After four 40+ days, including yesterday’s 45.25 miles, I woke with the knowledge that the distance to Killarney was potentially under 30 miles. There was about four miles down to Rathmore on the N72, which had previously been very unpleasant but would be a quick way to meet with the main N22 road from Cork, and then a short ride into Killarney. I did not fancy the N72 and I had started to miss the hills which I cursed as I rode through Wales. If, when I got to Rathmore, I went straight over the N72 I could instead take something of a diagonal to Killarney along potentially scenic Irish lanes.
When I did cross the N72 in Rathmore it seemed a normal road through a country town without heavy traffic but I pressed on wanting to take to the hills anyway but within a hundred yards was brought to a stop by level crossing gates and I was soon joined by more traffic. Most of the drivers seemed more relaxed than is usual in those circumstances in England and as they arrived some started using their mobiles and some got out of their cars. The crossing was by Rathmore Station and eventually a train arrived and stopped and gave no sign of moving so I got off my bike and walked up to the gate. The explanation was that the line was single track until it reached the Station where alongside the platforms it became two tracks and, as the locals presumably knew, the train was waiting for another train travelling in the opposite direction. It eventually
arrived, the passengers got off and we were away and I headed up a hill on a narrow lane.
There is a certain pleasure of climbing a hill on a bike. There is the pleasure of anticipation , a sense of satisfaction as you plough along, nose down, making your legs grind up the steep slopes, making slight gear changes to keep the right cadence and, finally, the sense of satisfaction of reaching the top and, as a relaxed tourer, stopping to look at the view and take a drink of water.
The verges of the hills were interesting because the distribution of the flowers and grasses often subtly changed as you climbed. One reason, notably in Wales, had been because of an increase in height giving slightly cooler temperatures and stronger winds in the exposed sections. Another common reason was that the soil decreased in quality and depth. One bright orange flower 2/3 feet in height had been brightening up the verges in the sunshine, and it was also often in the cottage gardens. In fact, it had always been in the verge within a 100 yards of a cottage but for the first time I saw one that wasn’t and now, as the soil thinned, it became more common often covering
Also on the verge was a blue notice which I had frequently seen when nearing a village. It had been erected by the Garda and one I saw later had attached below a handwritten note from a parish confirming that they did text the Garda if they saw something suspicious.
There was a confusing network of lanes to navigate through until I joined the long straight main street of Gneevgullia. There was a village shop which, by now I had discovered, would have a coffee machine and sandwiches. I sat down outside at a table in the sun with a feeling of satisfaction and watched the life of the village pass.
The route looked complicated through the lanes and, as I was looking at my map, a passing shopper asked me if I needed help. I said I was going to Killarney and told her I was looking for a route through the lanes but she did not think much of the idea and said the lanes were narrow and difficult. She suggested that I went to the end of the street and then downhill to the N72. This had already been suggested by someone who had sat down by me so I decided to take their advice and went to the end of the street. There was suddenly a spectacular and expansive view not only along my route but across the water to the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, which climbed to 1000 metres beyond.
I hadn’t realised how high I had climbed and with a couple of turns of the pedals, I was off down the road freewheeling all the way back to the outskirts of Rathmore. It was an exhilarating 10 minutes with enough sweeping corners to add to the excitement, challenging me to keep off the brakes to keep up the speed.
Hitting Rathmore, I found the main street flourishing with flags and placards on all the shops, commercial premises and houses, the most noticeable being at the entrance to the town.
The match was at the coming weekend. It was clear that the players came from Rathmore and what was striking was that all the notices were in red, the colour of the flag of Cork Country which Rathmore is in.
It interesting going along the road to see how cycle friendly it was. As soon as possible after coming to a built up area you would be taken off the road with a cycle path or a shared cycle/pedestrian path so you did not have to overtake parked cars. Otherwise there was a hard shoulder of varying width. In the few stretches where there was no hard shoulder there would be a white line a short distance from the kerb. Though not designated as a cycle path, you would be given a wide berth.
Entering Killarney and nearing the junction with the N 71 there were notices warning of potential queues and, at the roundabout, more warnings. The N 71 was the road from Cork and was carrying heavy traffic and lorries. There was a cycle path skirting around the outside but this did not keep me away from the real tangle: leading onto the roundabout from the far side was a wide roadway from the large area in front of a school. It was the afternoon pick up and there was the familiar chaos from a mixture of children, parents and cars trying to pick up the children and getting from and into the roundabout. One mother had even parked on the roundabout itself and was trying to scramble her child into the car despite a looming lorry. I got off and picked my way cautiously through the melee, and set up my route on Google maps through the suburbs to the Cherry Tree B & B.
There was a notice outside proclaiming “Fibre WiFi” and what was striking was its evident age. I never had any difficulties in finding WiFi whether in a lodging or eating place and the implementation of WiFi in Ireland is way ahead of England’s. The initiatives now from the local authorities is to have public hotspots. In Fermoy I had been told that the town centre and main street was all a hotspot. Later on in the journey in a town centre I went into one of those peculiarly Irish establishments with a deli
counter from which you could order take away food and that also had a modest traditional cafe behind and small bar at the back. When I was getting the food I asked if there was WiFi and, if so, what the password was and was told that it was better outside where I was sitting with my bike and I did not need a password.
The establishment attracted three different sets of customers: those wanting a quick take away which you could eat outside, a small cafe with no great pretensions but providing a good meeting place with coffee and cakes, and the small bar invariably at the back, which usually had a few veterans sitting down with a Guinness.
Places like this in England could flourish providing a local meeting place where cafes and licensed premises now fail. Unfortunately, the different types of regulations would make it almost impossible to set up.
The B & B was not far from the centre of Killarney and, after a short day of 34 miles, I went to the pub/restaurant, highly recommended by the proprietor, earlier than usual with the comforting thought that tomorrow was a rest day. It was a good recommendation.
* Photo of MacGillycuddy’s Reeks by Bob Linsdell at https://flickr.com/photos/92487715@N03/282395229