Rathmullan is a very special place. My family has been coming here on holiday for over 30 years and it still has a magnetic attraction for us. Other places change but Rathmullan retains its unique character. If I am asked what is my favourite spot in the whole wide world, without hesitation, I always say ,“Rathmullan”.
So what is different about Rathmullan? I could reply that its natural beauty sets it apart, framed as it is by gentle hills on one side and the soft waters of Lough Swilly (The Lake of Shadows) on the other. And this is true. I could say that the golden sands of Rathmullan beach are bordered by a fabulous tree lined walk. This is very uncharacteristic of Irish beaches, sand dunes yes, but trees definitely not. Or is it that in Rathmullan you are walking in the footsteps of heroes of Irish history, O’Neill, O’Donnell and Maguire, whose epic flight in 1607 is remembered as if it happened only yesterday? I could add, and this is also true, that the people of Rathmullan have a great pride in their village. They know better than anyone how special this part of Donegal is and what it has to offer to visitors. Mix all these ingredients together and you will come close to understanding what makes Rathmullan unique.
When you choose Rathmullan and, in particular, The Sycamores as your holiday destination you will immediately discover that it is a marvellous place for families. And when you find out how near The Sycamores is to the beach you will think that you have landed in a child centered heaven and the best thing is that if you have forgotten anything, like a sand bucket or a towel, your holiday cottage is so near at hand. And it’s goodbye to sandy sandwiches. When you all get hungry you know that you are just minutes away from a fitted kitchen.! So get out the parasol and spend a leisurely few hours watching the kids play in the large grassy communal grounds with their new found friends whose families are also staying in The Sycamores.
By day two of your holiday you will have discovered the beautiful tree lined walk known locally as Batt’s Walk. The Batt family were former owners of Rathmullan In fact, there are a variety of ways into the village You can drive in or walk in by road or you can take the more leisurely route via Batt’s Walk. Or why not go barefoot along the soft sandy beach. But remember to bring a bag for the groceries. Some years ago, in the interest of the environment, the Irish Government introduced a measure dispensing with plastic bags in shops. There are two small, well stocked, supermarkets in the village. They also sell newspapers, croissants crusty rolls and wine. Patton’s Butcher’s shop on the sea front can provide you with all you need for the BBQ.
I’m sure you don’t want to be cooking every night of your holidays so if you’re thinking of eating out you have a wide variety of venues to choose from starting with the Cellar Bar in Rathmullan House Hotel which has an excellent early evening menu. The hotel itself has magnificent grounds which are only a matter of yards from The Sycamores. Another favourite with families is Salt’n’ Batter with the adjoining restaurant ‘Belle’s Kitchen’ Also in the village is the popular Ferrygate Restaurant (formerly The Bonnan Bui) Coming into Rathmullan from the Ramelton side is the Water’s Edge Restaurant which has a wonderful location, literally at the water’s edge. The An Stad restaurant (The Stop) serves cappuccino, teas and scones. Follow the sign.
Rathmullan is not only famous for its cuisine but also for its history. On your first walk around the village you will immediately be struck by the impressive ivy clad ruin of the Priory. It has a chequered history changing hands more than once down the years. It was originally constructed by one of the most powerful of the Donegal clans, Mac Suibhne na Dtuath who brought The Carmelite Order of Friars to Rathmullan as a sign of the wealth and lordship of the clan.
One of the seismic events in Irish history took place at Portnamurray, a secluded inlet just outside the village. In 1607 the last remaining Ulster Gaelic chieftains fled from Ireland to the Continent where they hoped to get military aid from the Catholic King of Spain to launch a counter offensive on the forces of James 1 of England. The event is called, ‘The Flight of The Earls’. On board the vessel which slipped quietly out of Portnamurray were Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, Rory O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell and Maguire, Earl of Fermanagh. Their expedition was a failure and they never succeeded in returning to Ireland. The event is seen as a watershed in Irish history because it brought to an end the old Gaelic Order and facilitated the Plantation of Ulster. The four hundredth anniversary of ‘The Flight of the Earls’ took place in 2007 and Rathmullan was the focus of most of the events associated with the flight including the visit of President Mary McAleese to the village and the commissioning of a landmark piece of sculpture from John Behan which can be seen on the seafront. The full story of ‘The Flight of the Earls’ is told in the Interpretive Centre housed in the Martello Tower just above the pier.
Summer is festival time in Rathmullan with lots of things to see and do. Guests coming in July can catch some of the amazing events of the Earagail Arts Festival. At least one of the headline outdoor events of the festival takes place in the village. In 2008, the award winning gardens of Rathmullan House Hotel provided the backdrop for a touring production of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. The event had a real sense of occasion and attracted a huge crowd of adults and children.
Children love taking part in the Rathmullan Community Festival in July and the Rathmullan Festival in August. The Rathmullan Regatta on August Bank Holiday Monday probably attracts the largest crowds of all. The atmosphere is amazing. By Tuesday the village returns to its usual calm and tranquil self. Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall, Rathmullan has it all. Definitely a place apart.