Donegal to Wesport
We got a late start to Day 3 and probably didn’t take off from Donegal until around noon. We were still working out the kinks of packing in the best way. Because Tyler and I were hoping to find a camp spot, we unpacked our hard cases every night and repacked the next day even if we were staying in the same hotel. Once we got our bags organized in a better way, we were able to only take a few things in each night, and leave most of the camp gear locked on the bike.
Before we even got to our first official stop at Minnaun Cliffs, we saw a random abandoned church and stopped to explore. Those are my favorite types of spots and this one had been abandoned for a long time. The walls were still completely in tact but there was no roof, and full size trees were growing inside the old church. We climbed a pretty sketchy ladder in the tower to get a better view from the top. Even though the church was abandoned, some of the graves were as new as 2016. Not a bad place to be buried, if you’re into that sort of thing. You could see for miles.
Ceide Field Neolithic site and Minnaun Cliffs
Our next stop was Ceide Field Neolithic site and Minnaun Cliffs. The overlook was pretty stunning and my dad could not get over how there were cows at pasture all the way out to the cliffs edge, meaning some farmer owned that land.
The quest for camping
Most of Ireland is farmland or preserved historic buildings, so we were excited to be riding into Ballycroy National Park, where Tyler and I split off convinced we could find a camp spot. It turns out Ireland’s national parks are much different than ours and are mainly for preservation, not viewing or camping. We had read online that it was indeed legal to camp as long as you were 40 meters from a road. But….there were no roads leading into the park. We took gravel road after gravel road and kept ending up at farm properties and remote houses with no crossings into Ballycroy. We were kicking ourselves for not yet having the GoPro properly set up – we had to stop for at least four cows in the middle of the roads, and the farmers didn’t seem to happy about us being on their roads.
We finally found a dirt road that looked promising – except for the steel barrier keeping us from crossing. Tyler managed to get one of the bikes around it (not without difficulty) so we doubled up to ride down the road and see where it led. We almost went down together a few times trying to get through some of the sandier stretches of road. It didn’t really seem to lead anywhere in particular.
We found an old abandoned house and barn and decided to go back to the other bike and make a final plan for the night. At this point the flies, or whatever they were, were so thick you could barely put your helmet on without getting them trapped inside. We couldn’t tell whether this road was part of the park, or just outside the boundaries. We really wanted to camp but ultimately made the decision to ride onto the hotel, not knowing whether we’d wake up to a pissed off farmer or not.
Failure and the ride back to town
We rode past Clew Bay into Wesport while the sun was setting, and the pictures don’t come close to doing it justice. I was leading for part of that night ride, until I came around a corner with a high embankment on the left and just missed hitting a sheep that was huddled up right next to the road. I made Tyler lead the rest of the way so he could risk being the sheep murderer ; )
By the time we got to the Wyatt Hotel in Westport, I was completely beat. The route that day was 250km but with all the searching we had done I imagine we rode about 350km on back roads and gravel. It doesn’t seem like much by American standards, but it is when the roads are so narrow that oncoming traffic is an actual threat. That night we decided to do our proper research, determined not to leave Ireland without one night in a tent.