Rathlee to Sligo: 58km, 3hr 4 mins, av 18.8km/hr, max 41.8km/hr
It’s my final day of cycling in Ireland, but it shouldn’t be a long one; it’s only around 55km to Sligo, from where I’ll catch the train back to Dublin at about 3pm, if all goes to plan.
Now, if I was a pro cyclist I’d have probably set off at 7am, in order to do a few extra side trips and visits in and around Sligo. But I’m not; the bed is super comfy and I’m tired, so I have a lie in, and don’t get going until about 10.30am, which has been my default start time most days, to be honest.
The home-owners have gone out to work for the day but they’re totally cool with me just letting myself out and leaving the front door unlocked – but guarded by 2 very cute and not-at-all intimidating dogs. I guess that’s one of the advantages of living in such splendid isolation.
My first stop is just down the road, at Easky Tower, where there’s also a small harbour and another surf beach. From here, I stay on the coastal road, the R297, which is part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
It’s a lovely scenic, quiet road, with a few ups and downs, but nothing too strenuous. Then, for some reason, just past Skrean, the signs point you back towards the main road, the N59. I follow the signs, rather than stay on the back road for another 3 or 4km, which is the only bad roads decision I’ve made, since the N59 is fast and busy, and not a road that you want to be on for longer than strictly necessary. So, if you’re going this way, be sure to stay on the R297 for as long as possible!
I pass through Ballysadare and pause for a quick lunch (last night’s leftover chips in a bun!) in a random little patch of grass on a luxury housing estate close to the water, before pressing on towards Sligo.
Thankfully, there’s a quiet little side road running parallel to the railway and the main road into town, the N4 – the first dual carriageway I’ve seen, and definitely not something you’d want to cycle on.
By the time I get to Sligo, I’ve not got much time to do anything. Yeats is buried in a cemetery a few kms north of town, and a few km’s beyond that, is the iconic Benbulbin mountain, which I’d have loved to have seen but will have to save for another time.
I cycle around a bit, but there’s not really time to do any of it much justice, so I head to the train station, ready to head back to Dublin.
A shout to my WarmShowers host in Dublin that evening, Philip, who was super nice, a great cook and very hospitable.
My Ireland adventure has (almost) come to an end, bar the cycle to the ferry terminal tomorrow. It’s been all I’d hoped; exhilarating, beautiful, scenic, refreshing, challenging, hard work, pure me-time, with plenty of time to think and reflect on the road my life is on. And, if that’s not what cycling is all about, then I don’t know what is.
One surprise though; not a single bird of prey spotted the entire time.