Wednesday, July 25, 2012

West Clare to Galway - #100corners

With yesterday's heavy rain behind me, I looked forward to a rain free day as I continued my 100 corners trip in West Clare and on into Galway. I had been given a heater last evening by the good folks in Crotty's of Kilrush and had everything nice and dry by the morning. I was sweltering as the heater was on full blast all night!

Crotty's were great - they could not have been more helpful and I'd recommend anyone to stay there. 40e per night including a monstrous breakfast was good value. I had an interessting chat about emmigration with a journalist over breakfast - apparently many parts of Clare are losing a lot of young people and that this is being especially felt by GAA clubs.

At Loop Head Lighthouse.
My first port of call today was to Loop Head. On the way I stopped at the West Clare Railway. The road to Loop Head is a nice flat ride, with flat country on each side of the road. At the end of Loop Head is the Lighthouse - I took the tour (5e) which brought me to the top of the tower. On the way up I noticed through a window that I had left the lights on and had to return quickly to the bike to switch them off before running down the battery in a location just about as far as possible from the nearest bike garage. I was allowed to rejoin the tour - very interesting how the lighthouse works, and well worth the 5e.

The next biggest attraction in Clare is of course the Cliffs of Moher. So I headed on through Kilkee, Quilty, Miltown Malbay, Lehinch, and Liscannor. A great ride with every so often a glimpse of the Cliffs in the distance to whet the appetite for the real thing. The Cliffs must also be one of the busiest spots in Clare - hundreds of people were there enjoying one of Ireland's best natural attractions. The site has changed a lot since I was there last (in 1985) - a large carpark is available (6e entry), but at least my bike was secure. There are shops and a Centre embedded into the hill near the cliffs - I think this is tastefully done and does not detract from the location. I heard a lot of French being spoken - a good thing that the French are still coming here. A young couple in their wedding outfits attracted a lot of attention - they were sure lucky with their wedding day - it could have been yesterday in the torrential rain! There were also a good few buskers - a lady with a harp was good, another with a squeeze box was dreadful. Altogether - an absolute must for any trip to this part of the world.

At the Burren, with a view
out to the Aran Islands.
Having been blown away by the Cliffs - the Burren was next. I stopped several times on the road to Ballyvaughan to marvel at the rock formations and the limestone. I remember from my College days as a science student that there are rare flowers here, and that this is one of the most unique habitats in Europe. All the way up to and around Black Head is a spectacular ride - there are views out to the Aran Islands to the left, Connemara straight ahead, and the Burren to the right. Fantastic.

I stopped in Ballyvaughan for petrol, and also to check out O'Loughlin's 's pub - sadly it was closed and not opening until 20.00. I noticed a sign over the door for "O'Loughlin's Whiskey" - I have never heard of this and must research it.

Because of the huge breakfast in Kilrush, I did not feel like lunch until about 16.00 - as I as going through North Clare I started to think about Moran's of the Weir and oysters. This famous restaurant is near Kilcolgan in Galway and I know I was there twice before. I had a dozen oysters and brown bread. I'd love to have washed them down with a pint of Guinness, but a pot of tea had to do. Delicious, and for the first time on this trip I was also able to eat outside.

A dozen of the best!
By now it was after 17.00 and I decided to head for Galway - enjoying a bit of speed for a change on the Oranmore to Galway road. I went into the city centre and parked in Eyre Square. I had hoped to make the camera shop at the top of Shop Street before 18.00 to see about an extra memory card for my camera, but just missed it by a few minutes. I headed out to a very busy Salthill where there were hundreds of people enjoying the evening sunshine.

I decided to end the day's long ride in Spiddle. I got a B&B just on the edge of the village and walked down to the harbour and beach to enjoy the remaining evening sun. There are beautiful views across to the north Clare coast.

I am writing this post in the An Cruischin Lan Hotel - they have free WiFi here, and a great pint. The weather forecast for tomorrow and Friday is for no rain - so hopefully I will have two more days of excellent riding. Tomorrow it is into deepest Connemara and I hope to make Westport in Mayo by early evening and to visit with my in-laws - the Bourkes.

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