Rothar Routes

Cycle routes & pilgrim journeys in Ireland and Europe …..

Posts tagged ‘Malin Head’

Malin Head to Mizen Head Day 5

Terryglass to Aherlow 106kms

Should  I  stay  or  should  I  go  now?
Should  I  stay  or  should  I  go  now?
If  I  go  there  will  be  trouble
And  if  I  stay  it  will  be  double
So  come  on  and  let  me  know

There was a symphony playing on the window pane when we woke. The weather had broken yesterday evening and it wasn’t letting up any time soon. After a hearty breakfast – ate slowly, we decided to give it another 30 minutes before departure to see would the clouds lift at all. They didn’t; it got worse! The thought of cycling in the rain is much worse than actually doing it and it was actually enjoyable; there’s a great sense of achievement in getting out and just dealing with the elements. We were on the eastern shore of Lough Derg and great gusts of wind were driving sheets of rain across the lake from County Clare and blowing us all over the place. We were saturated. It was a tough 27kms to Nenagh. And as Murphy’s law would have it, the rain stopped as we arrived! The break was only temporary. We changed our planned route to avoid a long steep exposed climb in the Silvermines. Instead we took a long diversion to Toomevara and onto the busy Borrisoleigh road. After 10kms we were delighted to see the Beara Breifne signs intersect the road and we followed those up into the hill country. It was delightful. The BB Way is well signposted and the scenery in this hidden corner of Tipperary is delightful. Beautiful country side all around as we reached Templederry. This peaceful village was home to the fiery rebel priest Fr John Kenyon (1812-1869). He was a fierce advocate of physical force and an outspoken opponent of Daniel O Connell, impacted as he was by the devastation of the famine in the surrounding countryside. But his efforts to relieve distress during the Famine endeared him to his flock. The local GAA Club is called Templederry Kenyons. That’s the beauty of the bike! You learn so much more about where you are passing through.

We were heading into very remote countryside now and still climbing gradually. Rain was still falling but it was majestic! Our diversion turned out really well and it was one of our favourite sections of the entire route. There was a lot of climbing today, almost a 1,000 metres in foul weather but it added to the whole sense of the journey. As I rounded a bend in the road a voice beckoned from 50 metres ahead ” How are ye? Will ye buy a lotto ticket?” We stopped and bought a couple, crossed our fingers, but Sean Treacey’s GAA Club haven’t been in touch so I guess we had no luck! I hope they have better luck in the Tipp Championships this year!

We eventually linked up with my original route at Hollyford, a busy centre for the timber industry. Another big climb had us pushing our bikes yet again but at least the rain had stopped and we had fabulous views across the hill country.

While Fr Kenyon had a reputation as an advocate for physical force our next stopping point was the village of Cappawhite had earned a world wide reputation for faction fighting in the 19th century, so we approached with caution!

We decided to not delay just in case the locals had ideas of resurrecting the practice and we kept moving forward following the BB Way signs which made navigation very easy and we soon reached Tipperary Town, gateway to the Glen of Aherlow. The climb up into the Glen was the toughest yet and we were both gasping – and that was pushing the bikes, not cycling! But it was great to crest the hill and enjoy the freewheel down as far as the Aherlow House Hotel where we had good grub and the luxury of a bath to look forward to! Another day down. 500kms completed, 205 kms to go!

Malin Head to Mizen Head: Day 1

Malin to Iskaheen 53kms

Malin Head 23rd July 2021. Mary, Hannah, myself and Ronan. Thanks to Ronan and Hannah for dropping us off!

Ireland’s most northerly point is Malin Head on the Inishowen Peninsula of Donegal. Ironically the most northerly point is in the south and not in the north, kinda proves this is one island with a silly boundary. Inishowen is virtually the same size as County Carlow but only a small part of County Donegal! On its own it’s a fantastic place to visit with stunning coastal views, beaches to compare with anywhere else on the planet, headlands, walking and cycling routes. And it’s steeped in history, with lots of heritage sites to visit too.

Our plan was to cycle the 700kms from Malin Head to Mizen Head using the network of quiet local roads (‘L’ roads) and bóithríns as much as possible and try avoid busy Regional and National Roads. The road less travelled and a journey to the remoter, quieter parts of this beautiful island. That meant packing 15 ordnance survey maps and still getting lost occasionally! Sticking to the local roads would help us avoid the car mad drivers that seem to exist north of a County Louth – County Sligo axis, where many seem to speed between car washes as they attempt to show off their gleaming set of wheels! There’s a definite difference in driving habits above that Louth Sligo axis! The safety campaign promoting 1.5 metres distance when overtaking cyclists is making an impact down south but we found many drivers up north ignoring this vital ‘shared road safe practice’.

It’s a five hour car journey from Carlow to Malin Head and of course we ran a bit behind schedule, meaning a very late start on our first day. It was close to 5pm on a sweltering hot summers evening when we pointed our front wheels south of the start line and rolled down the hill in the direction of pretty Malin village and our first ice cream stop!

Ice cream time Malin Village

Our senses were being overwhelmed by the idyllic views unfolding around every turn in the road and led us into a false sense of achievement – this was going to be a picnic in the park or so we thought for a while!

Sea horses at Malin…
You can lead a horse to water…

Why go on a 700km cycle? For me it is about stepping out of the banal, the brutal boring reality of 365 day living on a journey that is full of inspiration in the scenery surrounding us, in the magic of nature, in the delving into our past and not least in the sense of accomplishment when completed. You can’t do that so well in a car but on a bike every point of interest is a stopping off occasion. It might be a spectacular view, it might be a heritage site and Inishowen has plenty to whet the appetite.

There are so many unheralded heritage sites dotted on our landscape and there is a real danger of them disappearing through neglect. I love to visit as many of the less known ones when I am out and about on the rothar. These crosses are at Carrowmore, not far from Culdaff. I had planned to visit the Cloncha High Cross but we took the wrong road out of Malin and missed that one so it was nice to take a small diversion to Carrowmore instead. Our Christian past speaking to us today…

We headed south on our local road to Gleneely, and in keeping with our desire to stay off regional roads we had of course the delight of a serious climb (gradient 14%) up to a fantastic viewing point at Cnoc and Uininn. On November 30th 1941, a RAF Spitfire was just 3 minutes flying time away from his base at Eglinton Airport when 23 year old Roland ‘Bud’ Wolfe (he was from a unit made of completely American personnel) had to bail out of his aircraft before it crashed into the bog half a mile away. Seventy years later that Spitfire was located by a team led by avation historian, Jonny McNamee. Marking the location today is a memorial plaque with a panoramic view.

At least we had now crested the climb and it was downhill all the way to Redcastle; tough work but we prefer that to facing busy roads. The road from Redcastle along the shore of Lough Foyle was busier but tolerable and we had the benefit of a good level surface until the turnoff for our first accommodation in the download of Iskaheen.

Along the shore of Lough Foyle

In this time of pandemic most of our hospitality sector is struggling and a bike tour is one way to support local businesses. Its hard to book ahead when cycling – you never know what way a day will unfold but we did get the first three nights booked and we brought a tent just in case we got stuck. Many b&bs away from tourist areas have not reopened as it would cost too much. Luckily we booked a small little apartment in Iskaheen from Catrina Kyle. What perfect hosts, they went out of their way to be helpful which rounded off the perfect start to our cycle to Mizen.

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