Cycling Cork to Westport August 2010

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From Abbeyfeale we cycled to Listowel where I'd booked a room in a B&B beforehand. This was fine and we ate in an Indian Restaurant which was excellent. Listowel which is a beautiful old town has a big tourist industry and most of the restaurants had pricelists from cloud cuckooland. They were empty! Ireland is in the middle of an economic battering and this is not a surprise to yours truly. Many economists here went on and on about how this was going to happen and the government refused to listen. My own feeling on this is that the politicians knew deep down that they were creating a mess, but were hoping that it wouldn't happen when they were in power. Gordon Brown did exactly the same thing in Britain. Now the Coalition are trying to fix it, God bless them.

Anyway, enough of politics.
The next morning after the usual traditional coronary Irish breakfast (which we never eat at home!) we cycled the short distance to Tarbert to get the Tarbert-Killimer ferry. Taibeart means isthmus in Irish/Scots Gaelic and there are a few Tarberts in Ireland and in Scotland. The ferry takes something like 20 minutes to cross the River Shannon estuary.

Italian motorcycle couple with whom we conversed on the ferry. Jolly people!

The Shannon is the longest river in the British Isles (as you can see from my blogs, I'm into useless information!).
We left Killimer heading west and took the first small country road to the right. I took this years ago and so did Kern, recently. If you follow it it is a hilly quiet and rather nice road straight to the coast at Quilty. En route we slipped over the wall of a school which was closed for the holidays, to get shelter, made coffee and had more cake. I like fruitcake. I like it a very lot!. Every family has its own phrases. "A very lot" is in our family list of phrases. I heard a little English boy say it on holidays once. I've used it since!

At Quilty we had the old baguettewithfriedchickenlunch and then trundled along through Lahinch

and uphill towards the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher on the right day are stunning. They've done a lot of upgrading, or downgrading, depending on your point of view on this as it's a huge visitor attraction. There are some shops there and there's a lot of paving. You have to pay to park a car there and so on. I preferred it when it was untouched, but the view is still great.

Mary of Moher!

We then dropped down to Doolin and checked into an expensive (100 euro) and very fancy B&B we'd booked. In high season, which this was, we would book. Otherwise not. Ireland has a phenomenal amount of accommodation. Doolin is a village with two centres and is the epicentre of live Irish music. It was black with tourists (a phrase from Irish) and we had problems getting a place to eat but had very satisfactory pizzas in a pizza place where we had a long chat with some Spaniards. I speak simple phrase-book Spanish but Mary is better at it. We headed back to the B&B and to bed. The weather had been drizzly for much of the day.

The following morning it was drizzling as we headed off to cycle the Burren Coast Road. The Burren is an area of erored limestone, which is called Karst landscape after a place of that name in the old Yugoslavia. I've seen a small similar area in Provence. It was caused by all the trees being felled by the population about 5000 years ago, it appears. The soil then eroded, exposing the rock. The Arran Islands are similar. Ireland has only been populated about 10000 years, whereas Britain was first populated 17000 years ago when it was still attached to the continent. Latest research on DNA concludes that the Irish are of Basque origin. Basques sailed here after the last ice-age and populated the place. There is an unusual DNA marker characteristic of the Basques which has a prevalence of 95% in Connemara. It's found in e.g. only 1% of Turks.

The Burren coast road is one of the finest roads to cycle that I have seen. Soon I'll write a blog about all my great roads. It hugs the coast all the way to Ballyvaughan, affording lovely views.

At Ballyvaughan we had coffee but got drenched to the skin by a sudden shower from hell! My bone-marrow was wet after it. From here on the quiet road became really busy and no fun at all. It's not a good idea to cycle from Ballyvaughan to Kinvara in high season. Earlier or later in the year, there would be little traffic. We proceeded in heavy rain towards Galway and then left, on the outskirts, into Oranmore. By now the sun had come out. Approaching the city centre we spotted a hotel/bar/restaurant complex on the left. It was super. Great room, not expensive (80 Euro), great cheapish food and really busy, or buzzing as we say here. We didn't venture out as we've often been in Galway before. We call it Gollway, but Galway people call Gawlway. That's how you know they're from there!

The next day was divided into two halves, and as a famous eccentric recently-retired sports commentator continued on one occasion, the first followed by the second! As an aside, on another occasion he said.."The game was divided into two halves, the first half was even, the second half even worse!" Anyway, back to the cycle. Galway is a lovely county but it has very few roads. We had to cycle the only road to Oughterard and from there to Maam Cross. This was a Saturday, in August and the world and his wife were driving to Clifden. We were tortured by traffic and impatient drivers as far as Maam Cross. We were continually passed on corners. Mary is a very reticent cyclist. Had one of my mates been cycling with me, we would've cycled two abreast and stopped this stupid nonsense. The most the drivers would've been delayed was maybe 20 seconds.

In Maam Cross (which, obscurely is Teach Dóite in Irish which means Burnt House?), which is the big crossroads in the middle of Connemara, there was a big busy farmers' market. The above man was a former fisherman from the Arran Islands with whom I had a long chat in Irish. My dialect and his are about as different as Scouse and Geordie, but due to Irish-speaking radio we all understand each other now if we speak it. He was a lovely man and did all his business in Irish if the customer spoke any. Galway people often have pretty good Irish. We got fantastic sandwiches made at 100mph by a man and his wife in a van. I've never seen such efficiency. As she was taking the money from the people, he was keeping up production. You can't beat being self-employed in such a setup!

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9 comments on “Cycling Cork to Westport August 2010”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    Nice report Garry. I enjoyed the read and the photos. Stunning scenery as usual. We must go to Ireland one day.

    The Irish economy is front page news in the UK. I hope they sort it out soon. Like elsewhere, too much public expenditure.

  2. Chris wrote:

    Wow! Really dramatic photographs, Garry. (Do you get bored of reading that sort of comment?) The later ones look both beautiful and bleak at the same time.

    I always imagined that I would cycle to my cousin's house in Bristol and stay there for a bit. I never did, and I probably never will now. I think it must give a rather warm feeling to have part of your family cycle so many miles to your home.

  3. Garry Lee wrote:

    Not dramatic photos, Chris. Dramatic scenery. Parts of the West of Ireland are like the West of Scotland, pretty impressive. Scotland has bigger scenery, Ireland, being further south has better colour! England has of course stunning places like Yorkshire, the Peak District and the Lake District as well as fabulous towns like Durham etc.

  4. Hilary wrote:

    Those photos of Sheffrey Pass look stunning. As you say, very like the west of Scotland – I'd have been sure that was Scotland! I've been meaning to cycle in Ireland since I went on a family holiday in 1975! Must get there one day.

  5. Patrick wrote:

    Let's not forget Wales. The Welsh landscape is outstanding. Something else that distinguishes Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales (and the Isle of Man as part of the British Isles) is the buildings dotted over the countryside. They are different in each country and add character. I haven't seen many painted as colourfully as the Irish ones!

  6. Kern wrote:

    Ah, Garry, memories, memories ... I'm particularly tickled that you took the shortcut! Mary and I definitely cast our vote for Ireland as one of the best places to cycle, based on our tour this spring. Excellent.

  7. Garry Lee wrote:

    I took this shortcut for the first time about 8 years ago. It's a nice ride as well!

  8. Nicole Broderick wrote:

    I want to do this tour very much, as my ancestors come from this area (you've mentioned Dáithí Ó'Bruadair in this post). I actually found this while searching for more information on my ancestors (unrelated to a cycling search, but what a serendipitous world this is – as I am very big on cycling, do it almost every day!) I heard Ireland was a good place to cycle, I have wondered if I could cycle the area my ancestors came from. This would be the ultimate experience for me! Thank you so much for sharing!

  9. Kern wrote:

    Hi Nicole. My wife and I did this tour in 2010 (with good advice from Garry). In my humble opinion, you can't go wrong with this ride – it was one of the most enjoyable tours we have done. Go for it!

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