Today was a relatively short cycling day, distance wise only about 70 km, but it took me along challenging terrain. The route from Bushmills to Cushendall cuts across the enchanting Glens of Antrim, an upland plateau dissected by nine lovely picturesque glens. From Bushmills, and before arriving at the Glens, the road follows the beautiful north Antrim coast where there are many scenic vantage points overlooking the ever changing coast line; the stacks at Dunseverick, the beautiful wide sandy beach at Whitepark, the grassy cliffs at Carrick-A-Rede and the more dramatic cliffs at Fair Head.
The road rises on the Glens plateau, a wide expanse of sheep grazed pasture and upland peat. I saw a signpost to Murlough Bay Nature Reserve and took the detour. The Reserve is situated in a beautiful bay set against a backdrop of cliffs, deciduous woodland and grassland. Getting to the Reserve involves a precipitous decent to sea-level along a narrow winding tarmac road, but it is worth the trouble for it is a stunning site. I had planned to spend some time walking the reserve to get a sense of its habitats and species, but this was one occasion when my interest in wildlife evaporated and that of cycling took over. Tired legs or not, I became transfixed by the challenge of tackling the ascent back out of the reserve, just to see how I got on. And tackle it I did, all 2km of it, with an average gradient of 12% but parts as steep as 23%. Can’t say it was pretty, but good sense of satisfaction to get to the top.
The remainder of the day was more of the same, dipping down into glens only to climb back out of them, cycling along tortuous winding roads, set in dramatic landscape and scenery, but making for tough, tough cycling. But cycling is the way to immerse oneself in the landscape, and I can safely say that today, I experienced the Glens of Antrim.