DuVine Ireland - Cycling the Connemara Coast with DuVine Guide Padraicby Bike tour guru
"Come away,O human child!
To the waters, and the wild."
- William Butler Yeats, 'The Stolen Child'
Forgive me the poetic license in this, my first blog post for DuVine Adventures (written by DuVine Guide Padraic Doorey). You'll find no blarney here, but an accurate description of what awaits you when you join a DuVine bicycle trip in Ireland.
Whether you are a novice cyclist, a mile cruncher, or lie anywhere in between, you will be blown away by the beauty of the bicycle routes we have carefully selected, first of all in the County Galway gaelteacht ("the home of the Irish language") estate of Ballynahinch Castle, through the majestic setting of Rosleague Manor, and finally around the stunning surrounds of the 13th century Ashford Castle in Cong County Mayo.
A warm, hearty welcome awaits you at Ballynahinch, the magnificent ancestral home to the wild O'Flaherty clan of Connemara (they are not so wild anymore as friendly General Manager Patrick O'Flaherty will assure you), where Des or Freddie will be on hand to ensure you get to sample a swift Guinness and a slippery oyster on brown bread. You'll ride alongside the rugged coastline of Cashel Bay with sun dried seaweed thrown upon the rocks by the 'hound of the sea' and stop off at the elegant Cashel house for high tea, an indulgence of the Irish gentry in times past (it was also a favourite of Charles de Gaulle), complete with warm scones with melting butter, rich whipped cream, and fresh summer fruit jam. You'll only be in the first hour of your bike tour in Ireland and you'll have a sample of what you should come to expect throughout the upcoming week!
Take a short stroll through the magnificent gardens and marvel at the fuchsias, rhododendrons, orchids and roses before hopping back on your comfortable DuVine steed and taking in magnificent views of the Twelve Bens mountain range (each one has a name - eg. Ben Lettery) as you amble along at your own pace along quiet country roads.
You'll notice everything moves a little slower in Connnemara than elsewhere in the world. Yes, high speed internet is available but we encourage you instead to marvel at the fast-flowing Ballynahinch river, divided up into 'beats' where budding anglers can try their hand at landing a magnificent salmon which can be cooked by the talented chefs at the restaurant overlooking this breathtaking sight.
An exceptional service can be anticipated at dinner where Bridge and her team will co-ordinate, with military precision it must be noted, the removal of the kloshes to reveal a delicious spectacle of the finest local Irish produce; Connemara lamb, Ballynahinch Salmon and Trout are just some of the specialties which await you. No Irish meal is complete without wonderful organic vegetables often served as a reminder of our national flag (green, white and orange) and the foundation of our State less than a century ago (Ireland is old but we suffered eight hundred years of oppression by our nearest neighbour - you'll hear more about that from me as the week continues!). Ireland, while not a producer, is a great lover of fine wines and the DuVine team along with Ballynahinch have chosen some excellent wines to complement your meal. This first meal is an example of why Le Guide de Routard, the French gourmet guide has mentioned in it's 2011 edition has declared "the dining experience in Ireland is better than what is on offer in France!" Our French guides might take exception to this claim of course!
After dinner we'll retire to the Castle Bar and the Members Room, or to the Library, where Fidelma, Ballynahinch's own whiskey expert, will give us a tasting of three different Irish whiskeys. "God invented whiskey to stop the Irish from taking over the world" I once read on a bumper sticker in the USA and, upon sampling these gems, you'll see why! You're then free to take a moonlit stroll through the hydrangea gardens, listening to the river in the background, before walking past the open log fire and up the stairs past the Oval Office tapestry (presented to the Castle after President Ford stayed there) where your magnificent room awaits you.
Who knows what tomorrow brings?
I am waiting for you to join me this season with a promise of 'craic, ceol agus ruaille buaille' (fun, music and good times). So, get on your bike, get in a few good training rides and follow me through Connemara!