Queens boulevard in New York was a setting where I often witnessed big strong grown Irishmen reminisce fondly of home, down the neck of a coors lite with a small glint of a tear in their eye at 3am on a Sunday morning. The cause was a 4 minute piece of musical poetry by a band from Tuam about the main road that passes through the town called the N17. Every Galway man living in the Big Apple, particularly those from Tuam itself, gave the impression that the song had been penned especially for them.
Ever since that time I have always wanted to explore that piece of road and the area that surrounds Tuam itself, to see what the magical attraction was to the area. Last week I got that opportunity.
Leaving the Ard Ri House Hotel, having been accommodated with an early check in, I turned left and immediately found myself on the mythical N17. I stopped to take a photo of a sign beside a stone wall behind which the grass was truly green. This was helped by the misty rain that fell and which almost added to the experience. Ask any Irishman in New York in the middle of July when the humidity reaches over 90% what they would like and the answer quickly given would be ‘Sure a drop of soft rain would be a welcome relief right now’
The N17 to Knock via Claremorris is a regular route with cyclists taking on the Malin 2 Mizen challenge, and the Ard Ri House Hotel with its readiness to convert meeting and function rooms into proper bike parks is a regular overnight stop along the way for many. Some groups also decide to eschew the busy main road and take the route from Tuam to Dunmore instead and then on to Ballyhaunis. This option is slightly shorter and the quieter road with less traffic can be more appealing.
Dunmore is a picturesque small town and here I ventured right and on the road to Glenamaddy (there’s another song about that) and then right again towards Moylough. There are quite a few bogs in the area. Rather than go through expensive recruitment agencies some in the area find their own way to secure a job, such as these 4 lads looking for bog work.
Along the way I noticed that each village or towns land was marked with a sign carved into a piece of rock. One that I came across seemed to have the universally recognised Facebook Thumbs up, like symbol, so I stopped to take a quick photo. Almost immediately I heard a diesel engined Toyota Landcruiser slow behind me and come to a halt alongside. The passengers window rolled down and the driver asked in a friendly tone ;
‘Are you taking a photo of the sign ?’
‘I am indeed’
‘T’was I put that there to show a lad that told me there was no such place as Lisroe, an’ I livin’ here all my life’
‘Why did you put the Facebook symbol on it?’
‘The Thumbs up Facebook symbol’
‘That’s only for yer man that told me there was no such place so that he’d see it everytime he passed an him sayin there was no such place.’
‘Sure I’ll stick it up on Facebook tonight anyway’
‘Will ya really?’
‘I’ll be on The Facebook tonight so and I’ll have a look at it’
And off he drove laughing.
On I rambled smiling away when I came upon a postman collecting post from a brand new postbox beside the ruins of an old castle. I thought that it must be the only Castle in Ireland with its’ own postbox. Castles and ruins are a regular feature of any spin on the bike in this area. There is always something new, or old, to look at around every corner on the really well surfaced roads. Away from the N17 the volume of traffic is very light and perfect for cycling.
A number of times I passed signs for ‘The golden Mile’ and wondered at first if there was an Olympic connotation or if someone was running along in under 4 minutes. What it actually is, is a rural development initiative to highlight unique elements of each area such as stone walls, flora or fauna. It works really well as almost every Towns land or village looks like a Tidy Towns entrant.
Shortly after Moylough a roadside sign caught my eye for the Cloonran Turlough. It is a field that turns into a lake in winter and a fresh green pasture in summer. However, given that we are now in August and ‘Julember’ is just behind us with its copious amounts of rainfall the Turlough is slightly confused with a bit of both at present.
The next town to pass through was Monivea. AA Roadwatch seem to feature the Monivea roundabout in Galway city regularly in their traffic bulletins but the town itself was pleasant to pass through. The playground with yet another castle attached seemed pretty unique though.
A change of direction along with a coffee stop was due in Athenry. Another town with medieval routes, there is an abundance of stone walls and old castles throughout the town. Topaz coffee did the trick and I was soon back on a road signposted Tuam headed for the Ard Ri House hotel once more.
A small rise after a few kilometers opened up a vast expanse of open fields with stone walls down below and I had the thought ‘Low lie the fields of Athenry’. You would think of anything on a bike.
A detour from the main road a short while later travelling as the crow flies along a shorter route brought me onto another deserted country road with a perfect surface. Around a corner I spotted a disused but renovated train station and stopped for a look. Ballyglunin or Castletown as it is known was the location used during the filming of ‘The Quiet Man’ with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. This was a very quiet place but in fabulous condition and well worth a visit for anyone in the area.
A nice breeze now propelled me back to Tuam once more where a hot shower was followed by a really good steak in the warm and welcoming environs of the Ard Ri House Hotel. Once my head hit the pillow in the very comfy bed it wasn’t long before I was fast asleep and dreaming of more adventures the following day in a place with plenty of smooth roads, stone walls and where the grass is most definitely green.
The route that I followed is downloadable here on Garmin Connect and Strava :