A DONEGAL student is nearing the end of a month-long solo charity cycle along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Saoirse MacCárthaigh left the Old Head of Kinsale in Cork on Monday, July 6, and since then he’s visited many hidden inlets, sandy beaches, tiny harbours, tranquil bays and everything else a coastline can offer.
This week he’s back in Donegal and he was expected to arrive at his final destination, Malin Head, over the weekend.
On Tuesday night he enjoyed the rare luxury of sleeping in a bed as he stayed at home with his parents Mícheál and Mary MacCárthaigh in Portnoo. He sets out on the latest leg of his 2,600 kilometre journey from Dunfanaghy this morning.
Saoirse (31) is raising funds for the national autism charity; AsIAm and his initial target (€2,600) has already been reached.
“I have been overwhelmed with the support. I appreciate that money is tight for people at the minute so I set a target of €1,000 but that was reached within a few days. I then revised it to €2,600 to match the number of kilometres I was going to cycle but that figure too was passed the other day,” he said.
A second Year PhD, Educational Psychology student in Mary Immaculate College in Limerick Saoirse had, by his own admission, time on his side this summer.
“The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal drive in the world. I was going to do Mizen to Malin but that only takes about a week. I had the summer off and needed to fill the time with a lengthy excursion so why not take in the most scenic route in Ireland.
“I’ve lived abroad for six or seven years and am well travelled internationally but I’ve done little or no touring in Ireland. I haven’t been to half of these counties before,” he admitted.
Attitudes towards people with Autism formed the topic of his Masters thesis while Saoirse spent four months working with the autism diagnostic services as part of his Professional Doctorate placement.
“I’ve spent a lot of time working with children with autism and their families. I have found this charity (AsIAm) to be the best. It not only focuses on how to support people with autism but it is also working to change attitudes within society,” he said.
Training for the cycle began on day one of his journey and he’s been on his own ever since.
“The first few days were pretty gruelling. I started moderately – doing about 80ks a day – but after that the body was conditioned. I cycled 140k the other day which was my longer run in the one day.
“I’ve everything I need with me. I have camping equipment and cooking equipment so I am pretty self sufficient along the way,” he said.
While he was well prepared for camping out and cooking under star-filed skies he didn’t quite count on the Irish summer.
“The weather has been worse than I expected. It’s been the only real challenging thing to be honest. I don’t mind being exhausted and I can put up with the sore legs –it’s the rain. When it has rained for two or three days in a row nothing is ever totally dry, including your sleeping bag which can be tricky enough.
“That said, it’s all part of the experience I suppose and the money I’m raising along the way is going to a good home. It’s makes it all worthwhile,” he said.
To make a donation, go to www.idonate.ie/saoirse-maccrthaigh455 and click the donate button.