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Landing site of Alcock and Brown in Connemara

Cycling in the bogs of Connemara

  |   Ireland   |   2 Comments

I am not quite sure how it had come to this. As a young child, I had loved riding the bicycle. But now that I found myself with an electric bike in my hands that had been handed over to me by the tour guide I felt a slight feeling of panic setting in.

For more than fifteen years I hadn’t been on a bike. Many things could have been attributed to this, but most of all it had been the reality of living in Australia. A country that simply doesn’t make it easy to ride a bike, unless you are used to the heat, the mountains, and the aggressive car drivers.

But here I was, with a bike propped up against my hip, both hands on the handles, and with my eyes scanning the Irish bog landscape in front of me. My plan: Cycling a 5-kilometre trail through the bogs of Connemara.

An extraordinary landscape that was home to the remains of some of the most extraordinary feats of humankind’s recent history: The landing spot of the first transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown, and the ruins of the first transatlantic wireless telegraph station by Italian engineer Marconi.

5 kilometres of trail in the bogs of Connemara

A Soft Adventure in Raw Nature

The weather on this day had been the usual unreliable mix of rain and sunshine. In Ireland, as I learned early on, you have to be prepared for anything. But armed with a weatherproof jacket only the sky will be your limit. And temptations can be found everywhere: The intimate closeness to nature, the untamed weather, and the endless landscapes in front of us made this experience on the Wild Atlantic Way one of our most favourite ones during our time in Ireland.

And off we went, past bleating sheep, through puddles, and along gravel paths, carefree and happy. The bogs of Connemara were indeed unique, made by humans over the course of millennia. Shades of rust and ocker, pale greens and yellows made up the palette in front of us. The grounds heavy and soggy, our steps soft and yielding.

The bogs are not fertile, but they make acceptable pastures. And the peat that is still being cut here has brought warmth to Irish homes for centuries. Even today, it is farmed for its fragrant qualities, adding romance to many homes in the area during long winter nights.

The bogs of Connemara

Aviation history was made in Connemara

There was an advantage to this flatness and to this emptiness. The bogs of Connemara were ideal for a landing site in the early years of aviation, in particular since the first attempts of flying long distances rarely ended in a picture-perfect landing.

Almost 100 years ago, the aviation pioneers Alcock and Brown selected this area for their landing site of their first uninterrupted transatlantic flight. They took off in Newfoundland in June 1919 and landed around 16 hours later on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in Ireland’s Connemara.

Today, the landing site was marked with an egg-shaped sphere which looked a bit like an alien spaceship in the otherworldly surroundings of the bogs.

Landing site of Alcock and Brown

The Italian who Invented the Wireless Transmitter

Since Connemara happened to be one of the westernmost places in Ireland, it was also selected for another breakthrough in human history. The Italian Guglielmo Marconi, later a Nobel prize winner, was a pioneer in the invention of wireless transmission. He was the first to successfully send information over large distances with the use of radio waves.

In 1901, he sent the first signals from this deserted place to the other side of the Atlantic to Newfoundland. Around half-way along our 5-kilometre track, we discovered the ruins of this early operation.

Grazing sheep near the old wireless transmitter station

Bike Rentals for the Whole Family in Connemara

Despite all this historic significance of the site, the sheep around us were less than impressed. And why should they? The wild landscape of the bogs, the endlessness, the harshness of the winds, and the carefreeness of the birds were enough to make this nature experience unforgettable.

There was no need to choose the bike over my feet when exploring the bogs of Connemara. But the thrill of the speed and the ease of making miles made this part of our journey along the Wild Atlantic Way so much better.

If you’d like to check out it for yourself, try Bike Electric Connemara where you will find a choice of guided tours and a selection of rental bikes and electric bikes for the whole family.

You may also want to read this

Ice-cream in Ireland, or a story of happiness through resilience

Stories from Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Silke Elzner

AUTHOR - Silke Elzner

Hello! My name is Silke. Happiness and Things is a travelogue about amazing European destinations and beautiful places around the world. I believe that beauty is even in the smallest things and I want to inspire you to see the world differently. Read more about it here.

2 Comments
  • Shandos | Oct 21, 2017 at 20:18

    I totally get what you mean by being so un-used to riding a bike again as an adult! The electric bikes make it so much easier (although I did manage to crash mine into a fence in Myanmar when parking mine!) I visited the Connemara area on my recent trip to Ireland, and regret not visiting the landing site – that dome looks so alien!

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Oct 22, 2017 at 20:58

      Hi Shandos, Thanks for your comment. The bogs were absolutely fantastic. The sphere was just the added bonus. The colours of the landscape – just surreal! Hopefully, you will find your way back there one day. I highly recommend this bike tour, you will love it!

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