Day 28. Dunmore Head

Dunmore head

Today was Day 28 when I hoped to reach my goal. The forecast was not good; it would soon start to rain and then become increasingly heavy. I looked out and it was another one of those Irish Mist mornings. Had a splendid, filling breakfast in preparation for the day with the slice of Irish soda bread which comes with almost every meal (though I think you need to be Irish to enjoy it). The reviews for de Morda had also been enthusiastic about Angela’s packed lunch.

Before I started the tour, I had thought very carefully about what rainproof gear to wear. It needed to be as light as possible but protect me from all weathers. Waterproof cycling jackets work well for cycling but not for walking around in heavy rain so I had bought a top-of-the-range Gore-tex jacket which has a waterproof breathable membrane and had worked exactly as promised, never letting wet in, or getting me sweaty. It was very light and also worked well when cycling and I would need it today.

I put the packed lunch in a plastic bag with my light binoculars and the large scale map for the area. The gate to Dunmore Head is less than 2 miles from de Mordha but as I started walking up the road it started to rain. Dunmore Head is, at first, dome like, then westward turns into a ridge descending to the sea with a line of three rocks in the sea.

There is a small gate where you are invited to make a contribution of €1, a bit cheaper than Lands End in Cornwall. There is another small notice to say that part of Stars Wars had been filmed there.

donate

star wars

The pathway up the side was very rough and dramatic as it ran along the top of the cliff, with normally grand views along the coast but now with waves sweeping on the sandy cove below. I was getting exposed to an increasingly strong wind and heavier rain but carried on. After some time I rounded the hill and was able to work out where the mainland ended and took a photo. The headland loses height, becoming narrower until there is a narrow channel of sea between it and three off-shore islands. From the distance there was no indication that the end was marked but the channel was clearly where the mainland finished.

You can just see the Channel
You can just see the channel

I rounded the bluff near the top and was immediately hit by very strong gusts hurtling around it, the same sort of effect that you get around tall buildings. The rain seemed even heavier and I edged cautiously downwards as it became increasingly steep and rocky. I could see most of the way now but it looked very difficult to get all the way down to the channel. I inched along, holding on to rocks or the grass, when a particularly heavy gust whistled by knocking me down so I decided this was my “ Lands End” and took a photo. I had started to head back when a young couple, the only
people I had seen on the top so far, passed rather more confidently. I was rather pleased to see, however, that their “Lands End” was not much further down than mine.

My most westerly point, the wind was coming from the left.
My most westerly point

The Blasket Islands were much nearer and I tried out the binoculars to see if I could spot the seals which used the beaches there. I thought I could see some grey forms on the beach but it was not clear enough to be certain. The visibility was being reduced by the even heavier rain.

I headed up to the top to seek the shelter of a small observation post erected there in the war and was able to go inside to eat the packed lunch and warm up. I tried to take some photos but now had the same problem that I had had at the loch at Anascaul when my finger and the mobile were too wet to unlock it . A short distance further was an erect stone which was one of a number of Ogham Stones placed in prominent situations in the Peninsular.

Observation post

Ogham Stones are so called because they have inscriptions in Ogham, the primitive Irish language first used in about the fourth century, which consists of a combination of straight lines carved on the rock. They usually commemorate someone and this one was known as the Coumeenoole Ogham Stone which commemorated Erc (Eric) but also mentioned Dovina so it was possibly a place of ritual worship to the fertility goddess Duibhe (Dovinnias). I was determined to get a photograph and eventually did as the rain was not falling so heavily.

stone

 

I could then see that there was a quicker way to the exit by crossing the dome, although I did not spot that the heather hid some rocky hollows so I came a cropper a couple of times and collected a few spines in my hands. I soon reached the road and noticed on the way back that the cafe was still open, so I had a warming cup of coffee and some food.

On arriving back at the B & B, when Angela opened the door she said instantly “get all those wet clothes off and give them to me and I will put them in the dryer”. Much later, after I returned, two separate groups of walkers arrived and each was greeted by the
same great welcome as I had by Angela when I first arrived and an immediate invitation to hand her their wet clothes. Both groups had both been walking around the Peninsula on the coastal path shown on the maps as Sli Chorca Dhuibhne (The Dingle Way). One group was German, the other American/Canadian. Speaking to them later, both said what a hard day it had been, rocky and exposed and they had only been able to travel slowly. They took a taxi to Ballyferriter for their evening meal.

Day. 11 Carmarthen to Saundersfoot – Cramp, Pilgrims and Dylan Thomas

pendine

The day started early, 3.30 am, with violent cramp in my right hamstring. I leapt out of bed and went through the usual agonies, stretching and massage until it relented and I returned to my bed with throbbing hamstring and my thoughts. These were not good with firstly annoyance because, rather predictably, my recovery from the bug had been slow, as had my first training rides. These rides had been on my road bike, and short, and I had only returned to anything near my normal times on my 20k standard test route. I needed to have done longer and harder training rides before I had set out again but tried to console myself with the thought that on tours like this you usually become fitter the further you go. If my hamstring was still hurting that badly in the morning, would I be able to push my bike up the big hills? As happens in the “wee small hours”, my imagination was running riot.

In the morning the hamstring was still sore, but the advantage of cycling is that I could use just one leg to provide the main power so I thought I would cope.  I did not have to wait long to find out as, within a mile of leaving town, I was pushing my bike up a hill shown on the OS map as being steeper than 20% (1 in 5). It was manageable and, as the day went on, to my great relief my hamstring gradually eased.

The day’s cycling was to be mainly along the tops of the hills following the coast, with occasional beautiful views over the Celtic Sea but when I reached the top my first view was back down towards Camarthen and I spotted, on the far side of a field, what looked like an ancient earthwork of which there are a number in the area; just the place to bury a venerable leader: his descendants would know he was still keeping a beady eye on them.

These were quiet lanes with just an occasional tractor and a lot of battered old Land Rovers, just the vehicle for farmers, narrow for the lanes and gateways, can go anywhere and easily repairable. Was happily philosophising about the rural life when I was suddenly startled by a buzzard which shot out of a bush when it was equally startled by my silent approach. They look beautiful birds soaring high in the sky; agitated at six feet away they seem huge and scary.

I suddenly came across a magnificent house with a long white front shimmering in the sunshine and stopped to get a better look, when the owner appeared in white stained overalls and proudly told me he just finishing painting the front. I mentioned the buzzard which he knew as this was in its hunting area. He was also frequently visited by a kite but the most spectacular visitor had been a peregrine falcon which usually kept watch from a neighbouring pylon but when he drove down a lane in his car it would fly along with him and if the car disturbed a small rodent it would dive down on to it. “Someone has shot it.” he said, bitterly. He was interested to know where I had been and he said that Pilgrims had been one of the earliest uses of the Ferry at Ferryside as they had been going to the shrines at St Davids and that on the OS map you could follow the Pilgrim’s trail. He also recommended Pendine as being a good place to visit, not the first time I had been told I must visit there for its beautiful sands.

Eventually Route 4 split and I had a choice either to continue up and over the hills or a diversion down to Laugharne on the River Taf where the map showed a castle and, further along the shore, Dylan Thomas’s boathouse, before rejoining the route at the summit at Three Lords. Working on the principle of never letting a castle be passed without inspection, I freewheeled down into a pretty little village with everything for tourists: cafes, gift shops including local handiwork and, overlooking it all, a splendid castle.

The castle had been built in the 13th century, replacing a wooden Norman one, captured by the Parliamentarians in the Civil War and partially dismantled and later turned into a tudor mansion. Both Dylan Thomas and Richard Hughes had used the summer house for writing in.

It was lunchtime and I spotted what could possibly have been an ideal pub. The problem with visiting somewhere to eat, as I had discovered earlier in the trip when I had my helmet stolen, was security of the bike and load as you usually have to go inside to order something. All my valuables are kept in my bar bag but that was too small for the iPad which I kept in a front pannier which could be easily taken off the bike by its handle and both then carried inside. This pub had a railed in section with rows of benches and I slid the bike with difficulty into a corner behind an amiable couple who would keep an eye on  it. The pub overlooked the village centre and, as the couple said, just the place to watch the world go by. Decided there was not time to go further down the coast to see the boathouse.

Soon after starting climbing the hill out of the village, I crawled slowly in low gear past a pair of horses and had time to exchange greetings with the riders. Later, when forced to push the bike, they came by me. I later crawled slowly by them again but said I expected to see them further up the hill. They wished me well as they said they would be turning off soon. It was a long struggle but it was worth it for eventually there was a view of a gloriously blue sea and the specks of some of the houses of Pendine. Broke my earlier promises to visit Pendine. It would be an exhilarating swoop down to the sea but could not face another 40 minute slog back up again.

Eventually I glided down to the coast at a pretty cove of Amroth on the Saundersfoot Bay. Then it was mainly along a joint bike and footpath which had become the Pembroke Coast Path, mainly off road past other coves. The cycle route and the coast path were now one and a lot of effort had been put into creating the Coast Path including a section created by the National Trust and three tunnels, the last emerging into Saundersfoot where I was staying for the night at a guest house. On the recommendation of the proprietor I went to The Chemist a little away from the centre, a friendly pub with good food overlooking the beach.