Saturday 17 February 2018

Cycling the Wild Atlantic Way on a wooden bike: Week #2

The adventure continues...

Mark Graham (inset) and a photo he took along the second week of his Wild Atlantic Way cycle
Mark Graham (inset) and a photo he took along the second week of his Wild Atlantic Way cycle

Mark Graham

Mark Graham is cycling the Wild Atlantic Way on a wooden bike. Here's the second instalment of his epic journey.

As I sped down the back of picture-postcard perfect Glengesh Pass, hurtling towards Glencolumbkille, I actually started to enjoy cycling in the rain.

Either I'm acclimatising to Donegal, or road fever is kicking in earlier than expected. This enjoyment was enhanced by the looks I got through windscreens from members of a UK Jaguar enthusiasts club who were motoring along the Wild Atlantic Way in the opposite direction.   

They stared at the poor drenched eejit on the bike with a mixture of pity, bemusement and self-satisfaction. The dry Jag drivers didn't know they were missing an impressive performance on the damp, but invigorating hillside.

The gurgle of a peaty stream provided a bass line for the larks to improvise over. The foxcloves trumpeted scarlet against the greeny brown tweeded slopes. A lick of wind through the marsh grass and ferns created the brushwork that set the tempo for the earthy ensemble. Bog cotton with the same hair stylist as Don King, nodded appreciatively to the mountain groove.

Tá sé deas,” I murmured to myself.

Getting a taste for the natural buzz of dizzying heights, the next leg of my cycle saw me tackling Sliabh Liag Cliffs, the second highest marine cliffs in Ireland (Croaghun on Achill is the highest). Deciding to pedal up to these beasts gave me the perfect excuse to call in to Seamus from Ireland by Bike in the nearby village of Carrick.

Seamus organises cycling tours and rents bikes to anyone wishing to tackle the trails of Donegal. I was particularly interested in having a shot of his battery assisted velos. Seamus let me borrow one of the bikes, and straight away I got hooked on powering up the hills with very little effort.

It was only when whirring passed a couple of proper cyclists on a particularly sticky climb that I started to feel guilty. Is this what Lance Armstrong should have felt like?

The guilt was short lived as I whirled up another steep incline in jig time. Ahhhh, this is what Lance Armstrong actually felt like. I could get used to those bikes, but please don’t tell Aisling, my wooden bike; I told her I was going out for a walk.

As I reached the top of Slaibh Liag Cliffs, the sun made a diva’s entrance, swirling her golden gown over the awesome cliff top views. It was definitely worth the effort that those other cyclists put in. The height of the cliffs, the expanse of The Atlantic, the call of the gulls and the furrows on Ben Bulben’s forehead visible off in the distance all added to the jaw dropping panorama.

I took the short trek out to the Napoleonic watchtower below the viewing point, sitting with my back against the stone wall, breathing it all in deeply.

Read more: Cycling the Wild Atlantic Way on a wooden bike: Week #1

Hill walkers have the option of taking the Pilgrims’ Path, approaching the cliffs via the summit of Sliabh Liag. This route should only be tackled by experienced walkers as the weather around here can change in the blink of an eye.

“Ach, but yeh could see five saysuns in tha wan day in these parts, hay,” a weathered old man remarked to me on the road to Malin Beag. His logic made complete sense at the time.

The cliffs were so impressive I wanted to have a look at them from another angle. Teelin pier is a couple of kilometres south of the cliffs, and it's here you'll find Paddy, the skipper of Sliabh League Boat Trips. Getting to see these natural wonders from above and below increases the wow factor and bobbing around on a boat underneath the cliffs, with the opportunity for a swim and maybe even some dolphin and basking shark spotting, enhances the experience.

The village of Ardara provided me with a very good answer for anyone asking how my 2,500km cycle is going. Ardara recently picked up an award for best village in Ireland to live in, and Nancy’s pub and restaurant picked up an award for being the best pub in Ireland. I spent a night in arguably the best pub in the country, in the best village in the country, chatting to my favourite Martin McGuinnes.

Martin is a dairy farmer and drag artiste; he has amazing calves. We discussed whether Martin might change his stage persona from Scarlett Rose to The Wild Atlantic Gay. The trip is going just fine. More road!

Follow Mark:

More info on Ireland by Bike –

More info on Sliabh League Boat Trips -

More info on Woodelo wooden bikes -

You can hear Mark talk about his adventures every weekend on RTE Radio One's Marian Finucane Show. See also

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