For the Adventure Race enthusiast the Clare Island Adventure Race on Saturday, 20 October 2012 offers immediately accessible, challenging terrain with incredibly panoramic views such as from the peak of Knockmore, a 360 degree vista of the natural beauty of Clew Bay and its environs. Only a fifteen minute boat trip from the mainland pier at Roonagh Harbour, race goers may catch a sight of dolphins, seals and diving gannets on passage to Clare Island with a slight possibility of migrating whales and basking sharks. The pier on the island is dominated by the Castle of the Grainuaile (Grace O’Malley) of the O’Malley Clan a fierce Pirate of the 16th Century whom rules the waters of Clew Bay earning a living off raiding English and Spanish ships.
The island’s topography caters well for this event. The lowlands undulate through varied and track-worn landscapes while stepped hillocks with challenging gradients climb to a table top summit, sloping steeply to the east and dropping dramatically to the west over massive cliffs.
The race starts at Go Explore Hostel perched on a small cliff face overlooking Croke Patrick and Clew Bay. From here stage 1 of the route, a run, brings you 4.6km around the small villages of Capnagower and Fawnglass. You pass the old ship wreck of the Rossend (Clare Islands old ferry shipwrecked after a storm in 1993) on Kinnacurra as you travel along the small tarmac country road up some fairly steel gradients. The route is mostly along tarmac roads however there is a small section of green road that can be wet in areas and very slippy. This run brings you around in a loop and back to Go Explore Hostel before beginning stage two on the bike.
Stage 2 sets off for 6km on bike and follows the same route as stage 1 to a point until you branch off on the tarmac road and head north towards the towering building of the Clare Island lighthouse in the distance. The route has one steep climb thereafter a low gradient climb until you reach the gravel pit. Along this route you come upon full view of Knockmore Mountain your biggest challenge to come, while also passing the stumps of ancient oak trees from pre glacial times and many more sights of Geological & Historical significance. Clare Island hosts an impressive array of field monuments as described in Volume 5 of the Royal Irish Academy’s “New Survey of Clare Island”. The 5,000- year-old megalithic tomb, the dozens of fulachtaí fia and the series of spectacularly sited coastal promontory forts all offer fascinating insights into prehistoric settlement. A well-preserved series of architectural remains, including two early nineteenth-century lighthouses and a signal tower, as well as a medieval castle and the Abbey, also serve to illuminate island life from medieval times down to the nineteenth century.
Stage 2 finishes at an old gravel pit nestled in between the two mountains. Here you will leave your bikes and begin stage 3.
Stage 3, a 5km run begins along a green road that curves its way up the mountain base to a point where it stops and the open foot hill begins. The DIB point is at the very peak of the mountain and you have a choice of how to get there. You will be faced with a bank of heavy reads that covers a large section of the mountain in front of you and you can go either straight through it (shortest route but tough on legs and slow) or go around it (high or low). My choice would be to go above it all together towards the cliff (closed off by wire) and begin the climb from there. Here you will catch full view of the MEGGA Cliffs as described by Geologists where thousands of nesting birds live and where only one of three Gannet Colonies live on the West Coast. At the summit, take a moment. Clew Bay lies at your feet surrounded by Croke Patrick, Westport, Mulranny Achill Island, Inishturk, Inishbofin, the Killery, the Twelve Bens, Mweelrea Mountain and the big blue sea. Breathtaking…. The decent takes you back the same route however it is very wet and slippy so make sure you have good grips on your runners.
Stage 4, a 8.2km cycle continues on this road down some very steep hills with some sharp turns at the foot of the hills (caution). You will pass through the grounds of the Clare Island Church and Abbey the resting place of Grainuaile before beginning the slow rise around Strake and back down through Bunnamohaun and then heading east back towards the harbour and Go Explore Hostel. The cycle on this event is short however it offers a great sprint distance especially from Bunnamohaun straight back to the key which is mostly downhill and flat. You finish stage four at the Community Center where stage 5 begins.
Stage 5, a 4.8km run up Knockaveen Hill will be difficult with tired legs. You will have to climb an initial hill along the green road before it levels off for circa 1km to the point where you begin the climb of Knockaveen. A much smaller hill to Knockmore the DIB point is at the highest point of the hill where a small rock formation marks the point. Once you reach this point you are faced with the home stretch as you run down some steep gradients towards the Quay. You will meet the old Boundary Wall which separates commonage from owned land which you keep to your right. Again, expect some very steep descents and very slippy and wet conditions.
The finish line is a Go Explore Hostel & Sailor’s Bar / Restaurant where some hot soup and other refreshments await.