Author Topic: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour  (Read 6326 times)


  • Mad pie-hating female
Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« on: 29 August, 2010, 03:50:15 pm »
I am going to attempt to write a report of this trip. I had only a sketchy idea of my route beforehand and the only deadline I had was to meet my daughter in Glasgow on the 17th August (that was the deadline when I left anyway). And I had to be back in Glasgow for a London bound train booked  on the 19th as Mario (OH) had organised week away in luxury cottage as a birthday treat for me.
 Day 1" July 29th
Ferry to Cork from Swansea. Overnight route and I treated myself to a cabin for 50 quid.  Well worth it.  Began my trip showered and refreshed.  I met a young Polish guy on some kind of Specialized off road thing with front suspension, loaded up for cyclecamping.  (met a lot of people using this kind of setup). He had set himself a target of 100 miles a day since he left Poland- he was travelling back to Dublin  where he lived.  He had largely kept to his target and had ridden from Poland to Ireland in some ridiculously short number of days.  Then, having ridden like mad from Bath to Swansea on Monday he had missed the ferry by ten minutes and had to wait till Wednesday for the next one.  There is a moral there somewhere and it involves slowing down and taking time to appreciate your surroundings.  But a great guy and fairplay to him- that’s some cycling.

After a brief visit to Cork (a few miles north of the ferry terminal) I set off proper and headed for Kinsale for lunch.  It was here that the earworms started.  I must have a million songs floating around in the forgotten mists of my brain which mention somewhere in Ireland (anyone who grows up in an Irish family, especially if it’s a migrant one probably does) And now the tunes came unbidden and many of them very annoying- the best of them at this point was Skibbereen by Jackie Leven and I tried to keep this one playing to drown out the others.
I hugged the coast as close as I could but this did necessitate a lot of up and downing little lanes, some of which were pretty rough.  As well as piling on the miles it was also pretty tiring, being much more like off roading sometimes and at Clonakilty I made the decision to only use them to avoid the busier National routes- the regional routes here were fine and fairly quiet anyway.  Due to my coastal detours I had done about 80 miles now and was really tired-  there were some short sharp climbs on a few of these roads and my legs had had enough.  I had been told of a campsite at a place called Glandore and headed there.  It was hot, so hot that at one point my tyres were covered in melting road tar.  I had made the mistake of not filling up my water bottles in Rosscarberry, thinking I could easily do the 6k or so to the site.  I had not realised there was a bit of a hill in that 6 k and I reached the top gasping for water in the heat.  A few seconds later, I could feel the  familiar signs of my blood pressure dropping and I had to get off the bike, lie on the ground and wave my legs in the air, much to the amusement of a couple walking their dog.  
     Arrived at the campsite exhausted- 92 miles.  Made the decision later while I sipped a drink outside the pub overlooking beautiful Glandore Bay- to stick to 60 miles or so and wild camp if no decent campsite and also to be selective about the coastal roads to take- just too many lanes to explore them all.

Day Two July 30th
Misty morning (cue another earworm) and I set off early.  I wanted to go down the Sheep’s Head Peninsula. It was here I discovered I had left my camera battery charging at the campsite.  Ho hum.  So no pictures of this beautiful, quiet and remote peninsula.  (Did manage to get it sent on to me by kind campsite owner later). Lanes were empty although quite rough in places and a bit up and down as rocky coastal routes often are.
Weather began to close in- you can see the rain sweeping in from out on the Atlantic here so I hastily chose a place to pitch camp for the night in sight and sound of the sea.  

Day Three July 31st

Headed back to busier roads but still not that busy on my way to the Beara-  I felt like an easier day today and reached Ardrigole at the foot of the Healy Pass quite early.  The campsite was Ok, next to a pub which had a pleasant enough beer garden overlooking the bay.  As it was still early I decided to take a trip up the Pass as I was intending to ride round the Beara the next day, so would miss it.  It was a fine evening and several roadies whizzed past me.  Even without luggage the Roberts is not speedy (and neither am I). I went up to the top and back down- and was lucky enough to have beautiful clear views from the top.

There was a ceilidh in the pub that night.  It was mad.

Day Four August 1st
Day dawned dull and drizzly but warm.  I ended up being quite grateful for the cooling drizzle as the road round the Beara was extremely up and down with a fairly strong Atlantic headwind for the first half heading out to the Western tip. Coffee and scone in Ahillies, with its colourful houses nestling against the vivid green of this coastline.  The next 5 miles or so were tough- mad headwind and when I had turned the corner and began to head out of it, the road started to go furiously up and down over every rock and cliff.  No long climbs but lots of steep little ups and downs.  Once I had fully rounded the headland it became much easier- tailwind and flatter road.  Lovely fish soup at a little pub in Ardgroom revived me.  
Then I got lost as I decided to take a little detour and look for a wild camp place inland this time. I broke my no more than 60 mile rule and was very tired  and couldn’t find anywhere.  Back on main road I saw a campsite sign- so just pulled in.  Big mistake- it was possibly the worst site I have ever experienced (bar the Torridon one in midge season but at least that’s free) but I was tired and just handed over my money (and one of the most expensive, bizarrely charging 50c for rubbish disposal on top of everything else).  If you ever pass the Peacock campsite on the road to Kenmare, stay away unless you want to be eaten alive by midges everywhere- even in the shower.  

Day 5 August 2nd

Anther drizzly morning and just when yesterday’s westerly would have been a useful midge deterrent, it dies right down- typical!
So the fastest decamp of the holiday had me on the road about 15 minutes after waking.  I was planning to cross Kerry to the north side and just explore that.  I didn’t want to ride the Ring of Kerry as it’s narrow and busy with traffic.   Molls Gap was a fairly  easy climb from Kenmare.  
View from top of Moll’s gap

then down to the Black Valley

The climb up from here through the gap of Dungloe was harder- rougher and steeper.  I was glad it was still fairly early as this is prime Oirish tourist territory but the horses and traps had only just started hauling visitors up this narrow road and I only had to avoid one on the descent. No one  had reached the Gap so I was really able to appreciate its eerie peace and calm

I had planned to get a ferry from the north coast of Kerry to Dingle but on arrival at Valentia Island I discovered it only sailed at weekends.  So a quick change of plan- I headed back onto Kerry, hoping to wild camp somewhere by the sea for that night.  Coming out of Port Magee was the steepest cliff I have ever seen – you can see it rise up in front of you in what appears to be an almost vertical fashion and then it turns away a bit inland as if it suddenly decided it would probably be stupid to go directly over the very highest point and should try and find the pass.  Which is still very steep.  This was the toughest climb of the whole holiday I think- I was already tired and then ¾ of the way up a large motorhome began to creep up behind me- no way should this thing have even been on this road really.  I considered just sitting in it’s path steadily at 2 mph but could hear from the noise it was making it was pretty close to stalling point, which wouldn’t have bothered me but would have caused a lot of problems for the cars squashed up against the cliff side waiting to descend once it had passed.  So I pulled into the left as far as I could – big mistake- not enough room so I was forced to stop and had to push the bike up the rest of the climb which was even harder than riding it up.  As I hauled bike and kit up to the top I planned how I was going to kill the driver of the motorhome whom I could see clambering out of his seat to take pictures of the view.  When I got to the top, he offered me a chocolate biscuit and a beer so I felt obliged to abandon my plan.
After the descent I was completely knackered (broke my no more than 60 mile rule again by quite a lot) and found a nice little spot near Waterville to camp for the night.  

Day 6 August 3rd
Now I was running a bit behind schedule as I had planned to be in Dingle by now.  But that’s the beauty of cyclecamping- you don’t really need a plan, just a good map, and for someone as badly organised as me that’s great.  Just decided to head up through the middle of Kerry through the Oisin Pass, which, although bringing me back to almost the same point in Ireland I had been a couple of days earlier would be using different roads.  Oisin Pass was beautiful- 3 guys on carbon flew past me with a hello and then shortly after as I hauled up the pass at about 4 mph there they were at the side of the road-  one was suffering the effects of a messy gear change on the climb and had wrecked his rear mech and chain.  I stopped and asked if I could help.  “Not unless you’ve a chain splitter.”  Hushed amazement from the roadies at my bulging toolkit. This is heavy sarcasm- I only take spare cables, a couple of spokes, spare tubes, a few assorted nuts and bolts, spare chain, and a good multitool with of course a chain tool.  (Plus duck tape and cableties of course!)  They seemed to be carrying a lycra top and shorts each.  However, one of them at least seemed to know what he was doing and we ripped of the rear mech and the mangled bit of chain and singlespeeded the bike so it’s rider could at least get back home.  Then we said our goodbyes, and I resumed my slow ascent of this beautiful pass through Ireland’s highest mountains.

I found a place to camp near the river in the Black valley.  Beautiful evening by campfire watching the sunset with just enough breeze to keep away the midges.

Day 7 August 4th
Onto Dingle, weather very windy  so hard going- down to the Western end as I had always wanted to see Blasket Island (nostalgic reasons to do with a story my dad used to tell me).  Saw it for about 30 seconds before mist rolled in! But it was worth it. Dingle is lovely and the peninsula beautiful even in the misty drizzle, possibly more so. Camped in the most sheltered spot I could find.

Day 8 August  5th

Text from my daughter asking if I could change dates of my visit to her-  she had chance of some climbing in Skye on exactly the dates we had originally planned.  I know that to come between my daughter and any chance of improving her climbing skills is not to be done lightly, so I agreed to change my plans and get to her four days earlier- to be honest, I didn’t really mind all that much- it meant ignoring the Donegal bit of my trip but I have been there before and a bit of trip missed is a reason to come back another time.
I headed back up the north side of the peninsula this time with a fine tailwind pushing me  towards Tarbert for the Shannon ferry passing some lovely beaches on the way.  I decided to check out Fenit which meant turning into the headwind again. Beautiful sunny day but the wind took its toll and I began to get tired, so I stopped for the night near this beach at Banna

Day 9 August 6th

Off towards Tarbert and the Shannon ferry. Once across, through Kilrush to a late lunch in Lahinch.  Watched the surfers for a bit then went to Frawley’s bar to meet the oldest publican in Ireland in his tiny bar but it was closed.  Then around the coast to Doolin where I checked in at the campsite.  I decided to stop here for a couple of nights as I wanted to have a good look at the Burren.
More mad ceilidhs at the pubs in Doolin.
A crazy storm during the night , so more hot chocolate and whisky for me which I shared with a group of young people who arrived very late and needed all the help they could to put up their tent in the storm.
Day 10 August 7th
Luggage free and a fine day ahead with all trace of the strom gone bar a bit of a breeze. I took a trip round the Burren- wild area of limestone pavement which runs right down to the sea.
Amazing variety of wild flowers and criss crossed by many quiet little lanes where few cars follow.

A great day of 60 miles or so mostly untroubled by traffic, although I was disappointed by Lisdoonvarna (another ear worm courtesy of Christy Moore).    There are other friendlier and more attractive small towns (like Lahinch and Killarney) I found.

Day 11 August 8th

I decided to bypass Galway City by taking the ferry to the Aran islands.  Inis Oir was smaller and quieter than Inis Mor which was rammed with tourists and most of them on bikes as there is no way for visitors to bring cars on to the islands.

But Dún Aonghasa was pretty spectacular. Annoyingly, I left my camera in my pannier on the bike when I walked up to this amazing ring fort. Dún Aonghasa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

That night I camped in a local farmer’s field. And was joined by a friendly family from Dungannon with a range of bicycles in various states of disrepair.  They were amazed to see how simple it was to adjust brakes and gears and what a difference it makes when you do this and tighten up a few nuts and bolts here and there. (Like not having to stop every mile to raise your seatpost back up because it keeps sliding down the seat tube.)  

Day 12 August 9th.  
Ferry from Inis Mor to Galway and Connemara.  A beautiful wild place.  There was a massive headwind on the coastal roads which I had originally intended to take so I cut across via Cashel and was glad I did- remote and lonely but very beautiful.  Lines of peat freshly cut and old piles stacked to dry.  It is illegal to cut peat for sale to others here but people are allowed to keep and cut for their own use.  In the distance I could see the Maumturks and the Twelve pins
I headed to Westport- the last bit of road a little busier than I had been used to but great views of Croagh Patrick on one side and Clew Bay on the other.

I had been getting texts and missed calls from family in Derry, friends near Westport and in Leitrim who all knew I was over and wanted to arrange some kind of meet.  I realised I would have to start getting organised (!) if I was going to manage this and get to Glasgow in time to see my daughter and get my train to London on the 19th- it was obvious I wasn’t going to go all the way round the coast to Larne.  I headed towards Westport and sat in it’s pleasant Octagon sipping a drink in the sun.  I made loads of calls and by the time I’d finished, the next four days were completely filled with visits- the first of which meant I would have to head inland tomorrow to a little place called Balla.
Spent one night with friends there, then had to head even further inland another 40 miles into Leitrim and up above Loch Alein to where my friends Brigit and Del live in an old farmhouse and converted cowshed respectively in the hills above the Loch.  A stroll to the pub that evening meant donning wellies and walking half a mile through fields to the pub that doubles up as a grocer’s shop and post office and only shuts when the last customer leaves or the landlady gets bored, whichever is the sooner.

The next day, I had decided to give Derry a miss and head straight to Larne for the ferry to Scotland.  I planned to take three days to do this. However,  refusing a Derry woman’s hospitality is not to be done lightly and trying to explain things to my cousin proved impossible.  Derry women are amongst the toughest and most tenacious people you will ever meet and she arranged for a distant relative (whom I didn’t know I had and suspect wasn’t a relative at all) to turn up that evening on strict orders to get me there.
So bike and panniers piled in the back of a Landrover and off to Derry.  I spent one night there and managed to persuade everyone I just had to get to Larne for the ferry next day  in time to see my daughter.  I took  the train to Coleraine and rode from there.   I've ridden this road before, but you could not tire of it.

I spent a couple of days with my daughter and then, as she headed off on the bus to Skye, I took a train to Fort William, having decided to spend three or four days touring Ardgour, Morvern and Ardnamurchan.  Some highlights of this little add on to my summer tour were a great beach camp near Fiunary on the coast of  Morvern  
with a great firepit
where I pitched camp for a couple of days and took the ferry from Lochaline to Mull for a ride round the northern half on one day and the ride back to the Corran ferry on the Kingairloch road beside Loch Linnhe.  This was a road I’d not ridden before and it was beautiful, almost totally carfree with great views across the loch.  It also meant I didn’t have to climb back up the road through the hills to Strontian, which when I came up from there a few days before was one of those long slow climbs, which, while not particularly steep, just goes on forever.  
    Then it was back to Fort William to get my train to Glasgow and then home to London.

This is a highly condensed little package and while writing it, loads of other little details kept poppng into my head.  For example I’ve totally forgotten to mention the Cliffs of Moher and the macabre shrine at St Brigid’s Well in Kerry, a strange mixture of Catholicism and paganism. But unfortunately, the end of my summer trip signals my return to normal life and its demands and routines, which are many.  So no more time means I have to end here.  I do have a few more pictures on my Flickr site and anyone is welcome to view them if they so wish.  Also, please forgive any mistakes, I plead tiredness and encroaching old age in mitigation.


  • where's crusty?
    • thelazycyclist
Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #1 on: 30 August, 2010, 11:40:08 am »
What a great report!  And brilliant pictures too!  My wife (lindagordinho) keeps trying to get me to go cycle touring in Ireland and now I can see why.

We could do a lot worse than use your route and report to decide on which places to go and which places to avoid.

Thanks for putting it on here.
The friendly landlord helped us put our bikes into his very big shed.  Very carefully we did not fall into the acid bath which was there.


  • Mad pie-hating female
Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #2 on: 30 August, 2010, 02:56:53 pm »
Thanks cj.
Others have done a much more comprehensive coastal tour than I did, like Gordy- he went right round-Dublin to Dublin, although he missed some of the peninsulas, I think.  He posted his route somewhere on YACF. I missed out Sligo and Donegal due to my various family committments and time constraints and there are some lovely bits there, like the Rosses, Gweedore. I didn't bother with anything southe of Larne or north of Cork. I don't know it very well so can't really say if it's worth it (parts of Wicklow I have been to were lovely). I think the Western peninsulas are beautiful and will probably go back to fully explore them again.  I can post my route if you would like, although it may take me some time to get it together- I largely made it up as I went along but am planning to get it down in graphic and written form anyway at some point.
The weather, which everyone, Irish family and friends included, warned me about was, on the whole, great for cycling.   Well, I had a couple of storms in the three weeks, a few showers, some fierce headwinds now and then but I got far wetter the week after which I spent in Lincolnshire.  So, I guess, just go prepared for the worst and then anything better is a bonus.  I didn't wear my waterproof trousers once and even on the days when I donned my waterproof jacket, I never had to wear it for the whole day. 


  • where's crusty?
    • thelazycyclist
Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #3 on: 30 August, 2010, 04:21:24 pm »
A copy of your route would be great, but there's no rush.  The earliest we could possibly go to Ireland is next May anyway.

I think it's great that you did this whole thing on your own.  Pretty much all my cycle touring has been done with my wife (lindagordinho), so when one of us starts to think the whole thing is a bit nuts, there's always someone else to keep telling you it's a good idea. 

I think I might be mentally a bit too feeble to go out touring on my own for any length of time!  I suppose in your case seeing your daughter and other relatives at various points probably helped.

One of the longest solo rides I've done is to my mum's in Leeds (about 70 miles) and knowing there was curry and apple pie waiting, along with a warm welcome, made the solitary riding not seem so bad.  But I'm not sure I could take days or weeks of it.

The friendly landlord helped us put our bikes into his very big shed.  Very carefully we did not fall into the acid bath which was there.


  • Mad pie-hating female
Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #4 on: 30 August, 2010, 04:42:00 pm »
I began touring on my own when I was a teenager out of necessity really.  Cycling was not that popular with my peer group (they all thought I was bit nuts to be honest).  The only people I knew back than who would have cycled the kind of distances I wanted to do were an uncle who was one of the old school club cyclists and his son plus the other youngsters in his club who were mostly male and with whom I had little in common apart from cycling.  Then I briefly had a boyfriend who loved cycling too and we decided to do LeJog together- we made it as far as a road up in the northwest somewhere from which you could look across and see the hills of the Lakes- it looked stunning and I suggested making a detour that way (we had the whole six weeks summer holidays after all) but he was dead against- cue almighty row and on road split- I headed for the Lakes with the tent thinking he would follow- he didn't.  That put me off undertaking long trips with anyone until I had children.  Now, children grown, I am back to touring alone and to be honest, I prefer it.  It was nice seeing friends along the way but it did make me change my plans and that was mildly annoying. I have toured for 3 or 4 weeks before without seeing anyone I knew and enjoyed it just as much.


  • Its got my name on it.
    • Blog
Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #5 on: 30 August, 2010, 04:46:55 pm »
Great report Jane. I did the south west peninsulas about twenty years ago and loved every minute of it. It would be interesting to go back now and see how much busier it is. I don't recall traffic, even tourist traffic, being a problem then at all but maybe it is my rose tinted memory. Thanks for sharing that with us and bringing back some happy memories for me.


  • Mr Peli
    • woollypigs
Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #6 on: 30 August, 2010, 08:27:10 pm »
Yup yours and Gordy's write up, have made it sure that Ireland will be on one of our trips in the near future.
Current mood: AARRRGGGGHHHHH !!! #bollockstobrexit


  • where's crusty?
    • thelazycyclist
Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #7 on: 30 August, 2010, 11:19:42 pm »
I headed for the Lakes with the tent thinking he would follow- he didn't. 

I have a little trick that prevents me getting divorced while out on the road.  I usually carry the maps, repair kit, spares and all the money.  This ensures that even when I am being a total arse we still arrive at our destination together.

The friendly landlord helped us put our bikes into his very big shed.  Very carefully we did not fall into the acid bath which was there.

Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #8 on: 08 September, 2010, 09:41:54 pm »
A little late on my part, perhaps, but top reading Jane  :thumbsup:

gordon taylor

Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #9 on: 08 September, 2010, 09:47:18 pm »
Thanks Jane, a brilliant report... and your perceptive comments about touring alone strike a chord with me. It's wonderful!

Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #10 on: 08 September, 2010, 10:10:00 pm »
Great stuff, Jane! Lovely photos.

Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #11 on: 07 January, 2023, 02:58:30 pm »
Thanks for the nice write up. I'm headed to the Cork county end of april and I'm a bit scared about the weather. My sister who lives in Dublin tells me it's the best time of year though. I'm planning for 60 to 80 miles per day, but always can take short cuts if my legs complain I guess.

Re: Jane's Western Ireland + Tour
« Reply #12 on: 07 January, 2023, 03:18:15 pm »
Shame that ferry no longer runs. Perfect for starting a trip up the west coast.