It was a long drive from Southampton to Holyhead, broken by an extended nap in the Bromborough Travelodge from 2am to 7am.
We drove into Llandudno for breakfast where my old school pal Muireann worked and I’d hoped to catch up with her for a cuppa. Alas, she was in a meeting and we missed each other. Anyway, I hadn’t seen her in 32 years, so maybe it was not meant to be.
Dan and I boarded the early morning ferry to Dublin where I met a bunch of guys from Liverpool who were also going to cycle in Ireland. Two, had been taking cycling holidays in Ireland for fourteen years, but none had ever been to Donegal and none were going there. They said it was very hard to get to without a car.
On leaving the ferry terminal, I finally agreed to pay the toll for the Dublin Port Tunnel. For years I’d avoided it opting to take the difficult route through the city. But never again, I’ve realised that €3 is a small price to pay for normal blood pressure and a sense of calm. There were two more tolls to pay before we reached the free roads.
We stopped for lunch in Conefrey’s Pub, Edgeworthstown. It was the only place open in town for food that day. A 1950’s themed wedding had taken place in the village and some guests were downing quick halves at the bar. They blended in quite nicely with the décor.
A few minutes after leaving Sligo, I saw the first signpost for the Wild Atlantic Way and sighed. Passing under the naked head of Benbulbin with the mighty ocean sweeping out to America, I inhaled deeply.
‘I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree…’ I began. Dan smiled. He’d heard me recite the W.B. Yeats poem many times.
‘Nine bean rows you shall have there…’ he continued.
‘And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattle made…’ I quickly corrected.
‘…That’s where he’s buried.’ I said, pointing out the graveyard as we drove past. ‘
‘Does it feel like you’re going home?’
‘It does indeed,’ I swallowed.
It was early evening when we reached my childhood hometown of Bundoran. We packed the bikes and went for a quick spin to Roguey to cycle the Fairy Bridge, a cliff arch formed by a blow hole and to sit in the Wishing Chair at sundown.
If folklore is to be believed it is advised to approach the chair with caution lest the powers of the chair be disrupted. Hold on to both ‘arms’, sit down slowly., then pause for at least 15 seconds to take in the views before making a wish. If it’s to be granted, then silence must be maintained. Tap the seat twice to be sure it comes true. Over the years, I’ve made many wishes in that seat and some of them have come true.
A sculpture named ‘Carraig na Nean’ (Rock of birds) by local artist Brendan McGloin marks a perfect viewing point for watching the surfers ride the world famous reef break known as The Peak. Irish people have a unique talent for renaming sculptures to what would appear to be a derogatory term. This is in fact a term of endearment. So now it’s called ‘The Cock on the Rock’!
Later, in the rural setting of Ardfarna, I sipped wine and relaxed on the sofa with my cousin Nicola and her family, while Dan frantically worked on loading the route to the GPS.
Image ‘Cock on the Rock’ © Copyright Brendan McGloin