‘Come cycling in Mayo in winter, where the heavens open as if on cue every half hour’

Every week Dominique tries something different. This week: the Greenway

'I wore three pairs of socks, two pairs of trousers, two tops, two jumpers, a zippy, a duffle coat, a raincoat, gloves and a hat. My shape resembled a sheep that had learned to walk on two legs.'

'I wore three pairs of socks, two pairs of trousers, two tops, two jumpers, a zippy, a duffle coat, a raincoat, gloves and a hat. My shape resembled a sheep that had learned to walk on two legs.'

 

This week I cycled the Greenway which runs from Westport to Achill Island. I’m a bit frightened of cycling. One bad experience careering over a crossbar as a teenager put me off, but it was a cycle on a Dublin bike that settled the issue permanently. The combination of a very heavy bike, perilous Luas tracks and honking buses missing me by inches left me wondering why anyone would cycle at all.

I certainly didn’t expect to find myself facing a 25km cycle in the west of Ireland any time soon.

Before the cycle we spent the morning practising yoga and touring Achill Island’s sites. There’s good reason Mayo is the last place on earth you would think of heading to at this time. It was bitterly cold, completely deserted and the heavens opened as if on cue every half hour.

We saw the deserted village, the reservoir, Achill Henge and the beach that came back. We saw one other person, called John Murphy, who sought cover in our car during a particularly bad downpour.

To prepare for the cycle we ate quiche and chips – everything in Achill comes with chips. I wore three pairs of socks, two pairs of trousers, two tops, two jumpers, a zippy, a duffle coat, a raincoat, gloves and a hat. My shape resembled a sheep that had learned to walk on two legs.

Towering clouds swept across its length, followed by fluffy visions lit heavenly from behind

My guide was a charming French man, which felt strangely appropriate as the landscape felt pretty foreign. Francois runs a kitesurfing school on Achill during the summer, but at this time of year sticks to cycling, yoga and hiking.

Within 50m of setting off, it was lashing sideways. It was more hail than rain, and it stung at my nose, the only bit of skin naked to the elements. We hid beside an empty holiday home.

Towering clouds

The sky was like a huge stage spread across the landscape. Towering clouds swept across its length, followed by fluffy visions lit heavenly from behind. Then suddenly blue. A clear blue sky has never looked so bright.

To our right was Inishbiggle, and to our left navy blue mountains loomed. The sun hung low in our eyes and we chatted about nothing in particular.

In the evening we drank cheap red wine that stained our teeth. We sat beside an open fire in a pub with one old man with a bad cough. The wind howled and we ordered chips. The commuter-packed streets of Dublin Christmas shopping felt very far away.

See puremagic.ie and smithwicks10w.eventbrite.ie/

Do you have suggestions for what Dominique should try next? Email your ideas to dmcmullan@irishtimes.com

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