BIKING IN WESTERN IRELAND JUNE/JULY 2013
Our friend Angela who works in Prague suggests hiking in Ireland at the end of our school year and after some discussion the trip morphs into a biking trip. Lots of Internet research leads us to south western Ireland, Killarney and the Dingle peninsula. We invest in some good rain gear anticipating the typical Irish weather.
29 Jun Saturday Bonn to Dusseldorf to Dublin. We fly to Dublin fully loaded with luggage as we will continue straight to the US after the Ireland experience, so we have all of our biking gear including helmets and panniers as well as all of our US essentials. We really don’t like going through Heathrow - what a confusing, busy airport and we end up running down a loooonnngg hallway to barely make our connecting flight. We meet up with Angela at a B&B in Dublin in a quiet section outside the main city. Dublin is on the eastern coast of Ireland. It’s our first introduction to the well renowned Irish hospitality as our host regals us with greetings, information, and Irish lore.
30 Jun Sunday Dublin to Killarney. The day starts with our first Irish breakfast - eggs, ham, sausage, blood sausage, soda bread, tea, jam, oatmeal... OK, we now know what we will order next time! We take the train from Dublin to Killarney. Our leaving is delayed but after that, it’s a smooth, quiet train ride through pretty countryside to Killarney. Killarney has become sort of a tourist mecca, but it’s quiet when we arrive. We locate our bike rental place, find bikes that suit us, repack gear into our panniers and leave the big luggage at the bike store. The owners at the bike store are very friendly and send us on our way with good wishes. We’re on bikes now for the next 5 days. We ride to our B&B in Killarney which is a lovely house decorated in 19th century typical Irish fashion. http://www.countesshousekillarney.com After parking the bikes we walk around Killarney... a pub on every corner, lots of tourist shops, and a shop full of beautiful Irish sweaters which Angela finds she can’t resist.
1 July Monday Killarney to Sneem. This day starts with our breakfast of Irish oatmeal and more delicious brown soda bread - I have to try and make some when we get home. It’a a lovely blue day as we start off. We stop at the Muckross House - an immense home surrounded by extensive grounds and gardens. http://www.muckross-house.ie
We could spend the whole day here, but have a lot of riding still to do so after a brief stop we continue on. Next is a stop at the Torc Waterfall, a small waterfall in the National Park. OK, now it’s some serious riding as we start a long, steady uphill grind. It’s up to Ladies View which overlooks some lakes and valleys. The name comes from the pleasure expressed by Queen Victoria’s Ladies-in-Waiting on their visit to the spot in 1861. http://ladiesview.com
The 10K climb continues up through Moll’s Gap (900 foot elevation gain) and the reward is lunch at the cafe at the top of the gap. There are a bunch of young, fit men on road bikes doing some kind of a charity cycle. Angela gets her first long downhill as we watch her speed down the slope! We arrive in the small village of Sneem for our overnight. The B&B is next to a tidal inlet that reminds us of Maine in the US. http://www.sneemriverlodge.ie We walk to town and to a local pub for dinner.
2 July Tuesday Sneem to Glenbeigh. It’s typical Irish weather with a forecast of rain for most of the day. It’s a steady drizzle, but not bucketing down rain. We ride along very narrow roads where the bushes reach out into the driving lanes. There are no bike lanes, but luckily there is little traffic. We pass over an old, picturesque bridge and stop for photos. We stop at an old pub in the middle of nowhere to get dried off and have some tea. The only thing on the menu is ham & cheese sandwiches, Pringles and tea aside from the usual bar spirits and beer. Well, those sandwiches were really good and the tea was hot! Then it’s another climb up another gap, the Gap of Ballaghbearna. This was a ride through lovely country - I think one car came over the gap road as we were there. The hills and countryside extended as far as we could see with only mountains, sheep, and the occasional building. We pushed our bikes up some sections and rode others. It’s another wild downhill into the surrounding valleys. More rain takes us into Glenbeigh where we check into our hotel. This hotel is well equipped for wet travelers as it has a ‘drying room’ - you bring all your wet gear to this small room and hang it up - the room has a heater which in a short time dries all your drippy stuff. http://kerryoceanlodge.com Dinner again at a local pub.
3 July Wednesday Glenbeigh to Dingle by coach. The owner of the hotel helps us hire a van to take us to the Dingle peninsula. Again, the Irish friendliness manifests in our driver as he tells us all about the local area during our hours ride. He lets us know that the local people use a lot of ‘colorful’ language which he demonstrates with the use of the f-word as an essential part of his communication! He stops by the strand - a real wide sand beach on the way and even takes up part way up a pass to show us what we will be tackling the next day. Dingle is a lovely, seaside village. There is apparently a friendly dolphin named Fungie which has helped turn the village into a tourist destination as he has been hanging around the harbor for many years. We take Ann’s bike to a local repair shop as the bearings in the front axle have been squealing and he helps us get it all repaired. We bike to our B&B - on a hill outside of the town. It has the perfect sitting room overlooking the water. Today, there is not much to see as the rain has returned. The stunning view from this peninsula was going to be a highlight of our trip. But rain certainly changed that! Ann and Billy do the rain ride while Angela opts for a book, cup of tea in the B&B sitting room. http://www.bedandbreakfastdingle.com The ride is spectacular even with the limited visibility - we would love to do it again on a good day! The road winds around the point of the peninsula past steep cliffs where we can’t believe how sheep can graze without falling into the depths below. There are stone walls, old buildings, hills and wild rain! We stop at a local museum to dry off and have some tea and scones - wow, we love this tea and scone culture! We finish the loop and return to the B&B. Enough bike riding in the rain! We hire a taxi to take us to town for dinner.
4 July Thursday Dingle to Killorglin. We can get to Killorglin 2 ways: up over the Conner Pass or around the other side of the peninsula. We opt for the pass so it’s another climb with some walking and some riding. Sheep rest along the side of the road unbothered by cars and bikes. The top of the pass is shrouded in clouds. The downhill is a wonderful, long descent - Angela gets there much ahead of us! But, we did stop to take a couple of photos. It’a a lovely cycle into Killorglin then up a small hill to our B&B http://torinehouse.com
A walk into town for dinner takes us to a Chinese restaurant where we have fun speaking with the owners and Angela uses her Mandarin as well - it’s always interesting to see how people got to owning a Chinese restaurant in another country.
5 July Friday Killorglin to Killarney. It’s a beautiful, warm, blue day as we head out from Killorglin. It’s a much shorter ride today so we have more time to ‘play tourist’ - we stop at an old church with many celtic crosses in the graveyard and then choose to go look at the Gap of Dungloe. We ride up a ways and admire the view, but don’t go to the top. Riding back into Killarney, the town is jumping with 1000’s of people who will be doing the “Ring of Kerry” cycle event starting the next day. We ride 5K out of town to a quiet B&B in the countryside away from the madness of town. The B&B sits on a small hill overlooking the peaceful valley - there is even a swing to relax on and read a book. http://rivervalleyfarmbb.com We hang out there for a couple of hours and then ride back into town to return the bikes. The people at the bike rental are overwhelmed and crazily busy. We manage to return our bikes, collect our luggage and get some dinner. A taxi returns us to our B&B with a reservation to take us back to town the next morning to the train.
6 July Saturday Killarney to Dublin. We hang around the B&B for a while in the morning and have a leisurely breakfast then catch the train from Killarney back to Dublin. A taxi takes us out to our hotel which is within walking distance of the Dublin airport. There is not a lot of choices around for dinner, so we walk to the airport and eat there.
7 July Sunday Dublin to New York. Our flight leaves earlier than Angela’s so we head out of the hotel early. Dublin is a smallish airport so we give ourselves reasonable time to catch our flight - well what we thought would be reasonable time! No one told us that we have to go through US customs on the Ireland side of the world so we literally go through about 3 screenings, shuffled from one part of the airport to another with long lines everywhere. We barely make our flight only to board and find no in seat entertainment - yes that sounds really spoiled but on long flights it’s really nice to have your own little entertainment system. But, actually the flight is fine, the time passes quickly and we are soon on the US side - now all that preflight clearance stuff is to our advantage as we walk directly to baggage claim, skipping immigration and out into the US.
The countryside was gorgeous, the friendliness and hospitality of the Irish people lived up to their reputation and we rate the trip high on our list of travels!