25 July 2007

CYCLING IRELAND - Belfast to Carrick

8 June - Glasgow to Belfast 6 Km

In order to get to Ireland, Esther and myself had to cycle from her house to Glasgow Central to get a train to Stanraer. Esther fell off her bike 3 times between the house and the station, this is just the funniest thing, every time I look around Esther is laying on the ground, bike on top of her, and all this in peak hour traffic as everyone is on there way to work!!

At Stanraer we got a ferry to Belfast and arrived in Belfast at around 16h30 (peak time again) where Esther proceeded to fall off again, the bike is too big for here and her legs too short to swing over the middle bar.

We laughed so much that it was a surprise that we managed to cycle the 6km north to where we set up camp.

Esther now refers to her bike as Silver, and let me tell you, Saartjie has nothing on this one, it bucks and kicks and is rather unwilling to see Ireland.

9 June - Belfast to Cushendall – 43 miles (69 km)

What a beautiful morning, sun's out, no wind, what more can a person ask for? So with Silver loaded and packed we took the coastal road, which is extremely scenic, specially on such a glorious day. We cycled past many small coastal villages and large white limestone cliffs, it is definitely the best cycling day to date. Esther proceeded to fall off another 5 times before arriving at camp where she managed to fall off again in full view of all the campers!! Good thing she is wearing a helmet. We managed to do a full 43 miles.

10 June - Cushendall – Ballycastle - 20 miles (32km)

We left rather late and shortly after we left the village of Cushendall there was a sign indicating a scenic route via Torr head, which sounded rather nice, the sign 'not suitable for caravans and coaches' should have warned us not to take that route, yes it was scenic, but the hills are definitely not for cycling with a loaded bike. Esther claimed that she did not fall at all today as she had to walk the whole way and now she has blisters on her feet.

The downhill section into Ballycastle was fantastic and after waiting at the bottom for a longer time that usual, I cycled up the hill again to were Esther was, just to find her walking downhill as well!!! This time with a flat tyre. No quick release on this bike and one needs a spanner to get the wheel off. Needless to say we have no spanner. So we walked into town and found a campsite. One very nice man in the camp had a spanner and we took the wheel off (actually he took it off) he also gave Esther a lift into town to get a new tyre as her existing tyres are so old, they are just disintegrating.

11 June - Ballycastle – Castlerock - 40 miles (64km)

Wow, we woke to a brilliant morning again. The day started in its usual way with Esther being a total disaster again. While loading up old Silver the one bungy cord slipped loose and hit her on the lip, now she has a fat lip as well, besides all the bruises and scratches from falling off her bike.

So first things first and back to the bike shop to get a spanner and new front tyre as well.

The coastline is absolutely magnificent and we stopped at The Giants Causeway and spend sometime wondering around.

Not only is the scenery fantastic but the local people are extremely friendly, after quite a long hill a lady offered us some tea, Esther thinks I'm trying to kill her and she reckons that it would have been easier and quicker to have taken an overdose at home!! So after 40 miles we packed it in and found a campsite. I think the lady took one look at Esther's face and let as camp for free!!!

12 June - Castlerock – Quigley’s Point - 20 miles (32km)

Just a short ride to Magilligan Point to get a ferry to Greencastle, where we got slightly lost as a local map shows a coastal road which is non existing, (Esther not happy with me) so we pitched the tents at the first opportunity we got to give her backside a rest, and went across the road for a pint. People in Ireland are really relaxed and laid back, and sing songs in the pub is very common.

We are now in the Rep of Ireland and only discovered it when we wanted to draw money and the only option was Euros!!

13 June - Quigley's Point - Portsalon via Letterkenny - 57 Miles!!!! (91km)

It rained all night and there's nothing to do but pack up in the rain and head for Buncrana, where we intended to take a ferry to Rathmullan, just to find that the ferry only starts operating on the 16th. The only option now is to cycle back to Letterkenny and onto Ramelton and then to Rathmullan. Although its cold and raining the scenery is still out of this world. We met a cycle tour along the way and stopped for a chat, they even offered us some coffee, what a pleasure!!

We found no camping in Rathmullan so we headed on to Portsalon. Esther is getting stronger by the day and she is not falling of her bike anymore. Old Silver is still creaking and squealing, and extremely unwilling on the up hills, but Esther shows her no mercy and we push on. From Rathmullan to Portsalon, is only about 19 km but we took the scenic route (again) and encountered some really nasty hill before a serious downhill into Portsalon. By now Esther’s one hand is totally numb and quite useless, she is now 100% convince that I'm trying to kill her. I tried to break it to her gently that it happens to everyone, but I don't think that convinced her.

14 June – Portsalon

The weather turned even more foul overnight and it is now not just cold and raining, but there is also a mean wind coming from the ocean, so we decided to stay put and we both crawled back into our sleeping bags, zipped up the tents and read the whole day.

By 5 o'clock we had enough of laying in the tents and headed for the local pub, which is a shop and pub all in one, a few locals were sitting at the bar and soon the singing started, this is just great!! It was three in the morning before we got back to our tents so I guess we had a real good time.

15 June - Portsalon - Melmore Head - 37 miles (59km)

After only getting into bed at three in the morning we were rather slow in packing up and it was 12h00 before we eventually got on our way. The weather is now really bad, drizzling, a strong wind and bitter cold. We pushed on but Esther appeared reluctant to do the scenic route again (I do not blame her). In Carrickart we were told that there is a Youth Hostel not far from there, so we opted for a room instead of looking for a campsite. By now it feels that as if frozen stiff even Esther is wearing long sleeves!! It was not as close as we were lead to believe, but we soldier on up a steep hill to find the hostel, very basic and remote, but warm and with a bed!!!

16 June - Melmore Head - Letterkenny - 45 Miles Belfast and Larne

Esther needs to get back home so the only option is to cycle back to Letterkenny and see what is available from there. We were in luck as there is a bus in 20 minutes to Derry and then another bus straight to Belfast. A little shock awaited as when we arrived in Belfast. Belfast was packed full, each little nook and cranny was fully packed due to a large international boxing event in town. Each and every B & B and hotel from the cheapest to the Hilton (even considered that one) was fully booked. By now it is 10 0'clock and freezing cold, I suggested we cycle the 6 km north to were we camped before, but Esther nearly had a hart attack and refuse blatantly to get on the bike. So back to the train station, were the staff were extremely friendly and directed as to a B & B in Larne, one can also get a ferry to Glasgow. They even phoned to book and helped us on the train. Wonderful people.

17 June - Larne - Oxford Island - 57 miles (91km)

We had a great breakfast at the B & B, what luxury!!! The B & B is right across from the harbour so we went directly there. Esther could get the 10.30 ferry.

I hopped on my bike and headed back to Belfast in order to go south. It's a great morning and as it is Sunday plenty of cyclist are out, all stopping for a wee chat (as they say here) So I took the recommend route south of Belfast along the River Lagan, all the way to Lisburn. From there on a minor road via Moira to Oxford Island on Lough Neagh.

I even saw the Orange Order men marching, band and all, in one of the smaller villages.

18 June – Oxford Island – Ballyronan - 45 miles (72km)

The people here are really friendly, even offered me some dope!!! The Lough is a fresh water lough and one of the largest in Western Europe. So I decided to cycle along the shore to Ballyronan. The path follows small country lanes and minor roads, past small villages and farms. The lake has an interesting legend which says that it was formed when the Irish giant Finn McCool scooped out an earthen clod to toss at a Scottish rival who was fleeing Ulster by the Giant's Causeway. Finn's shot fell into the Irish Channel and formed the isle of Man!!

19 June - Ballyronan - Kesh (Lough Erne) - 63 miles (101km)

Packed up in the rain again, what's new, but it cleared and I had a fantastic cycling day west along the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains, via Omagh to Kesh. In Kesh I cycled onto the campsite, which was up some serious hills, just to find it's not a camp site but a mobile home park with no camping. Bummer!!! The owner was however nice enough to allow me to camp on a small piece of grass and he even unlocked one of the mobile homes so I could use the shower and toilet.

20 June - Kesh and surrounds - 20 miles (32km)

Decided to stay in the area, and went down the hill to the proper campsite from where one can take long walks around the lake and through the forest. I even found some dried fruit, yummy, ate the whole lot, now I'm shitting through the eye of a needle. Well talking about food, I always considered myself as the Queen of carbos, but I have nothing on these people, they have macaroni cheese & chips, baked potato with beans and chips, how's that?

21 June - Kesh - Donegal (Dun na nGall) - 45 miles (72km)

The road to Ballyshannon runs all along the lake and with a tail wind it felt like down hill all the way. At Ballyshannon I turned northwards along the coast to Donegal, still with a tail wind, so I arrived fairly early and set up camp at the Youth Hostel. Later that day I took a walk along the river in Donegal,very tranquil.


A walk up the cliffs before I am on my way again and what a view!! There is just no end to the beauty of Ireland. The cutting of peed out of the blogs is alive and well, people mostly use it form home fires, and what a good smell it is, reminds me a bit of Africa.

Ireland is a land covered in stone ruines and just about everywhere you go there is some or other kind of stone ruine.

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