Cycling the Atlantic coast of Europe from north to south during the summer of 2017. View the archive, the route so far, or donate to MSF.

Gap of Mamore

By Stuart Lowe on

I had a good sleep. I had to get to Cycle Inishowen for 11am. I took my time having breakfast and getting ready whilst also chatting some more with Lucy and Veronique. At 10am, as I set off, Lucy and the whole French family waved me off in the rain. It was wet and windy. Thankfully, for some of the ride, the wind was behind me for once. It blew me into Carndonagh as the church bells chimed 11.

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Veronique and Lucy

I found Oggy just off the main square and went for second breakfast as he looked at my bike. By 1pm he'd fitted new-ish chain rings (the ones he'd ordered didn't quite fit - thanks bike manufacturers), a new cassette (on the wheel from Ålesund) and a new chain. I was off again but with a full set of gears for the hills ahead.

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Oggy

It was a wet day. There was little let up. I called in at a post office to stamp my Atlantic Way passport. My mood way improved as I rode into Clonmany. I was greeted by people cheering me on at the side of the road. It was the French family. It was like having my own, lovely, Tour de France supporters. With a smile I rounded the next corner to gridlock. It was the Clonmany festival and there also seemed to be at least one wedding on. I weaved between the stationary cars, coaches and other vehicles all trying to get around each other. In the centre I stopped to soak up the atmosphere and get a crepe with Nutella from a stall.

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Clonmany festival

As I rounded the headland the wind picked up. It was tough going. I was aiming for the Lough Swilly ferry and didn't know the timetable just that they were every hour and a half. Then, ahead, I saw the road rising steeply up. Was this my route? Was there a more gentle road around the mountainside to the right? No, this was it. The Gap of Mamore. Why had nobody warned me. As I started seeing encouraging messages chalked on the tarmac I knew this must be part of a proper cycle race route. Drat! This was probably the Irish equivalent to the Bealach Na Ba. I kept cycling. I wasn't fast and I tried to time it so I was squeezing through passing places as cars came by from ahead and behind. No stopping. Keep going to the top. Nearly there. Made it!

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Gap of Mamore

At the top, as I caught my breath, a Dutch car stopped and offered me some mints. I took them willingly. As they drove off I was met by Paul and Kate who'd watched me cycle up. They were up in Donegal on holiday and offered me a cup of tea. But it turned out they'd used up all their gas. However, a couple named Fiona and Arie had just arrived at the top by car and they combined forces to provide the hot water. Thanks to all of them for their kindness!

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Kate, Paul, Fiona and Arie

With a big smile I continued on. I freewheeled down the other side clutching my brakes and worrying that my bike might tip over due to the bumps in the road and the steep gradient.

An Irish man in a car asked me for directions.

I reached the ferry just minutes before it was to sail. I have had good luck with ferry timing on this trip. On the ferry I talked to a Welsh guy (who lives in Belfast) and his dad. His dad was about to motorcycle around India.

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Ferry over Lough Swilly

Although it was tea time I had to press on. I was hoping to do the parkrun in Falcarragh tomorrow morning and I had a way to go. The road followed the coast. It was hilly. Then it kept climbing up to Ballymastocker Strand. It gave good views. Then I immediately lost all the height on a switchback downhill so didn't get the benefit. I couldn't help curse road builders who preferred views over contouring nicely.

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Looking back over to Dunree Head

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Illuminated road heading up to Ballymastocker Strand

The Wild Atlantic Way route on the map went out to the headland. I decided to chop that bit off. I can't do every single in and out as I have to reach Spain eventually. It was hilly but not like Norway or Scotland. It was more gentle. As I reached Island Roy the light was starting to go. I found a campsite and got almost their last patch of grass around 9pm. It was raining still so, damp, I hid in my tent. Some time later as I was in my sleeping bag a loud family turned up and put there van right next to my tent. They seemed frustrated that I was there. Their little boy passed judgement on me, my tent, and bike. I think they wanted to put up their awning and couldn't because I was there. I had got there first though and they needn't have parked so close. They accidentally (hopefully) kicked out one of my guy ropes whilst clattering about.

At least I'd be off early and able to leave them behind.

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Looking over to Island Roy