Day 27. Annascaul to Dunquin

View 2
View from National Route to Dingle

Awoke to bright sunshine though it did not last and there were occasional showers during the day which by now I was becoming used to.

Breakfast was included: breakfast type food was put into the fridge and cereals left out on the counter by the Warden and there was also some unused food left in the fridge. We could use anything left there but were warned to check the date. I had brought some cereal and milk which was fortunate as the supply was running low.

Retrieved my bike from the shed to set out on what looked as if it may be a really special day because of the historic sites along the way. Firstly there was a 6 mile ride to Dingle, another popular tourist centre, along what looked as if it would be a hilly ride with even more spectacular views. I would then be heading west along the Slea Head Drive, part of the Wild Atlantic Way, to pass near my final target at Dunmore Head that I have been describing as the most westernmost point on mainland Ireland, but which the tourist brochures usually described as the most westerly point in mainland Europe or the nearest point in Europe to the USA.

The road from Annascaul to Dingle was a National Route from Tralee to Dingle which was in good condition and being upgraded in places which included a bicycle path separated from the roadway.

View 1

View 3.jpg

During a grind uphill I stopped at a lay-by and took a photograph of the views, although,
unfortunately, my phone camera cannot focus to show the dramatic effect of the distant hills. Soon after I started a long freewheel down to Dingle Harbour. There was a large marina separated from the commercial  and fishing harbour where I could see  Kerry flags  flying . The Atlantic Fisher had its nets out to dry. I also took a photo of a stern trawler with its nets in position for launching.

Kerry flags
Kerry flags

Atlantic Fisher

Dingle itself was smaller than I expected with narrow picturesque streets and lots of places to eat and buy Irish themed presents. In Killarney it had been advertised as one of the main tourist destinations and many tourist coaches stopped there and returned by heading northeast across the mountains on the famous Connor Pass with a splendid viewpoint at the summit after a climb of 500 metres. For a cyclist, the climb from the north coast of the Peninsular was probably the most famous unrelenting climb in Ireland,  and I had been urged by cycling friends to try it but, perhaps fortunately, I was not heading that way.

After a sandwich, Coke and fruit, I headed along the now narrower coast road through the earliest inhabited part of Ireland. The oldest settlement is Mesolithic at Ferriter’s Cove, which I would be passing close to another day, and was dated by cattle bones to around c3540 B.C.  Signs appeared regularly showing the way to historical sites. My problem was that there were rough paths to them which were too difficult to push my bike along and I did not fancy leaving the bike and panniers out of sight for long. What I would normally do, if I was leaving my bike, would be to make sure that I had secured the bicycle to some solid structure, put all my valuables in a small pannier to take with me and make sure I was not out of sight of the bike except for the shortest possible time.

Hut sites.jpg
Hut sites

I was lucky as the first sign I saw was to a Celtic Period Iron Age enclosure close to the road where I could keep an eye on the bike secured in the small car park. The guide was showing a couple the defensive ring ditches around the perimeter and the foundations of huts within. The huts were all made of stone laid in a sloping manner so the rain would run off them. Further along the road there were signs to “Beehive Huts” because of their shape which solved the problem of having a roof made of stone. Later I was able to look down at the Dun Beg Fort, an elaborate Iron Age ring fort, now steadily crumbling down the cliffs into Dingle Bay. There had been several forts which had been built as a defence against Viking raids. There were also several signs to “Famine Cottages”, abandoned in the 1840s, the time of  “The Great Famine”, as the potato crop failed year after year and  a million people starved to death and as many  emigrated to America or England.  There were fewer coaches, and most of the tourists were now in motor cars; the parking was usually limited but fortunately there were a lot of historic sites.

Perimeter Ditch.jpg
Perimeter Ditch

To the Famine Cottages

After the fort there was a long climb to Slea Head where the narrow road crawled round under a vertical face, turned north and downhill to Dunmore Head where there was a notice that it had been a film location for Star Wars, Return of the Jedi.  and where I would be tomorrow walking to the most westerly point. I was anxious to find out whether there was somewhere I could safely leave my bike and there was a road down to a sandy bay but no safe place there so I set off to De Mordha Bed and Breakfast after one of my most interesting 30 mile cycle rides ever.

Dunmore head notice

Just as I was approaching the outskirts of the village of Dunquin, (Dun Choain in Gaelic, the name used locally) there was a sign to what proved to be a very different-to-the-usual gift shop. You first entered a room absolutely packed with books, mostly related to the local area, particularly the Great Blasket Island or Celtic history,  including one co-authored by Micheal De Morda, which took my attention as I was heading to the De Mordha Bed and Breakfast. There were also high quality gifts mostly related to the local area or Celtic history and you then passed though to a large cafe which could accommodate a coach party. It was 5pm and the cafe had just closed but I discovered  De Mordha a few hundred yards further on.

Of all the reviews I had read when searching for places to stay during the tour, none had so many praising their establishment than De Mordha and particularly the welcome from, and helpfulness of, Angela the proprietor and the interesting conversations with her husband, Michael. Reviews came from visitors from all over the world. The welcome I immediately experienced and settled myself in a very comfortable room next to the front door. The visitors’ lounge was large with information and books about the local area, including some by Micheal, and a splendid view over the bay. I could hear Angela and her husband talking in the kitchen and realised that they spoke in Gaelic if no residents were around.

There was then the problem of the evening meal. Once the cafe had closed, the nearest place to find food was Ballyferriter about a 15 minutes drive away. What often happened was that the residents would get together and hire a taxi but it eventually became clear that that night I was the only person needing one. Michael then offered to run me over there. I was very grateful and there followed my most interesting 15 minutes of the whole trip. He said that at 17 he had gone away to Dublin to be a reporter and many years later had joined a Gaelic radio station as producer, but presenting as well.

On the way he pointed out the hills where part of Ryan’s Daughter had been filmed. A village had been built for the film and was to be demolished in a storm as part of the plot but, surprisingly, they had to wait for a year for a good enough storm. It was a British film but Robert Mitchum was given a starring role. (Alec Guinness had turned it down), John Mills and his daughter Sarah both won Academy Awards, Sarah as best actress in a leading role and John as best actor in a supporting role. Michael said that the film company became like the local government while they were there: they paid to the locals the wages they paid the rest of the firm employees which were far greater than farm workers could earn so when they left after the year it enabled many of them to buy a tractor.

Michael also pointed out Blasket Sound, where the Santa Maria de la Rosa and San Juan ships of the Spanish Armada were shipwrecked in 1588 and also some mysterious looking rocky peaks where part of Star Wars had been filmed.

Sandy cove also used for filming
Sandy cove used for filming

 

Day 26. Annascaul

Looking up towards Beenoskee 826 metres
Looking towards Beenoskee, 826 metres

The further west you go along the Dingle Peninsular, the more Celtic it becomes and the Gaelic language takes over. Almost all place names have a Gaelic alternative but, increasingly, some like my B & B were just Gaelic, and notices or explanation boards would be Gaelic first and “English” second.

Today was my spare day, earned by my speedy crossing of Ireland, so I planned to use it by exploring the hills. One problem had been that Teac Seain B & B only had a vacancy for one night but I had found a vacancy at the Dingle Gate Hostel two miles down the road.

Looking up the weather forecast the previous night it had not seemed promising: light rain from after 9am which turned into heavy rain, a slight remission in the middle of the day then heavy rain again, clearing later in the afternoon. When I peered around the curtains on waking I could see that there was the traditional Irish Mist with very poor visibility. Strangely, it does not seem to be raining but it immediately condenses on you once you start moving and without protection you are soon soaking. I went down for my usual breakfast, loads of cereals, toast, lots of orange juice and coffee and anything else laid out which looked interesting. Here, it was a large individual bowl of yogurt with lots of different fresh fruit and cream. By the time I had packed my panniers and was
ready to go the rain had really set in and the hostel was not open until 3pm.

I discussed my predicament with Kate, the proprietor, who was instantly very sympathetic. She would need the room but suggested that I left my bike in a hallway accessible from the outside and told me of a friendly little cafe along the street. I bought a newspaper in the village shop, ordered a coffee in the cafe and settled down to wait. The only other customers were a couple who had clearly also settled in for a long stay. I tried, unsuccessfully, to send by phone a photograph of what I assumed was a hydrant, to my friend Jim MacTaggart, a friend and very experienced touring cyclist from Kilmarnock in Scotland.. He has cycled across the USA three times, once with his wife Cathy, and it was he who had advised me on my choice of bike for the trip.

kilmarnock hydrant

The rain seemed to be easing slightly so I went back and collected my bike. Kate (and others) had told me I must not miss seeing the views at Lough Annascaul in the hills above Annascaul, accessible by a narrow lane which climbed up from the main street. I flew up, no panniers, a following wind and extra strength from a month’s touring. The views were magnificent. By now I had another photography problem, which I had met on another wet day in Wales, in that there was great difficulty in taking photographs in bad weather. It had now started raining heavily again, and to unlock the phone I had to have a dry finger and, even if I managed to get it open, if any wet touched the
screen when I was taking a photograph it would not work. I was determined to get a photograph, both up and down the high valley from the loch. The technique was to plunge my finger into my clothes until I found a dry garment, dry the finger and, with the phone as ready as possible, try to shelter it enough to take a photo quickly. After about 10 minutes I succeeded, though now I had much wetter underclothes!

looking down on valley

Throughout the village there had been notices and flags about two locals, Colm and Killian, who had been in a competition and I was able to photograph a couple of the signs the next day. They were all in the yellow and green, the colours of Kerry, and, as I had rode up the lane, they had been more splendid and frequent until there was a large flag outside a green farmhouse with detailing in yellow. Speeding back down the lane the rain almost seemed solid but I stopped and, with even more difficulty, managed to get a photo of the flag. Before I could set off, a tractor drew up, and the driver told me it was Gaelic Football and the previous weekend Kerry had won the All Ireland Minor Football Final with the two players from Annascaul in the team. I found out that it was for under 18s and there were 31 county teams. Kerry had defeated Galway 0-21 to  Galway’s 1-14 to claim their fifth All Ireland title in a row, the first time this feat has been achieved. A team of the year was chosen, taken from all the competitors in the finals, and this included Colm. Killian had hit 4 points in the final and chosen as Man of the Match.

Up the Kingdom

Proud of the boys and proud of The Kingdom of Kerry

 

As soon as I returned to the main street, I headed into the South Pole Inn and managed to find a very quiet corner, order a pint of local beer and started stripping off layers and putting as many of my wet clothes as was decent in a pile hidden against the corner wall  so I could begin warming up. It was getting towards 1pm and I ideally wanted to stay there until as near 3pm as possible. It was a big pub and every inch of the wall was covered with items about Tom Crean including many original photos and artifacts, all
of which I examined slowly and carefully; the pub was like a museum.

south pole inn

Tom was born in 1877 and had left school at 14, joined the Navy at 15 and, at 24, he volunteered to join Scott’s fatal expedition to the South Pole. During the expedition, his 35 mile walk across the Ross Ice Shelf to save the life of Edward Evans resulted in his being awarded the Albert Medal. He is probably most famous for Shackleton’s “Endurance” expedition, a copy of the request for volunteers I had seen the previous night outside the Inn. The centenary had given rise to a new book, films, TV series, and a large exhibition of the original equipment including the lifeboat. Shackleton had appointed Tom as Second Officer. The Endurance was crushed by a sudden movement of the ice and they dragged the food, gear and three lifeboats for 200 miles across the pack ice and then sailed and rowed the boats for 5 days to Elephant Island hoping for rescue.

inn

Shackleton decided, instead of continuing to wait, to sail a lifeboat the 800 miles to South Georgia. After what was described as one of the most extraordinary feats of navigation and seamanship, and through gales and snow squalls, they arrived on the 10th May 1916 at the island’s uninhabited south coast. With the boat having been damaged and some of the crew unfit to travel, Shackleton decided that the three fittest, himself, Crean and Worsley. should try to cross the 30 miles across the hilly, glaciated surface to a whaling station. It was the first recorded crossing of the mountainous island.

Inside the Inn

Tom returned to the Navy and, the next year, married Ellen Herlihy of Annascaul. He retired in 1920 and he and Ellen bought the public house which he renamed the South Pole Inn and they had three children. He died in 1938 following a burst appendix.

Fish and chips Annascaul style

Although I had not been pressed to order, eventually I ordered fish and chips which was delivered with probably the largest piece of fish I have had with such a meal. Collecting my bike I bought some food for my evening meal later at the hostel where I had booked a room rather than a place in the dormitory. The warden was cheerily informal, seemingly to start almost all his sentences to everyone with an upbeat “that’s no problem” including when it was discovered that I had paid for a room rather than a place in the dormitory. He quickly made up a room which was comfortable, and I later chatted with some of the other guests in the common room/kitchen. The opportunity to meet a variety of people makes hostels popular.

Dingle Gate Hostel.

Day 25. Killarney to Annascaul

otter

The trip was now about to take a different turn, literally. From Killarney I would be taking the R536 northwest across an undulating pastoral landscape until I met the N70 again and, in less than two miles at Castlemaine, would turn west along the Dingle Peninsular until its end. Today I would see the end of fields full of cows, although I could now expect to see sheep on the slopes.

The peninsular consists of a string of mountains along its spine with three crossings to the road following the north coast. The Visitors’ Guide to the Dingle Peninsular says that there is no other landscape in Western Europe with the density and variety of archaeological monuments as the peninsula which has supported tribes and populations for almost 6,000 years. Moreover, because of its remote location and the lack of specialised agriculture, there is a remarkable preservation of over 2,000 monuments.

Heading out of town I saw the magnificent Cathedral on one side and on the other was the National Park and a stream running parallel with the road. Saw a notice by the stream about otters; the stream was crystal clear. The slightly peculiar goalposts in a sports field were for Gaelic football and schools I passed often had a set.

football posts

Turned off the main road to follow the country road to the N70 and, after a few miles, saw a sign down a road to the Kerry Woollen Mills: kerrywoollenmills.ie These mills were much larger than those I had visited in Wales as in the weaving shed two sets of cloth were being woven one on a very long loom. There was a large shop which had an extensive display ranging from very expensive Kerry Merino Wool blankets at over £100 to some attractive small presents for the less well-heeled tourists.

long loom shorter loom

Soon I was at Castlemaine, by the side of the road, and approaching the turn there was a very large notice warning coaches, caravans and other large vehicles that they must follow the road around the peninsular in a clockwise direction only as there was not room to pass similar vehicles coming the other way on the narrow road. This sounded interesting so headed down the road with increasing anticipation. With the Slieve Mish Mountains mostly covered with threatening clouds on my right, and a wide view over the water on my left, the nature of the ride had suddenly changed.

mish mountains

I had noticed in the travel agents in Killarney that a lot of trips to Dingle and the peninsular were advertised, and, indeed, increasing numbers of coaches started coming up behind me. At first they were mainly from Killarney but, as the day advanced, they were coming from places further away. They were an irritation but not as much an irritation as I was to them when I struggled slowly up a hill and they could not find a clear stretch to overtake me.

As the road climbed, it narrowed but occasionally a lay-by had been created where there was a particularly scenic view so that vehicles, including coaches, could stop and the passengers could get out to take photos. “We have five minutes,”one observed grumpily as they were being hustled back into the coach and, though it seemed to me it had been a generous five minutes, I could understand the reluctance to return to the coach as the views over Dingle Bay to the mountains beyond were now becoming breathtaking.

As I was about to move away from a lay-by, a car drew up and I was hailed by a familiar
Canadian voice: it was the Canadians from Murphy’s Bar that were driving the Wild Atlantic Way. This route starts from Cork and follows the west coast. I had been told a number of times how spectacular it was when planning my trip, including by Ita’s brother who had been in a group following much of it. The Canadians had been unlucky the previous day as they had been going around the Iveragh Peninsula, perhaps the most spectacular section of the Way and route of the Ring of Kerry, but the rain and mist meant they had seen little of it. I took their photographs on their cameras and we took our cheery leave not expecting to see each other again but when I arrived at the next viewpoint they were just leaving so we said a more cautious goodbye this time!

healthland heathland 2

Now all the hedgerow flowers I had been seeing crossing Ireland had gone and were replaced on the roadside banks by heathland. The coast had been rocky for some miles but eventually I reached a lane leading down to the bay at Inch. It has a renowned sandy beach along a headland and a centre for surfing and there were some surfers with old VW vans just packing up and, as it was now starting to rain and it seemed a long time since breakfast, I went inside the Tourist Centre for a ham and cheese panini. There was a large cafe with an even larger bar and games room. It was designed to have enough room for coach parties. There had been no places to stop except at the view points since Castlemaine so its toilets must have also been very welcome. When I left I took a photograph of the, now wet and deserted, beach with the mountains of the Iveragh Peninsular in the distance.

Inch Bay Inch Sands

From here it was a wet and hilly ride to Anascaul where I was staying at the Teac Seain B & B. It had been a hard few miles. On my way into the village I had passed the South Pole Inn with an intriguing notice outside. Tom Crean, the Antarctic Explorer who had been with Shackleton on his Discovery Expedition in 1901 and the Endurance Expedition which set off in 1914, had bought the Inn on his retirement. I went there, as recommended, for a meal, walking down a cold, dark, windy street into the warm packed Inn buzzing with conversation and laughter where I managed to find a corner to have a hearty meal over which I took my time before returning to the B & B to go straight to bed.

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Tom Crean

All the walls of the Inn had been covered with old photographs, notices and memorabilia which, as the nearby tables were occupied, were impossible to look at so I was determined to return next day to discover more.

Tom Crean

 

 

Day 24. Killarney

evening

When I mentioned to Irish friends that I was intended to go to the West of Ireland, I was told I must visit Killarney, and when I began crossing Ireland and told people of my plans the more that recommendation became insistent. It was sometimes added that there were a lot of American visitors and it was very touristy. Wikipedia mentions that 200 years of tourism were celebrated in 1947, also that the railway arrived in 1841 and Queen Victoria visited in 1861.

The previous evening I was very strongly recommended to go to Murphy’s Bar in College Street which described itself accurately as combining tradition and hospitality with its long bar, many Irish artifacts and mixed sized tables for groups. It was heaving but, as I was by myself, I was able to eat at a counter. Not surprisingly, the food was good and the portions large. I had a Thai Green Curry and it was not the overcooked mush you can sometimes get with this recipe, but with vegetables al dente and the spices perfect. The Irish music added to the atmosphere. Next to me was a table of American tourists who were swapping tales of the good time they were having there. They were not the brash
tourists you sometimes meet in capital cities but were really enjoying what Killarney and the Dingle Peninsular had to offer.

Afterwards, I wandered round the town centre and it was still busy, brightly lit, most of the shops were still open, and there were street musicians playing reels and ballads.

street musicians

Next morning I was up late and I had started to look forward to the rest day. As in Wales my legs had quickly settled into the cycling, but because I had kept stopping to look at so many interesting things on the way I tended to arrive late, go out for a leisurely meal and a beer and then hit the sack. A leisurely morning sounded attractive and I had planning to do.

From the beginning I had been concerned about the next stage. The obvious place to stay was Dingle. It was a stage of about 36 miles along the Ring of Kerry though some of it ran along the coast and it seemed that some could be very hilly. Before I set out I had not been sure how far I could reasonably do in a day with full panniers and was worried about reaching Killarney on the day I’d planned. It had been a needless concern so I now had the extra day in hand which could be used in exploring the Dingle Peninsular. However, I found that the delay in making the decision had meant that there was hardly any accommodation available in Dingle and what there was, was very expensive. There was little accommodation on the way to Dingle either but I was fortunate to book at the Teac Seain Inn at Annascaul for one night, and the Dingle Gate Hostel a couple of miles away for the next night and booked the Hide Out Hostel in Dingle for the way back.

I also did a little of the blog and then went out to explore Killarney in the daylight and returned to Murphy’s for an evening meal where I had a long interesting chat with two Canadians.They were following the Wild Atlantic Way which covers the rugged West Coast from Cork to Derry.

Killarney was like no other place in Ireland. I had seen in Wikipedia that in the 19th and 20th centuries it had become an international tourist centre with grand hotels and there were many historic sites in Kerry and on the peninsula to visit including Lough Leane and The Killarney National Park, close by the town itself. The first big hotel I came across was The Tan Yard, with Parisian touches. The Tourism Office proudly proclaimed that Trivago had voted the Killarney hotels the best in the world in 2016. Many coach tours were being advertised and the most popular seemed to be around the Peninsular for the views and prehistoric sites. This was where I was going.

tan yard

Planning the trip

planning

I had reserved the morning in Killarney to do further planning as my westward travel across the main body of Ireland would be completed after another 7 miles. The rest of my journey would be on the Dingle Peninsula to its end at Dunmore Head, the westernmost place on the Irish mainland.

The journey so far had been full of variety and travelling along the Blackwater Valley and I often felt a deep sense of peace as I passed field after green field with mostly Friesian cows contentedly feeding. Perhaps this was partly because this pastoral scenery was so similar to that in Leicestershire where I had spent my childhood. I could image myself still searching the hedgerows, playing in the streams, always exploring the next field to find what might be hidden there.

County Kerry purported to be the most scenic part of Ireland and when my satnav had guided me through the suburbs of Killarney it had finally deposited me on the main road near the B & B. This it described as the Ring of Kerry and my new adventures were starting as I followed the Ring all round Dingle Peninsular.

When planning the trip to Ireland, l had the experience of crossing Wales to help. My intention in Wales had been to give me as much flexibility as to where I would stay overnight and so I would book for only a night or so in advance. However, it quickly became clear that, even without the influence of Ed Sheeran, this would not work. If, and this was one of the main pleasures of the trip, I stopped too long looking at something interesting on the way I would have little spare time in the evening after a meal to book the next lodging. I could perhaps have bought some rations in shops on the way and forgone the evening meal but part of the journey’s enjoyment was visiting new places and having local things to eat and, when going across Ireland, perhaps finding some “crac”!

One of the best ways of discovering the availability of B & Bs was to use Google maps. Find the town on the map, insert “B & B” in the search box and the date you wanted to stay, and it would put up available accommodation and the price for that night. You could vary it to include hostels and hotels. In practice, there were other places available, simple B & Bs that were not registered with the local Tourist Board, for instance, but I found that if you phoned a B & B that was full, they would often know of others nearby.

A preliminary search before I left home, made it clear that I had to start from the end, not the beginning. Looking at the Google satellite map it was clear that it was not possible to cycle to the furthest place west, nor did it show a safe place to leave a bike. It was going to be necessary to stay somewhere as near as possible and search for it on foot as I had had to do in Wales. There was little accommodation nearby, the nearest being De Mordha B & B  at a small village called Dunquin. It had a 5 star rating with Trip Advisor and many other enthusiastic comments in other sources. Walkers following the Coast Path reported how very welcoming and helpful Angela, the proprietor, and her husband were which included providing a packed lunch. As a result, they were usually full at this time of the year and it was very necessary to book well in advance. They were the only place I met which required a small deposit which had to be sent by PayPal. They clearly did not want to have people booking unless they were serious and it became clear when I got there that they were not doing this for financial reasons but so they could accept the many serious walkers, walking the Coast Path, who needed to plan in advance where they would sleep in this remote area.

I was thus in the unusual position of having to book my furthest place first. I had to decide which day I would arrive, calculate how long it would take me to get there, book and then reserve seats on the trains and ferry. I needed also to book the first night at Rosslaire where I got off the ferry. It was difficult to predict with certainty how long it would take me to get to Dunquin so I had to make my best guess but to add in a spare day as a precaution.

On investigation, I found there was another problem on the route between Fermoy and
Killarney. Because of the lack of accommodation between them, Tom Cooper, the author of Cycle Touring in Ireland, had recommended doing the 64 miles (which he described as “Undulating – surprisingly tiring”) in one day. This I did not fancy, but eventually found the B & B at Millstreet. The final problem was Dingle, a tourist hotspot, where there was plenty of accommodation but very expensive. This I would have to put off until I was more certain I would arrive. I had allocated a Rest Day at Killarney when I would make my plans for the Dingle Peninsular, having safely accomplished all my long rides.

One of my concerns was that some unexpected problem would occur which could throw everything out as these complications are made more difficult to resolve when you are abroad by yourself. Fortunately, I had a lifeline. My son, Ian, and I belong to a small informal group of walkers which includes a lovely lady by the name of Ita. Ita was brought up on a farm in Ireland and we had had lots of chats about farming and our respective countrysides. Ita gave me the telephone number of her motorcyclist brother, John, in Ireland who would always be willing to help me out so I telephoned him before I left. As well as giving me lots of good advice, he told me that if I was in
any sort of trouble to ring him straight away and wherever he was he would come straight over. That was a huge comfort! I hoped I would not need to bother him.

Day 23. Part 2 – Millstreet to Killarney

640px-MacGillycuddy's_Reeks,_Ring_of_Kerry_(506619)_(28239522935)
MacGillycuddy’s Reeks*

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.

trains

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
several yards.

orange juice

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.

sign

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.

team photo

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

 

 

Day 23. Part 1 – Millstreet: a tidy town

10-Minor-Row

Ireland had been markedly litter free and one thing that helped was the absence of plastic bags as it has been many years since shopkeepers were allowed to give them out. If you need a bag then your shopping is put in a quite strong brown paper bag and I did not see plastic bags used generally at all. The only time I did see a plastic bag was in a hedgerow. Though the towns were litter free, not infrequently I had seen, thrown at the side of the road, a collection of items together: used coffee cups, sandwich packets and empty bottles and cans – Red Bull seemed popular. It is not usual to see the same thing in England but it was really noticeable in Ireland, perhaps because everywhere seems so tidy or perhaps it is more frequent in Ireland.

In the morning I asked Noreen why this happened and she said it was a problem as the litter was thrown out of cars from people who had been to a takeaway. She said that litter generally was an issue and I mentioned that I had seen, when coming into Millstreet, a display which said that the town had won three Bronze medals in the Tidy Town competition. She said she had been involved with the group trying to keep the town clear of litter. In 2016 Millstreet had won 1st in the Anti Litter competition and a Bronze Medal in the Tidy Town Competition. There was a further Bronze Medal in 2017. It was hard work for their group to keep on top of it, and she told me of a friend who always went out from 6am to 8am on Sunday mornings. The Tidy Town award went beyond litter and took into consideration more general improvement and conservation
including flower beds.

I had not realised that the freedom from litter I had noticed the previous day in Fermoy probably represented a lot of voluntary work, so I looked on the Internet and found a picture of very cheerful Fermoy volunteers with spades and hoes.

Fermoy Tidy Towns Web 1920px 1@11-04-2018-18_28_20