Sweaty Craic! Cycling Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way (Day 6)
Day 6 Ballyvaughan to Galway City (53.8km)
The pictured bottle of legendary Irish firewater known as Potcheen is a statement not of my own alcoholic predilection - although I did visit Margaret O'Loghlen's sixth-generation whiskey bar the previous night in Ballyvaughan to 'learn' a little more about Irish whiskey. It's more a statement how, on our shortest day of a 12-day cycle the length of Ireland following the MIZMAL route, it was very easy to get drunk on the most breathtaking scenery. It proves the shortest day of our all-ireland odyssey.
On another perfect cloudless September day, the route Paul had chosen took us around the magnificent Galway Bay. Besides the obligatory
green cow pasture, history has left its mark on the landscape with numerous castle ruins, dilapidated mansions, and Martello towers. Throughout the morning fingers of land jut into the bay to create little inlets harbour small communities and fishing boats.
The castles began to flow thick and fast. First Castle Dungaire in southeast Galway country purchases on on a spit of land looking formidable. Its 22-metre high square tower casts a reflection in the mirror clam bay shallows. I freewheeled up to its walls and found myself the source of a photo shoot from Chinese tour coach party. The castle was built by the locally dominant Hines Clan around 1520 and has received literary greats WB.Yeats and GB. Shaw - but not (see my first day's blog) Pippa Middleton this time.
The countryside thereafter is wealthy with many large mansions as we approach Galway City. But one house, in the village of Kilcogan, has us all puzzled.
This beautiful Georgian style mansion with large bay windows and a porch supported by pillars lies on the brow of a hill and is totally gutted. How could such an elegant property, now roofless and abandoned have endured such a fate? A little research later explains the building was constructed in 1774 to minor aristocracy but was destroyed in 1920 by the Republican IRA who believed it to be an infirmary of the 'Black & Tans' - temporary constables recruited by the Irish constabulary. A sobering reminder to past troubles.
Finally we made a brief lunch stop at yet another fortress - this one, Oranmore. A Norman constructed castle from the 1500s, still in occupancy and available for weddings.
Galway City beckoned an hour away. It was rather strange meeting traffic lights and indeed traffic after 5 days in the quiet roads of wilderness. But a different perspective entirely as this compact city of 80,000 has a reputation as being a place to party and hear Irish music.
It took a while to find. Quay Street, it's fair to say, can seem a little bit touristy. The bars buzz with foreign tourists enjoying their Guinness experience and the buskers are banging out everything from Radiohead to U2. Yet Tig Coili seemed the real deal. Irish musicians that had the packed small bar foot-tapping and purring into their pints of Galway Hooker.
The jaunty rhythm of the Mizmal continued into the night.