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Cycling around the Burren with Irish Cycling Safaris, 6-13 July 2002

Well, I enjoyed my Bicycle Beano cycling holiday round St Davids last year so much, that I decided to include a week of peddling in the itinerary this year. After the usual trawl round the web I came across Irish Cycling Safaris, who generally seemed to get good write ups. They have a selection of trips, but the tour round County Clare and the Burren sounded like my sort of thing, so off I went.

Overall impressions? As expected, a lot of fun, with a bunch of very nice people. Weather could have been a bit better, but it could have been a lot worse. Light showers a few days, plus some sunny ones to make up for it. I'm not complaining. Incredible scenery, good accomodation, good food (I expected to lose weight during the week, but I think I may have put some on!), a few minor niggles about the state of the bikes, directions could have been more detailed etc. (but I've been spoilt by the quality of the Beano!). I'd still give them 8 out of 10. Would I go again? Maybe, depends on the weather forecast, and I'd probably take my own bike! Would I recommend them to other people? Yep, subject to the caveats about not expecting too much from the weather! They offer a good, generally well-organised trip, at a reasonable price (I could not believe the prices that some other tours were asking - $2000 a week!).Anyway, thanks a lot to Faith, our trusty guide, for being so helpful throughout the week. It's not a job I'd want!

So, on to the piccies...for larger versions, (640 x 430 and full-size 1800x1200) click on the link underneath. If you want to print a copy I suggest you download the full size version. If you want me to print you off a nice copy of the larger ones and post it to you, just let me know.

The obligatory group photo
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The happy band

Not the best quality photo sadly. Here we all are, back in Ennis on the last night. If I have got it right we have:
(Back) Paul, Faith, Amy, Susan, Jennifer
(Middle) Bob, Diane, Me (Nigel), Kate, Anita, Barb, Barry, Martin,Christine, Scott
(Front) Steve, Sue, Mary, Susan

The beach at Spanish point
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Spanish Point

After sorting out our bikes, the first day was a fairly steady plod from Ennis (Inis) out to the coast at Spanish Point (Rinn na Spáinneach), with a brief interlude for lunch in a lovely pub somewhere - you can't beat a proper turf fire in the grate (it may have been July, but it wasn't hot!). Excellent hotel at Spanish Point - and the rain held off until just after I took this photo of the beach there, but which drenched me by the time I walked back to the hotel. This was co-incidentally the start of Willie Clancy week in Milltown Malbay (Sráid na Cathrach), only a couple of miles away. The torrential rain hinted that staying in the hotel would be a good idea that evening - but as there were still three different sessions going on when I went to bed I wasn't unhappy!

The Cliffs of Moher - standard postcard shot
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Cliffs of Moher

Day 2, and after a good breakfast (and after repairing a puncture) off we go again. The Cliffs of Moher (Aillte na Mhothair) are really a bit of an obligatory stop, but I was so knackered after the climb up from Lehinch (An Leacht) I nearly gave them a miss - which would, on balance, have been a pity. Place was heaving with tourists and, for some reason, someone playing the bagpipes, which were audible a mile away! Still, quite an impressive sight.

A second puncture meant that I had to push my bike the last three miles into Doolin (Dúlainn), but a lovely dinner cheered me up and a bunch of us then walked down to the harbour (where the next two shots of the Cliffs were taken) before on to the pub (as usual).

The Cliffs from Doolin
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Doolin again, with some limestone pavement
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Aughinish Bay from Abbey Hill
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Into the Burren

Although it was a bit soggy as we left Doolin on the Tuesday morning it was a nice ride to Lisdoonvarna (Lios Dúin Bhearna) for lunch. The pub there did an incredible 'three cheese' toasted bap which seemed designed to eliminate the Irish dairy produce surplus in one go! Not good for the waistline. Obviously the Lisdoonvarna magic wasn't working - I was single when I arrived and when I left an hour later I was still single. I remember the afternoon as being wonderful sunny weather as we cycled down to the sea for a first sight of the incredible limestone landscape that is the Burren. We then followed the coast road, between a deep blue sea and the moonscape of the Burren in glorious sunshine, stopping off for ice-cream and more Factor 15, on round Black Head (Ceann Boirne) and then in to Ballyvaghan (Baile Uí Bheacháin). I have no photos of this ride at all! I think the problem is that it is such a big landscape that photos just cannot do it justice. The ones here were taken on Wednesday, the 'rest' day, when a group of us went on a wonderful guided walk up Abbey Hill (Cnoc na Mainistreach), 240m.) for nearly five hours in the company of Shane Connolly. He seems to know everything there is to know about the area - history, flora, geology, the lot. A fascinating morning out, and strongly recommended if you're visiting the area, something I cannot say about the Ailwee Caves which I walked out to in the afternoon. They were nice enough, but massively overpriced for what they are.

Looking across Poulnaclogh Bay and Ballyvaghan Bay, with Black Head in the distance
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Turlough Hill
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A montage from the top of Abbey Hill: South-East on the left, due North on the right
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Poulnabrone - without any tourists to give an idea of scale!
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Thursday we hop back on the bikes and head off up into the hills, with a stop at obligatory tourist site number 2, the tomb at Poulnabrone. It's very nice, but a lot smaller than I expected! The ones up in Donegal are a lot better.

From another angle
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Cyclists in the sun: Mary, Susan, Jennifer, Scott, Christine. (Notice the sunglasses!)
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Last stop, the lovely little village of Kinvarra (Cinn Mhara). Pottered out to have a look around the Castle/Tower House here (quite interesting), and spent a leisurely time just lazing on a bench by the harbour, in the sun, watching the boats and the world go by. The photo outside the pub just proves that the sun does shine - and notice the blue sky above the Castle.

Kinvarra Castle
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Journey's end: Anita, Mary, Jennifer, Christine and Scott.
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Journey's End

Friday afternoon, and we're back in Ennis (Inis), waiting for the others to catch up, after nearly 150 miles cycling, a few punctures, a bit of rain, a bit of sun, some excellent food, a smidgin or two of Guinness and other tipples, and an awful lot of fun.

Other photos from this summer...

Archaeology at Oideas Gael    Gaeilge and general

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