Fishguard - Wexford
We caught the ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare and had hoped to catch a train direct to Kilarney. Unfortunately we found that they were repairing a bridge at Cahir and therefore we would have to travel via Dublin. We decided to head to Wexford where we knew there was a campsite and a tourist information office where we could work out our options. The guy at the tourist information office was very helpful in looking at the various ways of getting to Kilarney, even looking at flying!! We decided in the end that it would be cheaper to go by bus, although it mean an early start the next day.
16/8/04 Wexford - Killarney
We were up bright and early to catch the 7.30am bus to Killarney. The bus went via Waterford where we changed buses, the driver told us that this would be a through bus to Kilarney. It was an interesting ride what with the two old ladies in front of us who were obviously limbering up for the 'All Ireland talking championships', they didn't stop taking and from their volume it wasn't difficult to overhear this cracker - "How many children did you say you had?" " Nine" came the reply "six girls and two boys" I'll leave you to do my sums there?!!!!
As we got nearer to Cork it started to rain and the buses wipers stopped working, the driver informed us that due to this we would have change buses at Cork. On arrival at Cork I was desparate for the loo so rushed off leaving Frank to unload the bikes. When I got back she asked me if I had the red racpak, I didn't have it, aarh panic! we had taken it on the bus with us. Fortunately the bus was still there and I rushed onboard, but no racpak! I asked an official near the bus if it had been found, our luck was in it had been found and it was in the 'Lost property Office', phew! We arrived without further incident at Killarney and made for the tourist information office where we bought maps and a guide to the Ring of Kerry cycle route. Our stomachs were rumbling so we found a restaurant for lunch which gave us a chance to peruse the maps and make plans. We decided that it was too late to start on the Ring of Kerry that day and that we would camp for the night just outside Killarney at Fossa.
17/8/04 Killarney - Kenmare
Got off to an early start this morning with promising blue skies. On our way up to the Gap of Dunloe while we weaved our way through the pony & traps and pedestrians I realised that my front mech seemed to have siezed, it had been working fine up until then. The only way I could change the front gear was to stop and manually change it by pushing the chain over with my thumb, just what we needed on steep climb on a rough track! The track up to the Gap of Dunloe was so rough and steep that we had to get off and push at one point. After admiring the view from the top we set off down into the Black Valley. Another rider coming up gave us a high five as we sped pass him now glad of the downhill. Apparently the valley was named so after the number of people that died there in the Potato famine. As we turned south to follow the Dwenreagh river we left the tourist trail and were on our own and it was great to leave the hordes of tourists behind. We soon found a shaded spot next to the river for a brew up and some lunch. It was not long after lunch that we started climbing again, this time the long grind up to Moll's Gap. As we went up one lady car driver pulled over on the narrow road to let me pass and said "Bless you" as I went past. A little later my wife said over the radio "What is to come? they are saying prayers for us!" the lady was right it was long and steep! When I got to the top I met a nice American couple from New York and had a long talk about cycle touring while I waited for Frank. They were most concerned about her and offered to go down in their car to see if she was OK. I said that there was no need, as unlike myself who tends to attack the hills, Frank was a bit more sensible and liked to take them slow and steady. Just then my bike stand collapsed and sprawled my poor bike on the layby, "that's my 5th one that's broken! nevermind" I commented and carried on chatting until Frank arrived who just laughed when she saw my bike. We said our goodbyes and wished each other a good holiday. We had an excellent run down to Kenmare where we bought food and some WD40 to try and free my front mech. We had a look at the standinq stones behind the town before finding the campsite. A tough but a cracking days cycle.
18/8/04 Kenmare - Caherdaniel
Later start than we had hoped due to spending some time freeing off my front mech. But we were on the road by 10.00am, the first bit to the Blackwater bridge wasn't as flat as the official route guide made out and was one of those long drawn out inclines and seemed to take ages. After the bridge we soon found our cycling legs and enjoyed the lanes with their verges filled with wonderful wide flowers such as Montbretia (Crocosmia), Fuchsias, Gorse, Ling, Ragwort and Purple Loosestrife. As we stopped to admire the wonderful views of the mountains Frank noticed this enormous Hover fly on her pannier, it was the biggest we had ever seen! They obviously grow them big in Ireland! Without noticing it we had been steadily climbing and when we reached the R568 we had a great ride down into the village of Sneem with its brightly painted houses.
We stopped for a short while to buy some juice and some rolls for lunch, but we should have eaten them in Sneem as it was only about a mile further on that I had to stop as I felt like I was cycling through treacle, 'the tank was dry' so to speak! Yesterdays exertions had caught up with me and I needed an emergency brew stop. The only place on the busy road was a 'pull in' in front of a house, it wasn't the most salubrious of lunch places with the traffic rushing past but the cup of tea and rolls hit the spot! It's amazing how quickly something to eat can give a boost to the body and we where soon on our way and enjoying the beautiful views across the Kenmare river to the Beara peninsular. At this point the main road is fairly narrow and nearly down to single track width in parts, so you do get some hassle from the traffic. Why is it that all the patient and considerate people drive small cars and the impatient ones drive 4X4's and big Mercs or BMW's?? At Castle Cove we turned off the road to have a look at the Staigue Fort an ancient hill fort, apparently the best preserved in Ireland. It was a 3.7km ride up a fairly steep set of hilly roads to get to it and at the end of the day it was a bit of a pull. From the car parking area at the end of the road the access is over a small bridge and through a gate where there is a box for you to put in your, as the farmer puts it 'Tresspass fee'! It was well worth the climb as it is an amazing structure. Its walls are nearly 4m thick of dry stone walling, with this step system inside which apparently was used in the construction and later to give them access to the top. From there it was a great downhill run back to the main road and a short ride to our campsite at Glenberg.
19/8/04 Caherdaniel - The Glen
Not an early start as we fancied a short easy day and it wasn't too far to Waterville. It was a short ride down in to Caherdaniel from the campsite and as we started to pull up the hill out of the village we realised that we had missed our turning as there was no 'Ring of Kerry' sign post! We quickly retraced our pedals and took our turning which took us past our first Ogham or standing stone. While we were there we met a couple of cyclists from the Chech Republic. It was a lovely sunny morning and it was a pretty route through Mombretia lined roads to the entrance of Derrynane house which was the home of the famous Irishman Daniel O'Donnell, from there it was a very steep climb up a narrow road to take us back on to the N25. The road is again narrow in places and gave us good views over Darryname bay to the Beara peninsular. It was a steady climb up to the top of the Coomkista pass and we stopped at the view point where all the tourist busses stop. It's amazing how enterprising people can be when there are tourists about, there was someone busking with a accordian, several people with small tables selling souvenirs and a chap entertaining the crowd with 3 guinea pigs, 2 kittens and a lamb!
It was an excellent ride down to Waterville with beautiful views across Ballinskelligs Bay and Bolus Head. As we sped down we passed a lot of cyclists coming up obviously doing a bus tour judging by the 'Ireland 2004' T-shirts and the lack of gear, we waved as we went by glad we weren't struggling up as they were! When we arrived in Waterville we tried to find the campsite marked on our map, but a new estate of houses seemed to be built in it's place. I enquired at a craft shop and they confirmed that it no longer existed. Bang went our short day, we shall have to press on to Caherciveen another 28miles! We decided that some sustanance was required if we were to make this and headed back in to the town to find a cafe. On cominq out of the cafe we met a young lady cyclist who had apparently had seen us at the campsite at Kenmare. She had been up to Waterville early in the morning dumped her gear at the hostel and had just got back from having cycled up to the head of the Coomanaspig pass. She told us that she had had to push her bike up the last section as it had been so steep. This didn't bode well if she had struggled with an unladen bike! We said 'cherrio' and wished her well for the rest of her holiday. We set off with the weather looking very iffy and by Ballinskelligs it was raining hard and waterproofs were needed. It was 5 o'clock but we pressed on, with tired legs and against the wind and a steep gradient we were soon down to 4 mph. As we were descending into the Glen we could see the head of Coomanaspig road and it did look steep. As it was gettinq late we realised it would take us hours to get to the campsite at Caherciveen and we decided that we had better look for a farmers field or a B & B for the night. We headed on down into the Glen and just as we got to the flat there was a sign 'Skellig View B & B 300m' and weren't we relieved when they said they had room! It was a excellent B & B, the lady that ran it was very nice, when we arrived, she sat us down in front of a warm peat fire and gave us a pot of tea with sandwiches and cakes it was most welcome!
20/8/04 The Glen - Caherciveen
We started the day with an excellent Irish cooked breakfast, with some wonderful white and black pudding, which after my compliments we got a second helping! We said our goodbyes and it was drizzling a little as we left the B & B, so it was on with the Pertexes, but as we neared the start of the Coomanaspig hill it came out sunny. The hill was as steep as the young lady cyclist we had met the previous day had said. As we stopped for a breather at the first of the hair pin bends we met a Dutch couple on their way up and they stopped and had a chat. They set off ahead of us as we continued on up, Frank likes to take the hills steadily and just drops into bottom gear and grinds her way up slowly. How she manages to keep her balance going so slow always amazes me. I can't go that slow I'd fall off but it works for her. The plan is always that I will wait for her at the top, well I managed to get past the 2nd hairpin but my legs had gone by the 3rd and I had to walk the bike up the last bit to the top. I left the bike and hurried back down to help Frank, I knew that if I had struggled then she would be to and I know how she hates having to push her bike! There she was pushing the bike up from the 3rd bend, but from the look on her face she wasn't happy. "Are you OK?" "No I'm not! some B*****d of a car driver knocked me off!" What transpired was that she wasn't actually hit by the car, but the car came round it so tight that it gave her no where to go and she had to swerve into the side of the road, she then hit a rut which caused her to lose control of the bike, she came off with the laden bike on top of her. The car driver didn't even stop and he must have seen her! Fortunately she wasn't hurt too much, just badly bruised and she was able to carry on, but to add insult to injury the last bit was so steep she just couldn't get going again and had to push her bike up.
Fortunately there were excellent views from the top looking down on Portmagee and the run down the other side was nice and fast, but you had to watch out for the potholes. Near the bottom I spotted a B&B offering 'Coffee, Teas & Cakes' I thought we had better stop for some sustance as Frank was still a bit shaken from having been knocked off her bike. As we waited for our cup of tea and apple pie we noticed a plaque in the B&B with this great quote -
'Before you go to bed give your troubles to God,
He will be up all night anyway'
Frank was feeling better after the refreshing tea and yummy apple pie so we headed to Portmagee. It's a pretty village with all the houses painted in different colours and with some great restaurants according to the chap that I got talking to whilst taking some photos of the harbour. From the harbour it was a short ride round to the bridge that takes you over to Valencia island, just after the bridge we stopped and had a look around the Skellig isles visitor center. The center chronicles the history of the monastic Skellig isles and if only we had had a bit more time it would have been great to have taken a trip out to the isles, well that's a trip to savour for another visit. The cycle route continues around the island through lanes covered in Montbretia and then takes you along the top road on Valencia island, this gave us some excellent views across the Portmagee Channel towards Foilclogh. Part way along the island we came across an old gentleman sat against the bank on the side of the road obviously enjoying the warm morning sunshine, he said hello and we stopped and had a chat. Although it was nothing much, mainly about the weather and whether were we enjoying our holiday and where were we from, but it was just one of those pleasant moments and as I said to Frank afterwards, if we had been in a car we would have just sped by! As we reached the north end of the island we realised that we were in need of a lunch spot, I fancied down by the lighthouse at Fort Point over looking Doulus Head, but halfway down the steep lane Frank came over the radio to remind me that we would have to cycle back up this steep hill! Fortunately I had just passed a good spot to sit next to a ruined cottage half way down the hill. We stopped there for lunch and a brew and concluded that it was probably a better place for lunch than down at the lighthouse! After lunch it was back up the hill and then a good ride down into Knightstown to catch the ferry that took us to Reenard point and from there it wasn't that far to Caherciven and our campsite at Manix point. Just at the entrance to the campsite there was the Irish Meterlogical station and just as I waiting for Frank to arrive there was a sound of a motor whirring from the roof. A hatch opened up and a tube rose out and then out popped out a weather balloon. I hadn't realised this was an automated system, I just assumed they were just released by some guy on the ground!
As we hadn't got our short day the day before and the fact that it was a nice campsite we decided to have a rest day. The campsite is run by a nice local character and historian called 'Mortimer Moriaty', who has a dry sense of humour. When I asked him if we could stay a second night he replied "As far as I'm concerned you can stay until October!" We decided to have a look around Caherciveen, bought a new bike stand and had some lunch in the 'Cupàn Eìle' cafe in the high street before then going on to have a look at the old Irish constabulary police station that is now a local history museum. From there we went over the Valencia river to the Doulus Head Peninsula to have a look at 2 more hills forts at Leacanabuaile and Cahergal which were similar to the Staigue Fort we had seen earlier. We had a quick look at Cooncrome harbour before finally visiting the ruined Ballycarbery castle which we had seen from our campsite. On getting back to the campsite entrance I noticed a guy at the weather station so I popped over to talk to him. I asked him about the weather balloons, apparently they send them up twice a day. Each balloon has a transmitter box about the size of a lunch box attached which sends weather data back to their station. I asked him what happens to the balloons and he reckoned that at a certain altitude the balloons burst and the transmitter box falls to earth (so watch out!), he reckoned that due to the wind conditions most of them fall out to sea. However occasionally they do send up a bigger balloon with some ozone sensitive equipment which apparently has a 'reward if found' sticker on it! On getting back to the site after tea I removed my old cycle stand and replaced it with the stand that I had bought in Caherciveen.
22/8/04 Caherciveen - Glenbeigh
It was a bit of a gray start as we left Manix point and headed into Caherciveen. The cycle route takes you over the Valencia river to the Doulus Head peninsular. Just after the bridge Frank asked me to stop as she was having problems with her chain. I popped the bike on its new stand and it promptly collapsed! I must admit when I bought it I wasn't that convinced by the guy in the bike shop that it was a strong one. Frank just laughed again and said "that didn't last long!", oh well that's stand number 6! We pushed on and were soon crossing the main N70 at the now defunct peat burning Deelis power station and carried on down quiet lanes to the Foilmore bridge where we stopped for a quick brew. It was a steady climb up from there to cross the N70 again before a lovely twisty turny run down to Kells. At Kells you join the N70 which has been widened most of the way and there is a good sized hard shoulder to cycle along. It was a shame that the weather wasn't a bit better as the Dingle peninsular was covered in cloud. Part way a long you pass the O'Connell viaduct which is about all that remains of the dismantled Faranfore to Caherciveen railway line. At Mountain Stage the cycle climbs up again before a steep descent to Ross-Behy. I guessed by the moans from Frank about the fact that the cycle route always takes you up the hills while the main road goes on the flat, that she was getting a bit tired and in need of some sustenance. When we got to Ross-Behy I suggested a cupper and a bun to cheer her up. There were only 2 places to choose from, a rather dubious looking fast food kiosk and the Ross Inn. I assure Frank that they would do tea as the advertise food all day. We went in and I ordered a pot of tea for 2 and some Dutch apple pie that was on the blackboard. Well when the Dutch apple pie arrived it was gorgeous and very nicely presented with swirls of raspberry cooli. I couldn't help looking at the other food that was being served, and suggested a change of plan. We could stay at the campsite at Glenbeigh which was only a couple of miles further on rather than go on to Killorgin and have tea at the pub as the food looked so good. As Frank was so tired she didn't take much persuading. I think the lass behind the bar most have though us a bit strange, as we had just had pudding and tea and were now ordering main courses of seafood chowder, oak smoked Killorglin salmon and 2 pints of Guinness! It was a good move as the food was lovely and we just had to round it off with 2 more pints of Guinness. Perhaps the 2nd pint was a bit of a mistake as at 5.00pm it certainly made the ride to Glenbeigh quite interesting, Frank couldn't stop giggling. While we were in Glenbeigh buying some milk, I got talking to an English couple and they gave us the latest on the Olympics, with news of Matthew Pincents gold medal and Paula's unfortunate collapse in the marathon. It's a shame that we always seem to be away when the Olympics are on, for the Sydney Olympics I remember we were in Poland! The campsite was well appointed but the only non boggy pitch left had some awful midges, but our early tea gave us an opportunity to seek the sanctuary of the laundry room to do some clothes washing and charge up my PDA and phone.
23/8/04 Glenbeigh - Gallarus
Fortunately there was a bit of wind in the morning and it kept the midges away whilst we struck camp. The cycle route took us initially along the N70 but then down quiet lanes past Lough Caragh to Killorgin. We stopped at the tourist information office to get some information on buses as we had a bit of a problem with a lack of campsites on the Dingle peninsular. Over lunch we considered our options, we worked out that it would be too far to cycle all the way from Killorgin to Gallarus. We looked at catching a bus but there were no buses direct to Dingle from Killorgin so we decided to cycle the shorter distance to Tralee and then catch a bus to Dingle from there. The cycle to Milltown and on to Castlemaine was fairly straight forward, followed by a long pull up the hill to Knockbrack before a good run down to Tralee. We bought something for our evening meal before catching the bus to Dingle.
We were dropped off in Dingle at about 7.00pm and set off for the 4 miles to the campsite at Gallarus. Well the route was one of those long drawn out inclined straight roads and it seemed to take ages to climb up to the col above Gallarus, but eventually we made it down to the campsite. As we got to the pitch suggested to us by the owner we noticed 2 cycle tourers on the next pitch. The lass chimed up "don't camp near us, it always rains on us, it will bring you bad luck, look at all our wet gear!" they weren't joking they had a long washing line full of gear. It transpires that they were from the states and had flown in to Dublin and had spent 2 weeks so far in mostly rain. We couldn't believe it as apart from the rain in Cork and the rain in the Glen, we had had little rain at all. Apparently they had just got married and had given up there jobs, they planned to cycle tour around Ireland then on to France, Italy and Greece and would keep going until the money ran out. We had a good chat with them as they were hoping to go on to Kerry and the Skellig isles, so we talked about the route we done and they talked about the delight of the long climb up the Connor pass, our route on our way back to Tralee. The Americans were right, that evening the wind got up and it rained heavily!