The Prince of Wales has begun a whistle-stop trip to Ireland in the latest royal bid to solidify transformed relations with the Republic.
The day of engagements in Co Donegal comes a year after Charles’s emotional trip to Co Sligo and the harbour village where his great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was murdered by the IRA in 1979.
The symbolic steps taken by the heir to the throne come after the Queen’s historic visit to the Republic in 2011, when she became the first monarch to set foot in the country for a century.
The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Donegal town at around 11am amid tight security.
They were welcomed to Donegal Castle by Irish dancers and musicians and toured some of its restored rooms and the banqueting hall before walking through the town.
Several hundred people including local schoolchildren surrounded the Diamond in the town centre for the visit. A security cordon was placed around the town for the visit with all those hoping to greet the royal couple being screened.
They stopped at the Obelisk commemorating the Four Masters who wrote the first history of ancient Ireland in the 1600s.
The pair also spent time meeting locals, and called into a renowned local butchers, McGettigan’s, where they met owners Ernan and Diarmuid, who offered them samples of their award-winning sausages. Among the crowds were pupils from Glebe National School in Donegal town.
Callum Sweeney, 12, managed to sum up the visit in a sentence: “The Prince is here in Donegal to get a suit from Magee’s and get sausages in McGettigans and he’s promoting peace in Northern Ireland.”
Church of Ireland Archdeacon David Huss, who is chairman of the school, looked on as the royal visitors spent more than half an hour shaking hands.
“It’s fantastic, a brilliant moment for Donegal town,” he said.
“The Prince and Duchess are very, very welcome. We are delighted that they chose, of all places, Donegal town.
“The children were very keen to come and see them but definitely we thought it was an important day. It’s an historic moment and a moment they will remember forever - it’s unlikely they will have another opportunity.”
The McGettigan brothers revealed that they had worked for six months on a new sausage, named the “Buckingham Black Banger”, in honour of the royal visit.
Diarmuid revealed the recipe of half black pudding with home-cured bacon and pear, which he said was “fit for a future king”.
Ernan said of meeting Charles and Camilla: “It was a rollercoaster.
“He’s so normal, down-to-earth, one of us - there’s nothing different about him.
“He’s put out the hand of friendship to us in the north-west of Ireland for the second time in 12 months so obviously what do we do, we put the hand back, straight back to him. We must be doing something right.”
The McGettigans said the Prince was amazed at the story of their father Michael giving up a career as a doctor to become a butcher.
Ernan said: “He was flabbergasted by that - how did my father end up in butchering?
“He ended up killing things instead of saving things, as my grandfather said, but fortunately there has to be somebody to do everything.”
The butchers offered Charles sausages to take away with him but he declined the offer.
Ernan added: “He had no fridge. Even though he had everything else in the car he said he’d no fridge.”
But the butchers said an “avenue had opened” to get sausages sent to the Prince in July.
Charles tasted a hickory maple sausage, a European champion for the shop.
“He was wiped away by it,” Ernan said.
The Duchess tasted a lamb and rosemary and plum sausage.
Ernan added: “On the way out the door, I said ‘I hope you come back’ and ‘Well,’ he said, ‘It’s taken me 70 years to get here in the first place so I think I’ll have to think about that one.’ That’s as close to yes as we’ll ever get.”
The royal couple also visited the Magee of Donegal tweed factory before attending a civic reception at Letterkenny Institute of Technology.
Two women protested against the visit on the edge of Donegal town.
During the walkabout in the Diamond, Camilla remarked that the weather had held for the crowds and the visit.
“We got a good day - it cleared up,” she said.