Inishkeeragh to Clare Island – 54kms
After the sunshine of the last few days the monochrome world we woke up to today was quite a shock. Our kayaks and paddling gear were the only things adding colour to an otherwise dreach morning.
The rain had been coming down steadily most of the night and it was with some reluctance that we dragged ourselves out of our tents and attempted to load the boats without getting everything wet.
As we got going the rain died away and the visibility improved. Mountains and islands more than 10 kilometers away could be seen clearly but only as different shades of grey against the grey waters and grey skies. The manx shearwaters, out in greater numbers than usual today, added to the black and white tones as they graced us with their agile flybys.
I was mulling over the title of my blog post for today and when I mentioned it to Dave he quite rightly pointed out that it could equally apply to my beard. I’m sure I had more brownie/red tones in it the last time I had this much facial hair.
Our route north today allowed us the opportunity to leave the coast of Galway and to proceed more directly in the direction of the Achill Sound via a variety of different islands. Once again we regretted the fact that we couldn’t linger longer to enjoy them all. We decided that Inishbofin (rather than Inishturk) would be our main stop for the day.
As we got closer we allowed thoughts of fresh coffee and bacon rolls to enter our heads. This was setting ourselves up for disappointment as we had no idea what facilities existed on the island. An initial review of the buildings as we entered the large sheltered harbour area didn’t look promising but as we continued eastwards towards the final small harbour we sighted “The Beach” which looked distinctly cafe like. We pulled our boats up on to a shingle beach inside the harbour but were disappointed to find the cafe under renovation and currently closed. Before resorting to our lunch boxes we spotted the Inishbofin House Hotel and upon approaching the door were welcomed in with much warmth by the receptionist who directed us towards the bar. We felt a little out of place in our dripping waterproofs but we were assured by the girl at the bar (mop in hand having just finished cleaning the floor) that it wouldn’t be a problem. No bacon rolls – but coffee, tea, burgers and pulled pork rolls were all excellent and consumed with much relish (well more like a purple coleslaw actually).
It was still another 30k to our intended destination for the day, Clare Island, and lingering in the bar wasn’t going to get us there. We were soon back on the water heading north past Inishdalla and onwards to Caher Island.
It was just 10k from the west cliffs of Caher to Clare but my enthusiasm for the day’s paddle was wearing thin. I decided to make use of my remaining gummy bears to reward myself with a treat for every kilometer paddled. I set the 10 little bears up on my spraydeck above the elastic holding the front of my map down. As a further distraction from the paddling I started counting strokes. I’d see how closely I could estimate the passing of a kilometer before checking on my GPS. The gummy bears proved a useful aid to maintaining my count: shifting a bear from left to right for each 50 strokes. By the 3rd kilometer my estimate was getting pretty close: 250 strokes would get me reliably to within 50 metres of 1 kilometer. However I was beginning to worry about the longevity of my bears. The constant drips and splashes of water on to the spraydeck meant they were sitting in a puddle and the danger of dissolving before serving their intended purpose became a real possibility. The elastic holding them in place was also slightly raised and every now and then one would wriggle under and I’d have to quickly react to prevent it sliding overboard. The last danger came from above. The fulmars, who are forever altering course to investigate us as we paddle through their territory, appeared to be paying me extra close attention on this section. I believe they were interested in sampling these little coloured morsels to make a change from their otherwise fishy diet. Happily all bears survived until consumed by me but the last few were definitely suffering from a severe softening of the outer flesh and took on a very salty flavour. There’s definitely room for improvement in this distraction technique and I think one bear per kilometer is a little mean – there was no way I could make the bear last, even without chewing, more than 400 meters.
Anyway, by the time we were within three kilometers of Clare the need for distraction had greatly diminished. A little sunshine had finally arrived and some colour had started to invade our grey world. Clare is quite a spectacular island with high hills, cliffs and green fields. The views as we paddled round the eastern end and into the harbour were more than enough reward for the long day’s paddle. The names of some of the boats in the harbour, “Pirate Queen” and “Black Pearl”, reminded us that we were in the realm of the notorious Irish pirate, Grace O’Mally (Granuaile). The ruins close to the pier are known as Granuaile’s Castle.
We soon found the public campsite just behind the beach and were pitching our tents beside one other camper from Cumbria out on a two week cycle touring journey. The community centre has toilets, showers and washing facilities to make any visitor’s stay more comfortable (unfortunately our visit coincided with a hot water failure).
The friendliness of the locals in the Anchor Bar adjoining the community centre soon made up for the disappointment of not getting a hot shower. We learnt much about the challenges and rewards of living in a small (150 people) island community over a few pints of guinness. We retired to our tents happy with our progress and feeling enriched by the day’s experiences.