Friday 31st July 2015 takes me onto the penultimate day of my Wild Atlantic Way adventure. I mentioned previously that by Day 4 I was really enjoying myself and after a long day yesterday, and a night in a great hotel I am thinking I need to get back here and do this whole thing a whole lot more slowly. I remember the few things that were annoying me over the first couple of days and now realise they weren’t really that annoying, just a fact of travelling on a tourist route growing in popularity.
I take a look over the map, the route taking me from Sligo to Letterkenny, and it looks like it is another long day, but then I look at the weather. Oh dear. This does not look too promising, there is a yellow warning for rain! I’m going to get wet! Also my initial and completely inaccurate distance calculations have me travelling 186 miles today. So I’m definitely more than that!
Leaving the hotel and things are dry, however the sky is very dark, grey and ominous and it doesn’t take too long for the skies to open and boy they open! I got wet on my journey down to the start of the WAW, and that only took me 4 hours, today I’m sure I have 10 -12 hours of it it looks like the only question will be how will the gear hold out?
Three more Signature Points to visit today (Downpatrick Head is the most Southerly Signature Point on the map, however it was visited yesterday). Today’s points are :
- Mullaghmore Head.
- Sliabh Liag.
- Fannad Head.
(The other point on the map above between Sliabh Liag and Fannad Head is Donegal Airport – a small airport with services Dublin with two daily flights.)
- Mullaghmore Head :
Mullaghmore is a small fishing village that should be on any outdoor enthusiast’s itinerary. The sandy beach here stretches as far as the eye can see and is ideal for a spot of swimming or windsurfing. You can also venture out into the Atlantic for an excursion to Inishmurray Island or a sea angling trip. If you’re more of a landlubber, there’s plenty here for you too. Go for a leisurely stroll and take in panoramic views of Sliabh Liag or watch the waves crash under Classiebawn Castle. You can also enjoy surfing as a spectator sport, remaining on the beach while watching top international surfers ride some of Europe’s best waves. Many come for Prowlers – a famous spot where swells can reach up to 30m – and practice the towing technique involving jet skis. These skilled big wave surfers are exciting to watch, but the waves tend to be best in the winter months, so you’ll no doubt want to hurry back into a cosy pub where you can warm up by the fire.
2. Sliabh Liag :
Some of the highest and finest marine cliffs in Europe, County Donegal’s Sliabh Liag (Slieve League in English) are not to be missed. To make the most of your visit, it’s best to leave your car in the car park and walk the few kilometres to the cliffs. As you climb toward the top of Sliabh Liag – which at 601m high is not a place for the faint-hearted – there are terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean, Donegal Bay and the Sligo Mountains. Sliabh Liag was also the site of a Christian pilgrimage for more than a 1,000 years, although it’s believed to have been a sacred place long before the Christians arrived. Given the landscape’s rich history, there is a lot you can learn at the visitor centre, where you’ll also get a taste of the local food, culture and unique sense of humour.
3. Fanad Head :
Fanad Head lies on the north coast of County Donegal between Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay. Its claims to fame include one of the world’s most beautiful lighthouses and the famous Flight of the Earls, which took place here in 1607. To reach the headland, travel along Knockalla Coast Road, a route with some seriously stunning panoramas. Along the way, you’ll take in views of the Inishowen Peninsula and Atlantic Ocean, and as the road ascends, you’ll look down upon Portsalon and Ballymastocker Bay. From this vantage point, it’s easy to see why the beach was once voted the second most beautiful in the world. Still, it has more to offer than good looks, as it’s also a haven for watersports enthusiasts, walkers and golfers. If a visit to the lighthouse is on your agenda, don’t forget to make some time for a leisurely stroll along the adjacent headland, where you’ll see awe-inspiring waves and the Wild Atlantic Way’s most rugged stretch of coastline. This is one place where you’ll certainly want to have your camera ready.
Maybe it was the rain, the copious amounts of heavy heavy rain today, but the roads on this section today seemed much more rugged and natural. There was still a lot of traffic about, but the tourist traffic (hire cars and campervans) seemed to be a lot less. Maybe people decided to park up for the day and just watch the weather rather than travel in it. Maybe it was a factor that most people start this route in the North and make progress South, maybe the tourists were starting to pool in the more Southernly Counties, I don’t know but there was definitely a lot less traffic on the roads today. And that was a benefit, being held up when the roads are so wet and visibility so reduced makes overtaking larger vehicles on the smaller roads a hazard that I personally wouldn’t be too interested in attempting. Thankfully though I had a good clear run for most of the day. The usual increases in tourist density occurred at the Signature Points but even they were considerably more quiet today.
Also at one point the winds picked up so much along the Coast that it was almost blowing me onto the wrong side of the road, with that being obviously dangerous I took a look at the map and decided to take a run towards Glenveagh National Park. As you can see from the map it is pretty large, an almost perfectly straight road brings you to it and as you would expect the scenery is amazing. I took a quick ride into it, coming out the other side at which point the winds seemed to have relaxed, so coming off the route just prior to Donegal Airport I was able to exit the forest and head east again meeting the coast just after the Airport, so missing none of the WAW, avoiding the crazy wind and taking in the forest seems like a good detour should you have the time.
If you have read my posting on the gear I took with me and how it held out you will already be aware of this info, but if not and in summary the BMW Helmet remained water tight today, as did the BMW textile trousers. Not a drop of water got through even when it started to pool on the saddle between my legs. I was so impressed by the trousers I have since bought another pair. The Magnums failed, they had been well treated with Himalayan Bees Wax but it didn’t work in such conditions. The only thing is they are so comfortable for touring in, comfortable on and off the bike. Protection is compromised a little, but have a look at what you are doing, speeds and risks involved and go for the boots you feel meet your needs. For me the time I like to spend off the bike on such trips (although I didn’t get much time out of the saddle on this one) means Magnums meet my needs pretty well. I have now purchased a waterproof pair and will see how they preform over the winter months. The gloves failed, they were brand new and expensive, marketed as waterproof, all I can say is nope! Always pack spare gloves! Finally the Spada jacket. It also failed. It lasted about 2.5 hours until the water breached it and when it did it flooded it! Water pooled at my elbows and the top half of me was soaked! One saving grace for this jacket was that I had took out the liner, so when the rain stopped I unzipped it a little to let the air flow and it dried out reasonably quickly. However the rain was never too far away to soak it again. It seemed through that when the water breached it that was it, it didn’t hold for another two and half hours when the rain started again. It started and I got wet. I’m still looking for a new jacket.
It must have been a rough night!
Rosses Point Lighthouse :
Mullaghmore Head : The obligatory motorcycle shot
Welcome to Country Leitrim : You just brush through this county, I mean literally just skim across it :
Welcome to County Donegal : About 20 seconds later you leave County Leitrim and enter Donegal, you can nearly see the Donegal sign as soon as you are in Leitrim.
Surfing – A sport where you intentionally through yourself into a rough ocean!
The Road to Sliabh Liag : At this point it looked almost clear…
When I got there the true visibility became apparent – there was none!
A ‘slightly’ better view of the cliffs…
An old bridge in County Donegal…
And still everyone loves a lighthouse.
It looks like more rain…
A new bridge in County Donegal :
Dinner in a filling station diner in Letterkenny was surprisingly tasty especially as it was to close in 40 minutes…
The best bit… Ice Cold Original Genuine Coke… As close to Coke in a glass bottle as you can get…
The Accommodation : Killererin House B&B :
After staying at a hotel last night I was back to B&B accommodation this evening. This is also my last night of accommodation as tomorrow takes me back home. This was also the most expensive accommodation I booked, coming at €70 for the night with breakfast. It also came very highly rated online. It was easy to find on the main road into Letterkenny, still on the Wild Atlantic Way, just at the end of the road is a large petrol station where I was able to stop and get some food, but Letterkenny town is full of great places for a pint and a feed, I just wanted to get in, get showered and relax. So I had my dinner, got some goodies for the room and went to chill out. It was immediately apparent that this was a nice spot, the house itself was immaculate from the outside and the owner greeted me outside, and gave me somewhere nice and discreet to park the bike away from any prying eyes. Remembering of course that I had been in the rain since early morning I looked like an absolute hobo, my boots were grim, water oozing out of them as I walked. The owner didn’t bat an eyelid. I asked for somewhere to put my boots and I was told not to worry and go and get comfortable in the room.
Now obviously I would never walk through any house in boots in that state so I took them off, the owner went and got some paper put it on her tiled floor under a radiator and put the heat on to dry them off. Brilliant. She seemed genuinely interested in the trip and mentioned she often has bikes stopping off and was full of info about the town and where is worth checking out.
The room itself was impeccable. Just have a look at the photos. This place although the most expensive spot I stayed at is easily recommendable. If you are in Letterkenny and this pot has rooms stay here. Take this for example…
This is the first time I slept on a bamboo pillow. They will without doubt be in my next decorating purchase.
The breakfast was as I expected, outstanding. A through ally great place to stop off on my final night, and a spot I will absolutely return to!
So then one more day to go to finish this route and it is actually a pretty short day, Letterkenny to Muff, Co. Donegal and only one Signature Point – Malin Head – Ireland’s most northernly point.