Posted by: brendanodornan | August 12, 2012

How Far Did I Go This Weekend? Part 1….Martinstown to Loch An Rith Amach

At last the weekend was here, an opportunity to cycle a route other than my Ballyclare/Templepatrick work run.

I had a partner for this outing. We’ll call him ‘Mal’….after all that’s his name. He’s been cycling for a few years now after a break of ten years or so, he’s a regular cycling with the Shannonside cycling club and he also competes regularly in Triathlons. I don’t make a habit of looking at another man’s legs but he has calf muscles that are as thick as tree trunks. I was going to be out of my depth. We were to set off from Martinstown (a small village to the north of Ballymena) on Saturday morning. I arrived at a little after 8am and Mal had his full carbon fibre racing bike ready. This bike weighs several Kg less than mine. I suppose in my favour I had the fact that I am several Kg lighter than him.

The weather was clear and bright, the sun was shining, the temperature was about 16 deg C. There was a South Easterly wind blowing at 15mph with gusts of 30mph. The wind would turn out to be the toughest challenge of the day.

Stocked up with energy bars and water we set off at 8.30am in a north easterly direction, uphill through Cargan and onwards past the old iron ore mines on the left. The village was originally known as Fisherstown after the man who started the mines here. There was also a railway which transported the ore. Remnants of the old rail lines can still be seen today. Mal was in the lead and was setting a cracking pace up this hill. I got some respite as we reached the top of the hill and started our descent down into Waterfoot.

We continued around the coast and through Red Bay Arch, built by Francis Turnly in 1817. Above Red Bay Arch is the ruin of MacDonnell’s castle which was destroyed in the Cromwell campaigns in 1652 – a quarter of the population of Ireland died during this time. I was beginning to think I might be joining them if this pace didn’t slow a little.

The sky was darkening as we entered Cushendall. It was festival week after all. There were people gathering for the vintage parade and I wondered if ‘vintage’ referred to the average age of the population. We turned left at the ‘Curfew Tower’ built in 1809 as a prison – plenty of public services for the locals here?

On we went, Mal still leading the charge uphill and round towards Knocknacarry, named from the Irish Cnoc na Caraidh meaning “hill of the weir”. The weir referred to a diverted part of the river Dun which operated a water mill. A cousin of ours was driving an old tractor in the opposite direction to us and we waved as he passed. He waved back but I doubt that he knew he was waving at relatives, probably just thought “two more obsessed lycra clad cyclists”.

At a fork in the road Mal turned right down towards Cushendun and I had the horrible premonition that he was going to try and lead me up the infamous ‘Torr Hill’ also know in cycling circles as ‘The Giant Killer’. This would not do. I summoned some energy and managed to catch up with him and he agreed not to take on the Giant Killer,….. that day! We turned and went back to the junction, taking the right hand fork onto the A2, Loughareema Rd., towards Ballycastle.

This in itself is a Category 3 climb (the climbs are graded from 5 to 1, where 1 is the toughest). The sky had now turned fifty shades of grey and was looking very ominous. I was thinking that putting all my faith in the met office forecast of a bright, sunny and warm day may not have been wise. We were both wearing short sleeved cycling jerseys and had no raincoats. The uphill route took us through Ballypatrick Forest and peaked near Loch An Rith Amach (Loughareema) or The Vanishing Lake. The Loch was empty so no concerns about being haunted by the ghost of Captain McNeill’s horses and carriage. The chance of a photo opportunity allowed a first short and welcome break. Mal opened up an energy bar which disappeared in one bite while I was getting the camera ready. He then took the picture and was remounting his bike while I put the camera away. It was like a Grand Prix pit-stop. I didn’t have time to refuel and my energy bars stayed in my pocket. He did however, open a full bag of jelly babies and shared a couple of those with me before a couple of handfuls suffered the same fate as his energy bar.

Log in again to read about where our journey took us next.

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