County Sligo - Just For The Craic - CycleBlaze

August 12, 2009

County Sligo

a train to Dublin

Heart 0 Comment 0

Galway is pretty wet and after a night in a homely B&B and a morning wandering around the center, we opt to get a bus north to County Sligo to see an old friend of mine - Pat - and so we return to the station and leave on an early afternoon departure. 

Bikes cost about 10 euros per trip and a bus can accommodate a few of them.

Ireland never adopted postcodes (zip codes), like most of the world did. Pat's address is just the house's name and the town of 'Ballindine', but my letters always arrive. It's a village where there seems to be no house numbers, although everyone knows everyone and once off the bus, a friendly storekeeper directs us his place.

It's great to see each other again. He's a hard-core roadie. We're not, but that's okay. Pat's carbon Look frame weighs next to nothing and the tires look thinner than is safe - Health & Safety would have a thing to say, I'm sure. 

Both his parents are in their 80s and he's the last of the Kivneens - a surname that will susequently disappear with him.

It rains for a day, so we just potter around his house. The next day is brighter, so we ride out to Lough Mask. He knows all the small roads, so I don't have to bother looking at my map every five minutes.

Heart 1 Comment 0

The three of us weave our way west. There are so many routes to choose from. There's an old Abbey to visit, also a ruined church and a stately mansion that stands in large wooded grounds accessed by a narrow dirt road that once would have seen horse-drawn vehicles and rich landowners in Bentleys. We take a few snaps and continue to ride towards the top end of the lake - Lough Mask.

Heart 2 Comment 0

County Sligo is so underated; not sure why. The poet Yeats, who lived in the northern part of the scenic county in his early years, said "the place that has really influenced my life most is Sligo." We can see why.

Pat has to turn back after a few hours, but Debbie and I continue riding on the far bank of the lake, agreeing that he'll pick us up in his Range Rover from the small town of Cong. He'll wait for our phone call.

Heart 3 Comment 0

Cong, in County Mayo, is a quaint place made famous by a 1952 John Wayne movie called 'The Quiet Man'.

An hour after leaving Pat, Debbie and I lunch at a roadside pub-cum-cafe and it's quite grey and we wonder if we'll get drenched before too long, before we make it to Cong. 

There are glimpses of the huge lake on our left as the road undulates and rises towards its southern end. There are some sheep and a few cottages and rolling fields that are so emerald green that they seem like they've been Photoshopped.

The road reaches a high spot. We could turn right and go right around the leg of water that splits off from the main lake and it does look very tempting, but we're rushed for time and Debbie doesn't want to overdo it just yet. We'll have done 100km by the time we get to Cong as it is by the more direct route along the lakeside road. 

There's no traffic here and the vista is super.

It doesn't rain and lo and behold sunshine appears for a while. That's Ireland. 

We take some more snaps with my camera and also Debbie's Sony Cybershot. My Minolta DSLR is playing up; I need a new one. It's now about five years old and has seen some action and been jolted around in my saddlebag. Focusing is problematic.

The road curves by the lake and then rises again, past peaks lit by the last rays of sun. It's getting late when we get to Cong and phone Pat. There's more than enough time for a pint of Guinness before he arrives. Nice.

Heart 3 Comment 0

The next day Pat has a plan. He's driving us to the coastal resort of Westport, to walk up 762-metre-high Mt. Croagh Patrick, which is regarded as the premier Catholic pilgrimage place in Ireland. Around a million visitors trek up it each year, some barefoot. Yesterday, on our 100km ride, we could see it in the far distance.

The sky is grey again. The local lanes are barely wide enough for Pat's vehicle. Once at the coast we take a paddle in the shallow waters of the Atlantic and then drive around to the foot of the mountain.

The path leading up is just rocks and it's hard to imagine anyone walking barefoot up here. There are lots of small black flies that seem to love me. They drive me crazy. After 15 minutes we've climbed up high enough to get a good view on the landscape and ocean, but I've had enough of the pesky flies and to Pat's disappointment, we turn around and walk back to his vehicle.

The next day Debbie and I have to get to Dublin for the ferry across to the UK and choose to do so by train.

After another one of Pat's magnificent and hearty breakfasts, the bikes are stuffed in his Range Rover and we're zipped to the nearest station, then wave each other bye as we disappear along the line. I wonder when I'll see him again.

We arrive in the capital in the early afternoon, find a B&B at the top end of the city's main street, generally look around and visit a few spots, but cycling isn't exactly having a ball in any large conurbation and Dublin is no different. It's just too busy.

Heart 0 Comment 0

We ride out to the port only to find the ferry we wanted to take doesn't allow foot passengers. Weird... we have to get one later that night - meaning we'll arrive in Wales at after 11pm.

Today's ride: 70 km (43 miles)
Total: 622 km (386 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 0
Comment on this entry Comment 0