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