Barry Meehan 

The Clifden Station House Sky Road 17k

"Leaving the front of the Clifden Station house and passing through the small scenic town of Clifden you get a taste of why this quaint picturesque place is so popular with visitors from both home and abroad. Taking the Sky road out of town gives you another reason again.

The road rises as soon as you pass the town centre, and keeps on rising. There is an option to take the ‘low road’ about a third of the way up, but that defeats the purpose. As a climb, it is very manageable as it has that roller coaster feel about it. It kicks up for a hundred or so meters, flattens, then rises again, flattens, and this is the pattern all the way to the top. On this climb you can gain altitude quickly but remain in the big chainring all the way to the top. 

At the summit you get to see why every visitor to this area has it on their to do list.

The descent is short, fast and sweet. The beauty of the rugged stone walls stretching down to the sea before you is magnificent,

A road off to the left joins the lower sky road which would return you back to Clifden making for an 11k spin, but to continue on the winding road right down to sea level is well worthwhile. This road eventually leads you to a junction with the main Westport to Clifden road where a right turn brings you on to another gradual incline. This drag lasts for about 2k before a fast descent back into Clifden itself once more.

This route would rate a four out of seven for difficulty."

The Clifden Station House 52k

"I arrived at the Clifden Station House just after 3pm today and was itching to get out on the bike. This part of the country is truly unique and has so much to offer cyclists with spectacularly scenic roads and challenging climbs.

The Sky road got its name in the early part of the last century when visitors asked where the high road led to, and were told that it led to the sky. I liked the sound of that, so this was to be my first port of call. The view at the summit is one of the most photographed in the Country and justifiably so.

The descent is short and fast and leads to another shoreside meandering road that keeps you looking out across the water as the scene changes, sometimes dramatically from bend to bend.

Boats, and goats, donkeys and mounds of turf. Old stone cottages with thatched roofs and new bungalows designed to blend in with the environment all grab your attention. What you do not notice are cars or vans, as the traffic is so light on the road once you pass the main viewing point.

All too soon Sky road comes to an end after about 8k. You can continue on right back to Clifden but I choose to turn left and then left again. Out around the next peninsula to see more of the sea.

A short way down this road I pass a guy taking a call on a recumbent, a man I would again meet later on the spin.

Shortly after, I see a sign for Omey Island 1km down a side road. My curiosity draws me in and I detour to check it out.

I look out ahead at the reflected grandeur of the Island on the shimmering water and wonder how this road will lead me over there in what should now be less than a kilometre. My question is soon answered when the road abruptly comes to a halt at the waters edge. Access to the Island is via a tidal roadway, and now that the tide is in the roadway is submerged.

After a short sojourn on a memorial seat, contemplating the comfort that sitting in this place must offer those who have lost, it’s time to get back on the road.

I am soon back on my original route and find myself catching up to the rider on the recumbent once again. I ride up alongside and the conversation flows, as always happens when cyclists meet on the road. I am very interested in hearing about his machine .

We roll along side by side and chat away. Andy Higginson has a B&B in the area and rides up to 80k per day on his recumbent. He is also a brother in law of the former UCI president Pat McQuaid. After a while he turns for home and I continue on. A short time later his wife Ann passes by in the car and pulls up alongside to say a friendly hello to a fellow cyclist.

The road now is narrow but the view is once again breathtaking as I look out across the bay towards Inisboffin in the distance.

I continue on towards the fishing village of Cleggan and watch some of the local fishermen unload their catch of the day and decide that when I return to the Clifden Station House I will be having some fish for dinner this evening.

After crossing a causeway the route now ventures back inland. With majestic mountains rising up in the distance the scenery is still just as spectacular. The road surfaces all along the route are good and the hills are challenging but not overly so.

A brief reconnection with the main road from Westport to Clifden brings me back to the Station House once more. This picture perfect town and its hinterland has plenty to offer cyclists and I look forward to tomorrow when I will explore even more.

This route would rate a four out of seven for difficulty."

The Clifden Station House 110k

"Leaving The Clifden Station House this morning the sun was shining brightly and there was plenty of blue in the sky. The temperature was rising and I was in shorts and short sleeves. It turns out that September really is a perfect month for cycling in Ireland.

Signposts for The Wild Atlantic Way (S) directed me once more as I headed in the direction of Roundstone. Passing a signpost for the Allcot and Browne landing site piqued my interest as I left Clifden in my wake. My first detour of the day had begun.

This was also the location of Marconi’s first Transatlantic Radio transmission station so two historic events rolled into one were on the cards. A gate appeared with a sign asking everyone to please keep it closed. This is in order to keep the hundreds of sheep who inhabit this bogland within their owners confines.

Two men were harvesting turf from the peat bog as the road turned into a track. A white egg loomed up ahead signalling my destination. In it’s shadow is the remains of a small mass concrete hut. The location of Marconi’s radio transmitting station.

Looking out across the vast bogland where that first ever transatlantic flight touched down I wondered just what it must have felt like for those two brave men on that fateful day back in June 1919.

Whilst I stood there, enjoying the silence of the vast area I heard voices approaching. The language was not English but it was one that I have heard many times before. A Belgian couple were speaking Flemish. They were from Oudenarde, the home of the Tour of Flanders so had plenty to chat to a cyclist about.

They are driving along the length of The Wild Atlantic Way from Donegal to Cork for three weeks. They remarked that ‘You Irish all tell stories about rain. We have not seen any of this here and think that you make it up to keep this beautiful country all for yourselves.’ Perhaps they are right.

Back on the road I am constantly distracted by the ever-changing sea views that stretch out to my right and the mountain range to my left. I stop at a small beach to take a photo and meet a couple from Yorkshire who are also cycling and they offer to take a photo for me. They come to Ireland on holidays every year and always get good weather, especially in May and September.

Back on the road a small abandoned pier catches my eye so I hop over a gate and go take a look. I am fascinated by how the water can rise high enough as the tide comes in to clear all the rocks that seem to stretch out for at least a kilometre from the pier itself.

Next up comes the small fishing village of Roundstone. At dinner last night in The Signal Restaurant my waitress mentioned that if she won the lotto, that’s where she would like to live, and it was easy to see why. A really quaint village with the sea on one side and a mountain range stretching off in the distance, it looked postcard perfect in todays sunshine.

The road was now leading me towards the mountains up ahead. A left turn would bring me across the bog road back to Clifden once more making for a really scenic and manageable forty kilometre spin which I had previously enjoyed, but today I turned right for Cashel. An American flag flew high against the mountainous backdrop signifying the affinity this area has with it’s nearest neighbour across the Atlantic water.

Now heading inland I was under the false impression that my views across the water would be coming to an end. The sea and the lakes are a constant feature in this part of Ireland and some of the inland parts of this route were more spectacular than the coastal parts, which is really saying something.

The mountains were now drawing nearer and looked ominously steep up ahead. I wondered how google earth had calculated that I could possibly remain below 100 meters high for the entire spin.

However the Inagh valley manages to achieve the seemingly impossible by finding a relatively flat route through the mammoth mountainsides.

This road brought me to a junction with the option of turning left for Kylemore Abbey or right towards Killary harbour and on along the Connemara loop towards Renvyle along the coast. I chose right and followed the Wild Atlantic Way once more. I was now beginning to think of a coffee stop and in such an uninhabited area wondered how long it would be before I came across a place to refuel.

About 65k in I came across a shop and coffee bar. A nice fresh sandwich and a good cappuccino were exactly what was needed and I was soon on the road again, well fuelled up after a feed fit for a king.

The road to Renvyle skirted the coast once again and was amazing in the bright Indian summer sunshine.

Heading south back towards Clifden once more and on through Letterfrack, with the wind on my back I was really enjoying all that this cycling route had to offer. The scenery is incredible, the people that you meet along the way are friendly. Cars leave so much room whilst passing out that on more than one occasion I checked to see if they had passed another car just behind me too.

Arriving back to The Clifden Station House I now had an appetite for dinner but was sorry for such a fantastic days cycling to come to an end.

This route would rate a four out of seven for difficulty."

You can book the Clifden Station House Online Here or by calling 1850 200 560 (Lines open 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday) 

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