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Clifden Cycling Hub

Clifden Cycling Hub

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Posted Sat 30 Nov 2019 2:25 PM
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Island of Ireland
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Clifden, besides being a charming town sometimes known as the "Capital of the Connemara", is also one of the several cycling hub towns on the island of Ireland. There are four designated loops you can make, all starting and ending in the town centre of Clifden. Each of them passes along winding roads through different landscapes - a mosaic of mountains and forests, bogs and jagged coastlines - a variety of views so typical for the Connemara region. You can get free maps of the cycle loops in the local tourism office or the bike rental shops.
-Map of the 4 Cycle Loops. For a bigger version, check out the Visit Clifden website-

First thing you need is a bike. If you're planning to cycle the Sky Road (Loop 1 on the map), you'll be scaling some steep hills, so I'd recommend a bike with a sufficient amount of gears or a hybrid model. A one day hire of a normal bike falls in the €15-20 price range. For a hybrid or electric model, expect to pay around double that price. There are several bike rental shops scattered across the town, so you can compare and pick the one most to your liking. When I headed out on September 17th earlier this year, it was a brilliant late summer day, with bright blue skies and temperatures just above 20°C. Positively hot when you're out on a day's cycle - make sure to bring some water along!

The most famous of the 4 cycle loops is probably the 16km Sky Road Loop. The Upper Road quickly brings you to a signed spot next to a fence, which is the start of a small climb up a hill to the D'Arcy Monument. The monument itself doesn't look like much, but the iconic vista over Clifden town (see the image below) is well worth the time. On a clear day, the Twelve Bens are clearly visible in the distance. A bit further there's another chance for a lovely little side escapade, at a renovated gate marking the start of a short pathway to D'Arcy castle, which is now a photogenic ruin. If you're wondering by now why this name keeps popping up - D'Arcy was the founder of Clifden at the start of the 19th century. The Upper Road then continues to live up to its name and after some intense pedal work (or less intense if you decided to go electric), you arrive at the designated Wild Atlantic Way viewpoint which offers a sweeping vista over Clifden Bay and the many islands scattered across the Atlantic.
-View over Clifden-
-View over the Atlantic-

It was still only noon at that time, so I decided to push on and continue towards the Cleggan Loop (nr. 3 on the map). My goal was Omey Island, a tidal island reachable by foot (or car) during low tide. Make sure to check the tides in advance - two hours before and after low tide mark the period the island is accessible. This gives you ample time to explore the small, but gorgeous and tranquil island.

Further on, the Cleggan Loop cuts through Cleggan itself. The harbour is a great spot for a quick snack and you can also take the ferry from here to Inishbofin. I didn't have the time to do this myself, but if anyone here did have the chance to make the crossing, I'd love to hear what you thought of Inishbofin!
-Cleggan Harbour-

Cruising back south towards Clifden, I couldn't help myself retracing some of my 'steps' to take in some of the Sky Road views again. This is when I checked out the D'Arcy Castle and Monument, which I both skipped on my first time around. Afterwards, I headed back to Clifden taking the Lower Sky Road through Clifden Harbour and up towards town.

Has anyone here explored one of the other cycle loops? I'm very curious to hear about your experiences - especially if anyone had the chance to visit Derrigimlagh Bog. The new immersive exhibition on the local historical events and nature sounds super interesting!

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