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Cycling challenge set the wheels in motion for author’s new book

Writer completed 1,00-mile coastal ride in just 21 days

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Cecil in Ballycastle

Cecil in Ballycastle

Cecil cycled past Stormont during his challenge

Cecil cycled past Stormont during his challenge

Cecil Lowry with his latest book, The Diary Of An Irish Pedaller

Cecil Lowry with his latest book, The Diary Of An Irish Pedaller

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Cecil in Ballycastle

A Northern Ireland author has released a book he decided to pen over lockdown about an epic cycling challenge he undertook 20 years ago.

Cecil Lowry, who is originally from Downpatrick but has been living in Stockport for many years, has released The Diary of an Irish Pedaller with the help of Belfast-based publisher Shanway Press.

It details his 1,000-mile cycle around the coast of Ireland, which took 21 days.

Cecil travelled through 17 counties on two wheels at the age of 54 in June 2002. He cycled around the Aran Islands, the lakes of Killarney and even passed the Giant’s Causeway.

He said that after cycling for enjoyment as a child, he took up the sport again after retiring as a PE teacher in his fifties.

Now, at the age of 74, Cecil still enjoys cycling every day and wanted to share his epic challenge with others.

“Cycling is good because it clears my head. I really enjoy it,” he said.

“I decided to take myself off on this challenge, initially to raise money for Marie Curie after my parents had passed away. I ended up raising £3,400 at the time.”

While on holiday in Spain prior to the cycle, Cecil took a book with him to read, Around Ireland With A Fridge by Tony Hawks, which inspired him to undertake the challenge to raise as much money as he could for a charity close to his heart.

“I ended up keeping a diary during my travels of where I went to and what happened, including drinking pints on the north coast and hitching a lift on a mussel fishing boat across Carlingford Lough, as well as getting a buckle in my back wheel coming through the mountains of Mourne.

“I thought, ‘Why not turn my adventures into a book?’

When he set out to map his route, Cecil realised it would be more than 3,000 miles to cycle the entire coastline, so to keep it manageable, he worked out a route of 1,000 miles.

“My wife left me off at the boat at Holyhead with nothing but my bike and two panniers and I set off for Dublin,” he said.

“I reckoned I could cycle 50 to 60 miles a day, but even though I had a rough plan worked out, I didn’t book anywhere to stay because I wasn’t sure what was going to be too much, so I just rolled up at B&Bs and hotels when I decided I had done enough for the day.

“On a typical day I would set off at around 9.30am and finish at 4.30pm.”

Cecil carried all his own gear for the entire cycle and received no support throughout the trip, other than a phone in case of emergencies. “Some of the most memorable milestones was when I hitched a lift across Carlingford Lough with a mussel fishing boat, and when I stayed at Strandhill on the West Coast I enjoyed a seaweed bath to wind down the day,” he said.

“When I cycled through the Mournes and was on my way to Newcastle I hit my first hurdle and got a buckle in my back wheel on my way into the town. I stopped at a bike shop and they fixed it right away.

“I met some really lovely people and it’s a time of my life I’ll treasure forever, so it is nice that my stories are being turned into a book to inspire others.”

His latest book is a little bit more light-hearted than his previous works, which focused primarily on Japanese prisoners of war during the Second World War, like his father.

Released last year, Frank Pantridge MC: Japanese Prisoner of War And Inventor of the Portable Defibrillator was a huge success in UK bookstores.

It was officially launched in Northern Ireland by Dame Mary Peters along with a statue of Frank Pantridge, which was unveiled outside Lisburn Conference Centre.

The Diary of an Irish Pedaller (£10, Shanway Press) and can be purchased at shanway.com


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