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Monday, May 17, 2010

BEHIND THE HEADLINES ~ THE BOG HOTEL

Before I begin, a little about the Bog Hotel for those not familiar with the story behind it.  Donegal man, Patsy Brogan, has for over four years been entertaining friends and members of the public in the comfort of his shed, welcoming them to his home and provding them with refreshments both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.  His generosity and hospitality has become widespreadly known and as a result he has attracted many visitors, both local and from further afield. 

His noteriety eventually lead to his prosecution by Donegal County Council for breach of planning laws and the case came before the District Court in Donegal Town on the 3rd of March 2010 when the Council argued that Mr. Brogan required planning permission for change of use of his shed to a 'bar or lounge'.  However, on hearing the evidence, or lack of evidence, the Judge found that there was no case to answer and added that the situation was "most unusual" but that in recent times it was not uncommon for people to have a bar or lounge in their homes.

So, our trip to the Bog Hotel.

After wanting to visit the Bog Hotel for some years, we finally got to visit it yesterday (Sunday, 16th May 2010) after an extensive search for it through the hills of Donegal.  We knew only that it was located somewhere near the village of Frosses in south Donegal.  So we drove into Frosses and took a side road there which led us on a wild goose chase in what turned out to be the totally wrong direction.  Back into Frosses village and out the Glenties road.

Driving along the main road looking for the Bog Hotel

I had seen photos of the place in newspapers and so I thought I might spot it as my husband drove along.  After about 5 or so minutes driving, we stopped a lady out walking and asked for directions.  She said to drive for another 10 or 15 minutes and we'd see the lane on our left and we'd find it there.  Well we saw lots of lanes and even drove up a few of them but still couldn't find the Bog Hotel.  Eventually, after an hour or so of driving back and forth and up and down dead end lanes, we decided to head to Glenties to see if anyone could give directions.

Of course I took the opportunity to get a few photos of this pretty village and it was lucky I did because during taking these photos my camera battery died which would have been extremely frustrating had it happened when we eventually found the Bog Hotel.  Yes, I do carry other cameras but that one is my favourite and I wanted it for the big occasion.

We were getting a tad exasperated, tired and hungry at this stage so, noticing a sign on the wall of the Highlands Hotel advertising fresh chowder, in we went to enjoy some food and a rest and our friendly waitress allowed me to plug in my camera battery charger.

Chowder eaten, camera battery and our batteries recharged, off we set again.  Ouside the hotel I spotted a man smoking and asked him for directions.  He knew the place he said and gave us directions (you can see the directions from Glenties at the end of this post).  His directions were good but probably best if you were familiar with the area.  For us, they worked in that they lead us very close to the Bog Hotel, a nearby farm where the man there told us it was at the end of the the next lane to the right along the road.  I'm nearly sure I heard choirs of Angels singing Alleluija at that point.

We drove up the lane and eventually found the Bog Hotel.  Or what we assumed to be the Bog Hotel.  A shack standing alone at the end of a track.  It has to be said that the surrounds could certainly do with a bit of a tidy up and maybe even a lick of paint.  That said, the whole jumble of the exterior probably adds to the whole attraction of the Bog Hotel.

There were a few cars parked in a totally random fashion around the shed and we figured we at last might really be at the Bog Hotel.  But there were no signs so we couldn't be 100% sure.  We got out of the car and could hear voices coming from within the shed and so approached the door.  I didn't know whether to knock or just enter so I went with the latter.

You know when you step into a fairly dark building from bright sunshine outside?  You can't really see what's there for a few moments?  Well it was like that for a second and in suspended animation too as all conversation immediately ceased and lots of faces, barely seen in the relative darkness within, turned around to see who was coming in.  I watch a lot of horror films and have a rather fertile imagination and for a second that fertile imagination ran away with me, screaming into my brain 'hills, miles from anywhere, strange people, trapped, RUN!'.  But I got a grip of myself, not to mention a shove from my husband behind me to move on, and we entered the Bog Hotel.  To be greated by a large German Shepherd dog.  But he just had a little investigation and moved back into the room leaving us free to enter. 

Inside the Bog Hotel

Time started up again, conversations resumed and as our eyes adjusted to the dim light within and I could see the place was fairly packed with all manner of people ~ women with babies, kids running around, groups of men, groups of women, couples, you name it.  And everywhere flashes going off as people took photos on cameras and mobile phones, wanting a keepsake of their time in the Bog Hotel. 

I recognised Patsy Brogan, the owner, from photographs I'd seen in newspapers and he greeted us in a friendly fashion before resuming his conversation with the people around one of the two large tables where he was holding court, surrounded by guests who were learning all about the history of the Bog Hotel.

At the far end of the room, around an 'L' shaped bar, another crowd of people were gathered, some sitting on high stools, others standing.  We made our way there and as with Patsy, I recognised Daria from the newspapers.  We were offered refreshments and asked for two glasses of Guinness.  I didn't really think it was a gin/tonic/ice with a slice sort of place and so ordered Guinness.  Unfortunately there was no Guinness either so after perusing the random selection on offer, we settled for two bottles of Carlsberg. 

We managed to get a corner for ourselves near the bar and over the din of conversation and laughter I could hear an annoying tweeting going on and assumed it was one of those electronic things that make noises when people pass them.  Then it dawned on me the tweeting was real ~ there was actually a nest of baby birds up in the roof beside me.  You couldn't make it up! 

The place is sensory overload, packed as it is with a totally eclectic collection of memorabilia, photographs, old tapes, dishes, glasses, furniture and so on.  On one table there was cigarettes, ashtrays, a tub of spread, salt, glasses, and books.  On a series of shelves packed with dishes, there was even a plate with an image of Pope John Paul II.  And a huge photo of Elvis dominated the wall behind me. 

The Stage

On a far wall, behind the stage, yes stage (with a piano and electric organ) was a huge poster of Manchester United.  The furnishing consisted of a random selection of chairs, armchairs, tables, sideboards and cupboards.  The randomness of the contents goes on: I spotted an old till (firmly set at nil), a karaoke machine, tvs, old coats, even a safety helmet (for what I have no idea).  Something else made me smile ~ a batch of aftershaves in a glass fronted cupboard with the famous Old Spice taking pride of place.  Yes, the Bog Hotel really is that random.

The atmosphere was better than many a public bar although it is not a public bar even though Patsy calls it 'the best bar in Ireland' and you're certainly made more than welcome.  The guests all chatting freely with total strangers, in a bar that isn't really a bar, a hotel that isn't really a hotel, in the middle of nowhere, and far from reality all bound together by our adventure into the unknown.  Even smoking, long banned in bars in Ireland, was allowed.  All around the place there were ashtrays and even, in the way of Donegal wakes of old, loose cigarettes in little piles on one of the tables I assumed for guests to smoke if they so wish. The 'no smoking ban' doesn't apply here in the Bog Hotel where such rules go out the door passing as they do the hoards of people flooding through it.

A word of warning: though the German Shepherd, Benji, is friendly there is another dog in the Bog Hotel, Coby.  Coby is rather elderly and sleeps on an armchair at the side of the bar.  He is cross.  Very cross.  Do not disturb him under any circumstances.  I nearly learned this the hard way when I leaned in too close to photograph him!


In the Bog Hotel even the opening hours defy the norm.  Patsy says guests are welcome there any time, day or night.  Now that said, I can't imagine having the nerve to roll up at 3am but I believe people do.  This man is 72 years of age and when I was speaking to him yesterday he told me that he and Daria had been in Sligo Friday night, Longford Saturday night and had arrived home at 7.30 that morning and hadn't been to bed and still he managed to look as fresh as a daisy and full of life!  He tells people he works 25 hours a day and when asked how he can do 25 hours a day replies 'I work my lunch break'.  I don't know what he's on but I think a lot of us could use some of it.

One thing that comes over across strongly is the huge support for what Patsy did in  and the success of his case.  His back must be red raw with all the claps his back receives not to mention his hearing which really must be affected by the shouts of his guest saying 'well done!'great place you have here', 'we love it!' and other such positive acolades.  Patsy is now standing for local election, fully convinced he will sweep the poll I might add.  And judging by the support he was receiving from his guests yesterday, he might just do it.

Patsy and Daria

But before the election comes a much more important date for Patsy and Daria, the 1st of August next, Patsy's 73rd birthday, when they marry.  They met when she visited the Bog Hotel with a group of friends on a day off from her job as a waitress in the Mill Park Hotel in nearby Donegal Town.  Daria is Polish but their wedding will take place here in Donegal Town where not one but two hotels have been booked to accommodate the 2,000 guests expected to attend.

Well, 2000 and two, we now having been invited.

MORE PHOTOS OF THE BOG HOTEL

HOW TO FIND THE BOG HOTEL

As you have read, this can prove difficult so here's our guide for those of you wishing to visit.

From Glenties: Leave Glenties on the Ardara road and just outside the village take the left hand turn off signposted Donegal Town. Drive along that road for about 10 minutes and you will see a Jehovah Witness hall on your left, a very short distance after that there is a power station (pylons) on the left. The next turn to the right is the lane up to the Bog Hotel. Be warned, the turn off is on a bend in the road and care should be taken leaving the road. 

From Frosses: Drive to Glenties and follow route given above!

4 comments:

  1. Donegal has alwyas contributed to the beauty of the Ireland. There are many outrageous views, beaches and mountains. Murvaghbeach,Rossnowlagh,Bluestack Mountains, Letterkenny are few examples of such beauty.

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  2. Tourist attractions are located in Donegal like historic Donegal Castle, tours of Donegal Bay on the Donegal town Waterbus, mountainous, monuments etc. Donegal is a beautiful travel destination and provide comfort hotels.

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  3. Donegal is obviously most beautiful town of Ireland and hotels in Ireland are world famous for their beauty and luxurious facilities. These hotels are very good accommodation while you are in Donegal and needs best place to stay.

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  4. I remember when a man called john furey got patsy drunk and he knocked patsy out and ran like a coward,the man's wife's sister is married to patsy's son who lives in Donegal,john furey also hit a Garda in glenties knicknamed the sherrif he was standing drunk in a glenties pub and furey hit him and he ran again.regards

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