Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Back to The Beara Peninsula.

Can you get too much of a good thing?. Well I decided to test that theory last weekend when I headed back to the Beara Peninsula.

Friday August 3rd;

Three days off and a good weather forecast was too good an opportunity to miss so I packed up Friday morning and after a leisurely start headed West. To be honest I hadn't actually decided on my final destination as I drove back and it wasn't until I reached Barradubh that I finally decided to turn towards Beara. I had thought to head towards Derrynane and camp and experience the wonderful beaches there but I feared it would be super busy on a bank holiday weekend so Beara won. I had brought my bike as well and I was looking forward to getting a good cycle in during my stay. I drove back through Kilgarvan and Kenmare and when I reached Beara Camping I went in and booked my pitch for a couple of nights. It was now 15.00 (well I did say I had a leisurely start 😉) and after pitching my tent in the sheltered quiet child free area I wasted no time in getting the bike out and setting off for a cycle.
I was a bit annoyed with myself to have left my cycling shorts at home but there was nothing I could do now. I opted to head over the pass into Lauragh and then follow the coast road back to Tousist and then the campsite. The main road was quiet and the views down towards Lauragh and the idyllic valley were stunning. Any lingering yearning I had for the beaches of Derrynane were forgotten and I knew I had made a good choice. The descent was great and on a good road surface before finally turning onto the shady lane that heads towards the sea. Kilmacalogue harbour looked superb and once you round the headland things only improve. Now you are cycling alongside the sea with views across the Kenmare River to the mountains of the Everagh Peninsula. This couple of miles is wonderful and over all too soon but the next section goes through wonderful woodland. At Tousist I turned and followed a very narrow lane that required some care to navigate as it twisted and undulated through open scrubby ground and it had a strip of grass running along the middle of it. Soon I was back on the main road and then back to the campsite. It was only just over 15 miles but it was a delightful cycle. A mountain pass, a coastal road, oak woodland and wild scrubby ground was all packed in❤.

I was delighted with the cycle but I was also keen to do something else so without delay I stored the bike and after changing my footwear I went for a run. I headed in the twisty lane towards Gleninchaquin and basically I would decide en route how far I would go. This is a beautiful area where rugged mountains (albeit quite low ones) line each side of the valley and beautiful large lakes fill the valley floor. After seven kilometres you reach the back wall of the valley and here the spectacular Gleninchaquin Waterfall can be seen. Mind you it is looking somewhat deplinished right now after the dry summer. I didn't go that far though and instead I turned right and followed the Beara Way where it crossed between the lakes before climbing to the shoulder of Knockagarrane mountain. Here I turned and scrambled my way up and through the rock bands to reach the summit. The views, especially towards the west were magical in the silver light. After a brief rest I retraced m steps to rejoin the trail and enjoyed the run back to the roadway. At the little boathouse by the lakeside the temptation to go for a dip was too strong and I enjoyed a refreshing soak in the deep waters. It was still three kilometres back to the campsite but it soon passed. I enjoyed a very pleasant evening and went to sleep pleased with my day.

A stony beach near Beara Camping

Saturday August 4th;

The plan for today was a cycle. I haven't done much in the way of cycling this year and I was a little apprehensive about today but really looking forward to it at the same time. When I was last down here with Kevin we had planned to do this cycle (but missed out) so I was keen to try it today. In a nutshell the route was a toughie. From the campsite into Kenmare, over the Caha Pass to Glengarriff, across to Adrigole, over the Healy Pass to Lauragh and finally over Lauragh pass and then the campsite. 50 miles and around 1000 metres of climbing. Ouchie.
The first section to Kenmare is straightforward and went well. Next the turn towards Glengarriff and slowly but surely the climb begins. The road is in places fairly rough, which doesn't help, and I must confess I started to struggle pretty early on. I didn't have much left in the legs and by the time I was nearing the pass I was pretty whacked. Still I had a long wonderful descent to look forward to and I hoped this would allow me to recover somewhat. The day was a little overcast but quite warm and it was a joy to bask in the warm wind as I effortlessly travelled the four miles down into the village . At least I enjoyed all but the last quarter mile as it was there I hit a stone and punctured my front tyre.  Luckily I had a spare tube so a crisis was averted and I was soon on my way again. I had sort of planned to have a pitstop in the village but after my unscheduled rest I didn't delay and turned instead for Adrigole. Things were nice and easy for a while but soon the climbing begins again until you crest a steep hill not far from Zetland Pier (yes I was tempted). Blessed relief follows in the form of a long gradual descent that stretches until a mile short of Adrigole. This is a stunning section as you wheel easily towards Hungry Hill on a good road with the sea on the left. Everywhere wildflowers dress the hedgerows and no matter where you look there is much to please the eye. I decided to stop in the village for a bite to eat before I turned and faced into the Healy Pass climb.
Approaching Adrigole

The Healy Pass

Glandore Lake
I have climbed here before and the gradient isn't too steep but today I struggled from the start. Delightful and all as the scenery is, my main concern was being able to keep pedalling. One big plus was the almost complete lack of cars. I think I met two coming towards me and probably two passed me out. What a bonus on a fine weekend and another reason why I believe I chose correctly in coming here. Man oh man it was a struggle and it seemed a never ending one at that. The road is as close as we get in Ireland to an Alpine pass style road and twists back on itself as it winds up through the wild  landscape. By the time I reached the pass I thought my legs would buckle when I got off to buy a coke in the little shop that is open during the high tourist season. At least I had most of the climbing done by now. The descent is delightful but I was quite careful in my tired state. Once I reached Lauragh I turned and faced into the final climb of the day. It's fair to say that this one was just as hard for me but I eventually passed over the top and free wheeled most of the way back. I was delighted to reach the campsite and the fine shower and a hot drink went some way to reviving me as did another dip in the lake that evening. All in all, despite the earlier fatigue I really enjoyed the day.

Sunday August 5th;

Yesterday had started off overcast and brightened up as the day progressed and I hoped that today would follow suit. It was a little cooler and quite cloudy as I packed up and setting off for Lauragh. Today's plan was to do the Coomeengera Horseshoe walk which is without doubt one of the finest in the Southwest of Ireland. It must have been 12 years since I had last done it and I was really looking forward to returning. It was somewhat dissappointing to see the summits shrouded in mist but as I said I was hopeful that a clearance would arrive. After driving through the hamlet I turned left and drove along the shaded wooded laneway before turning right and following this lane to its end near a small bungalow. Here you are on the cusp of entering the wild and rugged Rabhach Glen. This wild, remote and rugged ground has a grim history where a deserter from the naval based in Castletownbere in the early 1800s was killed by a local called Rabhach O'Sullivan who later killed a local woman who had witnessed the murder. He then hid out in a cave on the mountainside for a year before being captured and hung. Today thankfully all there is to worry about is negotiating the rugged ground into the heart of the horseshoe where the valley widens and a wonderful and varied mountain scene surrounds you.
The entrance to the glen

After the narrow entrance it opens out inside

Wild country
The first top of the round is the incongruously named Tooth mountain 593 metres whose rugged rather indistinct summit is easily reached by climbing and easy gully beyond the river and climbing northwest to the top. Though things had been clearing the cloud arrived back on the summit with wonderful timing just as I arrived. I lingered a while and managed to snach some misty views down before turning and easily reaching the next summit Coomacloghane which is a metre short of the 600 mark. After this there is a drop to a wide pass before climbing to the broad boggy almost level crest. Now you turn left (south) and head easily towards Eskatarriff 600 mtrs. From here you are looking out at the full glory of the glen and the rest of Beara's mountains and those further afield can be seen. As you may have guessed, the weather had indeed improved and the cloud was now well above the tops. I was really enjoying myself and my legs once again felt strong. Next up comes Lackabane which at 603 metres is the highest point of the whole trip. Don't be fooled by the modest heights of these hills. The ground hereabouts is rough and tough and progress is seldom easy. Even with the modest height there is still about 1000 metres of climbing to be done before the route is finished. After Lackabane there is a steep descent along a pleasingly narrow ridge to reach the gully that offers a way down to the valley floor. This broad grassy gully is steep in places and would require a little care in wet conditions. Today it was fine and I was soon back in the valley where it was a short walk to my car. At just over 4 hours it hadn't been too taxing and was a very enjoyable outing and one I certainly won't wait another 12 years to do.

Gnarly ground on the summit of Tooth

Looking out the glen

Hungry Hill..everywhere wild rugged ground

Final section..towards Lackabane...there must be some rock routes to be done there

To finish off the trip I decided that a dip in the sea would be just the ticket so after returning to the main road I turned left and drove to Ardgroom where I found the secluded little stony beach at Droumard. There I enjoyed a solitary swim in the calm warm waters. It was wonderful and ended the adventure perfectly. I didn't even mind the drive home.
Droumard Beach..Very nice
 Beara soothes the soul.❤.