Bike Ride: The Burren

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The Independent Travel

The beauty of this ride is that you can cover the 70 miles in a single energetic day, but it also splits into two or three easier days. This plan assumes you begin and end in Ennis, about 12 miles north of Shannon airport.

The first stretch is more business than pleasure. But after a slog through Kilnamona and Ennistymon, you reach the Cliffs of Moher, where Ireland suddenly stops. The ground is sliced clean through, allowing you to teeter over the edge of a 500ft cliff with only a million sea birds between you and the angry Atlantic.

Turning inland, you realise that much of the west of Ireland resembles an out-of-control quiff; any piece of vegetation that dares to emerge from the soil is obliged by the prevailing wind to lean towards Dublin.

You then arrive at Luogh, a village deserted since the potato famine of 1846-48. More evictions took place in Co Clare than in any other county, and 80,000 died. "Those who survived this holocaust," a monument declares, "could barely bring themselves to speak of it to their children, and when they did, were never able to speak of it as other than An Drochshaol – The Bad Times".

A few wind-assisted miles farther on, you reach the vibrant village of Doolin, now the preserve of drinkers and musicians in equal numbers. Traditional Irish folk tunes collide with be-rucksacked visitors beside a brook that tinkles melodically through the village.

North of here, the road clings to the coast as it rounds Black Head – though you can keep inland and haul yourself up Corkscrew Hill. Either way, you arrive in Ballyvaughan, a fishing village that offers the weary the chance of an early supper and a late drink.

Heading south back to Ennis, you enter Hobbit country: the misty and mystical mountains of the Burren. Heavy-duty weather has been beating down upon the porous limestone slab that covers half of Co Clare for a million belligerent years. The result is enough holes-in-the-ground for Bilbo Baggins and thousands of fellow hobbits. The uncannily geometric rock formation of the Burren makes it impossible to see where nature's work ends and human endeavours begin – and, as the heavens darken, to ascertain where the sky commences. But then the landscape softens as you approach the comfort of Ennis.

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