Cycling Cork to Westport August 2010
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!