The Silver Tassie 118k Fanad Cycling Route

The Silver Tassie Hotel in Letterkenny County Donegal is the first Hotel in Ireland to create Wild Atlantic Way themed rooms. The owner, Rose Blaney is a keen photographer and artist whose works can be seen throughout the hotel.

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My room was called ‘Atlantic waves’ and inside along with original photographs and paintings was an overview guide to the coastline that inspired these works of art. One in particular of the Fanad Head Lighthouse really caught my eye, so I decided to use this as a guide when planning my cycling route the following day.

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Leaving the hotel I crossed straight over to the cycling route that is signposted across the road. This is a beautiful quiet road that has very little traffic and gives regular views across Lough Swilly to the Inishowen peninsula on the other side of the lake.

Through the idyllic village of Ramelton I crossed the bridge and turned right and hugged the coastline for the next 40k. It is always interesting to look across water towards land at the far side. Usually I take photos on the bike at every opportunity when views like this present themselves, but on this occasion with water in view over 90% of time I could just relax and take it all in.

The rolling road surface was very good, but this is probably down to the low volume of traffic. On this coastal route, where I expected a constant stream of cars and busses I travelled for over twenty minutes at one stage without encountering a single vehicle.

As the views expanded I rounded a corner and there below me was the long golden deserted beach of Portsalon. That I had to get a picture of.

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The Pier in Portsalon
The Pier in Portsalon

 

Continuing on up the coast looking across the bay at Irelands most northerly point off in the distance I thought back twelve months ago, to a five am start when I last saw the sky over Malin head. Many cyclists now have Malin to Mizen on their to do lists and it is one challenge well worth the effort.

Then with the blue sky stretching out to touch the Atlantic ocean up ahead I came to a junction and turned right towards Fanad Lighthouse. This was to be the highlight of a fabulous days cycling.

Approaching Fanad Lighthouse going past a thatched cottage
Approaching Fanad Lighthouse going past a thatched cottage
Fanad Lighthouse with Malin Head off in the distance
Fanad Lighthouse with Malin Head off in the distance

 

A now derelict lookout station beside Fanad lighthouse
A now derelict lookout station beside Fanad lighthouse

 

Within 2 kilometres I was at looking up at the ‘Worlds second most beautiful lighthouse’, as the guide books refer to it, when I noticed a school of Dolphins jumping out of the water just down below.

Then, as I wandered around amongst French, German and American visitors from Arizona, I met a local man from Dowlings nearby. We began chatting and he gave me some great insights into the area. He pointed back to the right and informed me that 56 Canadian souls are buried there, after a ship with a cargo of 114 tonnes of gold bound for Canada was sunk just off the coast during the Second World War. He also pointed North and described it as a shipping graveyard with many warships and even a German U-Boat resting on the sea bed.

Now, well into his eighties, my impromptu tour guide, pointed way off over towards another beach. There, as a young child he and his father had come upon a group of German soldiers who had come ashore from a U-Boat to exercise and get some fresh air on the beach, having spent months beneath the sea. He remembered the now derelict lookout towers, scattered along the coast, all within sight of each other at a time when all were occupied 24/7. He could also recall a young Army officer who, on the initiation night of a group of inexperienced sixteen and seventeen year old soldiers handed out 303 rifles with life ammunition to each new recruit. Many crows were fired at that night on the way home, but few were hit. He remarked that invading armies at the time would have had little to fear.

Now, it was time to hop back on the bike and continue along the Northern Atlantic coastline. I strayed off the main route and travelled as close to the coast as possible. The narrow winding roads with sweeping corners and a prevailing onshore tailwind were fun to cycle along, and again had little or no traffic, unless the Donegal Rally is on when these roads would be very busy being put to full use in that capacity.

 

The narrow winding coast roads
The narrow winding coast roads

 

Lunchtime was now approaching and so too was the village of Carrigart. Fist I had to cross one of Irelands largest and newest bridges, the Harry Blaney, Mulroy bridge.

The Mulroy bridge that shortened a 2 hour journey to 5 minutes
The Harry Blaney, Mulroy bridge that shortened what was once a 2 hour journey to 5 minutes

 

A few bikes outside the old Fire Station in Carrigart
A few bikes outside the old Fire Station in Carrigart

 

Now I headed back inland towards a village called Glen, along deserted mountain valley roads. Then came the climb to Lough Salt where I got a taste of what made Philip Deignan is such a good climber. Even the surface of the roads mirrored the smooth tarmac of the Alps.

Heading into the hills overlooking one of the many lakes
Heading into the hills overlooking one of the many lakes
The long road to the top
The long road to the top
Looking back down towards the Atlantic ocean
Looking back down towards the Atlantic ocean

 

Lough Salt at the summit provides much of Letterkennys water supply
Lough Salt at the summit provides much of Letterkennys water supply

 

A long descent followed before another meandering back road route, leading back to the Silver Tassie hotel once more.

 

Much of the route is part of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 2500k coastal route from Malin Head to Kinsale.  The experience of the 118k route around Fanad head and beyond, with the longest continuous coastal road that I have encountered, along such quiet roads with such a smooth surface is fantastic days cycling that any cyclist should have on their to do list.

 

Garmin route file : HERE

Mapmyride route file : HERE

Strava route file : HERE

 

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

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