The Ard Ri House Hotel 95k
"Queens boulevard in New York was a setting where I often witnessed big strong grown Irishmen reminisce fondly of home, down the neck of a coors lite with a small glint of a tear in their eye at 3am on a Sunday morning. The cause was a 4 minute piece of musical poetry by a band from Tuam about the main road that passes through the town called the N17. Every Galway man living in the Big Apple, particularly those from Tuam itself, gave the impression that the song had been penned especially for them.
Ever since that time I have always wanted to explore that piece of road and the area that surrounds Tuam itself, to see what the magical attraction was to the area. Last week I got that opportunity.
Leaving the Ard Ri House Hotel, having been accommodated with an early check in, I turned left and immediately found myself on the mythical N17. I stopped to take a photo of a sign beside a stone wall behind which the grass was truly green. This was helped by the misty rain that fell and which almost added to the experience. Ask any Irishman in New York in the middle of July when the humidity reaches over 90% what they would like and the answer quickly given would be ‘Sure a drop of soft rain would be a welcome relief right now’
The N17 to Knock via Claremorris is a regular route with cyclists taking on the Malin 2 Mizen challenge, and the Ard Ri House Hotel with its readiness to convert meeting and function rooms into proper bike parks is a regular overnight stop along the way for many. Some groups also decide to eschew the busy main road and take the route from Tuam to Dunmore instead and then on to Ballyhaunis. This option is slightly shorter and the quieter road with less traffic can be more appealing.
Dunmore is a picturesque small town and here I ventured right and on the road to Glenamaddy (there’s another song about that) and then right again towards Moylough. There are quite a few bogs in the area. Rather than go through expensive recruitment agencies some in the area find their own way to secure a job, such as these 4 lads looking for bog work.
Along the way I noticed that each village or towns land was marked with a sign carved into a piece of rock. One that I came across seemed to have the universally recognised Facebook Thumbs up, like symbol, so I stopped to take a quick photo. Almost immediately I heard a diesel engined Toyota Landcruiser slow behind me and come to a halt alongside. The passengers window rolled down and the driver asked in a friendly tone ;
‘Are you taking a photo of the sign ?’
‘I am indeed’
‘T’was I put that there to show a lad that told me there was no such place as Lisroe, an’ I livin’ here all my life’
‘Why did you put the Facebook symbol on it?’
‘The Thumbs up Facebook symbol’
‘That’s only for yer man that told me there was no such place so that he’d see it everytime he passed an him sayin there was no such place.’
‘Sure I’ll stick it up on Facebook tonight anyway’
‘Will ya really?’
‘I’ll be on The Facebook tonight so and I’ll have a look at it’
And off he drove laughing.
On I rambled smiling away when I came upon a postman collecting post from a brand new postbox beside the ruins of an old castle. I thought that it must be the only Castle in Ireland with its’ own postbox. Castles and ruins are a regular feature of any spin on the bike in this area. There is always something new, or old, to look at around every corner on the really well surfaced roads. Away from the N17 the volume of traffic is very light and perfect for cycling.
A number of times I passed signs for ‘The golden Mile’ and wondered at first if there was an Olympic connotation or if someone was running along in under 4 minutes. What it actually is, is a rural development initiative to highlight unique elements of each area such as stone walls, flora or fauna. It works really well as almost every Towns land or village looks like a Tidy Towns entrant.
Shortly after Moylough a roadside sign caught my eye for the Cloonran Turlough. It is a field that turns into a lake in winter and a fresh green pasture in summer. However, given that we are now in August and ‘Julember’ is just behind us with its copious amounts of rainfall the Turlough is slightly confused with a bit of both at present.
The next town to pass through was Monivea. AA Roadwatch seem to feature the Monivea roundabout in Galway city regularly in their traffic bulletins but the town itself was pleasant to pass through. The playground with yet another castle attached seemed pretty unique though.
A change of direction along with a coffee stop was due in Athenry. Another town with medieval routes, there is an abundance of stone walls and old castles throughout the town. Topaz coffee did the trick and I was soon back on a road signposted Tuam headed for the Ard Ri House hotel once more.
A small rise after a few kilometers opened up a vast expanse of open fields with stone walls down below and I had the thought ‘Low lie the fields of Athenry’. You would think of anything on a bike.
A detour from the main road a short while later travelling as the crow flies along a shorter route brought me onto another deserted country road with a perfect surface. Around a corner I spotted a disused but renovated train station and stopped for a look. Ballyglunin or Castletown as it is known was the location used during the filming of ‘The Quiet Man’ with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. This was a very quiet place but in fabulous condition and well worth a visit for anyone in the area.
A nice breeze now propelled me back to Tuam once more where a hot shower was followed by a really good steak in the warm and welcoming environs of the Ard Ri House Hotel. Once my head hit the pillow in the very comfy bed it wasn’t long before I was fast asleep and dreaming of more adventures the following day in a place with plenty of smooth roads, stone walls and where the grass is most definitely green."
The Ard Ri House hotel 125k
"An omelette for breakfast can be the perfect choice for any cyclist when staying away from home. I have sampled many omelettes but the one presented in the Ard Ri House Hotel in Tuam is up there with the best of them. Freshly carved ham from the bone and proper cheese, not just easy singles, in the freshly made breakfast and a strong pot of coffee was enough to set me up for the day.
Once again I turned left leaving the hotel and on to the N17, before taking another immediate left onto a smooth asphalt surfaced by-road that meandered throughout the peaceful stonewalled countryside. For the next hour I would meet little or no traffic until I reached the town of Headford.
There I followed the road to Ballinrobe where I paid a visit to Marrey Bikes for some energy fuel. Preparations for this years Ballinrobe 2 Day were well under way as Donal Harrington, a real man of the Ras, was busy serving the many customers. Next it was back on the road in the direction of Cong, Co. Mayo. Having come across the Railway station used in filming The Quiet Man the previous evening I had an appetite for more cinematic history, along with a taste for travelling along more of these glorious cycling roads.
A large stone monument caught my eye and as I stopped I discovered that this was the site of an uprising that gave a new word to the english language. Captain Charles Boycott was over ruled by people power at this location back in 1880.
Lough mask and its’ fishing shore stretched out to my right as Lough Corrib lay in wait up ahead.
The Quiet Man cafe looked like a good spot to stop for lunch and it was good to see that the prices were great value too. As I sipped my cappuchino a visitor arrived who was interested in the disc brakes on my Giant Defy. Tom, a muscian from Galway who raced with Galway Bay CC joined me for lunch. Not alone was he a cyclist but his father Nuthan was a press photographer on the Tour de France for over twenty years. The iconic photo of Stephen Roche collapsed recieving oxygen at the summit of La Plagne after his Tour winning performance was taken by Nuthan.
Now replenished I set off towards the lake once more. There are many small islands on Lough Corrib some of which are inhabited. There are causeways across to these islands that I really wanted to see.
The first island that I approached was Inismicatreer. The narrow single laned causeway bridge gave way to some spectacular views.
Back on the mainland once more I followed the lakeshore as much as possible along the quiet roads and only once got caught up in a traffic jam. Although this type of traffic might be slightly less common in urban areas.
A longer causeway now brought me out onto the Island of Inishquin where a small boat glided along the glassy waters of the lake. There is always a serene clam-ness when the silence of nature is only interrupted by the low toned puttering of a small outboard engine.
The pier at Kilbeg with a boat on the pier wall alongside a casually moored jet-ski gave an indication of the diversity of uses that the lake provides its visitors.
Now it was time to turn back in towards Headford and the road back to Tuam. Much of this section of roadway is used by the Jigsaw Giro d’Galway, another event that uses the Ard Ri House hotel as a stopover base.
A small drag on the road reminded me just how flat the entire route had been. Although, with all of the twists and turns and distractions along the way there was always something to look at and the time seemed to pass very quickly. All too soon I was back on the N17 once more approaching Tuam with the Cathedral Spire guiding the way.
Using the complimentary tea/coffee voucher that I received upon check in to have a welcome cappuccino whilst uploading the spin to Strava on the very fast hotel wifi I noticed that there weren’t many KOM’S. Cycling is not always about setting the fastest time or a record average speed. Sometimes it is good to just head out there and enjoy the peace and quiet of your surroundings on well surfaced, lightly trafficked roads, with just your thoughts and dreams for company. Tuam and it’s surroundings is the perfect place for this type of spin."