Here’s a review that sums up the Donegal bay Waterbus trip perfectly.
Looking for something a little different to do while on holiday in Donegal this year?
I have just returned for a glorious 75 minute cruise on the specially designed vessel called the Dun Na nGall (Gaelic for Donegal) and it really is an experience not to be missed. Due to the tides in Donegal Bay sailing times vary on an almost daily basis but 75 minutes out of anyone’s daily schedule is not much and sure beats sitting looking out at the bay from the shore.
I bought my ticket in the little ticket office up on Quay Street, Donegal Town. (Be aware that they only accept cash but that’s no problem since there’s a bank machine just up the street at the Allied Irish Bank) It costs €15 per adult and there is a reduction for children, with under 5’s going free. With ticket in hand I headed to the end of the pier where the impressive 80ft blue and white vessel lay at anchor. Music was already playing through the intercom system as about 60 other passengers and myself waited to board.
We were greeted by fully uniformed and very smart looking crew members and allowed to board 15 minutes prior to sailing. I must say I was really impressed by the vessel. It is not what I had imagined a ‘waterbus’ to be at all. It was very spacious indeed with comfortable theatre style seating at the front where a keyboard was set up promising some sort of music during our trip. There was even an area at the doors which appeared to be a dance floor! The rear of the lower deck comprised of a fully stocked bar with a wide selection of beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks surrounded by very comfy lounge seating and tables. There were ladies & gents toilets too near the bar. A lounge bar, theatre, and music venue on the high seas… I was in heaven.
Being an absolutely glorious, sunny day I ventured to the large upper viewing deck where most of the other passengers were already seated and after a short safety announcement detailing the location of life jackets, smoking areas etc we set sail.
The boat moves away from the quay smoothly and SIDEWAYS! (I wish my car would do that when I am trying to park.) Within a couple of minutes we were heading out on totally calm waters into Donegal Bay. After getting myself a gin and tonic at the bar (cheaper than the pubs in town too) I listened as the live commentary began. Now this was no ordinary monotonous commentary. I’ll not give too much away but as well as a very informative guide to what we were seeing there were many jokes and yarns told. The narrator, a farmer he tells us, was excellent and had us laughing in the aisles.
At the half way point in the cruise we arrived at the seal colony. About 100 large seals lay on the sand and watched us with not a care in the world. There were even some real cute seal pups peeking at us from behind their mothers. The boat does a full turn at this stage and begins the trip back to the quay in Donegal Town about 40 minutes away. What was the narrator going to talk about now I wondered? I wasn’t disappointed.
The reason for the keyboard and microphone set up on the lower deck now became apparent and the narrator turned into a very talented singer and musician. Most passengers headed below to join in the ‘craic’ and by the time I made my way to the bar area they were a few couples having a waltz on the small dance floor. I saw plenty of Irish Coffees, Guinness and even cups of tea coming from the bar as we journeyed home and the crew sang along with the singer as they served behind the bar. What a great trip I thought to myself and I was so glad I hadn’t just spent the hour wandering round the town. There were a few kids on board and the singer even kept them happy with a rendition of Old Mc Donald’s Farm (a lot of the adults joined in this song too).
The next 40 minutes went really fast and before I knew it we were slipping back into Donegal harbour. (The waterbus did its sideways parking manoeuvre again at this stage and I was impressed again.) The captain, I think, came on the microphone to thank us for travelling with them and to ask us to return again soon, which I definitely will be doing.
In talking with the crew at the bar I found out that all staff are voluntary and that any profits from the cruise go to local charities or to enhance local infrastructure. I couldn’t believe these guys do this cruise up to 3 times a day 7 days a week for free. Very impressive indeed and well worth supporting just for that.
I slipped a fiver in the little charity box by the door and headed up the carpeted gangway back to shore.
So, if you are in Donegal or anywhere near it go for a cruise on the Donegal Bay Waterbus, see the sights and seals, have a wee drink and maybe even a waltz. As well as enjoying and educating and enjoying yourself you’ll be supporting good causes to boot.