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An art and architecture tour : from heritage to contemporary

West End Village by James Dixon

Sometimes you can find artistic masterpieces in the most unlikely locations. While Donegal is famous for it rugged landscpe, beautiful beaches and traditional music it is also the location for some beautiful contemporary art and architecture.

Within a short radius of Breac.House there is an eclectic mix of ancient monuments, contemporary art galleries, modernist church architecure and neo-classical design. You can start this design-lovers trail at the nearby Ray Cross, which is beleived to be the tallest and oldest Celtic Cross in Ireland. It was the home of St.Columcille before he set sail for Iona – where an almost exact replica of the cross is located. The site is now an an eerie abandoned church and graveyard, haunted by its past and the massacre of locals perpetrated by the forces of Oliver Cromwell in 1650.

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Continue to Magheraroary Pier, where the boat takes you to Tory Island. Lying 12k off the coast of Donegal, Tory is Ireland furthest offshore inhabited island. It is also home to the Tory Island School of Painers, which was inspired by the artist Derek Hill who came to the island regularly from the 1950’s until his death in 2000. Local painters such as James Dixon have become world renowned for their evocative, folk-art style. Other Tory Island painters include Patsy Dan Rogers, Antoin Meenan, Ruairi Rogers and Johnny Dixon.

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While you may be fortunate to spot one of the current painters at work, or be inspired by the unique lansdcape, the best place to see the full range of Tory Island paintings is in our next stop, The Glebe Gallery in Churchill whish is the former home of Derek Hill. Your trip there will be rewarded with an amazingly eclectic collection, which also includes pieces by international artists such as Picasso. It is also a stunning location, on the shores of the beautiful Lough Gartan. For a good stretch of the legs, you can walk from The Glebe to Glenveagh Castle, through Glenveagh National Park. Glenveagh Castle also hosts some excellent examples of 20th Century art as well as stories of great parties hosted here over the years !

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The last stop on this tour is to St. Michael’s Church in Creeslough. It is one of the many contemporary churches designed by iconic Derry born architect Liam McCormick. Completed in 1971, it is a masterpiece. Built in the shape of nearby Muckish Mountain, covered in vernacular cottage-white pebbledash and beautifully crafted inside to create a peaceful, contemplative, monastic space. It also has examples of beautiful stained glass art by Helen Moloney as well as metalwork by John Behan. For guests staying a few days more, there are a number of other examples of McComick’s work in the area, including the churches at Milford, Glenties, Burt, Desertegney and Liscooley.

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