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May 1, 2017

Staying in McGrory’s?

McGrory’s Hotel is in the perfect place for exploring by bike! They even have bike parking facilities which is great to see and a sure sign of a friendly welcome for cyclists. Sign into Strava (or join for free) to view or download our suggested cycles from the hotel, or follow the Inishowen 100 for a real challenge.

The ‘100’ is a glorious, scenic 100 mile loop around the whole peninsula; there are some serious climbs involved too! You can also break it down and take the sections before and after Culdaff as separate loops – take Culdaff to Malin Head and back one day, and Culdaff to Moville, Greencastle and back another day.

Pink Route – Inishowen 100

If you’d rather take it a bit easier there are lots of lovely country roads in the area just around McGrory’s. Our historical loop is less than 15km total – that should take the most leisurely cyclist an hour at the most. Allow yourself two however, as this road brings you past historical sites which you will want to explore! First in Clonca there are the ruins of a 17th century church, and in the field alongside it a carved high cross. The two sites are connected and you can cross in to get a good look at the cross. If you then walk away from it and down the field you will find the ornate head of a classic Celtic cross fallen in the grass.

Clonca Church and High Cross

Back on the bike then and you will have a short climb up and off the main road to the Bocan stone circle. It’s in a field on the left just as you turn off the main road. This megalithic site is in a working field, so please exercise caution around livestock and be sure to close the gate.

From there follow that road as suggested in the Strava route – it brings you up along Glebe and while that’s a bit of a climb the views and descent are totally worth it! After an exhilarating downhill follow the coast along the beach and it loops back to the hotel.

Admiring the view at Culdaff beach

If that seems a bit too short for your liking then you can get all the way to Moville completely off the beaten track. Avoiding the main roads this is a very peaceful, scenic route, and is about 15km of cycling in total to the seaside town of Moville. Once there the rider can follow the same route back, take the main roads back, or add to the day by heading on towards Greencastle and Shroove.

Cycle Inishowen provide Ordnance Survey maps with bike hire, but we would also recommend you download the Strava routes if you would like to follow back roads for a quieter cycle. Enjoy!

January 22, 2017

2017 season, here we come!

This year we have decided to re-open for the season a little later than usual, and, as we’re a pair of fools, have decided on the 1st of April!

This is because Oggy, our wonderful mechanic, is going to be doing some industry development training towards the end of March. As most people have figured out it’s him that does all the real work anyway so we’ll wait for him to come back – an even better bike mechanic – before we re-open.

Hopefully this doesn’t inconvenience anyone, but if you did want to hire bikes between now and then please email us at info@cycleinishowen.com, or call +353 (0)87 9722532, and we will do our best to accommodate you. Our hire prices will be the same this year as they always have – €12 for a half day or €20 for a full, with weekly rates, group rates and family rates also available.

We are currently re-working our website and you will find that none of the book now buttons work – so sorry! Please bear with us and just give us a shout if you do want to make a booking. Looking forward to seeing you all in 2017!

May 4, 2016

May the Fourth be with you!

This seems the appropriate day to bring up the worst-kept secret in Ireland – the cast and crew from Star Wars are here in Inishowen!

Other-worldly beauty at Malin Head

Other-worldly beauty at Malin Head

The rumours had been flying for months that some scenes for 2017’s Episode VIII would be filmed here; with B&B’s and hotels block-booked and everyone being weirdly quiet about it… The rumours have now been confirmed however, with four days of filming scheduled at Malin Head over the next couple of weeks. The production teams are here; getting to work on set building, and have even made a temporary road in order to have access to the most far-removed spots of Inishowen wilderness.

Everyone involved has signed confidentiality agreements, and the access points are under surveillance by security guards, so it’s hard to say much more on what they are actually doing! Apparently they have even managed to implement some sort of boat ban, so we can at least be fairly certain they are using a lot of coastal shots.

Malin Head is so remote, rugged and windswept that you can easily imagine it belonging to a galaxy far, far away… and it really is a great testament to our unspoiled, natural surroundings here in Inishowen that Disney and Lucas Films have selected Malin Head. Of course, as soon as the news broke everyone was PhotoShopping storm troopers and the like into their shots of the headland; but the ultimate winners have to be Farren’s Bar, for their amazing mural. Next time you’re in the area you’ll just have to get a photo with that – and go in for a pint, the Guinness is great and it’s the most northerly pub in Ireland!

Malin Head pub pays homage to Star Wars

Star Wars Mural at Farren’s Bar

In other news you’ll find it a bit of a struggle to get accommodation anywhere around Malin Head for the next couple of weeks, but there are loads of lovely other hotels, B&B’s and hostels to choose from in Inishowen. There are some planned road closures from the 13th to 15th of May, so they may not be the best days to try to plan your cycle to Malin Head. But hey, who’s up for Star Wars tours next year?! Oh yeah.

April 29, 2016

SME Awards and fun!

It’s great to start a new season with some good news; and for us that was making the final of the SME Awards in no less than three categories; Community Minded, Customer Focus and Environmentally Minded.

Blaise at the awards ceremony

Blaise at the awards ceremony

This meant an invite down to the big ‘do’ in Cork. We’d been gutted to miss it in 2015 and were determined to get down there this time! Seeing as we are currently open for the season we couldn’t both make an appearance, leaving Oggy running the show here while Blaise skipped off down the country!

The finalists gather before the ceremony.

The finalists gather before the ceremony.

The SME Awards are a national competition, open to every industry, and every business that is rated as a Small to Medium Enterprise. We are definitely on the smaller side of that with just the two of us running the show here! The awards ceremony was hosted by the affable Rick O’Shea, in the Radisson Blu Hotel, and the whole evening was great craic. Rick bombarded us with sweeties and got people up playing games throughout the ceremony; it was far from your normal business networking event… as proved by Blaise battling it out with Shawna from Sex Siopa to see who could blow up an inflatable banana the quickest…

Banana champion and humble victor, Blaise.

Banana champion and not-so humble victor, Blaise.

Categories came and went, and it began to look like we’d be taking the long, long road home empty-handed when we finally heard our name called! Cycle Inishowen had won the Environmentally Minded Award! Maintaining our beautiful green environment here in Donegal is at the heart of so much of what we do here, and it was fantastic to have that acknowledged.

Blaise with Environmentally Minded Award

Blaise with Environmentally Minded Award

The event was sponsored by Blacknight, who really know how show a business a good time! They had thought of everything – from LED Hollywood style letters, to having a camera set up to capture the finalists reactions. It was perfect and we can’t thank them enough; also the Radisson Blu need a special shout-out for the AMAZING buffet at the end of the night! Oh my…

 

Anyone thinking of heading down to Cork here’s a few tips from Blaise and her friends on what worked for them:
‘We stayed in the Kinlay House; great hostel accommodation that was very close to the city centre. The three of us had a private room with en suite for next to nothing and the staff were lovely. Highly recommend them! We treated ourselves to breakfast out at 14A, which was so good that I have to admit we went both days! We were lucky enough to be there on a day where the Butter Museum was running free tours, which was entertaining and interesting. We also rang the bells in the Shandon Church which is so much fun and a really unique tourist experience! Couple of pints in Sin E and our evening out in the Radisson rounded off the weekend nicely.’

July 9, 2015

What’s the story with Rathmullan Ferry?

This is a question we get asked a lot. The ferry crossing across Lough Swilly is marked on the Ordnance Survey maps for the area, and even on some of this years tourism maps.

Unfortunately, as I write this in July 2015, the ferry is not running. It has been off all this year – but I believe will be back again next year. The short crossing between Buncrana and Rathmullan has been on and off for years, and even when it is running seems more inclined to be closed due to weather than its counterpoint in Lough Foyle.

In May the Donegal County Council advertised for applications for the licence to operate this route, with a closing date for June 2015. They have run this advertisement again now, with a new closing date next week. Hopefully they will be successful in finding an operator, as the council have promised to provide some subsidy to the running costs.

If it is started again it will most likely be run by the Foyle Ferry, as it was them who previously operated this route. The crossing is short, and was very reasonably priced – especially for foot passengers with bikes! It is a great way to get across to Rathmullan as it means avoiding Letterkenny, and some busy main roads.

In the meantime, the ferry across the Foyle from Greencastle to Magilligan is still going strong; I feel inspired to write a piece about that soon too. If there is any news on the Swilly crossing I will be sure to come and update this piece! Until then folks, you will have to stick to the roads I’m afraid.

June 11, 2015

Northern Lights Hunting

We are ridiculously lucky up here as we are one of the very few places in Ireland where the Northern Lights can be seen with the naked eye! Inishowen has enjoyed quite a bit of publicity from this nifty little trick of ours, and many of you will have seen amazing images of the Aurora on the Irish news, and generally in the media, such as these lovely pics by the very talented Bauke Roof. Bauke has caught some fantastic displays over the last few years and she recommends keeping an eye on this Aurora forecast site too.

Northern Lights in Inishowen

Clear display of Aurora

Not only are we far north enough for this to be possible, but as we are a remote spot with few towns the skies are very, very dark. This is a huge help when you are looking for subtle changes in the night sky. And I must warn you – they often are subtle. Now I have seen the sky lit up in green and yellow – that does happen and will stop you in your tracks – but there is often a lot of lower level activity which you can’t always see with the naked eye. The amount of visual display is based on the strength of solar storm, and cloud cover of course. A Northern Lights display can range from full-blown Technicolor, or more subtle changes to the ‘background light’ of the sky, down to colours which you can only catch with a long-exposure photograph.

As people often come here hoping to catch a glimpse I thought I would take the time to put together a few tips; with the disclaimer of course that I am no expert!

1) Time of year

The Northern Lights can technically be seen year-round, it’s just that the darker it is the higher your chances are. I’m writing this in June, when we only have approximately four hours of darkness a night, so if you come light-hunting now you are already reducing your window of opportunity. The winter months have the longest darkest nights, and you want a clear night – this will unfortunately usually be a cold night too because of the lack of cloud cover! Any time from September to March you will have a lot of darkness to explore in.

2) Location, Location, Location!

To see a good display you want to pick somewhere away from light pollution – I recommend picking one of our more exposed headlands. Malin Head is obviously as far north as you can get so that’s a pretty good bet. Dunree and the Isle of Doagh are also both dark and have good views out over the sea.

Castle with Aurora display in Donegal

The Northern Lights at the Isle of Doagh

3) Check the forecast

The weather forecast in Ireland can sometimes be seen as a running joke – and often the national forecast doesn’t really apply to the extremities of the country like us. But you may as well use all the tools at your disposal! There are two thing which you are looking for; one is the level of solar activity which is measured in Kp strength, and the other is cloud cover. Any weather forecast can help you with that but you may have to go to a more specialised site for help with Kp forecasts. For the north of Ireland apparently we need minimum Kp6 to see the lights. I would recommend keeping an eye on the Donegal Weather Channel for local information, and also this Service Aurora site – they aren’t updating over summer but many of their systems are linked up with Nasa and are automatically updating. This will also give you a good indication of the time of predicted activity – just make sure to change the Service Aurora times to GMT as they are Finnish.

4) Things to bring

Be realistic; you’ll quite likely be standing around in the middle of the night for hours waiting for something to happen. You want to be wrapped up like an onion – many, many layers! Wrap up well, bring a hot flask and, if you have one, something like a directors chair that you can relax on will make the whole thing more enjoyable.

If you have one then you should definitely take along a good camera that has the facility for long exposure shots – it may well catch things which you miss. Set it up on a tripod and see what happens! Binoculars are also recommended and are apparently better than a telescope for the Aurora.

5) Top Tips

Request a late check-out; if you are lucky and a whole display unfolds about 2am which keeps you glued to the sky for hours you don’t want to have to have to drag yourself out of bed a minute before it’s strictly necessary!

Avoid looking at any phone screens and, if you’re in a car, switch off the lights that come on automatically when you open and close the doors. It takes about five minutes to develop night vision and you want to preserve it.

Bring a star atlas – even if the lights don’t show you will see heaps of stars and it’s fun to learn what they are. Whether you can read the atlas in the dark is another question of course….

Happy hunting folks!

 

June 3, 2015

Watch out folks!

Yup, keep your eyes open for some upcoming media coverage this summer. We do, of course, love the attention and we thought we should spread the word so that you may all adjust your TV sets accordingly!

First up will (hopefully!) be a cameo appearance on Michael Smiley’s second series of ‘Something to Ride Home About‘. This is the final episode in a three part series following Michael on his bikey adventures in Northern Ireland and Inishowen. Monday 8th of June is the big day and it will be on BBC NI at 22.35. Now, I say hopefully because although the crew came and filmed us having a chat with the hilarious Michael we don’t know how much will make the final cut! We may have been cut completely in favour of some better-looking people but we won’t hold that against the BBC. We had great craic meeting Michael and all the crew; and having seen the other episodes even if we’re not in this one it will be well worth a watch!

Michael Smiley with CI & Co.

Michael Smiley with CI & Co.

Also out in the next couple of weeks will be the summer edition of the Irish Camping and Caravan Magazine. The lovely Kathy Mangan has selected Cycle Inishowen to feature in her piece for them on the Wild Atlantic Way! We’re delighted with this and are really looking forward to seeing the finished article in newsstands up and down the country – come on you happy campers!

Here’s one for our friends in the Netherlands – Salt Magazine recently sent two of their crew to explore in Donegal, and while they were here they were good enough to join Blaise for a tour around Malin Head. Despite the rain much fun was had by all and Daniel, the photographer even managed to get some nice pictures. Their Donegal adventures will feature in one of their summer editions; when Blaise will be looking for a translator to help her read what they’ve written!

Wet but happy journalists from Salt at Malin Head

Wet but happy journalists from Salt at Malin Head

 

May 14, 2015

Walking trails in Inishowen

Sometimes everyone feels the need to get off the beaten track, and explore away from the traffic and the roads. Here in Inishowen we are lucky to have several off-road walks, in this blog I’ll compare a few and help you find them!

For a short walk the trail to the Glenevin Waterfall is really lovely; it’s beautifully laid out with bridges criss-crossing the stream along the way. There are some covered shelter areas and picnic benches, and the trail is of such a high quality that it’s accessible even with a pram or a wheelchair. The trail is only 1km, and the waterfall at the end makes it well worth your while! The trail starts at the car park next to the lovely Glen House – well situated for a wee treat after your walk…

This path brings you to the waterfall in Clonmany.

Trail to Glenevin Waterfall

 

If you are feeling a lot braver then, from the same starting point, you can walk all the way to Mamore Gap. This trail takes you up through the hills, with amazing views down onto the Atlantic. From the carpark there is a metal gate at the beginning of this trail, or as you enter the waterfall path you will see it branch off and up to the left for the hills. Alternatively if you are starting from the Mamore Gap side there is also a looped walk option – the green arrows mark the one-way trail, the purple are for the loop. The trail starts at this side from the carpark and the loop is 11km of fairly challenging walking.

Inch Wildfowl Reserve has another looped walk – but much flatter and easier! This 8km loop goes from Inch Level, across the bridge onto Inch Island, and then back again over the causeway. It’s a very enjoyable trail, with several birdwatching hides along it. The Reserve is very well-signed, with three carparks at various points.

Inch Wildfowl Reserve

Inch Wildfowl Reserve

If you are interested in seeing more of the east side of the peninsula there is a shore path alongside Lough Foyle. Following this you can walk all the way from Moville to Greencastle. The views across the water to County Derry are really beautiful, and the trail goes past several small beaches and impressive houses. There is a picnic bench and a carpark roughly half-way, and the path then finishes by the pier in Greencastle. The shore path starts from ‘the Green’ in Moville, with parking just opposite the community hall.

Also in this area is the Inishowen Head Looped Walk, which starts from just by the Blue Flag beach at Shroove. This is a national looped walk, and clearly signed. This is not entirely an off-road trail – it also includes minor roads and laneways, but there should be very little traffic to speak of. The completed loop is 8km; includes a WW2 lookout and, on a clear day, you will be able to spot three points which are the Paps of Jura in Scotland.

Buncrana Shore Path

Buncrana Shore Path

On the other side of Inishowen, alongside Lough Swilly, there is another shore path. This is 3km along the coast which includes beaches and old forts. The views across the Swilly are just beautiful, and there are signs and information boards at points of interest. Starting from town you can join this path through Swan Park – also lovely for a ramble! – or follow the path all the way from it’s earliest beginnings opposite the leisure centre. This path brings you to Stragill Beach if you follow it the whole way.

These are just a couple of my suggestions, but there are loads more! Fort Dunree also has some great trails to explore, you could climb Sliabh Sneachta or check out the riverside walks in Carndonagh or Moville. Just remember to bring some decent shoes for exploring!

 

 

April 28, 2015

Wild about Christine!

Last summer Blaise met up with Christine Bleakley and her crew at Malin Head. The two girls had a chat about Malin Head, and the stories around this most northerly point of Ireland, and the crew got some gorgeous shots of the surrounding scenery for their new series Wild Ireland.

This series follows Christine on her journey along the Wild Atlantic Way, and this month UTV aired the episode with Blaise! It was fun to see that familiar freckled face appear on screen; if you missed it you still have two weeks left to watch on the UTV player! She’s right at the beginning of the episode.

Huge thanks to Christine and all at Big Mountain Productions for the opportunity.

April 1, 2015

Rainy Day Activities for Families

Oh god… you’re on your holidays and the weather just won’t let up. We’ve all been there, and the cabin fever is beginning to get to you. Let’s assume you’ve played numerous games of cards, you’ve watched every DVD and you have all fallen out over Scrabble. What can you do next to get the kids out and about?

Touring cyclist in the rain.

Good gear conquers all!

Obviously as outdoorsy people we stand by the old ‘no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes’, and I do really recommend pulling on the head-to-toe waterproofs and getting on with it. Weather always seems worse when you’re looking at it from the inside!

Just to help you out though, here’s a list of some things you can do in Inishowen on those rainy days. Enjoy!

1. Go surfing!

Ah, sneaking in the outdoors right away. Bear with me though, if you’re getting in the sea anyway it doesn’t matter if it’s raining! Wearing a wetsuit means you don’t get cold and it’s great fun – you may even find a prodigy in your family! Inishowen Surf School do lessons for complete beginners and that includes children.

2. Paint a Pot

This is a brilliant way to get creative and come away with totally unique holiday souvenirs! Visit the Moville Pottery studio, where they have a wide selection of crafts for sale. You can pick out an unglazed pot there and add your own design to it; to be fired in the kiln afterwards. This is fun for everyone, and a great chance for children to learn about the world of ceramics.

3. Fort Dunree

Anyone interested in the military history of Inishowen will love Fort Dunree; on a good day there are fantastic walks around the old army barracks, but if you can’t bear that there is a museum to pick through and a cafe to watch the sea from. The museum has all manner of equipment for marine and military life, and they have some huge guns still on site!

4. Wains World

First of all, if you don’t know, a wain is a child in these parts of the world – and parts of Scotland too! Wains World is a soft play adventure centre in Buncrana; the world of ball pools, disco room and all associated madness awaits. Don’t worry – there’s a cafe for you to throw your feet up in and look out at the frenzy…

5. Learn about the night sky…

Or sea monsters for that matter, or the coral reef. The Inishowen Maritime Museum and Planetarium show four screenings a day, with some shows suitable for four years and over. They have a combined entry price for the planetarium and the museum; where you can see traditional wooden boats, learn about basking sharks and find some great stories from the second World War.

6. Horseriding

There are four equestrian centres in Inishowen, and on even the most foul, rainy days they can still run lessons in their indoor arenas. The large, sheltered arenas are a perfect environment for beginners and the whole family can learn the basics together. A great way to get active, without getting wet!

7. Meet the legends of Irish history!

In Burt, alongside An Grianan Hotel, you will find the Old Church Visitor Centre where you can embark on a journey through time… State of the art interactive displays will tell stories, you can hold the weapons of warriors, and the kings of Ireland get sorted from the general riff raff! It’s very good fun – and you get a free scone and tea. What’s not to like?

The door to the visiotr centre is guarded by a mighty warrior.

Enter if ye dare!

8. Lights, camera, action!

Movie night! Or day, whatever floats your boat. Buncrana Cinema is a beautiful old building – over 100 years actually! The decor is very old-school Hollywood glamour, with red carpets and balcony seating; it’s a very charming, faded beauty. Nothing old-fashioned about their listings though; the cinema has gone digital and are showing current releases six days a week. Every week there is one for the grown-ups and one for the kids, and the prices are so reasonable! The top dollar ticket, which is an adult seat in the balcony, is only €6. You couldn’t beat it, and the sweet shop has a great selection too.

9. Visit the Famine Village

It’s not as bleak as you might think! The Famine Village is actually often ranked on TripAdvisor as the Number 1 Tourist Attraction in all of Donegal – we’re lucky to have it right here in the middle of Inishowen. The Famine Village is a series of cottages each with re-constructions from different periods of Irish history, starting with the Famine and going right up to present day. They are open every day until Halloween and, with so much to see, all ages of children will enjoy it.

10. Go on safari?

Or sail the seven seas as a fearsome pirate, become a firefighter battling blazes, or enjoy getting lost in the ball pool. You’re only really limited by your imagination if you’re a child in Leisureland. They have loads of different rides and attractions for all sorts of ages groups; it’s practically an indoor funfair! You’ll find Leisureland in Redcastle, very close to the hotel, as well as very handy for anyone using the ferry. As they say themselves; rain or shine, it’s fun at all times!