Gallarus - Ballyferritter
We survived the over night high winds and rain. The Americans were right they did bring rain with them, they were reviewing their gear as they had only a small awning on their tent so a lot of their gear had got wet. They were quite interested in our Hilleberg tent so before we struck it we gave them the guided tour before they were off to Dingle. We wished them good luck and hoped they would have some good weather, but just as they were leaving it started to rain! We had planned to go over to Ventry and Slea Head but as the weather was so grim we decided to leave that for the next day as there where several things we wanted to see locally. Between the showers we had a look at the Gallarus Oratory, which is only just up from the campsite. The Gallarus Oratory is a 9th century early christian church, it is an amazing building of dry stone construction.
The simplicity of its shape, the craftsmanship of the stone work and the fact that it is still standing 1100 hundred years later bowls you over. After some lunch in the cafe at the visitors centre we cycled down to Ballyferriter to have a look at the Corca Dhuibhne museum, just as we got to the museum the heavens opened, what timing! The museum details the history, geology and archaeology of the Dingle peninsular. It gave us some idea of the ancient Ogham stones, monasteries and forts to visit in the area that afternoon. Our first visit was to the Dún Óir (the Golden fort) an ancient promontory fort which was the scene of a massacre in the 1580. Apparently a force of Spanish, Italians, English and Irish Catholic supporters of the rebellion in Munster were defeated there by the Protestant English, those that surrendered were beheaded as a warning to others. The field where it happened is still known as the 'Field of Heads' and there is now a stone memorial. From there we cycled along the lovely sandy beach of wine strand. We stopped to admire a rainbow and realised that there was a good wind blowing, we decided that it was a good time get the kite out for a bit of fun. On the way back we had a look at the ancient monastic site at An Riasc. We finished off the day at the local pub the 'tig Óhric' with an excellent meal of seafood chowder, steamed mussels for starters and roast pork loin and rack of lamb as main courses, washed down with several pints of the ubiquitous Guinness, the food was yummy and we highly recommend it!
25/8/04 Gallarus - Slea Head - Gallarus
We woke to a much clearer day although there were still some clouds hanging around the mountain tops. The wind was a little chilly as we set out for Ventry so pertex jackets were the order of the day. On reaching the R559 we turned west to follow the coast road and our first stop was the 8th century promontory fort of Dún Beag which occupies a cliff top perch just off the main road. It was interesting to see it's defences and souterrain but it wasn't as impressive as Staigue fort. From there it was only a few hundred meters further on to the Famine museum. This was basically an old cottage that dated back to the early 1800's which had had all later additions ripped out and artifacts added to recreate what it had been like in the days of the famine. What was most interesting was the history of the people who had lived there and what happened to them, in particular the plight of the man that brought up a family in a small byre next to the cottage. What amused us about each of the two places we visited was at the entrances had deserted looking little garden sheds with little old ladies hiding in them, who suddenly appeared asking us for €2 and I was almost sure they were the same person! Further up the road there were some beehive huts to visit and yes there was a garden shed, I was almost tempted to have a look but had seen beehive huts before. At Slea head you get a good view of the cliffs and the Blasket isles and further round the popular surfing beach of Coumeenoole Bay location for the filming of 'Ryans Daughter'. At Dunquin we took one of JH's famous short cuts which ended in a foot path where we had to man handle the bikes down rocks and across a stream bed, but it was a nice valley with small waterfalls and flowers and made a nice place for a buttie stop! Just up from our buttie stop was the Blasket centre which has an excellent exhibition detailing the history of the Blaskets isles. On the way back as came up to Clogher Head there were some dramatic clouds and light which gave us some great views of the Blasket islands.
26/8/04 Galarus - Castlegregory
We had definitely had the best day yesterday as we woke to cloudy skies and the wind had got up. For a first thing in the morning it was a hard climb up to the to join the R559, but a much easier ride down in to Dingle. While we were there we had a look at the boats, bought some postcards and had lunch at a seafood restaurant. Frank again had seafood chowder and I had crab claws in garlic. It was OK but we still liked crab the Norfoik way and Frank reckoned the best chowder was at the Ross Inn. We couldn't put it off any longer we just had to set off on the long climb up to the top of the Connor Pass. It was raining a bit so we set off in waterproofs but it wasn't long before we stopped to take them off, it was just too hot with them on and really it was better to get a little wet. As we slowly climbed we were passed by numerous vintage motorbikes, from the stickers they were obviously part of a rally. I soon left Frank behind and soon couldn't see her as the clag had come down and it was getting quite windy, fortunately for us it was mainly on our backs! It was a 5 mile long slog, although as we said afterwards it wasn't as bad as the climb up to the top of the Nesheimfjellset in Norway, as at least you could keep going without needing to stop. Fortunately the top was covered in low cloud so you didn't know where the top was otherwise we might have stopped, you just kept thinking that it's round the next bend! Eventually I came to a sign saying parking 100m, well I'm sorry Dingle council did you mean 100m in altitude as it was a long 100m in distance. As I reached the top the wind was so strong the gusts nearly had be off my bike at one point. At the parking point I quickly put on some warm and windproof clothes to wait for Frank.
After a while I asked one of the Vintage motorbikers who had stopped at the top if he had passed Frank on the way up, "oh yes the lass with red panniers she was still going but slowly!" I had a great chat to him about the rally and the bikes and he assured me that normally the view from the top is brilliant and you can see all the way to Tralee! He was a really nice chap and was quite concerned about Frank and offered to go back down and give her a tow up the hill. 15 mins later she arrived with a big smile on her face "All the way without stopping! but no way was it 100m from that sign!" After getting some warm clothes on and an admiration of the fantastic view we started to go down. Not far from the top we encountered a huge traffic jam with about 50 cars trying to get past each other on the narrow road, this coupled with the 30 or so vintage motorbikes made for an interesting situation. We met up with the biker who I had chatted to at the top and we had a laugh about the traffic jam. Eventually the motor bikes and us managed to squeeze through and we left the car drivers to it.
It was a steep descent down and with the wind behind us we were hitting over 30mph while still breaking hard! at some moments the gusting winds nearly blew us off our bikes, but we hardly had to pedal at all and did the 10 miles to Castlegregory in just under 30mins! We stopped at the local stores to pick up something for tea and to ask the owner where the campsite was? "What campsite? there isn't one in the village", argh! I've heard that one before! I quickly checked the camping guide, "the Anchor campsite" I said "oh that's out of the village", phew we didn't fancy having to cycle to Tralee another 25 miles further on. He was a nice chap and said it wasn't that far and we could take a short cut across the marshes to save going back up the hill to the main road. It was a nice route which is part of the Dingle way and was mainly a track, he did mention a bridge but didn't mention that it was a very narrow footbridge! We had to take all the panniers off the bikes to get them across. It wasn't far then to the campsite and found loads of the campers hurriedly securing tents against the high wind. Fortunately for us there was a space in corner in the lee of a hedge which actually was reasonably sheltered and by late evening the wind had fortunately moderated.
27/8/04 Castlegregory - Dublin
We had decided the previous evening that we would go back to Rosslare by train via Dublin as it would give us a chance to see a little of Dublin city and in particular go to Trinity College to see the book of Kells, so it was an early start as we wanted to be in Tralee in good time to catch our train at 2.00pm. Due to still having the wind behind us and a good road we made good time and reached Bonnerville which is just outside Tralee by 11.00. This gave us time to have a look around the restored windmill and have a return ride on the Dingle - Tralee steam railway which was good fun. After some lunch in the windmill's cafe we cycled the short distance to Tralee and caught the train to Dublin. It was fairly crowded as there were some shinty semi-final cup matches going on in Dublin the next day. As the Dublin campsites were a fair distance out from the centre, we decided to splash out a bit and stayed in a hotel near the centre, it's quite funny pushing your bike through a posh hotel lobby! but certainly nice to have a shower with a nice clean fluffy towel!
28/8/04 Dublin - Rosslare
We were up early for breakfast as we wanted to make the most of our short time before our our train to Rosslare at 13.40. On our way to Trinity College to have a look at the book of Kells we past the famine memorial. It's a series of brilliant bronze statues of the famine victims which we found very moving especially with the financial bank buildings in the background. The Book of Kells exhibition was very interesting and the book is beautifully illustrated and well worth the visit. After that we had a cycle around Dublin to see the sights before going on to Connolly station to catch our train. When we got to the station we saw a notice saying that all Rosslare trains were now departing from Dublin Pearse station due to engineering works. So it was a quick dash across the city to find Pearse station in 20mins! We found it with about 7mins to go, I went to get the tickets from the ticket office but they wouldn't take credit or debit cards and I was told I would have to use the ticket machines. When I got to the machines they only sold local tickets, fortunately an Irish Rail employee in the foyer must have her me complaining to Frank and asked if he could help. I explained the problem and he said there was a newsagent just down the street with a cash machine that I could use. Well I haven't run so fast in a while and fortunately the cash machine was working and we caught the train by the skin of our teeth! That wasn't the end of the fun as after we set of there was a announcement to say that due to engineering work the train would terminate at Bray and that there would be a bus to take us to Arklow where we would then rejoin another train to Rosslare! Fortunately for us there were several coaches waiting for us and there was room underneath for the bikes! Eventually we arrived in Rosslare and as our ferry was early in the morning it was too far to the nearest campsite and we found a B&B for the night and had a uneventful ferry crossing the next day.
We had really enjoyed our tour in Ireland. It was definitely good cycling, the scenery was beautiful, the people were friendly and welcoming, and there were good campsites, you could see why it it is called the 'Emerald Isle' We certainly said we would go back, as there is still a lot more to see!