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|
|The view back from Ballaghisheen|
|Scariff and Deenish Ilands|
|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|
|If you are going to have lunch its not a bad spot.|
|Climbing up from Lauragh|
|After Molls Gap looking at the Gap of Dunloe|
|From Ladies View looking towards journeys end Killarney|