At Bundoran the town was just recovering from a very damp Sea Sessions Festival and I assumed there would be more than enough beds available. At the first hostel I tried a large, pale sweaty looking man in a Hawaiian shirt excitedly told me that they were full for the Festival. As the building, car park and town were deserted it seemed likely that he was in the grip of some substance imbibed at the weekend but I did not complain as the place smelled of cats and dogs and other less salubrious things.
“Go to the Turf ‘N Surf, and tell them I sent you,” he winked, as if somehow he could make beds materialize through the power of his personality. Drugs. You can see why they’re so popular.
The Turf ‘N Surf was my first choice anyway but I had missed it on the way in. It used to be adorned by a colourful mural which has since been removed by the town council. You could forgive them I suppose if they had made any other visible attempt to make the town appealing but they hadn’t.
I checked in and all was quiet. For €25 I got my own en-suite room with and a double and a single bed, all very clean. Breakfast was included in the price. The house itself is nice, a terraced Victorian job. The common room on the second floor has a bay window looking out over the sea and a (slow but free) internet connection. No books though.
The kitchen below is new and again very clean. The house could do with some extra touches but it was grand and the staff and guests were surprisingly friendly. I say surprising because often hostels are run by people who in their desperation to be cool adopt a hostile attitude in the belief that hatchet-faced cynicism will somehow make them more attractive to everyone. American Hostels are the worst with The Green Tortoise in San Francisco scooping my International First for the nastiest staff but that’s another story. For some reason I particularly expected hostility from a surfers hostel and was glad to be proved wrong in Bundoran and again later in Rossnowlagh.
The town was a different matter. It is a dour place. Unlike Mullaghmore and Rossnowlagh up the coast or even my own Tramore, there is no beach immediately visible, though of course you can see the sea. If there is a beach(and I didn’t bother to go find it)it’s small and rocky and hidden from view behind car parks and walls. There is a break offshore directly opposite the town for surfers. Tullan Strand further out of town is good for surfing too.
I walked up through the town looking for some fish and chips but had a hard time locating some. The main street had a dusty grubby tired air which seemed to be more than post festival tiredness. All the shops were closed and shuttered, even the fast food places, though it was after 6pm. I eventually found a shop and bought some fruit, including the biggest, maddest looking strawberries I have ever seen which pleased me no end. It’s the small things, isn’t it?They, apart from the Turf ‘N Surf were the best things about Bundoran.
While walking through town, I heard my name shouted from a small group in front of a pub, some of the few people visible on the streets. It was Karla K, the South Easts own Yoga instructor/DJ. Karla was hanging onto the tail end of the festival which despite the wet weather she had really enjoyed. To balance my drubbing of the town I will mention here that she recommended some apparently lovely walks along the rocks by the coast. Bundoran was a lot less of a disappointment for her than it was for me. I would have stopped for a pint but I figured I would have been too far out of step with her crew so I carried on.
I turned down towards the sea and the amusement park to be met with hoarding and the ruins of an arcade building that wasn’t that interesting when it was new. I believe it had been used as part of the Sea Sessions and I am sure that when lit properly on a rainy night and observed from a state of inebriation or euphoria it looked more interesting than it did in grey daylight to a sadly sober me.
The ruins gave way to a near empty car park, or rather a mass of higgledy-piggledy parking spaces that overlooked some amusement machines in the process of being erected or disassembled, it was hard to say. The whole area was badly designed. The car parks and the path I walked along were separated from any visible sea front by jumbles of permanent metal barriers and grass .
There were two cars in the whole area:one held a woman who I had seen buying food in the shop who had parked in this wasteground to eat her purchases, the other held a couple of men, outside of which lurked some of their cohorts. I am not bothered by young men hanging around trying to figure out how to burn their testosterone but these boys looked to me like they were burning off more than testosterone and I walked a little faster and held my bag tight to me.
The whole area was quiet and deserted which for a Monday night in early July in a resort town, even in these times, was, to me, unusual. I am from a seaside resort and I know about these sorts of things. I have often thought of Tramore as being quite tatty and suffering from the disinterest of local councillors but Tramore looks like a paradise compared to Bundoran. In Tramore, at the very least, you can buy Fish and Chips and sit if your car and look out at the sea.
I walked south on the dirty, cracked pavement towards the Sligo Road and I eventually found fish and chips in a Pizza Parlour call Zam Zam. It was a small basic shop with high black painted counter and the fish batter tasted of curry, testament to their necessarily varied menu in a town with little fast food bBut it only cost me €5 and the guy serving was chatty. Originally from out Pakistan way, he, as many non-Irish do, put us all to shame in the friendliness stakes.
I headed back to the hostel and ate my chips at the bench on the bare concrete out front thinking that a couple of plants or driftwood sculptures out there would be nice but the council would probably object. I watched the sunset glow red under the clouds. The Turf ‘N Surf was nice but I knew I would be fleeing town after a spot of bodyboarding at Tullan Strand the next morning. In the event I couldn’t even bear to stay long enough to do that and headed off Rossnowlagh with a detour to visit Yeats Country and my beloved Ben Bulben.