Sweaty Craic! Cycling Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way
Day 1: Mizen Head to Glengarrif (60km)
Just so we are clear here, over the next 12 days I'll be cycling nowhere near the Irish backstop. Instead, the backroads of Western Ireland in a 12 day end-to-end cycle of around 750km from Mizen Head - a gorgeous heather and gorse covered peninsula jutting into Ireland's most south-western peninsula to Malin Head in the far north. The route is called the Wild Atlantic Way although more colloquially known as the MIZMAL!
4 years ago I rode John 'o' Groats to Land's End - the UK end-to-end challenge and loved the experience. Yet there was way too much traffic so I was looking for a little more solitude on country backwater lanes on the west coast this time on a cycle route - that I think - could be a classic once more people know about it.
I joined about 20 other riders on a group trip organised by a man - Paul Kennedy - who has ridden the route dozens of times, leading groups. Paul has moved away from a career as a software developer to pursue a love of cycling and launched Wild Atlantic Cycling for 7 or 12 days cycles of the MIZMAL.
It's been a short day's ride first up in hot mid-September sun. Breaking in the saddle sore, so to speak. The Mizen peninsula was swathed in flowering gorse and heather - blood-red fuchsias tumbled out of the hedgerows. The rocky inlets glistened silver in the low sun. The white sand beaches curved between dark headlands of granite.
Following my usual trend of cycling mechanical mishaps (I worked until 10pm the previous evening trying to sort out a cross-threaded pedal damaged in transport) I managed to smash my back light and ran over my water bottle. But this was a day to celebrate a quite beautiful coastline that twists along narrow lanes with virtually no traffic.
There were the ruins of castle keeps - or maybe ancient fortified houses? Whichever, they exuded medieval romance. I had time to stop and examine everything as we didn't cycle in an a large pack - which can be a bit irritating to other road users - but were free to just take of by ourselves and take our time soaking up the Gaelic scenery.
Paul and his team had a roadside lunch waiting at the spectacular Bantry Bay (above) before a long hill climb to Glengarrif and a hotel dating back to 1745: The Eccles Hotel. Their past luminaries include GB Shaw, WB Yeats and ... erm .... Pippa Middleton.
Sun is still warm at nearly 6pm so I'm off now into the village to see what the evening craic is all about. Longer day tomorrow. Need to be doing a little fuelling tonight! As for Brexit and the backstop. Seems a helluva long way away.