Back to Top

Ireland flagIreland 2016 - 'You don't come to Ireland for the weather' Tour

Having been to the south west of Ireland back in 2004 we had always said that we would like to go back to Ireland again. As we were in North Wales this summer and not far from Holyhead we decided that a short tour of the west coast of Ireland was a possibility.

07.08.16 - Llangollen to Dublin

We drove from Llangollen to Holyhead arriving just before 12 o’clock. We bought our long stay parking ticket at the Stena line office at the terminal at Holyhead and after stop for a cup of tea and a sandwich we drove around to the long stay car park where we unloaded our bikes and loaded up the panniers. It was a short ride around to the check in. There was quite a queue for the Stena line but fortunately no queue for the Irish Ferries and we were soon checked in. It was quite a ride from the check in to terminal 3 where we were directed to wait with a motor cycle. Eventually we were asked to board and it was a good pull up the ramp to deck 5 where we were directed to the forward starboard side where there was a place for bicycles. It turned out to be a standard front wheel bike rack. I explained to the seaman on the deck that there was no way we would put our bikes in them and that they needed to lashed to the deck sides as they were too heavy. He found us a place and we lashed the two bikes together. Once on the main decks Frank noticed that they had a cinema. We watched ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ with Samuel L Jackson which was quite enjoyable and certainly made the three and a half hour journey go quickly. It reminded us of the many occasions we had watched films on the old HSS ferry from Harwich to the Hoek van Holland.

We docked at Dublin at 5.30 pm and we were the last to be let off the ferry which wasn't a bad thing as we didn't have to fight with all the traffic. Unfortunately it was a bit windy with a few showers which fortunately weren't too heavy. Using the map on the GPS we managed to find our way into the centre of Dublin. Some of the Dublin streets have cycle lanes which helps. Eventually we found our hotel, which luckily had some secure parking around the back for our bikes. With our panniers taken up to our room we set off to find somewhere for our evening meal. The lassie on the hotel reception had recommended the ‘Chopshop’ which was only 5 minutes around the corner. It was a gastro pub and we were lucky to get a table as it was very busy. It was lovely food and the waitresses were very efficient as there were no delays in each course arriving.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image

08.08.15 - Dublin to Galway

Our plan had been to catch a train to Galway so we could cycle some of the the west coast. When we had been to Ireland before in 2004 we hadn't had any trouble in getting on to the trains in Ireland as they were the old style trains with guards vans so they could take any number of bikes. Unfortunately now it seems the trains can only take 2 bikes and you have to book these in advance. Well by advance in the summer it seems like months in advance! We had to come up with a plan, we thought about the getting a bus across to Galway but that is always discretionary on the driver and with it being the summer the buses would be fully booked as well so probably the same as the trains. Frank came up with a cunning plan to hire a van. It worked a treat we picked up a van in the middle of Dublin and loaded the bikes onto it and drove to Galway.

It was interesting driving out of Dublin as the signposting is dreadful to non existent but once we got on to the motorway it was a straightforward three and a half hours drive. When we got to Galway the first campsites we looked for weren't there so we had to find the other ones at Salthill which was at the other side of the city. Unfortunately the traffic wasn't very good and it was slow going through all the numerous traffic lights. We eventually got to the campsite a 4.55pm and I needed to get the van back to the Europcar depot by 5.30pm. We quickly unloaded the bikes and panniers and I left Frank to put up the tent while I took the van back. Fortunately the traffic wasn't quite as bad going the other way but I only just got to the van rental place by 5.25pm. The guy at Europcar very kindly called a taxi for me. It actually wasn't as far as I had thought so I could have left my bike in the van and ridden back to the campsite. It actually might have been quicker than the taxi as we got caught up in heavy traffic and crawled along back to Salthill!

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
image spacer spacer spacer

09.08.16 - Galway

After all our travelling and exertions at the Welsh Mega Frank really needed a rest day to catch up on some sleep. It gave us a chance to plan a route and sort accommodation. In the afternoon we did a bit of caching around the local area.

10.08.16 - Galway to Carran

map linkWe were woken up by the sound of rain on the tent fortunately it was only a short shower. After breakfast it didn't take long too long to get packed and on our way. Our original plan was to ride to Doolin but last night we decided that it was too far and we wouldn't see too much of the Burren so we had arranged accommodation in the Clare’s rock hostel at Carron. There was a cyclepath that left right from the campsite that took us along the bay to the promenade. When we got to the promenade unfortunately we weren't allowed to cycle on it so we had to get onto the road. The road took us along the sea front past the funfair before we heading in land for the centre of Galway. As we past over the Wolfe Tone bridge over the river friar we stopped to find the cache which was situated in the fisheries Tower. We don't often find caches that are in buildings but on going into the old town we went on to find the Hall of the Red Earl cache which was again inside the building. This time the cache was at the ruins of a medieval building they had discovered right in the center of the old part of Galway. The cache was attached to the visitors book and there were a French couple signing the log and they laughed when I said that there was need to put the cache container back as we needed to sign it.

Our route out of Galway was pretty straight forward with some of it on cycle lanes but mostly on the road. When we got to the N18 it was fairly busy but there was a good hard shoulder that we could cycle along that kept us away from the traffic. At Kilcolgan we turned on to the N67. The traffic was much less on this road which was fortunate as it lacked any hard shoulder to cycle on. We stopped in Ballinderreen for some lunch and found a little park just off the main road where there were a bench we could sit on and make a brew and make some sandwiches. While we sat there a little white dog appeared I think he was hopeful of a bite of our sandwiches. At Dunguaire we stopped to have a look at the Castle. Inside they had a banqueting hall which they were getting ready for a banquet that evening. The evening's entertainment of two singers and a harpist were practicing. We stopped and listened to a couple of their songs as they were really rather good. After exploring the rest of the castle we headed outside to find a cache that was close by. After finding the cache we cycled on to Greatgas to find a supermarket to get something for our evening meal. From there we headed off along the N67 for a couple of miles with views across the bay of Galway until we found the L1014 which would take us into the Burren and to Carran where the Clare’s Rock Hostel was. It was typical limestone terrain with barren hillsides and farms in the valley.

There was very little traffic on the road which was good as we could enjoy the scenery. As we had started from sea level we gradually began climbing and at one point the road was fairly steep as it wound its way through a small wooded gorge. It was a good pull up and certainly got the heart pumping. We then dropped into a small valley from which there was another climb out. As we got towards what I hoped was the final summit we met another cyclist coming the way. He waved and called across to say that the summit wasn't very far away. We had underestimated the distance a little as it was getting late in the evening and we wondered if we would get to the hostel before 9.00pm.Eventually we got to the top and then it was a short run down into Carran and we soon found the hostel. We arrived just before 9.00pm which was fortunate as the warden was about to leave. She showed us to our room and then the hostel facilities.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image  

11.08.16 - Carran

map linkOur plan had been to have moved on to Dooly today however we woke to torrential rain which judging by the forecast was set in for the day. I suggested to Frank that if we could stay another night at the hostel the weather looked better for tomorrow and we might then actually see a bit more of the Burren in some sunshine. Fortunately the room was available for another night so we had lazy morning and in the afternoon the rain had eased a little so we donned full waterproofs and went for a walk around the village to find a few caches that had been placed as a round walk. Although it was raining and the clouds were down low the walk took us across some of the limestone pavements with the clints and grikes full of lovely wild flowers and to St Fachtnan’s Holy Well. We ran out of time to complete the whole walk as we needed to get back for our evening meal at the pub in the village.


Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image    

12.08.16 - Carran to Doolin

map linkOur decision to wait another day was worth it as we woke up to a lovely sunny morning. We set off for Doolin our objective for the day, as seems to be the case it was uphill from the hostel which isn't easy on legs that haven't had a chance to warm up. On reaching the summit of the first hill we were rewarded with a lovely view of the Burren. The fields were full of flowers soaking up the sunshine. After the initial climb the road was narrow with limestone walls on either side and wound its way up and down through walled meadows. We met a party of cyclists coming the other way who were obviously on an organised cycling holiday. On reaching the junction of the R480 we turned right to have a look at the Caherconnell (Cathair Chonhaill) stone fort. This was to be the first of many stone forts we would see on this trip. After looking around the fort which was similar to the Staigue fort we had seen on the Dingle peninsula we stopped at the visitor centre for a cup of tea. It was lovely sitting outside in the sunshine on their terrace. What we couldn't see as the building was in the way was the black clouds coming in from the west.

It wasn't until we left and were heading up the R480 to have a look at the Poulnabrone Dolmen portal tomb that we saw the black clouds. It was just as we pulled into the car park and were parking our bikes did it started to spit with rain. Having seen the Dolmen stone and collected the necessary information for the earthcache we headed back to cafe at the Caderconnell stone fort to get out of the rain and have some lunch. With some warm seafood chowder in us we put on a full set of waterproofs and headed back out. The rain hadn't eased at all whilst we had been having our lunch in fact it seemed to have got worse and there was a strong westerly wind and guess which way we were heading? You guessed it correct it was straight in our faces. As we pressed up the first hill even though we had our waterproofs done up as tight as we could you could feel the rain hitting your face and starting to run down inside, this wasn't going to be a pleasant ride! After our initial climb fortunately our route to Klifenora was mostly downhill along quiet lanes through meadows with limestone walls. The rain just didn't let up and we were glad to get to Doolin. As it had been raining hard the wind had blown rain into every orifice even with our good waterproofs we were both a trifle damp. I suggested to Frank that we look out for a B&B she didn't disagree! Luckily at the junction leading down to Doolin I saw a sign ‘Harbour View B&B ‘ fortunately for us she had a double room. It was great to get out of the rain and have a nice warm shower.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image    

13.08.16 - Doolin & The Cliffs of Moher

map linkWe rode the bikes down to Doolin and pitched the tent at the Riverside campsite and set off for the Cliffs of Moher to use the ATM as we running short of cash in Euros. Although it was uphill the quiet lane that we took for the most part was lined with beautiful Montbretia and and honeysuckle with good views over to the Aran Islands. We had to use the main road for the last part which involved a bit of a hill climb fortunately the traffic wasn't too bad and we soon came to the Cliffs of Moher. It was absolutely heaving with coach parties, we found the ATM in the main shop and went to have a look at the cliffs which are OK but not that spectacular, maybe earlier in the year when the birds are nesting it might be a bit more interesting. At least the weather was clear so we could see the Aran Islands and we managed to bag an earthcache.

On returning to the visitors centre Frank suggested we have something to eat at the restaurant as it would save us cooking when we got back to the tent. On returning to the bikes we noticed a ‘Bicycle Maintenance Station’ what a great idea we thought until we had a look at it. It had some useful tools which were held on with nice stainless steel wires but sadly the tools weren’t stainless steel and in the sea air had rusted so much they were next to useless! On leaving the Cliffs of Moher our only thought was ‘Oh dear what a Grockle spot’, way over the top for what are a very uninteresting set of cliffs, If you do come this way it is not really worth the effort unless you like Grockle spots. We returned to Doolin back the way we had come which was an easy ride down hill.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image      

14.08.16 - Doolin to Inis Oírr

map linkIt was a very noisy campsite but I was determined to not let it get to me and tried to block it out by listening to music on my phone. But eventually at 2.30am I had had enough of it and really shouted at them. I think if I hadn't they would have gone on all night. Why are people so selfish and think that they can party all night on a campsite with no care for others. I am happy for them to party all night but hire a farmer's field miles from anyone that they might disturb! We wished we had stayed at the other campsite now. We had some early showers but it seemed to be brightening a bit and we managed to get the tent down and packed reasonably dry. Our first port of call was to the tourist information office and bought the ferry tickets for the 1pm crossing before going to the cafe next-door for a quick cup of tea. It was overcast but a dry crossing and we were soon across the water to Inis Oírr and pulling into the little concrete jetty. Our panniers were off loaded by one of the crew throwing them across for me to catch. Fortunately they didn't do the same with the bikes which were more gently handed down to us. Inis Oírr is perhaps one of the the more commercial of the Aran Islands as it is the closest to the mainland, you are greeted by an array of places to hire bikes and pony and traps offering rides around the island. For any tourists who are on a day trip to the island this a nice way to see the island. We asked one of the the girls who was running one of the the bike hire places and she told us that it was behind the beach and if we followed the road we couldn't miss it. On the way we stopped at theCnoc Raithní which is a prehistoric monastic site. if there hadn't been a sign there you would have thought it was a small walled mound. We found the campsite which was a flat machair type area behind the beach dunes. There were a few tents pitched close to the dunes side after last night's noise we elected to camp away from them on the other side of the field. While Frank was sorting the tent I nipped to the shop to buy some milk and something for our evening.

On my return we set off to explore the island, what was nice was that some kind cacher had set up a multi-cache on the island which took in various interesting places on the island. The first stage took us to a ruined church Cill Ghobnait – An Teampall which was in amongst the dunes and I mean literally in the dunes. Obviously when it was built there weren't any dunes they had formed around it. From there we followed the main road past the small island airport where we collected our next set of information and then twisted our way through narrow limestone walled lanes to the wreck of the MV Plassy which on 8 March 1960 while sailing through Galway Bay carrying a cargo of whiskey, stained glass and yarn, was caught in a severe storm and ran onto Finnis Rock, Inisheer. A group of local Islanders, the Inisheer Rocket Crew, rescued the entire crew from the stricken vessel using a breeches buoy. Several weeks later, a second storm washed the ship off the rock and drove her ashore on the island. After exploring the vessel and collecting the answers to stage 3 we went on to find the earthcache ‘Fossils of Inisheer’ which was a little bit further on along the coast. it was a long a track which initially was easy to cycle although when it got to the sea's edge it was just large stones so we had to get off the bikes and walk. Once we had found the fossils and the the information we needed for the earthcache we headed along the track towards the lighthouse where stage 4 of the multi-cache was. Unfortunately the track just turned into a boulder strewn mess which was difficult to push the bikes over so we elected to push them through the field adjacent to the track which was OK until we reached a wall and we had climb back onto the boulder field to get around it. It wasn't easy as the boulder bank was quite loose. A group of young people who had been fishing were passing on the boulders above us and one of them saw me struggling and helped me by grabbing the bikes as I kept slipping back with the loose stones. I thanked him for his help and he helped me get the bikes down the other side. Fortunately there were no more walls and we could see a gate leading onto the road leading up to the entrance to the lighthouse where the clue to the 4th stage of our multi-cache was. Just as we were looking for this clue we met the party of fishermen again who had helped me with the bikes, they were staying at the lighthouse.

Our route took us back towards the ruined castle which stands on the highest point of the island. On the way we met a couple of the local farmers who had just moved a couple of their cows into one of the small fields. We stopped and had a chat mainly about the weather and farming on Inis Oírr. When we got to the castle we got a good view of the island and across to Inis Meáin. With the final answer to the multi-cache we calculated the coordinates for the final cache. It was down near the harbour however after an extensive search we couldn't find the cache, we double checked our answers but they seemed to be correct. It was quite funny as the place we were looking was outside a Pub and there were a couple sat on a bench. It is not easy to look for a cache when there are muggles about. The guy obviously saw we were looking for something and asked us if we were looking for fossils. A bit quick thinking on my part “yes there are supposed to be some good ones on the island” Yes he said there is a good one just below you. He was right it was a cracker much better than the ones we had seen at the Fossils earthcache. We never did find the cache but it didn’t matter as it served its purpose as it got us to see the best bits of the island. Before we left to go back to the campsite we decided we couldn’t miss out on a pint of Guinness at the pub. We sat outside and drank them watching a lovely sunset.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
 
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image      

map link15.08.16 - Inis Oírr to Inis Meáin

It was a beautiful morning with not a cloud in the sky. We packed up all the kit and left it in the tent so when we got back all we had to do was take the tent down and pack that. We set off for a cycle ride down one of the many limestone walled lanes to explore a bit more of the island. It was beautiful in the sunshine and we kept stopping to look at the wild flowers. The fields were small meadows absolutely full of wild flowers and we spend a while looking at and taking photos of them. After we had explored many of the islands lanes we headed back to the campsite to have some lunch before we went down to the ferry jetty. We caught the 3.00pm ferry to Inis Mór which took about 35 minutes.

Inis Meáin isn't touristy like Inis Oírr and there are no horse and cart rides, ice cream sellers or bike hire places. In fact the only thing at the new harbour was a bus shelter, it was quite refreshing! The Aran Islands website says that there is camping on all the islands but we weren't sure where we could camp so we decided to ride into the center of the island where the church and the pub were to try and find out. As we were cycling up the lane from the harbour there were a young couple walking towards us. I asked them if they were from the island and where the campsite is. She said she didn't know but you can ask the taxi driver who is just coming up behind us now. I waived the taxi down and asked the lady driver. She said we could camp anywhere but most people camp near the beach or we could camp in the big field by the church. I asked her if there was water there, oh yes she replied. We decided that the beach would be perfect for us as it wasn't too far away from the harbour for our ferry in the morning. We headed into the center to find the one shop where we purchased some things for our evening meal and a couple of ice creams which we sat outside on a picnic bench to eat. It was a glorious day and as we sat there we got chatting to a local lady who lived on the island. She had moved there 5 years ago and hadn’t regretted the move, she said there were a few problems with it being an island such as there was no garage or mechanic on the island so getting a car repaired was a little tricky and they had to make trips to Galway to buy clothes etc.

Inis Meáin is very similar to all the other Aran islands with its small fields surrounded by the high limestone stone walls but this one seemed the most serene. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening exploring the island. Like Inis Oírr it had the high Limestone walls surrounding small fields. Our first stop after the shop was Dún Crocbhur (Conor’s Fort), it is very typical of the stone hill forts in western Ireland with thick dry stone walls enclosing a large area and this one had the remains of what looked like building walls inside. There were some beautiful views from the top of the fort across Inis Meáin and across to the Cliffs of Moher. The flowers inside the enclosure were again lovely and we noticed more bird life on Inis Meáin. There were meadow pipits, wrens and jackdaws. Feeding on the Ragwort were Cinnabar Moth caterpillars. As we were leaving the Dún Crocbhur we meet a lady and she had obviously spotted Frank taking a photo of a flower near the entrance. Oh she said if you like flowers you must follow this lane as further on the fields are absolutely full of wildflowers. We thanked her for the information and headed off along the lane she had suggested. She was absolutely right as the fields were an amazing sight and we spent a good hour or more exploring them and taking photos of the flowers.

It was getting late in the evening and we still needed to find our camping spot at the beach so we headed back to the Catholic church to see about the water that the taxi lady had said was there. The church is a simple classic architecture with a Norman style doors and windows which is rendered and painted white. Against the dark blue light it looked stunning and reminded us of the simple white coloured churches in Iceland. Fortunately the church was open so we had a look inside, for a catholic church it was very restrained and simple, with the stations of the cross along the walls and some lovely stained glass windows. The lady taxi driver was right there was a cold water tap behind the church outside which we used to fill our water container. We then cycled off down the road to the ferry jetty turning right just before it to take us down to the beach. We found a lovely spot on the machair just behind the beach. It was a lovely warm summers evening and it was nice to sit outside the tent and cook and we were treated to another stunning sunset, a great end to a great day.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image

map link16.08.16 - Inis Meáin to Inis Mór

We had a really comfortable and quiet nights sleep and woke to a beautiful bright sunny morning. For some reason I thought the ferry went at 10.00am so we were up at 7.00am to be ready to leave at 9.00am. We got to the harbour at about 9.20am and as we had a bit of time we made a brew sitting in the bus shelter. It got to 9.55am and there was no sign of the ferry or anyone coming for it. On checking the ticket it went at 10.45am, doh what an idiot for not checking last night! We had another 45 minutes to wait so we brewed up again in the shelter of the bus stop. Whilst I was looking out for the ferry on the harbour wall I couple of fisherman came past in a traditional Currach fishing boat, it seemed quite strange to see such an ancient boat design being sped along by an outboard engine. As 10.45am came a boat appeared around the headland and a couple of cars arrived at the harbour. It was the ‘Pirate Queen’ which was from the other ferry company and it was fairly full. I helped them dock by taking the hawser and helping the lad haul the gang plank up onto the quay. The crewman on the ferry was a bit of a laugh as he shouted “this is Inis Meáin and you don't want to get off here as there is no food on the island”. I am sure that the cafe and pub owners wouldn't have liked to hear that. I asked him about the other company's boat, “Oh that is 5 minutes behind us, they are always late”. Well when we looked over the harbour wall there it was coming around the headland. It was the Rose of Aran which had brought us over yesterday. It to was fairly full, the good weather was obviously bringing visitors to the islands.

Again it was a 35 minutes crossing and we were soon pulling into Cill Rónáin harbour and you could tell that this was the the bigger of the 3 Islands. We had intended to camp on Inis Mór but after enquiring at the information place the lady told us that the campsite was basic with no showers. After wild camping last night and having had to use the ‘Nivea for kids’ suncream which was just like applying and wearing Pritt stick. We are not joking we will never buy that again but it was the only factor 30 sun cream we could get, so due to the stickiness of the sun cream we desperately want a shower. We decided to book into a B&B, fortunately the lady at the tourist information centre could do this for us and she soon had it arranged. Our B&B was about a mile out of Cill Rónáin on the road going west. As we cycled out of Cill Rónáin there were palms growing in some of the gardens which suggested that Inis Mór’s has quite a temperate climate and that the temperatures aren’t too bad in winter. In the bright sunshine it gave the island a slight mediterranean feel. The lady at the tourist information office had said that it wasn’t far out of the village and it was indeed further on than where she had marked on the free map that she had given us. When we eventually found the B&B it was very pleasant and the lady gave us the pick of the rooms and we elected for the one that was upstairs with a see view. Having taken our panniers up to our room we set off to explore the island, one place we did want to visit was Dún Aonghasa hill fort.

There is one main road that runs the length of Inis Mór and our B&B was just off it so we headed west through a place marked on the map as ‘Oatquarter’ before reaching the beach at Port Mhuirbhigh where we turned of left to Dún Aonghasa. There is a visitors centre with a bike park full of hire bikes. The visitors centre has some interpretive information on the hill fort and from there is a 900m track that you walk up to get to the fort. Dún Aonghasa is set on the to of some sea cliffs which are at 300 ft above sea level so it is a good climb up the track. Dún Aonghasa is the oldest of the island's stone forts and consists of 4 sets of dry stone walls and a defensive feature known as a “Chevaux de frise” which is a section on spiky thin rocks set upright and at angles in the ground. When you get into the inner stone walled enclosure which is a semi circular shape with the straight side along the cliff edge there is a raised platform on the sea cliff side but no wall along the sea cliff side. Although excavations have revealed significant evidence of prehistoric metalworking, as well as several houses and burials it rather occurred to us that this left the site very exposed to the full force of the westerly gales and that it was probably used more for ceremonial use rather than as permanent place to live, unless there had been a wall on the sea cliff side at some time and that this had since fallen into the sea. It is all conjecture as we understood that in victorian times the fort was in disrepair and was essentially rebuilt in places as the buttresses of the inner enclosure are not original.

On our way to the next hill fort Dún Eochla we saw some Belted Galloway cows which are native to the west coast of Scotland so were a long way from home and someone had a great vegetable patch complete with a lovely scarecrow. Dún Eochla is another stone fort on the highest point of the island. The fort is circular and consists of two terraced walls. Inside there is circular stone platform with a small set of steps up one side similar to those that give access to the main enclosure walls. Outside the main enclosure was a Neolithic Wedge Tomb. Close by was Eochail Tower and an old lighthouse which was derelict. On our way back to our B&B we noticed some warning signs for pony and traps although funnily we didn’t see any unlike on Inis Oírr. In the evening we when for a meal at the Aran Islands hotel. When we had finished they had some entertainment put on for the residents, a singer Johnny Gorman from Dublin. The party of Americans who were staying lapped it up.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image  

map link17.08.16 - Inis Mór

As we sat eating our full Irish Breakfast at the B&B we could see that it ws raining on checking the forecast it said it would stop about midday so we sat in the B&B lounge and read for a while until it did infact stop close to 12.00am. Arm with our waterproofs in our panniers we set off to explore a bit more of the island. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t as good as the last couple of days with it being a bit overcast. We decide to headed of to the west of the island to have a look at the Teampall Bhreacáin (Church of Brecan), commonly called the Seven Churches of Aran. It is a complex of churches and other buildings dedicated to the 5th-century Saint Brecan, once a popular destination for pilgrims. It was interesting to try and spot the seven churches but we are told there are only 2 churches the rest are the ruins of outbuildings.

From there we climbed up to Dun Eoghanachta which is another stone hill fort. It has a terraced wall which is almost circular with a diameter of 90ft. Inside it had some beautiful wildflowers and outside the main fort was a small Clochán or beehive hut. We have seen beehive huts before in Ireland but this was really quite a small example that we wondered for what or why it was built. With its high elevationthe hill fort gave us some good views of the island, it was just a shame that the weather wasn’t as good as yesterday. That evening we had our evening meal in the Bayview Restaurant in Cill Rónáin right next to the harbour. They were doing a special ‘Surf & Turf platter for 2, which comprised 2 Steaks, Cajun Chicken breast, Lobster, Garlic prawns and Calamari, it was absolutely yummy!

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image

map link18.08.16 - Inis Mór to Rusheenamanagh

We had our full Irish Breakfast at the B&B and paid the lady for our stay. We left the B&B just after 11.00am to cycle down to the harbour to catch the 12.00am ferry to Ros an Mhíl. We stopped off at the Spar to use their ATM to make sure that we had plenty of cash should we need it. We quickly asked at the tourist information place about where to buy the tickets for the ferry and the lady told us that we could buy them on the ferry. We could see that the ferry was in, so we cycled over to it along the quay. The crewman told us to take the panniers off and give them to the crewman at the aft of the vessel. Good thing that our bikes are strong and the wheels are on tight as it was a long way down and the crewman was holding them by their front wheels so that the crewman below could reach them. It was a good thing that we had taken off all the bottles and pumps etc. We decided to sit on deck and although it was overcast it was fairly warm but as we got out of the harbour and the skipper took it up to full speed it started to get a little chilly so we had to put fleeces and waterproof jackets on. It was a smooth uneventful crossing with very little bird life to see and unfortunately the Connemara hills were covered in clouds.

We were soon passing the Martello Tower at use to protect the entrance to Rossaveal harbour. There were several fishing boats and a vehicle ferry moored in the harbour as we motored in. The crewmen were very efficient at getting our bikes off the ferry and with all the panniers back on the bike we were soon heading of on the R372. The roadside was lined in places by purple-loosestrife and montbretia which made a lovely display. At Derroe we turned left onto the R336 and crossed over the Cashla river, at Casla Costelloe we carried on along the R336 past various Loughs, Lough Hasvnaghaneekyne, Lough Carrafinla, Lough Nacreeeva and when we came to Loch na Foirneise we came across the Siopa cafe by the side of the road. As it was nearly lunchtime we stopped and had a pot of tea and a toasted cheese sandwich which was actually very yummy and really hit the spot. A couple of miles further on we turned on to the R340. Although the weather was overcast it was good cycling as it was fairly flat and there was little traffic on the road. At Gortmore we stopped to look at a memorial to Boxer Mike Flaherty which was next to the ‘Páirc na bPiarach’ which we assume was a Gaelic hurling venue. As we cycled along we had a good view of some of the Connemara mountains at Derryrush. At Flannery Bridge we stopped to take some pictures and saw an otter swimming across the water.

At Cill Chiaráin we had stopped to look at the map to see how far it was to Roundstone. A lady come out of her house to ask us if we were lost. I explained that we knew where we were we were just trying to workout how far it was to Roundstone. Oh she said that is a good 40 mins in the car from here it will take you much longer by bike. As it was now 4.30pm it was going to be another 3 hours cycling. I asked here if there was anywhere we could camp perhaps a beach. Her daughter had come out of the house by then and she suggested that there was a beach at Ardmore you could try, turn left at a pub. We thanked them both and headed off, fortunately just a mile further on we came to a shop, it was the only one we had come across today. We stopped to get some milk and something fresh for our tea rather than have to have one of our dehydrated meals. At Ardmore we turned off down to Ardmore harbour, unfortunately there were too many houses about, we tried a little track that took us to another beach but there was no where to pitch a tent. We headed back up to the R340 and turned right to try and find something else as there were several tracks marked on our map going down to the sea off the road. The first couple looked like they led to housing but the next looked promising. When we got to the beach we found a perfect sized patch of grass just up from the beach where we pitched our tent opposite Fínis island. It was far enough away from any housing and on the shoreline that we didn’t think anyone would object. It was such a lovely spot to camp next the sea.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image
image image    

map link19.08.16 - Rusheenamanagh to Gurteen Bay

We woke to a lovely sunny but blustery morning. It had blown a hooly all night with strong winds and rain buffeting the tent all night. Our Nallo stood up to it really well but it was noisy with the heavy rain and the wind was so strong we didn't get a lot of sleep. Our very small patch of grass was remarkably comfortable and apart from having to peg the inner so it didn't slide down on the footprint we were fine. After a welcome brew and some breakfast we packed up the tent. We had just started to move the bikes and bags back to the track when a family turned up to explore the beach which was good timing. We were soon back on the R340 heading west towards Roundstone. At Carna we passed the ‘Scoil Mhuire’ the local primary school which looked very irish with its Irish flag flying and statue of ‘Our lady’ in blue and white. Unfortunately the bright blue sky of the early morning gave way to overcast skies as we headed up the R340 which took us around Bertaghboy Bay and by Lough Numbrackkeagh.At least the clouds weren't that low as we got some views of the Connemara mountains in the background. Just after Lough Alurgan we turned off left on to the R342 it was a slightly narrower road but there was little traffic on it and we were soon passing Cashel going around Cashel bay. Near Toombeola we had stopped to take some photos of the Montbretia by the side of the road. While we there we saw a family of tourers on two tandems that passed us going at speed.

We got to Roundstone at about 12.45pm, having left at 9.30am it had taken us just over 3 hours which is what I would have predicted last night, which being tired last night might have meant not getting to the campsite by 9.00pm We are glad we had topped where we had as it was a lovely camping spot despite the bad weather during the night. We had a little look around Roundstone which is quite a nice place with its little harbour. We stopped for some lunch in a cafe and had some rather nice seafood chowder. It was the big decision do we go on the next 13 miles to Clifden or stop here at Roundstone, after the lack of sleep last we were both feeling tired so we bought some food and headed for the campsite at Gurteen Bay which was a couple of miles further on from Roundstone. Along the way we noticed from the things written on the road that someone was not happy about the state of the roads near. We found the campsite and pitched up for the night, it was good to have a shower and the campsite had a little kitchen with table and chairs which was convenient as soon after we arrived it had started to rain.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image image image image
image      

20.08.16 - Gurteen Bay

Well it was a good thing that we hadn’t decided to ride on to Clifden last night as we would have got quite wet. We woke this morning and it was still raining hard with a blustery strong wind buffeting the tent. The cloud level was also down low as we couldn’t see any of the mountain behind the campsite. There was no way we were heading into that wind especially with the heavy rain as well so we decided to stay put. Fortunately the campsite had a small shop so we were able buy some food to keep us going. The young man in the shop said when I asked him about the weather for tomorrow “pretty much the same as the today, rain and strong winds. You don't come to Ireland for the weather! “. How right he was! Behind the campsite shop was a small TV lounge so we spent most of the day watching the Olympics which was much better than sitting in the tent being buffeted by the wind and listening to the rain.

21.08.16 - Gurteen Bay

Guess what the guy in the campsite shop was right the weather was the same as yesterday. Time to make a decision, from the forecast it looked like it wasn’t going to be too bad tomorrow but for the next day after that it would rain and high winds again. One thing Frank hates is cycling in strong winds especially if it was raining as well. At a push we could have cycled back to Galway in a day but the quickest and most direct route would have been down the N59 which is a narrow and busy road. It would have been a long day and we wouldn’t be in time to pick up the van to get us back to Dublin. We worked out from the timetables that we could find online that there was a bus that passed the entrance of the campsite at 9.30am and got into Galway at 11.30am. We decided to catch the bus which was a bit of a gamble as it is at the discretion of the driver as to whether he would take the bikes. Our backup plan should the driver not take the bikes was to leave Frank with the bikes at the campsite and I would catch the bus, pick up the van and then drive back to Roundhouse to pick up Frank and the bikes. With the plan settled we spent the rest of the day in the TV lounge watching the Olympics, which was quite nice as we are normally away touring at this time of year and never get to see the Olympics.

22.08.16 - Gurteen Bay to Galway

Well it had rained all night but by 7.00am it seemed to have stopped. At around 8.00am as we were having breakfast some blue sky appeared and the sun came out it was just enough to get the tent down reasonably dry which I was amazed at given the rain that we had had over the last few days. We were up at the entrance to the campsite at 9.10am and waited for the bus. Fortunately there is a pull in by the campsite entrance that the bus could pull into when it arrived. I asked the driver if he would take the bikes and his reply was “if you can get them in underneath then I will take them”. Fortunately the bus had only come from Clifden and there were only a few other passengers so the lockers underneath the coach were reasonably empty. We had to take off the front wheels to get them in but we managed it. Phew that was a relief as I didn’t really want to have to drive all the way back from Galway to pick up Frank. The bus ride back to Galway was fairly uneventful, we were both quite glad we didn’t decide to ride back to Galway on the N59 as it is indeed a narrow road for a N road with quite a bit of traffic on it.

On reaching Galway bus station we had to put the front wheels back on the bikes and then headed into the center of town to find the Tourist Information Office. We had decided on the bus that as the campsite was quite a way from where we needed to pick up the van and the fact that we needed to get away reasonably quickly in the morning we would stay the night in a B&B. The Tourist Information Office was soon found and we had our accommodation sorted. On our way to the B&B we went into the centre of town to get something to eat, we found a nice little cafe just at the top of Eyre Square and as we were finishing our meal we noticed out of the window a band assembling outside across the pedestrian area. As we walked out of the cafe we went across to have a look. It was a swing band called ‘The Jive Aces’ at a "Say No To Drugs, Say Yes To Life" event. They were really good and we stood and watched them do several numbers. We found out afterwards that they were semi finalists at Britain’s got talent and we have since been to see them live in concert, they were absolutely brilliant fun. We found our B&B easily and settled into our room and I rang a taxi company to take me to the garage to pick up the van as it was too far to have got there by bike before they closed. With the van picked up we were all set for our drive back to dublin tomorrow.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
Photos Slideshow
image image image image
image image image  

23.08.16 - Galway to Home

We had a lovely full Irish breakfast at the B&B and as we sat there eating it it started to rain, good old Irish weather! We set off just after 9.30am and as we set off in the van I put the windscreen wipers on as it was raining and the drivers side wiper flew of into the road. I stopped and retrieved it but it had obviously had a broken connector. We then had to drive to the Enterprise depot to get it repaired which wasn’t easy with no wipers in the pouring rain. They couldn’t repair it there but sent me off to a garage to get it repaired. When we got to the garage there was some doubt as to who will authorise the repair and pay for it, so there was some frantic phone calls back and forth between enterprise and the garage. Eventually it was sorted and the garage put on two new wiper blades. With all this faffing about it was nearly 10.30am by the time we left Galway and we didn’t get to the outskirts of Dublin until just before 1.00pm and we had to find the Enterprise deport.

The map of Dublin that Enterprise had given us wasn’t much help and my phone battery had died. We tried to use the GPs on Frank’s phone but the signal wasn’t very good and it seemed to be sending us the wrong way. Eventually we got to the Enterprise depot at just before 1.30pm and the ferry left at 2.30pm and last call for boarding was at 2.00pm and the ferry port was a good 25 mins ride away and to cap it all it was absolutely chucking it down with rain. Quickly changing into waterproof gear we headed off for the ferry port, fortunately we remembered the route from our our arrival and got to the check in just after 2.00pm they were just about to start loading and waved us through in front of the cars it was perfect timing. We had caught the fast ferry and the crossing was quite quick and uneventful. We were soon entering the harbour at Holyhead and after disembarking it was a short ride around to the long stay car park where we loaded up the car for the long journey back to Suffolk.

Click on the thumbnail images below to see a larger version in a pop up window
image image image spacer
The End.spacer imageTo part 2 -