It had been a long drive up to Limavady. I was, therefore, disappointed to discover that the Roe Valley Centre Coffee Shop, which had been fore-warned about our arrival, appeared to be completely overwhelmed as more than fifty anorak clad walkers descended on it. It was immediately apparent that the staff would require time to take, and fulfil, all our orders. While ever so slowly inching towards the counter, I attempted to appease my hunger by humour. Having, at last, been seated and fed, we trooped outside to extract walking shoes from car boots, before straggling along past newly ploughed fields to path which hugged both sides of the river from which the Centre takes its name. I was interested to note, in derelict buildings, evidence of a more industrial past : two centuries ago, this area was a centre of the linen industry. Absorbed in taking pictures, I was unaware that the sound of cheerful voices blending with the river’s gentler note had gradually faded. Not for the first time, I realised that being a photographer in a group of non-photographers can be lonely.
Our first walk completed, we drove Westwards through Londonderry, arriving a couple of hours later at Letterkenny, our base for the weekend. I was glad to rest my already weary feet by collapsing into our comfortable bed’s relaxing embrace. Later, when returning to the hotel, after an evening meal in one of Letterkenny’s excellent restaurants, my navigational skills deserted me, and we had an unexpected tour round some of the County Donegal town’s burgeoning shopping centres before finding our way back.
The bad weather forecast for Saturday morning fortunately proved inaccurate : we were to enjoy bright sunlight all day. After breakfast, curious passers-by would have seen our map-wielding leader – a geography teacher - instruct a cluster of car drivers on the best route to Glenveagh National Park. On arriving there, my frustration, at not having sufficient time to stop and take pictures of the spectacular mountain scenery through which we drove, was quickly forgotten. Within minutes of leaving the car park, we had pushed through a gate, and were striding along a path with wonderful views over Loch Veagh, and the surrounding mountains. I was glad to have brought my mono-pod, as a strong wind was howling across the bleakly beautiful landscape. It seemed determined to make us turn back. None of us did, although I noticed that, yet again, they all scuttled off, leaving me behind to take pictures ! Having completed that walk – in my case, some ten minutes after the others - and back on lower, more sheltered, ground, peer pressure compelled me to reluctantly join the others in resisting the temptation of a shuttle bus ride to our lunch stop. Feeling suitably virtuous, and trying to ignore my aching feet’s incessant protests, I trudged with the others – none of whom seemed to share my awareness of their feet - along Loch Veagh’s seemingly interminable length. I was relieved when Glenveagh Castle’s grey shape appeared round a bend. Its Tea Shop furnished welcome refreshment – and a seat. Surrendering to lethargy, and – in my case, feeling virtuous at having taken so much unaccustomed exercise - many of us lounged around the small courtyard. Conscience finally prevailed upon us to stir ourselves - unwillingly. Some enthusiasts went on another walk, while I tried to appear more willing than I felt by strolling around taking pictures of the colourful splendours of the Castle’s extensive, and immaculate, gardens.
Chatter round the hotel’s dinner table that evening suggested that we all felt quiet satisfaction at having made the effort – ignoring muscles reminding me that they had not enjoyed the unusual exercise. Less resilient than some or, perhaps, lazier, my wife and I retreated to our bed-room shortly afterwards. Neither of us had any difficulty in getting to sleep. Others stayed up to enjoy entertainment provided by a local singer and his band. Neil Diamond songs apparently proved particularly popular – or so we were informed, next morning !