Day 117, Tues 25 April
A couple of days ahead with no Lifeboat Station to visit until Galway. Just another “extreme” cycle out to the Loop Head Lighthouse at the end of another long peninsula. If I chose the shortest route between Lifeboat Stations, this would cut a much straighter line across country, saving many miles and hours of pedalling. However, my personal challenge and preference is to see not only every Lifeboat but also every interesting bit of the coastline of Ireland accessible on a safe road. Also, more miles cycled = more funds raised if I can achieve the £1 per mile target set. (Struggling a bit!)
So, today’s first 25 miles are in the “wrong” direction, heading out to the Lighthouse at the westerly tip of County Clare at Loop Head.
Another “exreme” factor in today’s ride is the weather. 20-30 mph cold north wind all day, heavy showers, stinging hail and a few lovely sunny spells.
One advantage of reaching the end of Loop Head is the 360° horizon. This means that you can see what’s about to hit you from the North. Enough time for a brief tour of this historic cafe-free zone offering no shelter? No. Hopefully, just enough time for a quick dash back to habitation at Kilbaha, where I’m sure I spotted a small café.
I was wrong about the timing. I could see what I thought was heavy rain reaching landfall a short distance to my left. A few seconds later, stinging hail was bouncing off my knees, head and face, only partly protected through an over-ventillated holey helmet.
But I was right about the café. A sight for sore eyes. What a haven. What a reception. What a find! I was spoiled rotten by the three wonderful young ladies running the show at Kilbaha Gallery, Crafts and Café. A comfortable seat was proffered, between a roaring peat-fired stove and a counter heavily laden with a large selection of locally baked cakes, pies and tarts. My jacket was taken and hung to dry by the stove. Steaming coffee and warm sticky toffee pudding appeared. The three angels seemed genuinely impressed and interested in my situation. Was I dreaming all this? There was even a basket full of emergency tools and spares for cyclists caught out at the remote end of this long peninsula, including the kind of high pressure track pump I needed for Fondo’s now marginally under-inflated tyres. Many thanks to Liz, Ailish and Rose for your very warm welcome, kindness and generous contribution to the RNLI. And for making the sun shine once more. This place is well worth a visit, near the historic landmark of Loop Head Lighthouse. Kilbaha also has a long history of aiding shipping on the hazardous approaches to the Shannon estuary. The tragic loss of the Five Pilots of Kilbaha are movingly commemorated at their beautiful memorial on the sea front. On a thankfully much less tragic scale, there is still a desire in this community to offer shelter in a storm to passing travellers.
There still remained another 35 miles of stunning scenery and challenging conditions before reaching Spanish Point via Kilkee.
With more references to great loss along this shoreline, from the wrecking of most of the ships of the Spanish Armada in 1588 to the acute loss of one of the young local Irish Coastguard crew called to service last summer, a sobering reminder that the cruel sea will never be tamed and we desperately need to support our brave Coastguard and Lifeboat voluteers.
If you haven’t recently helped already, please do. Regular, modest donations are needed to fund the training and equipment essential to RNLI crews.