A quick note on our navigation. Initially I thought that we would be using the GPS that we used for most of our world tour. As it turns out this is great for remote areas, but actually Google Maps is more than adequate for more civilised parts. We have, however, learnt that Mr Google doesn’t always take the best biking route even when in bike mode, so it is definitely worth looking beyond the blue line. As Martina touched on in the last post, Google’s idea of ‘mostly flat’, ‘moderate hills’, ‘steep hills’ and ‘very steep hills’ aren’t always accurate and unfortunately Google’s assessment is rarely easier in reality as we have found out to our detriment on numerous occasions!
10 June 23 – Tramore Beach to Sleepy Hollow (near Crolly) – 52km
Yet another shortish day and another one full of hills and a head wind! Our route initially took us along the Gweebarra River which was very pretty and which we eventually had to cross.
We then had a stretch along the main N-road which I had though might be tricky, but turned out to have a very convenient bike path alongside it. We managed to then take a side road towards Dungloe where we stopped for a breakfast bap and coffee. We’re definitely getting close to the end of this tour and we are beginning to indulge somewhat as we go along. This was my second bought breakfast in as many days!
To be honest there wasn’t much to keep us in Dungloe – even a surprise visit from singer Daniel O Donnell, which a local told us was pending – and so after a supermarket stop we were back on the small rural roads and on our way to the Sleepy Hollows campsite.
As we’ve mentioned were doing shorter riding days because of the hilly terrain and the constant headwind. But this was day 9 on bikes since leaving Westport and we’ve not had a day off except to walk up a massive hill at Sliabh Liag!
It was, therefore, nice to get to base early, check in, put the tent up just as rain came on (took us a while to figure out what this was!) and chill out, which for Martina involved a snooze in the tent and for me to read my book and chat with some of the other people on the campsite. The midges were out in force with the onset of the rain and it was a battle with smoke from a camp fire and incense sticks and midge repellent to keep them away. We still managed a nice enough evening and we were in bed watching our latest TV show (Traitors) by 8:30!
11 June 23 – Sleepy Hollow to Dunfanaghy – 47km
Had a lovely chat with some mean-looking Harley Davidson bikers in the morning whilst making breakfast and packing away our tent. We managed to dry most of our kit out before packing it away and we were off…..to a false start! Turns out that Martina’s back brakepads needed replacing. Half an hour later we were on the road again…round two!
A quick stint on the main N-road before turning left onto the coast road to the Bloody Foreland. We’ve actually been here before, albeit in a car, and we remember remarking that this area, in our view, has been rather spoilt by the random scattering of a lot of houses over this very remote and rugged coastline. I don’t suppose we’d expected things to have changed, and true enough the beauty of the coast is somewhat marred by literally hundreds of houses liberally scattered across the hills and coastline.
The Bloody Foreland itself is nice enough and named after the colour that the rocks turn at sunset, especially in autumn when the bracken has turned brown, so nothing mysterious unfortunately! We went through Falcarracgh where we stopped for lunch and then onto our digs for the night.
As we’d been on the road for 10 days without a break we decided to splash out and book a railway carriage room at the Corcreggan Mill rather than pitching the tent yet again. There had also been rain forecast, but it never really materialised, but the prospect of a proper bed for the night was enough to get us very excited. The other deciding factor was that the Cocreggan Mill does food and specifically fish and chips which we had promised ourselves a few days back. Neither the accommodation…
or the food let us down!
12 June 23 – Dunfanaghy to Bermuda – 76km
Our plan was to cycle east and then north all the way up to Fanad Lighthouse, which is at the mouth of Lough Swilly on which Buncrana, our final destination, sits. We woke to thick sea mist and couldn’t even see the end of the car park, so we slowed our get-up to see if it cleared at all as the sun came up, and it did. So, off we set.
There was an initial 10km on the main N-road and some roadworks coming into Creeslough to negotiate, but we were soon heading north on some quiet backroads. First stop along the road was at a view point to take in Doe Castle across a small inlet.
Very pretty, but it was no more than a quick picture opportunity. The hills of the past few days were still there, though perhaps not as high as they have been. Our second stop was at the Donegal Boardwalk, which Martina had heard about, but didn’t know what it was exactly. Turns out that it’s a holiday resort with a short boardwalk out to the beach. For us it was a nice place for our first break of the day with a cafe and a nice view across another inlet.
During the next few hours the scenery continued in a similar way with undulating hills surrounded by craggy rocks and inter dispersed with sea inlets. All very pretty and it made for pleasant riding especially as there wasn’t a lot of traffic. Up the tough incline over Harry Blaney (whoever he was!) and on to Fanad Lighthouse.
By the time we got there the sea mist was back and so visibility wasn’t too good and it was a real shame that we couldn’t see the other side of Lough Swilly. We’d really been looking forward to seeing what the Urris Hills, the Parish and Buncrana (all local areas near where Martina grew up) looked like from the other side of the lough. We know what they look like from the Buncrana side as that is where we usually go when visiting family, but this was our first time looking from this side.
The plan had been to camp in Portsalon and then have a half day on Tuesday to Rathmullan where we could get the ferry to Buncrana. However, as the visibility was so poor and we could only just see the other side we decided to push on to Rathmullan and take the ferry a day early. The riding to Portsalon was once again really nice and as we passed the campsite we’d planned to stay at and Martina said “I’m glad we’re pushing on as there’s nothing really to do here”, plus it was still early in the day, so we’d only be twiddling our thumbs. What Martina hadn’t noticed was the ‘Hill of Doom’ we needed to climb in order to get out of Portsalon to continue along the coast! And boy, was it a biggie! Steep and with 4 monster hairpin turns it was enough to get us both puffing pretty hard. But we both made it without having to get off the bikes to push! I reckon we wouldn’t have managed that a few weeks ago.
The rest of the ride to Rathmullan was really nice and we were there with plenty of time, and as luck would have it the next ferry was just arriving as we did.
On board we had our second lunch and before we knew it we were in Buncrana. It was actually a bit chilly and was the first time we’d felt a bit cold for ages. Martina wanted to do a ‘victory lap’ of the town which we did and during which we failed to see anyone we knew! Never mind, we’d still cycled from our home in north London to Martina’s home town of Buncrana. A total of well over 2,100km! We picked up pizza and beer and headed to Bermuda, the name of the mobile home that we have here , for a well-earned rest!
We will be leaving our bikes here for the summer and hope to come back to cycle home to London in the autumn. Watch this space…..!