The next day we cycled part of the Great Western Greenway, a new cycle track that runs from Westport to Achill Sound. It was opened last year by our otherwise useless Taoiseach. Check it out here
The section we were planning on doing, Mulranny to Achill Sound, was 22km in all which seemed a little short to me so I suggested we maybe cycle around a mountain or something but I got some sort of look that I couldn’t quite interpret so I didn’t push it.
We drove to Mulranny from Connemara, a journey of 90 minutes or so. I had brought my bike with me and had checked the tyres before loading it on the carrier but by the time we got to Mulranny one of the tyres was completely flat. I got the pump out but as I was using it the bike fell over and the valve snapped off.
We found a boy in a van who was hiring out bikes so I hired a bike from him and a couple of helmets because, shockingly, we had both forgotten ours. I have never been on my bike without my helmet and I am always ranting about the scores of people who take their children helmetless out on our roads so even though we would be off-road for the most part I didn’t feel I could continue ranting if I had not worn a helmet.
It was an overcast day but a lovely easy-going cycle. Cycling is a lovely way to travel through the landscape, slow enough to enjoy everything, fast enough that the scenery is constantly changing. The path was clearly laid out and nearly all of it is off -road except for about 500 yards or so. There were a few cyclists on the track and some walkers but not too many as it was threatening to rain and everyone in this country seems to be under the impression that they are made of salt and will melt if they go out in it.
We passed a family of four, two boys and their parents. The father waved us on irritably in a sergeant-like manner. He seemed annoyed that we were passing him, that he was slowed down by his kids and I immediately decided I didn’t like him so when we stopped for some snacks later and I saw them catching up I was determined not to let him pass us. We hopped on our bikes Laura rolling her eyes at me, me with my chin set.
Over the miles the family gained even though the youngest was only about 6 or 7. It was apparent, if not to Laura then at least to me, that my nemesis had realised what was at stake and was obviously cruelly whipping the boys on. Still, I will take victory where I can find it, even when it involves children and happily we won the day.
I jumped off the bike at The Island Hotel at Achill Sound and pretended I was there for ages when the family cycled by its the patriarch red in the face acting as if he hadn’t lost anything. Laura for some reason didn’t seem as buzzed up by our victory and just rolled those big eyes of hers some more.
The last time I was in Achill Sound was two years ago. I lunched here at the island Hotel that time as well but I don’t remember the food being as bad as it was this time. The sad, flat, square wrap had a small leaf sitting beside it just as a baby rabbit would sit defeated and quivering beside it’s newly knocked down mother. It was expensive too.
The bridge across Achill Sound is not a pretty bridge but it had been featured on the front of a tourist guide I owned which may be why in the two years since I had seen it the bridge had grown in my head into some massive ugly version of the Golden Gate in San Francisco or the suspension bridge in Bristol.
I was little non-plussed to find that it was so small that you had to strain to see it. I am not normally given to dramatising things so I cannot explain this lapse all I can do is apologise to the people of Achill for declaiming their bridge as huge and ugly to all and sundry. It is ugly but happily its small too.
On the road back it began to rain which wasn’t so bad except that the wind came howling out of the east making it seem that the way back was all uphill. My hire bike was a little too low for me and my thigh started to ache.
My right leg is pretty wonky and has already suffered from plantar fascitis, exploding ligaments, achilles tendinitis, hamstringyitis, hipitis and anything else you’d care to mention. Gritting my teeth against the ache I couldn’t help but wonder at the ridiculousness of doing more than 22km in this weather. Whoever had suggested that must be entirely mad.
I kept going with Laura sailing along beside me. On getting back to Mulranny I bought a bag of frozen peas to sit on my leg and I was fine by the time we got back though Lauras eyes were a little tired from all the rolling they were doing.
At Renvyle a lovely dinner of bacon, tatties and creamed spinach was waiting to which I added some softening peas. And there was wine too.