Just over 9 months ago Padraig Cunningham posted the idea on the club forum about a group cycling the wild Atlantic way from Tralee to Westport. This simple post set the cogs in motion for an amazing four days in May this year! The logistics were for the club car or van to take down as many bikes as could fit and the gang would take the train down to Tralee and the train back from Westport.

Starting in Tralee on Thursday morning, the adventure began with a heavy downpour. We quickly made our way out of the town and towards Ardfert. From there we had the feel of being on the Wild Atlantic Way; just beyond the flat fields ahead you could feel the ocean, the hilly headland by Ballyheige was omnipresent (as were other geographical features for most of the trip) and the roads twisted through loads of one off houses positioned to appreciate the view of the Atlantic. The wind towards Ballybunion was strong and as we climbed the little bump out of the town, the deep blue ocean emerged from behind the houses. We took a small narrow road and caught a brief glimpse of some spectacular cliffs (Bromore cliffs). The road curled back along the Shannon estuary with the wind behind us as we arrived in Tarbert.

Waiting for the ferry, an American tourist came over who was a big cyclist with a team called Numb Nuts in Colorado. Sarah-Jane was driving the car and in the queue to get the ferry alongside us. Tara collected the money for the ferry crossing for the group and we all rolled on together. Kevin was first in the queue for a good cuppa tea and we stood by the bikes and had a chat.

On the other side, we stayed together into the wind to Kilkee where we had a good lunch and coffee. We had the pleasant undulating coastal roads of Clare with a favourable wind, frequently giving us views of the Atlantic and we arrived in Lahinch for an ice cream. Sarah-Jane had cycled back to us after leaving the car and all the bags in Doolin and we cycled back via Liscannor and the Cliffs of Moher. We turned in to take a good look at the cliffs and descended into Doolin with a good 150km on the clock.

           The Cliffs of Moher

Friday’s forecast was for heavy rain in the morning so with a shorter day ahead of about 85km, we decided to have a later breakfast and leave at about the half ten mark. Sure enough the rain pounded down during the early morning but after our long breakfast when we hit the road, it had completely subsided. Padraig was driving the car but cycled to Ballyvaughan before turning back inland over the Corkscrew back to Doolin. The limestone landscape along that coast was stunning

           In the Limestone Landscape

Further on we weaved our way into Kinvara and Clarinbridge, turning into the wind onto a quiet coastal road at Maree/Rinville before entering a busy Oranmore and into the wind again to Galway. Once in Galway we relaxed outside a pub on Shop Street before dinner at the Huntsman where Adrian’s brother from the Challenge Cycling Club joined us for a bit.

We headed off early on Saturday morning, stopping at Eyre Square where Kevin sat down beside the Padraic O’Conaire statue and recounted his life. We found a nice place in Salthill for breakfast and hit the coast road. Paul was driving this time and drove on ahead.

           Leaving sunny Salthill

The traffic wasn’t too bad and eased the further we went, especially once we turned out to Rossaveel where once again we knew we were on the Wild Atlantic Way with the narrow roads, the one off houses and the views of the sea not too far away. From here we turned inland onto Furnace Road. It was a fun route to take with little hills on either side and in the distance there were two clusters of mountains. On the left, there were the Twelve Pins and on the right the Maamturks. The lighting was nice; there was some sun so the view ahead was clear.

Shortly afterwards we turned southwards onto the Iorras Aithneach peninsula. We took turns into what seemed like an unrelenting wind until it eased off after Carna. We enjoyed the twisting small roads. Once we turned towards Roundstone we were back in the wind. At this stage Paul had met up with the group after an adventurous journey from Clifden to Roundstone.

The views of the ocean, the fun of the undulating roads, the twists and turns and the rotating of the group in the wind made it a great spin. We arrived in Clifden just short of 140km so we went up the sky road to get the extra kilometre. The gang showered and changed into civilian clothes in record time to watch the Leinster v Racing 92 match. Dinner and loads of chatter followed and some of the gang even went on to watch the Eurovision.

           View from the Sky Road to Clifden

Leaving Clifden, we climbed up the Sky road and then headed out to Claddaghaduff. The road weaved back to Cleggan and then on to Letterfrack where Adrian turned back. Adrian was driving the car that day and cycled back to Clifden and then drove to Westport.

We cycled along the great expanse of the Kylemore lough. From there we climbed slightly and turned downhill into the amazing Killary fjord. You have this expansive water and the Mweelrea mountain right opposite. We were also going downhill with a tailwind which was great too. We stopped for tea in Leenane and continued around the fjord to the other side turning in just before the Mweelrea mountain by the Owengar river valley. The Ben Bury mountain rose up high to our right while Doo Lough was along our left with views of the Mweelrea mountains on the other side. It was something else.

The road curled around the coast and through Louisburgh where we got a sandwich in a Centra. From there it was fairly straightforward to Westport and we had 116km done. Adrian had brought the car to Westport and Padraig and Sarah-Jane gave us our bags, loaded as many bikes as they could and hit the road with the rest of the gang getting on the train back.

It was a great four days thanks to the organisation of Padraig and the sacrifice of days cycling by Sarah-Jane, Padraig, Paul and Adrian. The gang made it a great event being in good spirits for the entire duration.

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