The record for bicycling from the very north of Ireland to the very south is 19 hours and 3 minutes. We're about half-way distance on the Wild Atlantic Way and it's already been 3 days! We move slowly.
We leave Sligo in the morning under cover of dark clouds. Although it's not raining, we don our sausage suits anyway to ward off the chilly morning temperatures.
Continuing our journey south on the Wild Atlantic Way
I'm really enjoying Ireland's west coast.
So are these guys
The Internet tells me this is the annual Wolseley Car Club of Ireland Vintage Rally, Tea & Coffee break. Beautiful cars. And everyone waved to us! :) So friendly!
An off-shoot from the main coastal road takes us over a short bridge to Achill Island. We ride to the western tip of the island
They've put up these little touristy signs all over the Wild Atlantic Way telling you where you are
These signs are great! I don't have to caption these pictures... This leg of the Wild Atlantic Way is called the Bay Coast, boasting numerous inlets and bays, some of them have dramatic cliffs ending abruptly at the Atlantic Ocean. Others, like Keem Bay collect crescents of sand like the webbing between your fingers.
We park the bikes and go exploring Keem Beach.
Hop Scotch along the wet sands
Oh look what we found written on the beach! Somebody must know that we've arrived in Ireland!
Having a great time on Keem Beach
"'Cuz this is Thriller! Thriller Night!"
Well, that was a nice little break. Back on the bikes
Heading out of Keem Bay back to the mainland
Not far from Keem Bay, in the town of Keel, we spot kitesufers on the lake
Perfect place to have some lunch!
Other people have the same idea, watching the kitesurfers go back and forth, catching air on Keel Lake
This cute little puppy glances nervously at us. Neda is figuring out in her head whether it would fit in her tankbag...
Just in case you think I am making things up
Stopping for a refill in Achill Sound, near the bridge between Achill Island and the mainland
The red and green flags are the colours of County Mayo. We see them everywhere. Neda comes out of the grocery store with more food to sustain us for the next couple of days and some yummy snacks. With our supplies topped up (and my topcase and stomach feeling much heavier), we go back over the bridge and onto the mainland!
The sun is peeking out a little bit from the clouds above and the weather has warmed up enough for us to shed the rainsuits. We continue on the Wild Atlantic Way route as it rounds Clew Bay.
Riding through the pretty town of Westport on Clew Bay
The road takes us south through the spectacular Doolough Valley
Despite the amazing scenery on Doolough Pass, this was the site of the Doolough Tragedy during the Great Potato Famine in the 1840s. Officials were being sent to all the villages to assess whether they were eligible for food and government support. Somehow they missed a village and all the starving people who lived there were told to meet the officials the next day in the next village 19kms away. It may not seem that far away, but hundreds of people made the journey overnight in their starved state.
The next morning, the bodies of seven people were found on the road between the two villages. They died of starvation. They say many more died later because of the unnecessary trek they had to make there and back in their weakened state.
Kylemore Abbey in County Galway
The road takes us further south and we reach the next County, Galway. On the shores of a lake, we saw a magnificent grey building called Kylemore Abbey. So we pulled in for a closer look. The Abbey was built around the time of the Great Famine. A rich politician from England came over and spent his sizeable fortune helping the locals, giving them work, shelter and building a school on the estate.
There's supposed to be a beautiful garden on the grounds of Kylemore Abbey, but you had to pay an admission fee - €13.00 per person. That's a big Nope. So we hopped back on our bikes. Nice abbey, though!
Doing a route adjustment
It's getting late and I originally had us stopping near Galway. The GPS said it was about three hours away, but I know we like to go slow, stop and poke around, so there was no way we were going to make it before nightfall at our current pace. So I broke out the laptop, hopped on the Internet and tried to find a closer camping spot.
Another nice little detour off the main Wild Atlantic Way
You can stay on the main road that loosely follows the coastline, but the real treats are when you take these little roads that go out and back in to all the tiny fingers of land. This one is called Sky Road, and it's only a 12km loop away from the main road, but from here you can ride along the coast and the road rises up in places where you can get a view of all the tiny islets that dot the inside of the bay.
Rounding Aughrusbeg Lough, a small lake on the inside of the Sky Road peninsula
Sky Road lookout, with the all the tiny islets in the background swimming in the Wild Atlantic Ocean
See the squiggly line on the post above the sign for Sky Road? That's the tourist logo for the Wild Atlantic Way. You don't even need a GPS to ride the route. Just follow all the signs with the squiggly line on it, pointing you onwards.
Back on the road, we pass through the town of Clifden. There's some kind of Mexican festival going on!
Spanish music playing on the speakers as we ride by! :)
The only campsite in the area is off the main road of the Wild Atlantic Way. We ditch the squiggly line signs and venture off on another loop that follows the coastline towards Gurteen Bay, on the southern shoreline of the peninsula.
Yay, we get the tent up before the sun sets. And before the scheduled rains which are due to arrive soon!
What a great day! Full of sights, riding roads, and nice little detours into beaches, bays and lakes. And best of all: no rain!
We are really enjoying taking our time on the west coast of Ireland!