, and as I turned to resume my journey I thought "how lucky am I to have this experience - what a wonderful soul." And almost simultaneously I heard him say to his group, "what a lovely man!".
The sea cliffs at Slieve League, Co. Donegal, Ireland.
Sheep are everywhere in Ireland, including here, but this one was a rare solo shot.