"I’m not sure how the idea occurred to me to cycle the Wild Atlantic Way. I had done a lot of cycling over the last few years, but had never undertaken anything like this!” Irish cyclist Maeve Cloke shares her recent adventure; escaping from the humdrum of modern life and cycling the 2,500km length of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Gathering a team
Once I had decided to go to the Wild Atlantic Way, I started putting out feelers among my friends and cycling buddies to see who might be interested in joining me. In the end, I had a perfect mixture of company and time alone. When you get to a beautiful place, it’s great to have someone there to enjoy the experience with. I also cycled alone for a number of days during my trip though, and enjoyed every minute of that too. There were times when I’d stop for a few minutes in the middle of somewhere idyllic for no reason other than to absorb the experience of being there.
Getting to know the locals
That said, the people I met along the way contributed so much to this experience. Locals and tourists alike met me with real warmth, took a genuine interest in my trip and offered their support. The B&Bs on the Wild Atlantic Way have maintained a real old-school kindness and charm. Sitting over breakfast, I met people from all over the world who shared their experiences with me. I think this type of accommodation is an integral part of the whole experience. Being welcomed into someone’s home and offered tea, biscuits and a lift into town is just as lovely for an Irish tourist as a foreigner.
A therapeutic experience
Being on a bike on an empty road surrounded by natural beauty has a definite therapeutic quality. You’re constantly moving to a particular rhythm, outside among the elements. On this trip I was alone on my bike in some very remote places, and have never been happier! In fact, I’ve come to describe my cycle along the Wild Atlantic Way as ‘a three-week exercise in mindfulness.’ I didn’t think about work (at all), home (except for the odd text or phone call so everyone knew I was alive and well!) - or anything else, really.
Apart from Google Maps, I hardly used my phone or the internet all day. No mindless channel hopping or internet trawling for three whole weeks! It’s amazing how therapeutic it is to spend hours, day after day, literally living in the moment. Every kilometre there’s something to see, feel, hear, and sometimes smell! There were several occasions on this trip when I found myself alone on my bike grinning like an idiot with a massive hit of wellbeing.
Enjoying the elements
Inevitably, lots of people have asked me about the weather on this trip and I found the changeable weather added to the experience. It’s as though there are two versions of the Wild Atlantic Way’s coastline. When it’s sunny, the colours are really bright, the greens are really green, and the blue is a brilliant blue. When clouds roll in it completely changes. The colours darken, the atmosphere gets weirdly charged. It felt like every long day of cycling was a journey through the changing moods of the place as much as the place itself.
It’s tough to choose favourites, as the sights, scenery, and views are everywhere! From Schull to Toormore is when we started to see the beauty of West Cork on the Haven Coast, the start of what would be miles and miles of stunning coastline. On the road to Kenmare in Kerry meanwhile I had my first ‘wild’ Atlantic experience. Up until then it was all about what I could see. There were, of course, fabulous views out across the sea, but now the wind took my breath away, and the constant sound of crashing waves made me feel for the first time – this is the Wild Atlantic Way. From Dingle we headed out around Slea Head and were completely blown away, but not by wind this time! Slea Head on the Southern Peninsulas is spectacular. It’s the quiet peacefulness; there are almost no cars passing by. A few people come and go, but mostly you’re on your own. Every sound you hear is made by nature.
Other things that stand out for me and really add to the uniqueness of the Wild Atlantic Way experience are the unusual quirky features along the way. You'll soon be able to glamp in a Boeing 767 at Enniscrone, you can hostel in a railway carriage at Dunfanaghy, or spend the night in a Lobster Pod at Rossbeg in Donegal. In West Cork, you can see buildings painted every colour of the rainbow. Every now and then you come across a beautifully maintained thatched cottage. These are the experiences that make a stay on the route simply unforgettable.
If you’ve experienced life on the Wild Atlantic Way, share your story with us! To plan a trip like Maeve’s, you can find plenty of bike rental shops and tour operators along the Wild Atlantic Way in our handy online directory. There are also some beautiful cycle routes; in Sligo, Kerry and Clare, to name but a few.