Ireland end to end: Bushmills to Carnlough

Well, that’s about it. Hamish and I arrived in Carnlough, just north of Larne, earlier this afternoon after a harder than normal ride round the Giro d’Italia course on the Causeway Coast. We only have 13 miles to cycle into Larne tomorrow and our ferry back to Scotland.

All the pink Giro flags and bunting is still flying and all along the route we saw pink coloured bikes in gardens, outside halls and on the hillsides. We even came across some pink sheep near the Giant’s Causeway. It looks like Northern Ireland really took this event to its heart earlier this month.

It felt a harder ride than normal because of several things. After a couple of glorious days the weather dawned dour, grey and cold. Also, I suspect we were suffering slightly from a sense of anti climax which I hinted at yesterday. We had endured some little problems in Bushmills but had overcome them. For example, Hamish’s rear tyre went very soft yesterday and we wondered if he another slow puncture, but by this morning the tyre wasn’t any softer we he pumped it up and it appeared to be fine.

Also, because we stayed in a youth hostel last night we had to go out and find some breakfast this morning. No Full Irish today. We got a couple of filled baps in the Copper Kettle, and set off with the normal full belly, but almost immediately we found ourselves climbing. Never good first thing in the morning, especially when you’re also riding into a cold wind.

We thought we’d do the tourist thing and visit the Giant’s Causeway since Hamish hadn’t been there for about 30 years. I visited the attraction last September and was, to be honest, underwhelmed. I was no more “whelmed” this time, and neither was Hamish. We decided we preferred out columnar basalt in somewhere like Kilt Rock on Skye or Fingal’s Cave on Staffa.

Coffee time found us in Ballycastle and after that we had another big climb, up over the high moors and through the Ballypatrick forest before a long and chilly descent down to Cushendall. After that it was an easy, flat coastal road all the way Carnlough where we’ve booked in to the splendid Londonderry Arms for the night. We felt we deserved a wee treat.

The Causeway Coast is a lovely route to cycle and it’s a pity we didn’t experience it in better weather, or in a better frame of mind. Partly because of the Giro, the roads are in great condition and some of the views are superb. The sectionntoday between Ballycastle and Cushendall, although hard work, was stunning, and it was a delight to bomb along the coastal road between Cushendall and Carnlough at speeds averaging about 16 mph. With touring bikes and panniers that’ no bad at all.

I think we both feel a lot fitter after our fortnight’s cycling and we might even have lost a wee bit of weight, but the difficulty is maintaining that fitness when we’re not cycling everyday. However, we are planning to ride the Outer Hebrides from end to end in September, so that’s a good incentive to keep cycling fit.

I’ll try and put a few general thoughts about the trip down when I get home, things like total distance, total ascent, time etc, but for the moment we’ll leave you and head off for the final couple of pints of Guinness (and ginger beer) of the trip. We both appreciate your comments etc on Twitter and Facebook and would like to sincerely thank you for sharing our little adventure with us. Like our long time heroes Compo and Clegg, we’ll now head off, have a pint, and have a good old think about what our next Last of the Summer Wine ploy will be. All suggestions welcome, but keep them clean… Cheers.

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