Posted by: brendanodornan | August 21, 2012

Last Big Outing Before Lap The Lough, Part 2 of 2

Continued from Part 1.

I set off again down the Glens Brae incline in the direction of Martinstown. The speed quickly increased and I moved my grip onto the drops (tech term for the lower part of the handlebars). With this aerodynamic profile (holding my belly in) my speed reached 60km/hr. I should point out that I have switched to metric measurements as those seem to be the units used in cycling circles….as well as in cycling straight lines. A tractor pulled out of a field onto the road about 20m ahead and I braked sharply. The bike skidded about a bit and I overtook the tractor and carried on, breathing a huge sigh of relief. My cycling jersey was now dry but I wasn’t so sure about my shorts.

At the end of the junction I turned right and again ascended the hill towards Cargan. This time it felt easier and I reached the top without thinking that I was making a terrible mistake. The descent into Waterfoot was just sheer exhilaration with the warm sun on my face and a cool breeze blowing. At the bottom of the hill I made a  right hand turn into Waterfoot village. An on-coming tour bus stopped to let me through the cars which were parked up both sides of the road creating a single file traffic system. I cycled on through the village and there seemed to be few people around. A camper van with Italian registration plates passed me. I wondered if they’d come to Ireland to get away from the hot sun, cloudless blue skies, turquoise Mediterranean sea and delectable fresh pasta and sea food. To replace it with driving drizzle, grey skies and a pasty supper. They were probably headed for the boat in Larne.

I passed the remnants of the old railway line and bridge (the White Arch) which were briefly used to carry iron ore (circa 1870) from the Glenariff mine to boats for export to Scotland and England. The mines were operational for only a short time and suffered from a lack of skilled and willing labour in the area. The railway track was eventually dismantled, after 3 miles of it was stolen in one night, so at least not everyone was lacking in skill and shy of hard work.

The Garron point headland protected me from the wind until I turned south again and then I had to pedal to make good progress. My speed had dropped by 7km/hr when I had turned into the wind. The sun was reflecting off the surface of the sea and there was a wonderful fresh aroma of salt and seaweed in the air.

I reached Carnlough at about 11am. It’s referred to as ‘Cyarnloa’ by the local inhabitants and is a picturesque village with quaint fishing boats moored in the harbour. It was mostly built by Lady Londonderry of the Antrim aristocracy who had also built the hotel in the town ‘The Londonderry Arms’  as a coaching inn. She was an aunt to Winston Churchill and ownership of the hotel passed to him before he sold it on (circa 1930). One of Churchill’s quotes that is very apt in my endeavours to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign wasWe make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give’. Another quote of his that I like was his reply when he was addressed by Nancy Astor “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison” to which he replied “If I were your husband, I would take it”.

I stopped by the harbour and tucked into the second of my snack bars and while I was there a tour bus pulled into the car park opposite. Its passengers disembarked onto the tarmac and most headed immediately for the public toilets, forming a long queue outside. I wondered if there was a potential missed opportunity there for an enterprising young Carnlough “Alan Sugar” type to set up a stall in the vicinity and separate some of the tourists from their cash.

With my break over I straddled my bike and continued around the coast to Glenarm. The road is flat along the coast and the cycling is easy and enjoyable. A prominent feature of Glenarm is the castle which dates from the 18th Century. Castles have been sited in Glenarm in various locations since the 13th Century and the walls of the original form part of the old Courthouse in the village. The skeleton of a prisoner who was executed by being walled up inside was found here in the 1970’s.

I passed the lower end of Mark Street in the village which was where I took music lessons as a teenager. I recall the teacher had a little dog which used to run around at my feet as I concentrated on my piece. One day as I tinkled on the keys, the dog tinkled on my leg! It must have been expressing some displeasure at my musical abilities, or lack of them.

I left Glenarm and a few miles south passed a rock formation on the seaward side of the road with a large hole in the rock. This is known locally as ‘Madman’s Window’. The story goes that a young local girl drowned while swimming in Glenarm Bay and that her husband-to-be lost his mind and spent every day gazing out to sea through this ‘window’ waiting for her to come home.

A few miles further on and I came into Ballygalley. This village is an affluent suburb of Larne. If you have moved to Ballygalley you know you have made it big. Ballygalley is to Larne what Martha’s Vineyard is to Massachussetts. (Except it’s not an island, and it’s a lot smaller, in fact it’s not really like Martha’s Vineyard at all).

Ballygalley is a beautiful, quiet, coastal village with well kept villas looking out over the sea. It has a hotel which used to be seventeenth century fortified manor house. It is reputed to be haunted (the hotel that is).

Another fascinating local story concerns a Spanish chestnut tree that grows in the grounds of the cemetery of the Church of Ireland. When the invading Spanish Armada ships floundered in a storm around Ireland some sank in the vicinity of the Antrim coast. It is said that the body of a Spanish sailor was washed up near Ballygalley and that locals buried him in the graveyard. The sailor had some seeds in his pockets and these germinated and grew into the Spanish chestnut tree. Samples from the tree were recently analysed and dated the tree to the sixteenth century, adding some credibility to the legend. If the Spanish Armada had succeeded we could all have been speaking Spanish, drinking Rioja and eating tapas instead we are speaking ulster scots, drinking Irn Bru and eating fish suppers.

I took the first road on the right on entering the village and then a quick left turn onto Croft Rd. This was a category 5 climb of 5 km back up towards Millbrook. I was really feeling tired now after having done 85km, my legs were feeling like jelly, my breath was laboured, my lungs were bursting and my heart was hammering. I was hoping that each bend of the road was the last but there was always another inexorable hill to climb. At last I got to the top and turned left back into Drumahoe Rd and free-wheeled back to the car park.

I had covered 93km (58 miles), including six category five climbs and one category 4 climb. I had burned 3000kcal.

When I got home Adele wanted to go out on her Weehoo so we went to the Comber Greenway and I did another 10miles pulling the Weehoo behind!

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