Ireland end to end: Westport to Beltra (south of Sligo)

Well, despite feeling old and knackered after a long day fighting the wind we decided against an early night. I felt Hamish needed a Matt Malloy experience, so we left our comfy B/B and wandered down into town in the rain and wind.

As it happened we  needn’t have bothered.  Matt Malloys, as is normal, was packed to the gunnels, so after ordering a Guinness (and a Cola for Hamish) we fought our way through to the back room where a youth was knocking seven shades of shit out of a guitar and screaming like a demented banshee. We gave it all of ten seconds before deciding it didn’t quite qualify as traditional music of the year and returned to our digs. There was a brief highlight in spotting the man himself, the Chieftain’s MMalloy, deep in conversation at the bar and I was very tempted to suggest he got his flute out but Hamish quite correctly felt my plea could be misinterpreted.

It was a nice B/B but herself obviously left himself to cook the breakfast. It was a full Irish, and it was big, but it was also a tad on the greasy side and the generous helping of three sausages were obviously Tesco budget variety. The result – trying to cycle 60 miles into the wind with several pounds of lard lying in our gut.

To be honest, it wasn’t a bad ride, other than the very frequent belches. We had a quick visit to the Westport Bike Shop where Hamish bought some new inner tubes and the guys kindly checked our tyre pressures. we didn’t want any repeats of yesterday.

We left Westport up the ubiquitous leaving-an-Irish town hill and followed a fairly busy road to Castlebar where we turned on to a quieter, and lovely, road to Ballina. It was also a windy road. We were back to fighting a head on northerly and the open landscapes meant we were the only moving targets for the Celtic Weather Gods to target. It was bloody tough.

Ballina couldn’t come quick enough, and we had a brief respite over a bowl of soup and a coffee and a long one way conversation with an old gent who wanted to tell us his life story and who blamed his wife for all the misdeamenors of the world. It was the kind of chat you’d only hear in Ireland and We just loved it.

Things improved in the afternoon. The road from Ballina went north, still into the teeth of the gale, before turning due east and a bit of respite. We haven’t been breaking any land speed records but we have been averaging about 11-12 mph. Today that came down to 10 mph, but most of that average came this afternoon between Ballina and the B/B we had booked at Beltra, just south of Sligo.

We got there about 4.30, tired, thirsty, hungry and windblown. Carol, the landlady showed us our room and Hamish asked where we could eat. She recommended the next village which she said was 4k away. We knew from the map it was at least 6 miles away.

The thought of an extra 12 miles cycling just didn’t appeal, so we decided just to make do with bits and pieces of food we had in our panniers, plus a good raid on the room’s hospitality tray, except that there wasn’t one. No tea or coffee in the room, and no food in the bar. Could be a hungry night…

After a shower we adjourned to the bar where we made a real dent in the pubs supply of crisps and peanuts. Guinness, the perennial food and drink, helped the hunger pangs. Partly satisfied we went back to the room to watch the Champions League final on the telly, very much looking forward to the full Irish breakfast that this morning we swore we’d never touch again. Ho-hum…


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