…or, Adventures of the Day-Glo Pannier.
The last Bank Holiday weekend of the summer had conspired against me and I was facing the prospect of returning to w*rk without having made the most of the three days off.
As we ate our Sunday dinner, I decided that as it was still light until about 9:30, I could jump in the car, head over to the coast and have a mini-tour of Loop Head in West Clare. Since our arrival in Ireland on April, I’d travelled the whole length of the Clare coast with the exception of Loop Head.
I threw my gear in the car and headed off, hoping that the grilled chicken, roast potatoes and vegetables would settle before I got to my start point in Kilkee, an hour away (they did, but not the banana and mango smoothie we had for dessert).
Kilkee looks like a typical British seaside town, a little rundown, tired and weathered. Actually, it has a great beach with magnificent cliffs either side and on closer look, doesn’t have the fraught atmosphere or the endless tat that you’d find back home.
I parked up in the windblown drizzle and just before 6pm, set off in the wrong direction. The route I had in mind was 60km or so with plenty of photo opportunities along the way. I’d need to get a move on if I was going to be home at a reasonable hour.
First stop was the cemetery at Kilcrona. The water in the background is the River Shannon, just before it reaches the Atlantic, at which point it is almost two miles wide.
Rhinevilla Bay was beautiful with the evening sunlight illuminating the storm clouds rolling up the estuary.
The Loop Head Cycleway is a 65km route that is, I discovered later, almost identical to the route I took but with a different route out of Kilkee. It’s well signposted, runs along quiet roads and is of course, the best way to see the area.
Loop Head itself is an incredible place. The long road out towards the lighthouse feels like you’re riding to the end of Europe, and after the lighthouse and the sheer drop to the crashing waves, the next stop is America.
There’s a circular walk around the headland that takes you close to the precipitous cliff edges, including one spot that’s close to a huge sea stack that has separated from the mainland; the waves crash through the gap with massive force, a couple of hundred feet below.
Also on the headland is one of the sites where during the Second World War, EIRE was spelt out in stone letters painted white, telling lost Allied airman that they were over friendly territory.
I stopped off at the Bridges of Ross (and took a rubbish picture), before heading north along the Kilkee cliffs, with a stormy sunset taking place to my left. On several occasions I had to stop the bike, just to stand slack-jawed, taking in the beauty of the sea and the sky and its ever-changing lightshow.
One last stop in the gloaming was at St. Kee’s Well. Inside the opening of the small structure was a mat for the faithful to kneel on, next to a square opening in the floor, and with the well’s water below. Signs explained that the water should not be drunk, but a measuring jug on the floor by the hole suggested that pilgrims could fix eye problems by dousing themselves in the cold, dark liquid. I didn’t try it, but I’ll let you decide…
Back to Kilkee and its murals of Ché Guevara. They seem slightly out of place, but a handy sign explains that the South American revolutionary once visited Kilkee when his Transatlantic flight was forced to land in Shannon.
By the time I was back to the car, the weather was closing in and it was pretty much dark. A covers band was ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ on the seafront while a 25-a-side football match was being noisily played-out on the beach.
The endorphins coursed through my muscles as I drove home and even though it I’d saved it for the last few hours of the Bank Holiday weekend, it’d been a very special ride that would satisfy my need to explore our new home county a little more each weekend.
The link below should show you the route I took:
Relive ‘Afternoon Ride’