Two hours after I left the hostel, Clifden sat only 2 km behind me.
The Clifden hostel caters primarily to backpackers, so the room smelled much of wet gear. I went to bed by 9:00 pm, waking during the night to take more cold medication. I even slept through my 7:00 am alarm, much (I’m sure) to the joy of those sharing the room.
Connemara includes the local equivalent of the Ring of Kerry – Sky Drive. Sky Drive wends its way around the peninsula, and comes highly recommended. On a previous trip I cycled the Ring of Kerry, and found myself inspired as much by the heavy traffic as the scenery. Nonetheless, I decided to give Sky Drive a go.
Sitting along Sky Drive rests the road to Clifden Castle. A sign on the road to Clifden Castle indicates no cars, and no dogs, both not usual on a passage into the hills. The locals don’t need a lot of traffic, the road tends to be poor, and dogs bother the local livestock. As a cyclist I tend to ignore those signs, and cycle on. In this case I discovered the road to Clifden Castle to be the worst road encountered the entire trip. After the first few hundred meters, a ravine wends its way down the center of the steep road, requiring me to occasionally pick up my bike and jump to the other side of the road to progress. A hundred meters before the castle the road degenerated into deep muck, at which point I left the bike by the side of the road to wander through the castle. Not feeling well and the trek down the ravine likely contributed to not being impressed by the castle, the interior in ruin.
The road continues past the castle back to the road (per the GPS), and improved, so I trudged back to my bike, and slogged through the mud with the bike. After 100 meters, the road turned uphill (as expected), and 200 meters later ended at a barricade, clearly posted to not proceed (not as expected). I reversed course, and returned to Sky Drive, the wheels, brakes, and a fair amount of myself caked in mud. After using half the water I carry to clear up the wheels and brakes, I moved on. I took a few pictures, but I didn’t find the scenery any more inspiring that that of much of the rest of Ireland. The other end of the Sky Drive loop ends only 2 km outside of Clifden where I started my day.
The remainder of the day I spent cycling through the hills of Connemara and around Connemara National Park. Surprised by level roads, the hills rose around me all day, with long lines of stone walls dividing up the seemingly impassable terrain.
I passed my two alternate stop points to continue to Cong. Just outside of my destination of Cong I passed Castle Kirk, not readily accessible resting on a small island in Lough Carrib.
Cong focusses on only one thing – “The Quiet Man”. The ruins of Cong Abbey also rest near town, but clearly serve only as an aside to those here in reference to the movie. Every shop in town, every bar, derives its name or function from the movie. You can sign up for a tour of all of the film locations. A statue near the center of town serves tribute to the movie.
Clearly not fully mentally alert, while adding vegetable oil to my pasta I managed to not add insect repellent; instead I added dish washing detergent. On my second try for dinner, I poured my chicken soup over the edge of the pot, bringing the soot on the side of the pot with the soup. During my carbon-flavored dinner I spoke briefly with a woman from Germany hiking parts of Ireland, and a German motorcyclist, visiting the area.
The hostel/campground/B&B here shows “The Quiet Man” every night in their small theater, except for when I was here 11 years ago, when the World Cup took priority. I watched the movie along with the German motorcyclist and a couple here from the Netherlands, none of whom appreciated it.
A dire forecast for tomorrow (showers with period of heavy rain), and my general sense of poor well-being, prompt me to remain here in Cong tomorrow. Ashford Castle sits down the road, and I might visit it tomorrow if dry enough. I can manage a quick nearby unloaded trip even in moderate rain and stay dry.