Breakfast in Gregans Castle is an experience all on its own. The finest selection of the freshest offerings greeted me upon arrival in the dining room. With tables allocated by each individual rooms identity, I returned to my table by the large conservatory window looking out across the magnificent Burren landscape all the way down to the sea in Ballyvaughan.
This great start to the day emboldened my nerve as I made my way along the tree lined avenue leaving Gregans Castle where I decided to turn left and face directly into the infamous Corkscrew Hill.
A low mist hung over the valley beneath as I made my way gradually up the challenging slopes, hairpin by hairpin. The smooth road surface allows cyclists to find a rhythm on the climb. With the distraction of the scenic surroundings a difficult climb becomes manageable for almost any cyclist.
Over the top Lisdoonvarna beckons as you gradually drop down towards the town. Passing through, heading due south, I followed the road in the direction of Lahinch. The more time I spend in County Clare the more impressed I am by the quality of the road surface as billiard table smooth tarmac seems commonplace.
Kilshanny crossroads with its miniature Pony and Trap full of turf signifies the next turning point as a right turn takes me along a deserted back road where autumn colours abound as multiple species of trees shed their foliage in preparation for the winter ahead.
A marshy flatland signifies the approach of Lahinch, its’ famous Golf club and even more famous beach. I however, turn right towards Liscannor and its ever popular stone.
Following signs for The Wild Atlantic Way I find myself beneath a huge gathering of feathered friends as they prepare for departure south towards warmer climes for the winter. The road brings me to a captivating rocky shoreline where a long piece of driftwood has become marooned alongside a bike.
Next up on a cycling route with an abundance of scenic delights are the World renowned Cliffs of Moher. Here I encountered people from many nations, England, Germany, Japan, The USA and France. Without exception they all proclaimed Ireland to be one of the most beautiful countries on earth, even when a cloud rolls in from the sea, something we often take for granted here at home.
A coastal road offered glimpses of The Aran Islands as I made my way along to Doolin pier to see people await the next ferry that would transport them to another of Irelands favourite experiences.
Now heading north along part of the route that I had taken yesterday through Fanore, past Black Head lighthouse and on towards Ballyvaughan once more I had the opportunity to compare the experience of travelling along this magnificent coastal route in both directions. The main advantage of travelling south to north, along with being able to take advantage of the prevailing south westerly wind is being on the side of the road nearest the coastline.
Back in Ballyvaughan the option to shorten this route to 80k presents itself with the short spin back up to the hotel nearby. This would be attractive on a wet day, and today I did experience a few misty showers, but to continue on offers an extra 30k of exploring the Burren landscape from within, along some very good cycling roads.
I continued on.
An unusual purple hue covered the Limestone mountain up ahead as I approached Bell Harbour where I bid farewell to the coastline and the Wild Atlantic Way for another day. Now heading inland, towards the heart of the Burren in the valley between two limestone mountains I couldn’t help but notice the amazing abundance of booth flora and fauna. A small animal, possibly a stoat crossed my path as I made my way along a winding narrow rolling road.
My water bottles now running low I was on the look out for another of those remarkably ornate mini cathedral water wells but came across a more traditional pump instead. Unfortunately the tap ran dry so I continued on regardless.
A lookout post over Corran gave an impression of just how much of a connection this are has with the past. Much of what we can look upon today dates back over 350 million years. Some of the man made structures predate the Pyramids of Egypt. This is the place to come in order to get a taste of history in the flesh.
Around each corner a new unexpected sign guides you towards another attraction enjoyed by those who visit our shores. The homestead of Michael Cusack, one of the founders of the GAA even has it’s own visitor centre.
Animal life seems to thrive in the area. Whilst some crops may not be suitable for the rocky landscape, cattle, sheep and goats abound. Farms are divided by multiple stone walls that must have taken generations to put in place, at a time before cement was even invented. A testament to the skill of these men is the resilience of these walls no matter how many winter storms batter their flanks.
Corkscrew Hill presented itself once more and the grey mist had lifted to reveal the landscape in all of its majestic glory. I stopped at the summit to take a photo only to notice Gregans Castle just down below to the left. It’s location truly is unique and it provides a standard of accommodation befitting such a majestic landscape.
Just around the next corner, I stopped at the viewing point. Looking down along the hairpin bends below, I noticed an unusual creation making it’s way up the side of the hill. A ‘motortrike’ with a miniature caravan in tow came thundering along. Its’ pilot had a broad smile on his face so I had to investigate further.
Ambrose awoke this morning in Navan. With a longing to visit the Burren and to have a pint in Lisdoonvarna he hooked on his home made caravan to his home made trike and set out for Galway. The trike is a re-engineered Volkswagen Beetle whilst the caravan is a very modified version of a €200 purchase from Done Deal.
As we chatted he mentioned taking in everything that he sees as he rides along and enjoying every minute of his travels. I felt a kinship with this attitude and what better place to take in all you can see, and enjoy every minute of it other than a good days cycling around The Burren.
A fabulous day ended with the promise of a relaxing evening in luxurious surroundings, where you can enjoy a good book without the distraction of any television sets, an evening meal that is beyond compare and a restful nights sleep, all in the comfort of Gregans Castle where one of lifes perfect days can draw to a majestic close.
This route would rate 5/7 for difficulty.
Here is the Garmin file of todays Gregans Castle 110k
Here is todays Strava file of Gregans Castle 110k
And here is a smartphone downloadable file on mapmyride
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