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SATU'S WILD CYCLE



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When Finnish blogger Satu Vänskä-Westgarth decided to embark on a very unique excursion, her reasoning was simple: “I needed an adventure... badly,” she explained. “Having two kids back to back does that to you! I heard about the Wild Atlantic Way, a scenic stretch of coast in the west of Ireland, and thought now there is an interesting challenge.”


Together with a couple of friends, Satu decided to spend more than two months cycling the length of the rugged Wild Atlantic Way, the world’s longest defined coastal touring route that’s home to soaring cliffs, golden beaches and offshore islands.

 
 

Satu began in northern Donegal and headed south, taking in Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Cork - a whopping 2,500km in total! Was it a challenge, physically? “As long as you’ve some sort of base fitness, you’ll be fine,” she said. “That said, we definitely struggled a bit in the beginning! After a while though, we slipped nicely into our new routine.” 

Satu broke her journey into seven more easily manageable stages, each featuring its own unique scenery, charming villages and friendly locals. She documented each phase with a video, sharing her highlights as she went. 

“We started in Donegal and basically followed the Wild Atlantic Way all the way down to Kinsale,” she explained.

Kitting herself out with help from North West Adventure Tours and Ted’s Bike Shop, Satu managed to visit many of Donegal’s stunning highlights during her first week. She made her way to the breathtaking Sliabh Liag cliffs (Slieve League) – some of the highest sea-cliffs in Europe – paid a visit to ancient Donegal Castle (which dates back to the 15th century), and even managed to fit in a surf lesson in the wild Atlantic waves. “We surfed in Rossnowlagh in Donegal,” she recalls. “We went for a group lesson – everyone else was 14 or 15 years old. We thought if they can do it, so can we!”

The second week of the trip saw Satu continue her journey south, from Donegal to Mayo, via Yeats Country in Sligo. The iconic poet was born there, and its rugged terrain inspired some of his finest work. It was a busy week for Satu; she enjoyed stunning, uninterrupted views from Downpatrick Head and Dún na mBó, found out about the Wild Atlantic Way’s ancient boat-making heritage at Cruinniú na mBád (Achill Sailing Festival), and explored the area around Blacksod Lighthouse on the Mullet Peninsula in Mayo. She also went on a kayak adventure with Saoirse na Mara to visit a local seal colony. 

 
  • Satu spent over two months cycling the length of the rugged Wild Atlantic Way.
  • Cork's Lord Mayor greets Satu at her Kenmare finish line
  • Satu took time off the bike to explore the famous Gap of Dunloe mountain
 

Satu’s journey continued from Westport to Galway, with a stop-off on rugged Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands. “It was amazing to see how quickly the scenery changed,” she remarked. "It would go from really lush to really barren so fast.”

Back on the mainland, she hooked up with Bog Road Bike Tours, who brought her on a tour of the area, and also paid a visit to Delphi Adventure Centre, well worth a visit for anyone interested in kayaking, zip-lining, abseiling, paddle boarding or anything in between! 

Satu finished off this leg with a well-deserved luxury Wild Atlantic Way experience – a seaweed bath courtesy of Kilkee Thalassotherapy Clinic, who explained the therapeutic properties of these marine plants.

The fourth week brought Satu from Clare into gorgeous, mountainous Kerry. She took time off the bike to explore the famous Gap of Dunloe mountain pass on horse and trap, as well as some of the county’s gorgeous lakes.
 

 
 

It was a busy week for Satu; she enjoyed stunning, uninterrupted views from Downpatrick Head and Dún na mBó, and found out about the Wild Atlantic Way’s ancient boat-making heritage at Cruinniú na mBad.

 

Another highlight was the remote and untouched Black Valley which, as Maurice from Ireland Walk Bike Hike explained, was the last place in Ireland to get electricity - in 1978!

The next two weeks were spent zipping through the magical ‘Kingdom’ of Kerry and neighbouring Cork. Though the uphill cycle was tough, it was well worth ascending the winding Conor Pass, Ireland’s highest mountain pass, for the dramatic views of the Dingle Peninsula.

Satu also packed in a ferry trip to Valentia Island (home to a host of artists inspired by its gorgeous landscape), a journey to Dursey Island in Cork via Ireland’s only cable car service and, of course, a visit to Dingle’s beloved Fungie the dolphin!

 
 

Week seven saw Satu embark on the final leg of her journey, but by this time she had company! “The nice thing about being on the bikes was that people came to talk to us quite a lot,” she said. “On the last day in Clonakilty we met a local bike group, who ended up joining us for the last leg of the journey!”
Satu also got to visit nearby Skibbereen, which was hosting the annual Taste of West Cork festival, the perfect opportunity to sample delicious seafood, artisan cheeses and other locally sourced produce.


Are you tempted to follow in Satu’s adventurous footsteps? The Wild Atlantic Way is waiting! Break the journey into sections if you’re not ready to traverse its full length, or even head out for a relaxed hour or two. You’ll find amazing cycling tours and routes all down the coast, and a whole host of fun and quirky festivals taking place all throughout the year. 

 

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