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FEATURE ❘ CONNEMARA


weekend in the completely in love.


N


ew Year’s Day is always an anti- climax, all the partying of the festive period (which invariably lasts at least a week) is over and even the normally frenetic dog is overwhelmed with a lethargic malaise. As I sat watching some naff movie, I pondered my first trip of the year. My invite to the West side of Ireland was two-fold; to experience the Wild Atlantic Way and pedal along a section of the Tour de Conamara. My knowledge was limited (it was in fact non-existent) so I did what most would do and scanned the ubiquitous internet. What I found was more than promising with glowing reviews, stunning images and amazing descriptions of wild untouched coastlines, epitomised by the following passage. “Where land and sea collide, where untamed beauty abounds, welcome to the unforgettable experience of the Wild Atlantic Way” I was sold, who wouldn’t be after those evocative words? Our transportation was expertly provided by Aer Lingus, the flight from Heathrow to Shannon was short, fuss-free and comfortable and we arrived at midday. The weather was cold but the sun had decided to provide a wonderful bright Irish welcome. The Wild Atlantic Way is a tourism trail on the west coast of Ireland. The 2,500 km (1553 miles) driving route passes through nine counties and three provinces, stretching from County Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula to Kinsale, County Cork, on the Celtic Sea coast. Along the route there are places and attractions which have been designated as points of interest for travellers. Our destination was Connemara, a wild and barren district in the west, just north-west of Galway.


The plan was loose, but would obviously involve some interactions with two wheels, I was accompanied by my wife whose role was


to capture a mix of bikes and the unspoilt rugged surroundings, simple! Unfortunately we were travelling in the middle of January so the weather would provide some obvious problems with the possibility of being exposed to some extremely harsh conditions a definite reality. As well as interacting with the Wild Atlantic Way, we were here to also experience the route (or part of the route) of the Tour de Conamara before the 2015 event on the 23rd May.


Our destination was Clifden, and after a 2 hour drive through Galway and dissecting some awesome panoramic views we arrived mid-afternoon. The town is the largest in Connemara with a population of 1200 – 1300 but in the summer months this increases ten-fold. There are plenty of pubs and traditional shops, Clifden is a small charming town renowned for its traditional nightlife, it’s a party town and unofficially classed as the Capital of Connemara.


Our base was the unusual Clifden Station House Hotel which is a wonderful friendly place, the location is prime and the staff possess a wonderful mix of typical Irish hospitality and amazing professionalism. The railway line from Galway to Clifden was opened on 1st July 1895 and there were some 30 bridges, including an imposing steel viaduct. Today the station building and platform have been thoughtfully restored to their original glory and now are home to the lovely hotel. There is a project to develop the old railway line into a cycling and walking trail between Clifden and Galway. The Greenway has two recognised phases, one is to focus on the route between Oughterard and Clifden and phase two will concentrate on Galway to Oughterard. When complete, it will provide a 78km traffic free cycle route through this beautiful landscape. It proved the ideal base to explore.


March 2015 l Cycling World 19


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