At 79 miles this was planned to be our longest day, and given that a few of us were struggling at the very start with stiff legs, the initially climb out of Doolin was a bit of a shock. But once the legs loosened out a bit it turned out to be a cracking first half of the day. Even though it was a little overcast, the cycle along the coast was fantastic. I was expecting more hills, so it was a nice surprise to find a pretty flat spin on the way into Kinvara, even if we had an easterly headwind on the run into Ballyvaughan.
After some really rough roads, and a surprising sharp little wall of a climb (the first time I had to get off the bike), outside Bell Harbour, we eventually made Kinvara. We had lunch in Kinvara, but by the time we got back on the road again it was 2 o’clock and we had 50 miles left. But from Kilcolgan all the way the Claremorris we were now on main roads, with a hard shoulder and what was now a tail wind. so for the next we hours we started making a decent pace.
Apart from an absolutely torrential downpour (we were lucky we were less than 1/2 mile from a tree) the journey into Claremorris was pretty uneventful. We arrived at the B&B (Ashlawn House) around 6, and while initially quiet, the owner had no trouble at all in letting us wash our gear.
Once sorted we strolled into town for some food. To be honest we were expecting very little of the food in Claremorris, but we had definitely a memorable night. First off we ate in the Old Arch restaurant, and the food and wine was simply fantastic! Not a morsel left on any plate, the staff were brilliant, very well trained and very friendly. It really was brilliant food.
Once we had our fill of steak and merlot, it was off to potter around town, to find somewhere for a decent pint. We were strolling around, ignoring all the obvious choices, when Martin suddenly said “lads, I think I saw a pub at the back of that shop”. And so he did. A brilliant little gem of a place, PJ Byrnes. At first we were eyed with suspicion (only about 3 in the bar), but it was exactly what we were looking for. Quiet, but with really friendly locals and fantastic Guinness. By the end of the night they were chatting away, telling us about how they had fought the law and they won! (after hours serving was the crime…pfft!). This little pub was a real highlight, they even signed a postcard of the pub, to the wish us luck and if that wasn’t enough Dick stood a round to us. These were exactly the sort of experiences that we had hoped for, and were an undoubted highlight of the trip
Between the hangover and infection I wasn’t feeling 100% when I got up. But once I saw the state of the 2 lads who stayed in my sister’s house morale quickly improved! Understandably it was a slow enough start, but the spin to Tarbert to get the ferry was lovely, good way to blow out the cobwebs and a chance to catch up on the previous few days.
We made a good pace to the ferry almost 16 mph and had a few minutes to kill waiting for the next one. The journey over was fairly uneventful, although there was an unsuccessful attempt to mount the ferry initially (we won’t mention names, but someones wheel hit a wet, steel plate in the concrete and there was a fall). Fortunately there was no injury, unfortunately I was the only person to not see it!
And given the previous fall, and the very steep ramp on the other side of the ferry, we were all a bit nervous cycling off, especially with all the staff watching, waiting for a repeat performance. But a bit of momentum, and up out of the saddle and we were off. Lovely spin to Kilkee, but by the time we arrived there everybody was knackered. We had coffee and sandwiches overlooking the beach, but given that we took over an hour, it meant that by the time we left after 2 o’clock we had only around 30 miles done. But the weather in the afternoon was the best in the week, the scenery was stunning and morale was good.
The only thing I was concerned about was that the map showed a Cat 4 climb into the Cliffs of Moher, but since none of could remember a climb we dismissed it. Oh, it was a climb alright! Not too long, but pretty steep, about 10% or so. Nasty!
Once we got to the top we went to the cliff top, just to take in the view and a few pics, then off to enjoy the descent into Doolin. Once there we were pretty tired after our longest day. So a nice pint in the shade, then check into the B&B (Cullinans, restaurant seemed fantastic but was full), before some dinner. Our quietest night of the tour, after some diddly-eye Oirish music, we were back in bed at the earliest time, just barely after midnight.