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Monday, August 31, 2015

A Fine Round In The Galtees

Sunday I went for a hike on the Galtee Muntains. As this would be my last outing before I went ot the Alps I wanted to make it a decent one so I set off from Kings Yard just after 11am and climbed Galtymor via Knocknagalty. It was a grey morning but the cloud was well above the summits and there was just a gentle zephyr of breeze. I had put my rope into the bag to add a bit of weight and I set a good pace as well. As is usual I had the mountain to myself until I reached the summit plateau and once I set off towards the distant Temple Hill I was once again left in solitude for the most part. I do enjoy the walk along the ridge towards Lyacapull with its wonderful views to the expanse of plain to the northwest as the mountains drop steeply for over 2000ft. From Lyracapull I dropped down and crossed the saddle and climbed up to the splendid summit of Temple Hill. This was my first ever mountain summit and the views from the top remain as lovely today as they were all those years ago. I wasn't able to linger too long however as there were lots of wasps about and they were taking quite a liking to me so I returned to the saddle after having a rather harried bite to eat. Next up was Knockaterriff and then a big drop into the glen below before a final 230 meter climb to Monabrack from where I returned easily to the car. Five hours forty five minutes had passed and I had climbed about 1500 meters and covered about 17 kilometers. It had been a good day for wildlife as well as I had the pleasure of seeing a Hen Harrier, a Buzzard, a Kestrel and the seldom seen Irish Lizard. I was well pleased. Next up Chamonix.


Looking west along the ridge

Galtymor summit

Looking back at the north side of Galtymor

Lovely steep sweep to the northwest

A heavily cairned Temple Hill summit

All the way back to Galtymor

Don't step on me please!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fanore Half Marathon 2015

Friday August 21st;

Last weekend I went to one of my favourite places "The Burren" in county Clare to compete in the Fanore Half Marathon again. This would be my fifth time doing it and it is an event I really enjoy. It isn't one of the big high pressure athletic events but it has a friendly relaxed atmosphere and this coupled with the stunning scenery makes it a joy to visit. I took my camping stuff and as the forecast was reasonable (for Saturday at least) I was hopeful of having a good time. I set up my tent in the wild camping spot near Ballyryan and I was delighted to have it all to myself. My joy however was short lived as a couple of carloads of twenty somethings who were intent on having a party arrived. The screech of laughter from one of the females (that I was certain could actually shatter glass) as their tents were going up, about 30ft away, decided me and I packed everything away and moved home about 500 meters up the road to another spot. I had no sooner pitched my tent and gotten myself sorted for dinner when a few more carloads arrived and set up residence. Out of options and as it was nearly 8pm I decided to grin and bear it and settled for the night. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out that this group were more intent on a good nights sleep before a days rock climbing the following day than having a party so I slept very well. Result !

Lovely evening and lovely place

Rock climbing heaven

Saturday August 22nd;

I was a little disappointed to hear gentle rain hitting the tent when I woke up. The forecast was for dry weather but hey ho. It dried off in good time for me to have breakfast outside and I was able to decamp before more drizzle and mist arrived. I was a little apprehensive about the run as I really hadn't put many miles up of late but I was feeling quite strong and I was determined to just take it nice and easy and try and enjoy the run. The mist was intermittent and the scenery was fantastic and there was a nice little atmosphere building as the start time of 11am neared. I did a bit of gentle jogging to loosen out and then we were off. Nice and easy does it and I set a steady pace for the first two and a half miles. Not that I had any choice as they are all uphill. It was a joy to reach the flat plateau on top and the new route this year followed delightful flower bedecked little lanes that wend and wound their way around and up and over the hilltop. From mile three to eight was a delight with some short hills and nice downhill stretches which I ran in the company of a local woman. We chatted away as we ran and the miles passed easily. I was surprised and delighted to find that we were actually going at a good pace and I felt pretty good as we faced a long stiff hill between mile eight and nine. I made a good pace up this and I as knew that the final miles were back down the initial stretch I wasn't too concerned about running out of steam. Finally the downhill came and I pushed hard (for me) all the way to the finish line and I was delighted to finish in 1 hour 45 mins. I was chuffed with my effort and the company and food in the by now gloriously sunny day finished off the event nicely.
Deserted cottages by the shore at Fanore

Before the run

After the run...nice rock pools to bathe in.

The odd downpour is never too far away


Across Galway Bay towards the mountains of Connemara

I wandered down to the seas edge when I was rested and fed and I found a little rockpool where I sat into it and gave myself a wash as the water roiled nearby. It was lovely. I had taken my bike with me for the weekend and I hoped to enjoy a cycle in the area on the following day so I decided to while away the afternoon exploring the local area. I visited Black Head where the remarkable limestone scenery of the area can be seen to best advantage and I basked in the warm sun for a while before visiting the village of Ballyvaughan for supplies and heading back to to my camping spot and settling down for the evening. Camping with my car nearby is a real luxury for me and I was something of a curiosity for the hoards of tourists who were periodically dropped off by tour buses as I sat by my tent in my chair and just soaked in the views. The rock climbers were still around and they had left their tents up so they would be around for tonight as well. Unfortunately the weather forecast for tomorrow was now quite poor and heavy rain was promised but I was going to enjoy this evening anyway and if the worst came to the worst I would just head home in the morning. The sunset was spectacular and I felt privileged indeed to be able to enjoy such a beautiful place. The rock climbers were back before dark and as the rain started to fall they settled in a group under a canopy for the evening. I wasn't too bothered by them but it seemed that they thought that as tomorrow would be a washout they might as well have a blowout and my humour wasn't at its best at four thirty in the morning when they finally decided to retire to their tents. This is I guess the risk you take when you camp in places like this. Still it was worth it for the sunset..I think.
Not too much solitude while the buses are calling.

Room with a view


It just got better and better


Sunday August 23rd;

I had managed to get a few hours sleep and it was with some delight that I emerged from my tent after 8am to see that the day was actually showing some promise and I hoped that the rain had passed overnight. I made myself a good breakfast of porridge with decent coffee to follow and I was all packed up and ready to embark on my cycle before 10am. It was with some satisfaction I saw some bleary heads appear from the tents and I hoped that they regretted their excesses of the night. I had in mind to cycle as far as Lahinch on the coast road before turning inland as far as Lisdoonvarna and from there I would have a couple of choices, depending on how I felt, as to whether to continue on to Ballyvaughan and return to my car via Black Head or cut things short and return directly to my car from there. I was pleased to find that the run of the previous day hadn't affected me too much and I was soon cycling well as I headed for Doolin. Great views from high above the sea across to the Aran Islands were good compensation for the hill climb as I headed towards Moher where I paid a fleeting visit to see the world famous cliffs. Now it was a long downhill stretch to the seashore again and with a tailwind I whizzed into the busy seaside village of Lahinch which is a favourite spot for surfers and golfers alike.

Nice morning for a bike ride

The Cliffs Of Moher..some of them.

Plenty surfers but not a lot of surf today

On Corkscrew hill looking towards Ballyvaughan

The Wild Atlantic Way..whats not to like.
 Next I was heading inland and the undulating road all the way to Lisdoonvarna (famed as a matchmaking hotspot) was quite tough in places. It was a total of 28 miles to here and I took the opportunity to rest and have a coffee before setting off on the longer variant and heading for Ballyvaughan. Another undulating road ensued but it had a great surface and I enjoyed the journey. I arrived at the top of "Corkscrew Hill" with its marvelous views of the hills around Ballyvaughan where I pulled in to a viewing bay to relax a while. Here a group of enterprising kids ranging in age from about 7 to 12 years old were busking with a variety of instruments. While they were undoubtedly full of enterprise and enthusiasm they were unfortunately sorely lacking in talent (or training) and the lamentable screeching sound that they produced ensured I didn't linger too long. Still the tourists seemed to find it amusing. Downhill and easily into Ballyvaughan where I turned onto the coast road again. I now had about 14 miles back to the car and I had a little trepidation about the amount of buses I would face on the relatively narrow road. As it was still fairly early I hoped they wouldn't arrived until later in the day and so it proved to be. I didn't meet one bus and I was able to enjoy the ride back. I arrived at the car to find a total of four buses parked as their passengers enjoyed the view. My timing it seemed had been perfect. It had been a round trip of over 51 miles and I must say I felt pretty good. I changed clothes and stored my bike and set off on the 2.5 hour drive home. I love the Burren and I will be back.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Two Day Bike Ride In The Southwest. Glorious !

Wednesday August 12th;

With a good weather forecast and a newly serviced bike I set off from Killarney just before 11am with a vague plan to cycle west and see how far I would get over a couple of days. Its fair to say that I'm no great cyclist and my normal bike rides to date have tended to be in the 25 to 45 mile range so it would be interesting to see how I would fare on longer days. As I was planning to spend two days out I brought a change of clothes, shoes etc and some food and my cookset and gas (I just can't seem to let go of the camping habits). Indeed it was a last minute decision to leave my tent behind and I would stay in a B&B overnight. So not only was I venturing into the unknown with the longer cycles but I would have a fairly laden rucksack on my back which would add to the load. On the plus side was the weather which had remained true to the forecast and looked set fair. I originally had thought to go into Killorglin and go around Caragh Lake to Glencar and from there to Waterville via the Ballaghisheen Gap but as Puck Fair was on I decided to give Killorglin a miss and went directly to Glencar instead. Right from the start the route delivers, with the majestic scenery of the Magillicuddy Reeks rising ever more spectacularly on my left.

Benkeeragh rising into the cloud

Across Lough Acoose towards the Coumloughra Horseshoe

Wild ground looking towards Mullaghanattin
Soon the hustle and bustle of the ring of Kerry is left behind and the road is much quieter all the way to Waterville which allows one to relax and take in the views. I was also pleased to find that the backpack was quite comfortable (well I am very used to carrying it on the hills) and causing me no problems. After passing Glencar the landscape becomes even wilder and as you cycle through the expanse of bog on the way to Ballaghisheen Gap it is easy to feel that you have entered another world. I found the pull up to the Gap a struggle but boy is it worth it when you get there. The view back to the Reeks is truly spectacular and must be one of the very best in these islands. After a suitable rest there comes the reward of a long downhill section on the other side and then the mainly flat run all the way to Waterville. I was feeling quite tired here as I had covered nearly forty miles so I stopped and enjoyed a bite of lunch in the sun. The only downside now was that I was back on the busy Ring of Kerry route so as it was now the height of the tourist season I would have to contend with lots of traffic. The next big pull up the the spectacular viewpoint of Coomakista actually went well and I felt quite strong. My oh my what a wonderful place to be on a day such as this. Even the hoards of tourists couldn't spoil my mood and it was actually great to see their evident joy at the scenery. On a day such as this it is easy to understand why people come from all over the world to visit here. The descent to Caherdaniel was a joy and my strength stayed with me all the way to a very very busy Sneem where another coffee was enjoyed. I hadn't been sure how well I would fare but I now felt confident that even though I had done almost sixty miles I would be able to get as far as Kenmare this evening which would make a total of 78 miles with over 1200 mtrs of climbing. It is mostly a flat road so I made good progress and after a couple of house full scenarios I found a reasonable B&B just outside the town. I slept very well.
The view back from Ballaghisheen

Scariff and Deenish Ilands

Over Derrynane

Whats not to like

Thursday August 13th;

After a full Irish breakfast I almost felt ready for the day ahead. That is until my backside tried to settle on the saddle and the aches from a (for me anyway) long day the day before made themselves felt. Oh dear, I hoped that things would settle down soon but the rough road on the way to Glengarriff didn't help matters. Eventually though my mind became more occupied with other things ( like the climb up to the Caha Pass) and I settled into the rhythm of the day. Once you pass Bonane the land becomes once again rugged and wild and the astonishing scenery of the Beara Peninsula envelopes you. The pass itself is quite spectacular and you have to go through a tunnel at the top but it is when you emerge on the other side the glory that is the valley that flows down to the village of Glengarriff is breathtaking (that is if you have any left after the 300 mtr climb). Lakes, mountains contorted my convoluted rock and ancient oak forests are framed by a brilliant blue sea. It it amazing stuff and I made sure to savour the views on the excellent and long descent. Four miles pass without having to pedal so I was well rested by the time I reached the pretty village. I still wasn't sure how far I would go today and I had the option of going over the Healy Pass to Lauragh and back to Kenmare or continuing along the peninsula as far as Ahillies and around to Eyeries and then to Kenmare. The long (second) route would make it an 86 mile outing and I would then have to get to Killarney another 20 miles further but I had often thought how great it would be to cycle the whole peninsula so I think the decision was already made.
Top of the Caha Pass



Typical mountain fare on the Beara Peninsula

Hungry Hill looms over Adrigole

Once you leave Glengarriff it isn't too long before you have to start climbing again and the steep final pull up to Derreenacarrin comes as something of a shock but the gentle glide on the other side with the mighty bulk of Hungry Hill directly ahead is more than enough compensation. It really is an impressive mountain and one I must explore more. When I reached Adrigole I didn't have to think long before opting to continue on the longer route. The weather was so great and it might be some time before I would get such a glorious chance again so it was an easy decision. The road on to the busy fishing town of Castletownbere is again mostly flat and I made good progress. This is again at the 40 mile mark so I had a rest here and enjoyed a coffee by the waterside. Once beyond the town you really get the feeling of being at the remote western tip of Europe. The sea dominates the horizon and the land is wild and rugged. A breeze had sprung up and it made progress on the uphill sections (and there were a couple of them) on the way to Ahillies difficult for my tiring body. Yet again the views continued to be stunning and I drew inspiration (if not strength) from them. Suddenly you arrive at Bealbarnish Gap and almost surreal beauty of the bay that holds the picturesque village of Allihies is laid out before you. If you didn't enjoy this view there would be something seriously wrong with you. It is amazing. Swiftly downhill through flowering verges and up into the colourful village before continuing tortuously up and down for the next 7 kilometers before finally reaching the hilltop at Caherkeen where I rested and ate my lunch.

Castletownbere nestling under Hungry Hill

Towards Dursey Island

Allihies bay

Steep hills

If you are going to have lunch its not a bad spot.

Kilmakilloge Harbour

Climbing up from Lauragh

Glentrastel
That short stretch was for me the hardest of the whole route. Several short but brutally steep sections sapped what little I had left in my legs and I wondered how I was going to get as far as Kenmare, never mind Killarney. Now I was on the northern shores of the peninsula once again and new vistas were to be enjoyed. The mountains of the Everagh Peninsula stretched away to the east. Scariff and Deenish Islands looked great and in the further distance the Skelligs rose from the azure sea. After a good rest I was pleased to find the road to Eyeries was flat and easy and this easy roadway continued all the way to Lauragh. The almost semi tropical Kilmakilloge Harbour basked in the sun and helped distract me from the looming climb ahead which came the form of the almost 200 mtr pull up and around the lovely little peak of Knockanoughanish. I was really pleased to find that I was able to handle this quite well and reached the top in reasonable fettle. I now knew that Kenmare was within my sights and indeed the return went very well so after another coffee I set off for Killarney. The long climb up to Molls Gap would be the next and final obstacle of the route but I took it fairly gently (like I had a choice) and eventually was able to enjoy the familiar downhill section towards Ladies View and on to Killarney. Once again the Reeks were dominant and the sweeping views from the Black Valley to the Gap of Dunloe is always a joy. I arrived back into a thronged Killarney and caught my train back home very very tired (after almost 110 miles and over 2000 mtrs of climbing) and very very satisfied. I must do more biking trips in the future.
After Molls Gap looking at the Gap of Dunloe

From Ladies View looking towards journeys end Killarney