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FEATURE ❘ CONNEMARA


Next we encountered Ballyconneely which afforded beautiful panoramas across the bay with its maze of mesmerizing islands. The whole area is a stunning intricate patchwork of bogs and an unparalleled collection of small lakes that resembled sheet glass as the effects of the sun shimmered off their surface. This section is renowned for its magnificent white beaches and plenty of space to enjoy the waters. We breezed through Errisbeg which has the only significant climb along this stretch of coastline before entering Roundstone. This small fishing village was deserted apart from the odd ageing cyclist; it basically consists of a single main street of tall houses, shops and several pubs. As we pushed on the rain started and the wind become more of a hindrance, but not an annoyance. The previous night I had spoken in detail with the manager of the welcoming accommodation, Ronan, a native of Cork but his passion for Connemara was astonishing. I could listen to him all day, animatedly enthusing about the area and all the key historic sights and great locations to explore. His plans for the hotel were encouraging, especially for us explorer types. His focus is on cycling, adventure racing, trekking and walking, but basically anything that gets you out and gets the air into your lungs.


All his plans are viable and will enhance the business internationally and I wish him all the success in the world, he definitely deserves it. Out of season, the hotel offers some attractive deals to keep things ticking over but the summer months are extremely busy, with August always full to capacity. Later in the evening as we relaxed in the bar, Ronan went off to get me a map and returned with a rather large cumbersome framed map of Connemara, it was slightly comedic as he struggled through the door with arms at full stretch, coining it an ‘Irish GPS’. Not sure how I was going to fit it on the bike I told him as we both giggled like naughty children, but I gave him my word I would try!


The lunar landscape was deserted apart from grazing sheep and the odd motor vehicle. The coastline was literally in touching distance, the evocative aromas of fresh seaweed mixed with a fresh crisp air invigorated my senses. Interaction through simple smell was a highlight and stimulated my affection and adoration for this beautiful technology-free oasis. A place of utter tranquillity. I was amazed by the space, everywhere dominated by a simple expanse of greenery tentatively holding off the ferocious and unpredictable power of the Atlantic. The volatile interaction of the


two was completely mesmerising and makes the cavalcade of dramatic vistas as alluring and as remarkable as any views I have encountered throughout the world. The route contoured the coastline on extremely well surfaced roads, the majority tarmaced and amazingly I spotted no potholes. We were exposed to a stunning journey of discovery, the isolation was captivating dominated by open spaces and the odd wild enchanting building hiding a secret simple indulgence. I was hoping to hear the locals speaking in the native tongue (Ireland’s Gaeltacht – Irish speaking regions) but our only real interaction was the mass of free roaming sheep. It was close to perfect. I had read a passage on the Wild Atlantic way which completely optimised the experience ‘Wherever you go along the Wild Atlantic Way, you will encounter moments of magic, moments to treasure and experiences that you will want to return to again and again’ – I rest my case! As we neared the Inagh Valley, the horizon was dominated by ominous cloud cover and unfortunately we had to accept the weather was going to cut our ride short. We paused briefly to survey the views, the outline of ‘The Twelve Pins’ and the ‘Maumturk Mountains’ framed the landscape so dramatically. We begrudgingly detoured


22 www.cyclingworldmag.com


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