Ireland, June 2017 - part 2

Part 1 - Part 2

15 June
The problem with pitching my tent right by the sea was that the wind kept me awake most of the night.

I didn't have much of a plan for the day, just explore the Iveragh Peninsula following part of the Ring of Kerry.

All day long I found some parts of the Ring of Kerry to be fun for riding a bit harder. Most of the roads are of the slow and bumpy kind. I think my spine is being rearranged in a novel way. I'll have to put back my vertebrae in the correct order at the end of this trip.

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The views from above when approaching Killarney National Park are superb.

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Then I walked most of the Gap of Dunloe. I turned around when a sudden head wind literally stopped me. I guess I could have done it on the bike as it was not too busy, but it was probably better on foot.

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After that I just followed any tourist information sign that seemed interesting. The best one was taking the bridge to Valentia Island.

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In the morning there were too many other tourists around. Parking was difficult. But maybe they didn't go past Killarney as the rest of the day was fine. The Ring of Kerry doesn't have the charm of Baera or Sheep's Head but it is beautiful too.

My camping spot is once again quite amazing. Now, I'm waiting for the music to start at the pub.

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16 June
I set off quite late this morning as I was making the most of my stunning camping spot.

I crossed through the Kerry Highlands for great views. At least most of the time, because I found myself in the fog on the mountain pass.

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Then I went to explore Dingle Peninsula, especially Slea Head, stopping at beaches and viewpoints, the Galarus Oratory... A detour to Brandon Point was very much worth it as the view was superb.

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I briefly stopped in Dingle, very colourful town, maybe the prettiest I've seen so far. I left the peninsula via another mountain pass and once again it was above the cloud level and the visibility was extremely poor.

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I took the ferry at Tarbert and went to a campsite on the coast. The pub is quite far, I'm not going.

17 June
Fantastic weather today!

I was told twice to go see the cliffs on Loop Head and give the more famous Moher a miss. So I spent the morning on Loop Head; first the lighthouse then the cliffs all along the coast. I really liked the strange rock formations at Bridges of Ross. I kept telling myself that I would ride on for a while and less than a minute later I went "oooh" and stopped again.

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The cliffs of Moher were on my way anyway but 10 km before the traffic started. I parked just after the visitor centre and crossed a field to get a good view. The cliffs are impressive but Loop Head is indeed more beautiful and much quieter.

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I wanted to follow the coastal road but there was a cycling event and it was horrible (probably for the cyclists too). I took the first road out of this mess and went to the Burren National Park for a short - 7km - but very difficult walk. This place is just weird and wonderful.

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The campsite in Galway is many steps down from all the previous ones but the city should be a convenient hub for the next couple of days.

18 June
Rain. Not too heavy but annoying. I set off to check out the Connemara anyway. I went to Roundstone, a pretty village, a tried to hike to the top of Errisbeg. I turned around about halfway through when I was in the clouds. It was fun for a bit but it was very wet and the visibility stretched as far as the nearest sheep.

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I stocked up on bread (soda bread can be half decent then) and Irish cheese (excellent) at the small country market. I went on to ride the road across the bog north of Roundstone, and then the Sky Road, and along to Cleggan.

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Just as I was almost back in Galway, the sun came out!

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I spent the evening in Galway's pubs listening to traditional music.

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19 June
I returned to the Connemara today and the weather was much nicer. It became cloudy as I headed north but it cleared up a bit later.

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I visited Kylemore, a mansion turned abbey. The house is impressive but it is the landscape all around that makes it so special. The Victorian walled garden is fantastic. I just wish I'd skipped the woodland walk. My legs are aching now.

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I rode around the Renvyle peninsula. It was one of the most spectacular places I've seen so far. I stopped at a small sandy beach to walk in the sea. The water was cold - no surprise.

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Another nice day but I'm tired now. I think I need a rest day...

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20 June
Today was a rest day of sorts.

First I got new rubber for my bike. This took a while because the delivery truck was late. But I didn't mind as the little family-run workshop was very friendly and in the middle of the countryside. So now I've got Dunlop Road Smart 3 rubber. They feel very different from the Michelin I've been using for years. I'm not sure yet what to think.

I made a little detour to the Corlea prehistoric trackway. In the 2nd century BC a wooden road was built on top of the bog. It obviously sank and was preserved in the peat. A small section has been uncovered. It's very mysterious. Where did it go? Why did they build it when they must have known it would sink?

I spent a lazy afternoon in Athlone, looking around the old town and the castle. I'm camping 6 km out of the town so I walked half way to catch a bus. I had a fantastic meal near the castle, that made up for yesterday's. A few pints in Ireland's oldest pub and I'll have to find a taxi or walk back all the way.

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Musicians have just turned up and are setting up, so I'll be staying here for a while...

Not so sure if this really was a rest day.

21 June
I left the campsite late as I had to recover from my rest day. Also it was raining a lot so I just waited.

I visited the early Christian site at Clonmacnoise. It was interesting but I was struggling with the sudden humid heat.

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I went on to Bir castle, all the time wishing I had summer riding gear. When I got there I didn't go in. I didn't want to walk around the castle grounds in this heat. I was more comfortable on the bike. I followed interesting road signs. Some turned to nothing, others had nice views. One sent me to Ross Quay, on the shore of Lough Derg. It was a beautiful place for a late lunch.

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Later, I visited Quin Abbey, to keep with the religious theme of the morning. It is an old fort converted into an abbey.

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I'm camping in Corrofin. There won't be a long walk back from the pub tonight. It's just across the road. Music nights are generally only once a week in the villages. I've been lucky often to be there on the right day. And that's true again today.

22 June
I had a very nice day of riding and walking today. The roads in the morning were easy and pleasant, except between Limerick's suburbia and Tipperary but that went quickly anyway.

I started a short walk in the Glen of Aherlow but ended up with a long walk because I made some detours for the views. It was great. When I came back to my bike some American tourists were complaining about the landscape and left.

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I had a quick wander in Dungarvan and its castle. The last 40 kilometers to Tramore, where I stopped for the night, were a treat. The first half because of the twisties and the second because of spectacular coastline and the copper mine ruins. I stopped at an old mine with the unlikely name of Tankardstown.

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On the way to town, I discovered Newtown Cove. Many people were swimming but most of them had wet suits. What a fantastic little place!

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Tramore is a strange town. Some parts are like a postcard of a typical Irish small town and others are a sad holiday resort (reminds me of a smaller Yarmouth).

23 June
I didn't sleep much last night. The wind was shaking my tent and it was incredibly humid.

I had a look at Waterford, just a few miles away. It is a shame that the riverside is entirely filled with car parks. The town center is nice though.

I planned a stop in Duncannon but with the dark skies and the wind, it didn't look very welcoming. There is a huge beach but it is dangerous to swim there. I crossed the Suir by ferry from East Passage, which is a tiny but very pretty village. I made on more stop at Tintern Abbey, mostly because I have been to the abbey of the same name in Wales. I discovered that there is a connection: monks from Wales went to the new abbey in Ireland when it was established.

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The campsite in Wexford is particularly exposed to the wind. The restaurants are expensive here! On the other hand there are a lot of pubs.

24 June
The wind had died down and the weather was better in the morning. I had only one thing planned for the day, walking in the Wicklow National Park.

Unfortunately when I arrived in Glendalough it was very dark again and drizzling a bit. But it improved slowly and the afternoon was beautiful. I started a walk with nice views over the glen and the medieval sites.

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There is a boardwalk around the Lower Lake so I took that. Then after a spot of lunch I went on a longer walk around and over the Upper Lake. This one was just unbelievable. It follows the lake's shore then goes to the miners village and straight up into the hills, returning on a wooden track on the other side of the lake. A lot of effort has gone into building this path. And it was worth it, this is amazing.

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I don't know if I kept the best for last but it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

I came back just on time to take advantage of the early bird menu at one of the nice restaurants in Wexford. Exceptional food.

25 June
And that's it. I'm on the ferry back.

A few reasons to go back to Ireland :
- I've not been to Donegal
- I've not been to Northern Ireland, so I still only know three of the countries in the UK
- I didn't try the Irish whiskeys
- There are so many places I missed on the way
- I don't need reasons anyway.

Part 1 - Part 2