Ireland end to end: Listowel to Doolin

I’m writing this blog in the Rainbow Hostel in Doolin, County Clare. We arrived here late this afternoon and it was like arriving in paradise, or at least an Irish version of paradise.

Across the sea the Aran islands are simmering in the evening sun and there’s a scent of turf smoke in the air. The village itself is fairly busy but we managed to beat the busy spell in McGann’s pub where we devoured an excellent Ceasar salad and a huge bowlful of Irish stew with soda bread. The plan is to write up this blog then nip out again for some more Guinness and some traditional music.

We’re still smarting a bit from the rubbish session in Kenmare the other night so we’re prepared to try all the pubs in Doolin tonight to get some authentic music. Most of the sessions don’t start until 9 or 9.30 so it’ll be a late night for us. Normally we’ve crashed out by 10.

We had another good ride today, with no mishaps so far. Listowel was wet and dreary when we left after a superb breakfast at our North County B/B. We felt a bit encumbered with all our waterproofs on and by the time we had cycled the 11 miles to the Tarbert ferry which would carry us across the Shannon we both felt hot and sticky, and wet.

Fortunately the weather improved when we reached County Clare and it didn’t take us long to follow the coastal road into Kilrush where we stopped for morning coffee and a scone. From there we headed north to Cooraclare and Creagh, and we made good time on a straight and slightly undulating road with the wind at our tail. If only all cycling could be like this.

Next stop was Milltown Malbay, hometown of the famous Irish piper Willie Clancy, whose statue adorns the Main Street. We were on the coast again with easy windblown cycling all the way to Lahinch.

With the flattish roads and the winds behind us it came as a bit of a shock to hit the Moher Hill, a double whammy of a hill just before the famous Cliffs of Moher. We had planned a wee stop there to have a look at the cliffs but we didn’t expect the huge car parks and crowds. It was hard to believe the numbers of people there, mostly American (indeed I think we’ve heard more American accents since we arrived here than Irish) and I confess to feeling acutely uncomfortable with so many people.

I’m very aware of the value of tourism but we really are spoiling some of our so-called attractions. The Cliffs of Moher are nice, but are not anything special and this mass tourification of such places simply removes the very thing that makes them attractive. Hamish and I agreed that we’re glad, and very fortunate, to have seen and enjoyed the wild places we have seen before they’ve been overpopularised.

We also agreed that we were fortunate to see these places, and enjoy a journey like ours, under our own steam, rather than have to rely on a tour company. God only knows what the Cliffs of Moher are like in the high season, in July and August?

Enough of this wingeing. We’ve had another marvellous day and it’s time to go out again for some music, and maybe another Guinness or two. We feel as though we’re on holiday tonight. We don’t have to get up early in the morning and we don’t have to cycle 50-60 miles. And tomorrow we visit the Aran Islands, Inishmore in particular, a place I’ve always wanted to visit. It’ll be marvellous if the weather holds and we see the islands at their best, but there again, it could be good to experience their Celtic mystery on a soft and misty day. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.


1 thought on “Ireland end to end: Listowel to Doolin

  1. What a fantastic piece (even if it was just dashed off , as you claim!). Great mix of reportage, whimsy and opinion. It’s so much in your voice that I can hear you reading it.
    Have a good night.

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