Cycling around the Loop of love

Clifftop roads, dolphins and seaweed baths in scenic Clare

Fri, May 31, 2013, 14:59

T he fact that I took two days and three night s to take on the 65km Loop Head cycleway in Co Clare shows up my wishy-washy green side. Eco-warriors would have packed tents into panniers and cycled it in a day, whereas I booked into three different accommodations, ate a lot more than lentils boiled up on a Calor gas stove and finished it all off with a major pamper.

The cycleway starts and ends in Kilkee, also home to The Kilkee Thalassotherapy Centre, a seaweed bath house which I booked into for my last night.

I set out by hired bike along the north coast of the peninsula, my target for day one being the lighthouse at the tip, following a clifftop road, as magnificent as Moher but devoid of traffic. ‘

After about 9km of coastal cycling I headed inland along gently undulating lanes as far as Cross, where I dropped my backpack at the Old School, an elegant conversion of a traditional schoolhouse which was restored recently by its owners.

With a lighter load I caught the sunset at the lighthouse 12km from Cross along another quiet coastal path with some of the most incredible bays tucked away, such as at Bridges of Ross, a series of natural stone bridges sticking out in the sea.

My Loop love intensified when Ian Glendinning, owner of the Old School, offered to pick me and my bike up at Keating’s pub in Kilbaha, just a couple of kilometres from the lighthouse, after dinner.

He dropped me back at the tip in the morning so that I could continue where I had left off, my schoolhouse packed lunch in my pannier.

It was a quick cycle along the calmer shores of the Shannon estuary as far as Carrigaholt for more of a love-in.

I had booked in for an 11am dolphin- watching outing and, within minutes
of boarding Dolphinwatch’s boat Draío cht , we were watching bottlenosed beauties soaring into the air.

My second night tapped right into my green side. A bell tent with woodburning stove awaited me at Purecamping in Querrin, a further 8km up the coast, as did their home-made sauna, a construction in one corner of the field which I crawled into through a small tunnel. Cooked through, I ran straight to bed and fell asleep.

My final cycle, back to Kilkee, was along tiny backroads that followed the wetlands of birdlife haven Poulnasherry Bay and the Pollock Holes, natural rock pools where you can swim at low tide. Luckily I had packed my togs.

“Phone me when you are nearby, and I’ll run the seaweed bath for you,” Eileen from the Thalassotherapy Centre had told me when I set off a couple of days earlier. Which I did, from the Diamond Rocks Café just beside the pools.

From cake heaven to bladderwrack bliss, my loop was well and truly complete. For more see loophead.ie.


Catherine Mack is the author of travel app Ireland Green Travel, available for Apple and Android