Cycling to Howth can be a struggle at the best of times, but on a windy, miserable day? At least Fiachradh McDermott found the beauty in it.
On the way back from this expedition, the two chimneys at Ringsend, silhouetted against a sunny break in the clouds, seemed so far away. Our legs were drained and in those last few defining kilometres, there was few words spoken between us. We’d reached the end of our strength, so we dropped into Kev’s house for one last cup of tea.
Myself and my friend, Kev, decided to cycle to Howth, which was a stretch but we were all for it. I was coming from North Strand, just over 10k or so, and he was coming from Raheny. We made plans and hoped for the best. Waking up, I left North Strand hopeful and excited but reaching Fairview changed this. The cycle from my house to Kev’s usually should take around 15 minutes, but every pedal was meticulously draining against the wind roaring in from the sea.
I watched ducks and geese point themselves towards the wind, streamlined, as they chilled on the grass. Occasionally the odd seagull would take a tumble and gush off across the grass, the spray from the sea nearly soaking me as I watched. Head cocked into my shoulder and neck-warmer up around my face, I pushed on. To say it was a struggle wouldn’t do it justice.
I arrived in Kev’s having already lost a fair amount of calories, so we had a cuppa tea and prepared. We hit the windy road again, this time headed for Sutton. We laughed as the wind pushed me towards him and him towards me, our bikes not totally optimised to adapting to windy conditions. People in cars stared as we yelled ‘What did we do to deserve this?’ Even the birds had stopped trying to fight it and just stood bewildered as we passed slowly by. The wind was whipping around our faces, and usually the smell of the ocean is beautiful but neither of us had the ability to smell anything. We could hardly feel or hear anything either. The further we pushed on, the less of a great idea it became. Still, it made for a story.
At Sutton we veered off the coast road and the wind subsided. By subsided, I mean that on a normal day it would still be pretty bad. The relief was wonderful and we stayed on this sheltered road all the way to Howth’s pier where we left our bikes and had a stroll. I watched seagulls dancing around buckets of fish and listened to their screeches. I was still freezing but they seemed to be having a nice time.
We strolled along the pier past trawlers to the tip of the pier, and standing on top of steps, nearly fell in with the strength of the wind. The view was beautiful, the cliffs were breath-taking and we stood a moment, taking it all in.
Standing looking out across the trawlers, yachts and seagulls, I had a wonderful little moment where everything fell away and I could simply appreciate the marina and all its wonders. It was cold, my toes hurt and I was shaking, but for a moment I forgot all that as the seagulls drifted around like fireflies. All that was left was their happy screeching and the hum of the various trawlers at work.
Myself and Kev opted for a coffee, right as two enthusiastic fish-shop workers sauntered by, yapping in the cold air. We sympathised with them having to work on such a freezing day, but they seemed as happy as ever.
Sitting down in the warmth of a little café on the main street, we took a while to re-adjust our body temperatures. Following an Americano and caramel square, we braced ourselves and dug into the long cycle home. This time the wind was in the other ear, and slightly behind us so it wasn’t as difficult as before. The chimneys of Ringsend stood majestic ahead of us, a landmark to focus on instead of the freezing air burning our throats.
Eventually, after a long workout, after the sea had decided to recede and stop harassing the gulls, after all the ebbing and flowing we made it back to Kev’s. Quick cuppa tae and I headed home, avoiding the coast road on the way back. The air was cold but without the wind it wasn’t so bad.
Home, shower and tea and everything was fine. Howth is a beautiful place, but we picked the completely wrong day to cycle there. It was an adventure, no doubt. It was the warmest shower I’ve had in a long, long time. Howth may not be the edge of the world, but it certainly felt like it that day.