June – 2020
Taking my lead from the really quite excellent suggested route forwarded from another WarmShowers host, I have expanded on the detail a bit, included some links for reference and, more importantly, changed the order so that I can set out from Inis Óir (the smallest of the Aran Islands on the west coast of Ireland) and finish back there, thus leaving me in the right place to start off on my Trans-European Oddessy to The Black Sea.
I have also added some notes at the end on cycling conditions in general, accommodation options and timings. I will be keeping good record on the daily updates of all these things, but the more general items will be added below.
Please remember, these are just suggestions, I am easy about any changes that take place on the road, that’s what it’s all about – anything can happen to alter your plans.
I have cycled most of this before with the exception of West Cork & Kerry and I know I am in for a real treat no matter where I go or in what direction. While this is the ‘home-country‘ phase of the adventure, there will be nothing dull, boring or particularly predictable about it – it’s a great country to be in and I am very lucky and proud to be an Irishman every time I get to cycle around this land.
So, waving farewell to friends & family (hopefully someone turns up to see me off..), I sail out from Inis Oir harbour to Galway City – one last fish & chip in McDonaghs, mmmm.
From here I go on out of Galway Town to Oranmore and back inland a bit if I wish to go to Athenry, it’s not really that far and might be good for a nights rest.
Back out to the Clare coast I go, first I visit Kinvara, then Ballyvaughan, down through Lisdoonvarna to Doolin. Almost every town I come through now will have traditional music sessions, but this is one of the very best – Gus O’Connors pub here is rightfully world famous.
On around the Clare coast I go, through Liscannor, Lahinch, Miltown Malbay (and Spanish Point), Quilty, Doonbeg, Kilkee & Kilrush. Just outside Kilrush I can cross the River Shannon estuary on the Killimer to Tarbert Ferry, landing us on the North shore of County Kerry.
From Tarbert it’s on to Ballybunion, Ballyduff & then Ballyheigue, a quick spin through Ardfert and I will be in Tralee.
From Tralee it’s on out west on the first of the ‘Fingers’ to, first, Castlegregory and then Dingle passing through Annascaul on my way back inland to Castlemaine. From here I go on to Kilorglin, then Castlebeigh and out again to Cahersiveen, Portmagee/Valencia Island, Ballinskelligs, then Caherdaniel, Sneem, Blackwater Bridge and on into lovely Kenmare – this is the famous ‘Ring of Kerry’ I am on here.
This next ‘Finger’ takes us out through Canfie to Eyeries, down to Brandyhall and Castletownbere, back through Adrigole, Glengarriff and on to Bantry. We are well & truly in West Cork now and the place should be full of tourists, the roads, while small, will be busy.
On from Bantry we go, through Durrus to Toormore and back into Schull. From here we will work our way around through Ballydehob to Roaringwater Bay and then on across the peninsula to Skibbereen.
Now, from Skibbereen we want to go South-West to Baltimore so that we can catch the Ferry to Cape Clear Island. Basically, the reason for this is as follows: Irelands equivalent version of ‘John O’Groats to Land’s End’ has always been popularised as ‘Malin Head to Mizen Head’, but those of you paying close attention will have noticed that we just completely bypassed the Mizen Head peninsula. The reason is, as noted earlier when we mentioned Malin Head, that Cape Clear Island is actually further south than Mizen Head and thus it would be only right and proper, if one wishes to claim to have travelled the length of Ireland completely, that one should visit Cape Clear Island. And so we shall… or at least, I hope we do… J
Returning from Cape Clear Island to Baltimore, we will stay South of Skibbereen this time and travel via Raheen Cross Roads and Rineen to Union Hall, across to Leap and off the main roads down to Rosscarbery. Again, avoiding the busier roads, we will swing slightly South to Owenahincha, Rathbarry and on over to Clonakilty.
From Clonakilty, via Faxbridge to Timoleague, down to the coast again for a bit and then on across to Ballinspittle, via the Garretstown Forest and Garretstown Strand. From here we cross the River Bandon into Kinsale and East Cork proper.
Next we soldier on to Belgooly, passing Minane Bridge on the way to Crosshaven, Carrigaline and finally Passage West, where we board our second last Ferry on the way to Midleton. Here, again in order to avoid the main roads, we will drop South a bit to Cloyne and then make our way over to Youghal, crossing over the Blackwater River out of Cork and into Waterford.
From here we aim for Dungarvan where we can join on the Waterford Greenway for a while but will leave it again soon after at Knock in order to continue along the more coastal route to Stradbally & Bunmahon and the Copper Coast UNESCO Global Geopark.
We will stick to the coast then as far as Annestown and then again be forced inland a bit to Tramore and on to Dunmore East by the safest roads possible. Now travelling up the estuary of the River Barrow, we eventually arrive at our very last Ferry at Passage East which will bring us over to Aurthurstown and we continue on down to the beautiful Duncannon and then Fethard-on-sea.
Next up we pass through Saltmills, Wellingtonbridge, Duncormick and on down to Kilmore Quay.
This is where we finally turn Northwards for the last stretch of our journey, making our way into Wexford Town then on through Curracloe, Blackwater, Kilmuckridge, Ballygarret, Riverchapel, Courtown, Balleymoney, Castletown & Arklow – all the seaside villages I grew up in for the summer holidays as a child.
Now we go inland a bit, because the most beautiful part of the East Coast is not actually the coast, but rather the National Parks, Hills & Valleys of the Greater Wicklow Area, better known as ‘The Garden of Ireland’. So on into Woodenbridge, then Aughrim, up to Glenmalure, on into Laragh and down into the wonderful Glendalough.
Our final leg takes us up through Roundwood, if we have time I recommend taking an hour to visit Victor’s Way, then over the hills past The Guinness Lake where we can pause and consider our final path back into Dublin.
There are two choices. We can go over the Featherbeds, which is the full height of the Dublin Mountains and has quite an excellent ‘reveal’ of the city when we reach the far side, or, we can make our way down the Glencree Valley into the lovely little town of Enniskerry with the added bonus of being able to visit Powerscourt Estate, Gardens & Waterfall on the way – to be honest, as a tourist, this is probably the way to go. From here, Dublin City is only 90mins away on a gradual descent all the way.
We are now just over half way and it just keeps getting better from here… J
There will be History, I shall walk in the footsteps of Kings & Giants, and our route now brings us to The Hill of Tara, seat of the ancient High Kings of Ireland and then on to Newgrange, Knowth & Dowth, a remarkable group of megalithic burial sites older than the Pyramids. Then heading back towards the east coast along the river Boyne, site of the famous battle between King James II & King William of Orange, which pretty much decided the fate of Western Europe for centuries.
Travelling on now to the coast, through Drogheda and continuing through Termonfeckin, Clogherhead, Castlebellingham & Dundalk to the Cooley Peninsula where I can take a short Scenic Ferry into Northern Ireland from Greenore to Greencastle.
This will get us back on track with the original route, albeit in reverse order. Our first spin in Northern Ireland will take us past the Sandilands and through Kilkeel along a nice stretch of coastline to Newcastle and eventually into Downpatrick and on to Strangford.
Taking the short Ferry over to the aptly named Portaferry we have a nice ride up the eastern side of Strangford Lough all the way to Bangor, then again along the coast into Belfast itself.
Here we take the coastal route out of Belfast to Carrickfergus on through Glenoe to Larne and a fabulous cycle around the famous Antrim coastline, including The Giants Causeway just after we pass Rathlin Island off the north coast. Along the way we will pass through Ballygalley, Carnlough, Cushendall, Torr, Ballycastle, Portrush & Portstewart before heading into Coleraine.
From Coleraine we head out along The Foyle through Limavaddy, Greysteel and on into the walled city of Derry.
Leaving Derry we work our way northwards crossing back into the Republic of Ireland just before Muff and continuing on to reach the very tip of Ireland at Malin Head1 before beginning the journey back down through Carndonagh & Drumfiries to Buncrana.
Hopefully with the weather being forever kind to us, we will follow a coastal route down around to Letterkenny before heading north and our first real exposure to the full-on Western Atlantic Coast just outside Dunfanaghy.
Gortahork leads on to Derrybeg which in turn will bring us down to Dungloe and on down to Lettermacaward then we go right out West to Rossbeg on the Magheragallon Peninsula.
Working our way South around the bay through Ardara we will go out just about as far West as possible in the North Atlantic and in Donegal, all the way to Glencolumbkille and it’s wee little Folk Village.
We will then journey back through Killybegs and Mountcharles to Donegal Town itself on down through Ballintra to Rossnowlagh and it’s beautiful long sandy beach – time for a swim!!
It’s just a short hop down to Ballyshannon (birthplace of one Rory Gallagher – I’m a fan!) and I am back on familiar territory again having spent many years exploring the west coasts of Mayo, Galway & Clare.
We will pass through the surfers paradise that is Bundoran, stop off at Rosses Point on our way into Sligo Town for any of those ‘Big Town’ supplies we might need to have restocked at this point.
Out of Sligo we go, through Strandhill and around the North coast of Mayo to Enniscrone we will make our way South here through Ballina to the picturesque Pontoon, lying between two lakes, Lough Conn & Lough Cullin, one of my favourite natural spots in Ireland.
We will then make our way back up along Lough Conn to Crossmolina back out to the Mayo Coast and it’s amazing beaches around Gweesallagh and then on down to Mullranny where we meet up with the Westport Greenway.
We have a choice here, we can go out West onto Achill Island to Keel, but to be honest, there is not much there except for Island Sheep and the best of the Greenway is to the East back into Newport and down to Westport, that would be my advice but I do not mind either way.
From Westport we make our way out along to Louisburgh, travelling through Galway now down to Letterffrack and Clifden, through Connemara and on to Carna, Kilkieran, Costelloe & eventually Spiddal.
Biscuit Tree Cottage is mentioned around here on the original list but I have never heard of it, nor could I find anything referencing it online – perhaps further enquiries can be made as it sounds great!?!!
Galway is just ahead now and it’s a truly great town, always a joy to arrive in to. If you are going to take a day in any city, this is the one.
Mmmmm, McDonagh’s…. I fancy some Fish & Chips..!!!
And finally, back out to the island for a well deserved rest and a week long break – that would be phase one complete, now… let’s get serious!
The Black Sea calls…