June 28, 2010

connemara and castles

We are staying in a castle! Ashford castle to be precise. It’s about an hour outside of Galway and it’s absolutely beautiful. We arrived yesterday afternoon with our DuVine Adventures guides Kirk and Padraic. Yesterday was mostly about checking to the room, getting our bikes fit, and getting to know our fellow cyclists. There are a total of 12 of us on the trip and everyone is really nice. There are no other young adults on the trip but so far everyone has been very welcoming of Josh and Kaia.

This morning we woke up to what the irish call a soft rain, we might call it a mist but I like the irish term better. It really is so soft that you forget about the precipitation until you are totally soaked by it. We had a nice breakfast here at the castle and then Josh and I went golfing at the nine hole course, and Jane went along with some of our fellow cyclists to a falconry class. It was amazing, they got to wear the leather glove, and the falcon would take off and land from their arm. Meanwhile Josh and I were sharing a set of clubs and getting soaked while playing some golf in Ireland. The course was not too hard, and on the par three I almost got a legitimate hole in one, see my previous post on St. Andrews!

At noon we took off on our first true ride of the tour. We cycled up the road a bit to stop for lunch in a small pub. The only problem was that the soft rain had not abated, and according to our head waiter at the castle, “If its still raining at 11, its probably going to keep raining all day.” It really was a soft rain and although we were all quite wet at our lunch stop we dried out rather quickly as well. Our destination for the afternoon was Joyce Country Sheepdogs. Here we Met Joe Joyce who is a sheep farmer and breeder of working dogs. If you have seen Marley and Me, you have seen Joe’s sheep and one of his dogs (not Marley – Its the scene where the sheep are blocking the road)

Joe showed us how the dogs herd the sheep and how they respond to his verbal or whistled commands. He lives in a beautiful stone house, and his sheep roam the mountains across the lake from his home. When he needs to bring the sheep in for something, which happens five times a year, he brings his dogs across the lake and he commands them using his whistle from a boat where he has a better view. These dogs are amazing, they WANT to work so hard for him they go crazy when its not their turn to herd the sheep. I should say it rained on us the last couple of miles to Joe’s house so we were all like drowned rats when we got their. Thankfully while we were there the rain let up and the sun started to break through.

The ride back was even more beautiful than the ride out, thanks in large part to the lack of rain. Its amazing how green and beautiful the Irish countryside is. The mountains go directly down to the lake shore and the lakes themselves are incredibly beautiful. Tonight we had our second amazing dinner at the castle, this dinner was much less formal than last night’s sport coat and tie affair, but my seafood chowder was to die for, the fish and chips were good, and then the desert, a white chocolate rhubarb tart was amazing.

Tomorrow we have about 40 miles to bike to our next destination and another delicious dinner, I’m already looking forward to it, and I hope we will have sun all day tomorrow.