Tour Blog: Alex’s End to End of Ireland
Alex Hamilton is best known for his roll as lead of the Ayrshire and South Side Road Cycle Meet Up Group. He is also gaining a reputation as a fearless mile-muncher. Having ridden LEJOG before it was time to take on ‘Malin to Mizen‘. Last week he clocked over 500miles in just 5 days as he traversed the Emerald Isle. Many thanks to Alex for this.
Originally planned last year (in the pub of course!), we had 5 people signed up but sadly the numbers fell away as the planned event came closer and it ended up being just myself, joined by my friend Jamie for 2/3’s of the run.
Despite being 10 months in the planning originally, there was still a frantic last few days agreeing the actual route:
Most Northernly point- Malin Head, Inishowen Peninsula, County Donegal to Most Southernly point – Mizen Head, County Cork
Pre Day 1 Travel –
Epic trip to top of Ireland involving a car journey to Cairnryan (Jamie cycled 100 miles from Glasgow day before), 1 ferry to Belfast, 1 train to Londonderry and a 35 mile cycle to top where we were staying at the Sandy Rock Hostel.
Didn’t start out brilliantly: Jamie was 5 mins late to book in at ferry and was not allowed on. So I had a 3 hour wait at Belfast. When he arrived I was speaking to him on phone when it turned out he was docking at Larne. Eventually we met at Belfast Central. I guess I can laugh about it now.
Day 1 – Malin Head to Sligo. (122 miles)
Eager to go we were on the road by 9am. After some photos etc at top and we were following my garmin routes. This proved at times to be annoying (see later). But the sun was shinning. First 55 miles all farm roads, twists and bends, seeing real Ireland. Londonderry, then south West towards Donegal. Route binned on garmin half way then started following road signs. We arrived in Sligo by 8:30pm, with a punch in the air and the sun shinning. We stayed at the Harbour Hostel. Great chat with some guests that evening from all over world. Amazed at where people come from.
Day 2 – Sligo to Portlouise. (125 miles)
We were staying with Jamie’s friends for the night. Had the address of the place and again used a pre planned gpx route. Left Sligo after a hearty breakfast heading south east. Checked weather 19mph winds coming from SE and this proved to be a tough tough day on the steed.
The Garmin took us off road for a bit through some forest track before we realised that this wasn’t really suitable so after 55 miles we followed the main A road towards Dublin, then south west – using google maps as a ref.
Weather mixed. Rained off and on all day, constant head wind. Broken, we arrived at our hosts at 10:45pm, after almost 14hrs in the saddle. A nice glass of wine and pasta welcomed us as did some excellent chat. Bed and a good 8hrs sleep…
Day 3- Portlouise to Cork (105 miles)
This was now me cycling solo. Jamie was staying on until Friday before cycling to Dublin and Belfast over the weekend and returning home later. I was handed a packed lunch from our hosts and a pat on the back, I was heading south. No route just a rough guide of where I was going, following road signs.
Highlights of day were getting chased by 4 dogs and shouted at my a farmer. finding another dog and reuniting it with its owner (this on farm roads). My route took me via Castel, Tipperary, then on towards Cork.
Still a constant head wind, I arrived in Cork about 7:30pm. I found the Hostel then dinner and my first Guiness after 400 miles! Planned the penultimate day as this was the tricky bit. Mizen head is 75 miles from nearest train station for a return north, and I had no accommodation booked YET.
Cycled over 400 miles in Ireland to get my first Guiness. Deserved. 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽🚲😎 @ Bru Bar & Hostel. https://t.co/O47x9BJ6n3
— Alex (@lexjah) July 21, 2015
Day 4 – Best Day – Cork to Mizen Head and Skibbereen
I Left Cork 10am, garmin-following all the way. As usual this took me over hills, farm roads and some good decent. This part of Ireland is much hillier. I was feeling pretty sore, it seemed ages before I even saw a sign for Mizen Head. I finally did as the sun came out. Just 44km to go.
I arrived at 4:45pm, with 85 miles on the clock, excited and buzzing at my accomplishment. No big cheering crowds, just a photo, bag of chips and a coffee and a look at map and phone to plan where I was staying. I found a hostel- 30 miles north in Skibbereen. Got there 8pm, went for a beer, got chatting to some real locals, exchanged stories and a couple of rounds. Happy face and then plan journey home
Day 5 – The rather outrageous journey home
In 1 breath – a 52 mile cycle to Cork, 1.20pm Train to Dublin Hueston, 3 mile cycle across Dublin to Connolly Station for 7pm Train to Belfast Central.
I stink #552milesofcycking and boxed in 😳
— Alex (@lexjah) July 23, 2015
Booked ticket for ferry on train for 11:30pm sailing that evening. 6 mile cycle to Stenna line ferry arrived 10:30pm to discover I had booked ferry round wrong way. Kind people let me on this freight run. Arrived Cairnryan at 2am with a 37mile cycle to Girvan via some of edge of Ayrshire Alps (my lift failed to materialise and I did not want to drag wife out at that time). 6am train to Ayr, picked up. Left by accident my garmin at Girvan railway station and had to return to get it lol! In house 9:30am Friday