We’ll then head north, assisted, we hope, by a following breeze, all the way to Malin Head, the most northerly point on the island, before heading back to Larne and the ferry via the Causeway Coast.
This will be our third tour, the last of our Triple Crown of end-to-ends, having cycled Land’s End to John O’Groats in 2012 and La Manche to the Med through France last year.
Preparations have gone pretty well for both of us and a mild winter certainly made things a bit easier, even though it seemed to be a particularly windy winter. But now we’re pretty well organised with car hire booked, ferry booked, hotel in Dublin booked and the train from Dublin to Cork booked. We’ve never been so organised in our lives.
My own preparations were blighted a few weeks ago when I came off my bike and broke a couple of ribs, but provided I don’t sneeze too much I’ll be OK. Unfortunately it’s hay fever time so I’ll need plenty of antihistamines and we’re both taking a good supply of ibobrufin, laregly because at our age aches and pains are a daily occurrence and, even more importantly, painkillers cost a fortune in Ireland!
We’re planning to stick mainly to the west, and I’ve pasted our rough itinerary below, but I’m certainly looking forward to visiting the Aran Islands (for the first time) and catching up on some good traditional music at Matt Malloys pub in Westport, Co Mayo.
Our daily itinerary isn’t unduly taxing so we might get a bit of walking in as well so, with a bit of luck and four-leafed clover, we should enjoy a good blend of scenic cycling, trad music, a bit of walking and a lot of Guinness…
Finally, if anyone spots a real howler in our itinerary then please let us know. We’re old and daft enough not to take offence and we’re certainly old and daft enough to appreciate any help we are offered! Here we go…
Fri 16th May: To Holyhead. Dump van. Ferry to Dublin. O/N in Dublin
Sat 17th May: Dublin to Cork by train. Cork to Clonakilty by bike power. Distance: roughly 40miles
Sun 18th May: Conakilty to Goleen. Distance: 45 miles
Mon 19th May: Goleen to Mizen Head to Kenmare Distance: 60 miles
Tues 20th May: Kenmare to Listowell Distance: 54miles
Wed 21st May: Listowell to Doolin: 63 miles
Thur 22nd May: Doolin to Aran Island
Fri 23rd May: Aran Island to Westport Distance: 58 miles
Sat 24th May: Westport to Dromore West Distance: 54 miles
Sun 25th May: Dromore West to Donegal Distance: 66 miles
Mon 26th May: Donegal to Buncrana Distance: 50 miles
Tues 27th May: Buncrana to Malin Head to Malin Distance 36 miles
Wed 28th May: Malin to Greencastle, Macgilligan Point to Bushmills Distance 40 miles
Thurs 29th May: Bushmills to Carnlough Distance 45 miles
Friday 30th May: Carnlough to Larne: Distance 15 miles
In terms of gear I’ll be using my trusted Ridgeback Panorama touring bike which is now pretty well newly furbished with a new cassette, new chain, new tyres and new brake pads.
We’ll be doing B/B and hostels so we won’t be carrying any camping gear on this trip, so that means I can dispense with front panniers and rack and cut down on weight considerably.
I’ll use my favourite Ortlieb Classic rear panniers and a couple of little bar bags for camera etc instead of a handlebar bag. One from Alpkit and a couple from Lezyne.
I’m swithering a bit on clothing at the moment because I’m not too sure what the weather will be like and I have this constant cerebral fight going as to what’s best for this kind of touring – ‘proper’ cycling clothing, with lycra, slim fitting shirts and waterproofs or more relaxed gear, the kind I’d use for hill walking or backpacking. In the end I’ll probably use a combination of both.
Lycra padded shorts and tight fitting shirts are great when you’re actually on the bike, but when you choose to take a wander round a museum or a castle, or even pop in somewhere for coffee and cake and your balls are bulging and your belly is obviously putting a strain on even an XL racing top, then I begin to feel a tad uncomfortable!
So, I think I’ll certainly take my Keela Roadrunner trousers, which I’ve found to be great for cycling. They are made from a brilliant stretch material, don’t flap around, have ventilation zips on the thighs and can be adjusted by velcro at the hem so you don’t get the ends caught in your drive chain. They also dry out incredibly quickly and can be worn in pubs and restaurants in the evening without you looking like you’re a refugee from a Max Wall roadshow!
I wear the Roadrunners on top of Gore BikeWear undershorts, which are well padded, and I’ve just ordered an extra pair of Altura padded undershorts. I’ll probably take some bibshorts too, just in case Ireland experiences a hot and sunny couple of weeks.
I have a wardrobe full of cycling waterproofs but all winter long I’ve been using a Paramo Quito jacket which is incredibly breathable, very waterproof and is pleasantly roomy. It’s even got pockets… I think that might be my waterproof of choice.
I’ll be using a pair of Shimano touring shoes, with recessed cleats and I might even take my Exustar cycling sandals. These are pretty standard sandals with recessed cleats in the sole and they are wonderful in warm weather, or even wet weather provided it’s not too cold. I personally hate overheated feet, and these sandals allow your feet to stay cool and well ventilated. I think I’ll take them – at the very least I can wear them to the pub at night.
That’s about it. Once again, if anyone has any really good tips about cycle touring clothing I’d love to hear from them. All the bike mags seem preoccupied with people with pigeon chests and size 30 inch waists and legs of the type that a sparrow would be proud. I’m not envious, well not really…