Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Friday, July 29, 2016

Buncrana to Moville - Ireland 2016

From my very earliest days with John, I remember hearing stories about the Gap of Mamore. It's like a ski jump, he said. It's so steep, he said. Anytime the subject of hard climbs came up, Gap of Mamore got a mention. So it has long been on the bucket list. But it's way up in Donegal at the north end of Ireland, on the way to Malin Head, the most northerly point. And Donegal is one of the most awkward places to get to from Dublin. It's either a long bike ride, or a train journey, followed by another train journey, followed by a long bike ride, or it's a long bus ride, followed by a long bike ride.

So this year, I made it a goal. I would do a long bike ride and then hopefully be well trained to climb this beast. 

I'd been watching the weather forecasts for several days, trying to time it to have the best weather. Of course, the weather forecasts are painfully inaccurate here, so it really was going to be a crap shoot.

I arrived in Buncrana the night before rather later than I'd hoped. I missed an earlier ferry by mere minutes, and had to wait an hour and a half to get the last ferry across. I found a B&B after a few tries and was warned to not waste time if I wanted dinner, since nearby places were about to close. I didn't have to be told twice. I dumped my bag and ran across the street in my cycling gear.

As I looked at maps trying to decide the best way to go, my waitress noticed and said her husband had cycled it a few times. She checked with him on the best way up and gave me directions.

I'd built it up so much that I barely slept. It was like the night before Mt. Washington!

The next morning dawned bright and sunny, but the breeze was coming from the north. Ah a nice headwind!

I headed out to Dunree and took in the sights there before turning onto the tiny steep road out of town. There are actually several ways to approach the climb, all coming together a mile or so from the top.




At some point a car passed me and a few minutes later, I heard a farmer telling the driver to just keep going up and turn left at the end, then to take care on the very steep twisty descent.

Wait what, the descent is twisty. So I'm going up the straight, ski jump side? Of course in all the discussions about the climb, I'd never asked John whether to approach it from the north or south.

I reached the T and turned left, and there is was a very straight, very steep climb up to a narrow opening. I kept my head down and my breathing under control. A few cars pass. The road is narrow and I fear one might come close and cause me to stop. I'm certain I won't be able to restart if that happens, so I just keep hoping that the drivers will be kind and leave me space.

There is it, the top. Except it is still 5 minutes away. Keep breathing. Keep going. Keep on the bike.

And then I'm done


I sent a text off to John and another to a friend who lives nearby. John replies congratulations. My friend says I did it from the wrong side!






I start down and then make my way out to Malin Head. I had an amazing day for it. Clear and sunny and almost calm.











So I did it. Of course now I have to go back and do the other side, but not tomorrow and not on this trip. But I did get here well before I thought I would so now I have to think about where to go next. Stay tuned...


  1. Oh, my, those are some steep climbs!

    Let's not let our mutual acquaintance with many recent broken bones see this; she currently thinks that she cannot climb! And if she see this, no one would ever make any progress in her possibly going to Ireland to ride about.

    1. The thing is by the time you get here, you are well trained and climbing just happens! And I never said I set any speed records!

  2. Ah, Pamela! You are inspiring (she says, from her place on the couch with ice on her knee)! Your beautiful pictures remind me of cycling from Barra to Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in May '97: gorgeous uncrowded roads, tiny ferries, beautiful views, long long days, and one afternoon flying with a screaming tailwind across the island of Lewis to the Callanish standing stones. Ireland, hmmmmm..... Keep on keeping on, with joy!

    1. Let me know when you want to go. I'm ready to go back anytime

    2. Scotland or Ireland, both so beautiful!!