Reflections and images from my travels

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Giants Causeway Coastal Tour

We had to get up early today for a change for our tour. Thankfully, the pick up point was within 5 minutes of our hotel. It was raining again and steadily.

My name today is Finn McCool- a gentle giant from Irish folklore.

We walked over and there were at least 3 identical white tour coaches without signage. Signs would help! We grabbed take away coffee and light pastries and eventually found the right coach. Anna has booked the tour and it was a Game of Thrones themed tour (no, we did not have to dress up). A lot of scenes in the TV series were shot along the Causeway.

Derek was our tour guide/tour coach driver was and was very gregarious. The coastline was very atmospheric in the rain adding to the mood. Our first stop involved a plaque to Paddy the Pigeon (code named U2- no kidding) the most successful non-human spy in WWII. We also saw steps used in the Game of Thrones series that Ariana Stark climbed up after almost being assassinated in the TV series. Cool!

Our next stop was at the Cushendun Caves where another critical scene of the TV series was shot, Season 8. I have still not watched it! What was more fascinating was that the cave contained a private driveway leading to a residence gated at the end of the cave. Best residence entryway ever!

We proceeded through lush countryside fields and panoramic views until we reached the Dark Hedges- Bregagh Road. Hundreds of years ago a wealthy estate owner planted over 180 birch trees that have overgrown the leading lane to the house creating a moody atmosphere. It would have been great for a photograph, but, there were too many tourists on the lane to create that perfect shot. I took a few side lane photos which I was happy with. Still, it was worth seeing.

The Causeway was next. It was very busy in the car park and it took us awhile to get back unloaded. This was not going to be an intimate experience. Drizzle continued to plaque us, but, at least this time I brought my rain jacket. One does eventually learn.

We picked up our audio guides and walked along the Causeway. The basalt columns were not as impressive as their counterparts at the other end of this lava flow on Staffa Island in Scotland. It was a nice walk and I can back a different way- the Shepard’s Steps- which afforded a panoramic final view of the Causeway. The weather did make for a dreary mood but lunch was soon to follow at the Fullerton Arms Restaurant and Pub. Finally, a steak and Guinness pie and Anna had the Goujons. We bonded with an Englishwoman who was on a week holiday in Ireland. She, like Anna, had a bit of trepidation about crossing the upcoming rope bridge.

Before the Rope Bridge, we had a stop at the very picturesque Ballintoy Harbour that is often used as a backdrop for Game of Thrones. A nice walk down a windy road to a lovely view.

It was off to the Rope Bridge which was very close to the harbour. We could have walked there. The Rope Bridge was spectacular and the scenery was even better than the Causeway. Anna was able to do it! I have picture proof. Looking down crossing the bridge one really appreciated how high you were really up from the shore.

We then had a relaxing ride back to Belfast which took about 90 minutes. We arrived back at about 7 PM. Time for another good dinner and an ale to celebrate the end of a nice tour.

Belfast Day 1

Perhaps it was the parking lot debacle or fatigue from driving, but, we slept in and had a very relaxed morning. There did not seem to be any reason to rush. So unlike regular life. We were on holidays by the way.

My name today was Van the Man, in honour of an Irish treasure.

Our plans were very open today. We went to a local patisserie for a flat white and light breakfast.

We were walking over to our hop on hop off bus stop and were immediately swooped down on by two separate bus operators hawking their respective tours. It was the first and only time we felt pressured in Ireland. The two operators were arguing about why their tour was better than the other’s. An Irish woman standing beside us piped in and admonished both for their behaviour and then apologized to us on behalf of the country!

We picked up our tickets at the tourist center and walked over to the first stop. The tour was quite extensive and very informative. We really enjoyed the commentary regarding the “troubles” and the political chasm that still exists in this country. However, it was clear that peace was the goal and reality of the current situation. The tour lasted almost 2 hours. We did tour the “wall” with murals that spoke to the conflict and need for peace here and other parts of the world.

We stayed on the bus the entire way and then a bit and got off at the amazing Titanic Museum. The museum has 4 edges that exactly (and I do mean exactly) match the dimensions of the front hull of the actual Titanic. Amazing architecture.

The tour was very well set up and self guided. The amount of information provided was very comprehensive. Anna particularly enjoyed the “ride” halfway through the tour. The tour was solemn when one reflected on the lives lost and the disappointment of Belfast with the sinking after the pride of building such an engineering marvel. We got lost in the displays and by the time we finished it was after 6 PM! We noted as we exited that it was raining heavily and we had missed our last bus pick up so would have to walk back to city center. I am so happy I left my rain jacket back at the hotel again!

We got soaked very quickly as we walked back. We escaped the rain in the Odyssey Center and were surprised to find a Canadian themed sports bar called “The Rockies”. Of course, we had to stop for a pint.

We walked on and Anna found at least three Game of Thrones stained glass panels to photograph. She also got a picture of me soaked on the pedestrian bridge as we walked back to city center.

We quickly looked for a warm pub and found one in Henry’s. The bar was very cool- contemporary traditional Irish- with live music and a healthy selection of ales and spirits. We had a nice meal and then returned to our own own lounge for a nightcap. A nice end to a good day!

Kilkenny to Belfast

We had a good sleep in that next morning. It was another travel day. We were going to make our way to Belfast but wanted to get some shopping done in Kilkenny prior to leaving. The Design Center we spotted the day prior seemed to be the best place to do this.

My name today was Sean O hEathirn.

We had a quick latte and scone/croissant at the local coffee shop and started to walk towards the Design Center. A market was set up on the street so we stopped in. Anna found some unique bog and resin jewellery to purchase. The bog wood was over 8000 years old!

The Design Center proved to be a jackpot for gifts. Stephen got all of his gift shopping done including another sweater and Irish cookbooks for himself. Anna found a fetching scarf that she proceeded to wear immediately and some small gifts as well.

We loaded up “Midge” and we were on our way! We were sad to leave Kilkenny. However, the big city beckoned.

The drive took 3 hours and not many photos were taken. In the Midlands we had planned to stop at a gin school in Tinure but only arrived to find out they were open Friday to do this. Foiled!

We drove on to Dundalk which appeared to be more economically challenged. Anna bemused the fact we could not easily find a pub serving food in that town. She was on a mission to find one and we eventually did. They served a great burger and home fries that hit the spot. A bit of ale smoothed the passage.

We got into Belfast earlier than expected and found our hotel easily and centrally placed. We told them we had a car when we checked in and needed to park it for a few days. No problem. We were given a map which appeared to be drawn by a child and told it was close by. The adventure began! We followed the map but clearly places and streets were not drawn to scale (bad assumption on our part) and we eventually parked in a lot that was not the designated one after we could not find the right lot. I decided to get out of the car and search on foot. It took awhile before I finally found the correct lot, backtracked to the parked car and drove our car to it’s rightful destination. We joked it took us about the same time to park the car at a nearby lot as it did to drive into Belfast from the outskirts!

To calm our nerves, we proceeded directly to the hotel lounge and I asked for a Dingle Gin G and T. What! They did not have any. The humanity!! The bartender offered a local alternative called Jawbox Gin (which I continued to call Jawbone for the rest of the evening much to the amusement of the locals).

We then walked over to Victoria Square in order for me to purchase an accessory for my iPhone that would make downloading photos from my SD card quicker. Success! We continued to walk around and grew progressively hungrier until we found a really nice Italian restaurant. Many of the other restaurants were booked and we would have to wait. The pasta and Chianti were fantastic. The food in Ireland was really very good.

We walked back to the hotel for a nightcap and then settled into our very comfortable bed with pillows a plenty!

Waterford and Kilkenny Castle

The room in Kilkenny was very quiet and dark. Perfect for catching up on sleep. We were routinely getting up by 9 AM!

My name today is William Penrose. Google it- it will make sense for today.

This morning it was just a quick latte and scone as we were off to do some touring, and possibly shopping, at the Waterford Crystal facility.

It was a pleasant drive of about 50 kilometres. We again arrived just in time as the next tour was just starting in 10 minutes.

The tour was actually very educational as you had a very knowledgeable guide and went through the different stages of production of crystal. You actually observed the craftsmen and crafts women as they created the crystal pieces. From beechwood casting to glassblowing to polishing to marking and engraving- it was all fascinating. Some pieces took up to 4 months to finish. We were also impressed with the number of commissions and trophies they completed on a regular basis.

Of course after the tour, you exited in the massive retail area. You were surrounded by beauty! We were looking for a very specific set of coloured whiskey glasses Anna had spotted on the Canadian website but we found out these were not produced locally. We eventually spied a beautiful set of 6 glasses that had our name on it. There were all different styles and just the perfect size. Purchase made and shipped.

I remember my mother always talking about Waterford Crystal when she was alive. She had spent her formative years in England after the war and I came to appreciate why she so loved it.

We then did a small walking tour in the Cathedral area of Waterford. The cathedral was being renovated externally, but, the inside was available for a visit. What history! This was the Cathedral that Strongbow and Aefie were married in! The marriage that changed Ireland forever. Amazing!

We were going to do a whiskey tour but found out the particular distillery we wanted to tour was over 90 minutes away! We decided to drive back to Kilkenny for a late lunch and to tour the Kilkenny Castle. We had no idea where it was:

The drive back seemed quicker than going. We found a great little and finally had our traditional Irish lamb stew with a pint.

We had to find the castle so we stepped out of the pub ready for an adventure and as we looked up the street we exclaimed……oh, there it is less than 1 block away!

The castle tour was well worthwhile. The castle itself and the grounds were breathtaking. The Butler family had sold the castle to the town for 50 Euros in order to develop the property as a tourist destination for all to enjoy. We were glad they did!

The opulence of the rooms and grandeur of the halls. We were particularly fascinated with the Blue Bedroom and the Picture Room which had the most ornate ceiling I had ever seen hand painted by a single art historian! There was also an international design competition underway and all through the castle the design finalists were displayed. It made for a fascinating contrast of old and new.

The surrounding grounds and rose garden were glorious. The aroma from the roses was intoxicating as Anna could attest to.

After the touring the grounds, we crossed the street to briefly tour the Ireland Design Center. A Mecca for all artists across Europe. Many of the shops were just closing but the main shop was open and had the most beautiful gifts. We were definitely coming back the next morning!

It was time for an early dinner and we decided to have our meal at the Left Bank. All of the pubs in Ireland were gorgeous and very amenable to eating, entertaining and for consuming the “spirits”. The pubs were often broken into different sections that were connected but definitely separate in their personalities. A quiet area, an outdoor garden section for the sport fans with widescreen TV’s. We loved it!

The meal hit the spot and the G and T’s were devine with our favourite combination of Dingle gin and Fever Tree Elderflower tonic. We also enjoyed the best Irish Coffees we had yet tasted in Ireland.

We retired to our room. Anna’s suitcase was in chaos and I needed to catch up on blogging. I was having some technical issues with getting pictures from my camera to the phone!!

After awhile, we decided to have a nightcap at our own very nice hotel pub and closed out the night with our bar band. I know, it’s a tough life!

Killarney to Kilkenny

We awoke refreshed after another long sleep in Killarney. Murphy’s Guesthouse was surprisingly quiet compared to the street front bar which was loud and raucous. The Guesthouse is built up from the street level and set back from it which contributes to it’s quietness. The only thing is we left a slight break in the curtains and a bright beam of light coming through that break blinded me as I opened my eyes that morning.

My name today is Padraig O’Murphy. OK we just made that up!

Our road trip was to begin today but first breakfast. We had a nice, basic breakfast at the bar of our hotel which also served as the breakfast location for our Guesthouse. Just coffee, no G and T’s that morning. Anna would be taking most of the photos today as I had forgot to charge the camera last night. I did take a few photos with the iPhone which are included with this post.

We (should I say, I) decided to walk to where our rental car was parked for simplicity. There were a lot of one way streets in Killarney and it was easier just to leave town by walking to the car park.

It was about a 10 minute walk and we finally found our little red 5 door car- a Seat Ibiza- that we named “Midge”. This was in honour of the small biting insects that clearly liked Anna as she showed me her multiple itchy bites that morning.

It took us awhile to figure out how to get the rear hatch open but Anna finally figured it out. We packed up and were on our way. There is always some trepidation driving on the opposite side of the road especially with a manual transmission but I accommodated rather quickly.

Anna brought along “Stella”- our faithful Garmin automobile GPS- but, quickly determined she did not bring any maps so the device was of no use to us. We used my phone with data roaming which worked perfectly. We missed one of our first turns out of town and ended up going through the lovely road I had descended on my bike a few days prior on the east of Killarney tour.

We eventually connected with the main highway but then Google maps took us on some lovely countryside lanes which was great. Very little traffic and single track roads but very scenic. The only problem was it was so rural at some point we lost cellphone coverage so we had to guess a section prior to arriving in Blarney. Thankfully, when we picked up signal we had come the right way!

Our goal was to kiss the Blarney Stone (as if I don’t already have the gift of the gab). We did not know what to expect when we arrived. It was a well organized and developed tourist attraction. The parking was cheap and once we got in we found out the garden grounds surrounding the castle were huge!

A few tour buses were pulling in so we quickly went up to the Blarney Castle and got in line. Signs warned us it would take 60 minutes from our point in line to get up to the stone which was situated up at the top of the castle tower. I asked Anna if she really wanted to wait that long and she emphatically said yes! It was 100 steps to get to the top and the line moved slowly. We were get entertained by information plaques that explained the history of the castle. The very narrow, circular staircase to get to the top was the highlight of the climb. When you reached the top you were rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding grounds. Breathtaking!

It is a bit of a maneuver to actually kiss the stone. You lie on your back and then grab 2 metal bars on either side in back of you, slide towards the stone and then extend your neck back and ouch your face forward to plant one on the stone. We both did it. Mission accomplished and it took 60 minutes. They take pictures of you kissing the stone which you can purchase for a rather exorbitant price. Thankfully, they allowed you to take your own pictures of the blessed event.

After descending and exiting the castle we took a tour of the poison garden (a selection of plants with noxious and deadly properties), walked around the grounds and then Anna got an Irish Coffee in a “to go” cup and we quickly dispensed with the best crisps we have ever tasted (Shamrock and Sour Cream flavoured). Yum!

The walk around the extensive garden grounds was the highlight for us. So beautifully managed and representing different themes and micro-climates. Our favourite was the “Fern Forest”. We also passed by the Blarney House.

It was almost 4:30 PM by the time we finished up so we got back in “Midge” and drove onwards to Cork. It was a large city relative to the smaller centres we had stayed in to date. I survived the lethal one way streets but did go into the wrong lane once at a red light! We then parked by the city fire station and decided to walk to find a restaurant to have an early dinner at.

The section of the city we were in was lovely and very conducive to walking. We found a very quiet, narrow “lane” restaurant called Elbow Lane which had a smokehouse and it’s own microbrewery in the back. Perfect. The beer was fantastic and the ribs were delicious.

We had not really planned to spend much time in Cork, but, were happy we had stopped in. Each town/city in Ireland really deserved several days in order to appreciate their respective essences.

Midge then took us the rest of the way to Kilkenny. I made my second mistake driving today by going through a red light at a confusing intersection in town but thankfully there was no cross traffic! We arrived quite late at our hotel at about 9:30 PM but, of course, that left enough time to hit the bar at the Hibernian Hotel Kilkenny! Before hitting the bar, we had to park Midge. The hotel receptionist said there was a great deal on a nearby parkade just up the street for 3 day rate that was better than a 2 day rate. We found the car parkade easily and spoke to the attendant who confirmed this. Wonderful. We then proceeded to park the car and sat looking at the gate which refused to open. We were on CCTV and the attendant must of thought we were thick because he came out to insert a master card to let us in. I had neglected to look right for the card entry machine because no one of good sense drives on the left had side of the road. Fine. We figured, fine, just park the car and get to the bar- our natural habitat. We exited the vehicle with our luggage but had to park on Level 3. We looked around and saw a nearby door and proceeded towards it. Obviously, it would lead us to a stairwell. I tried to push it open but it was locked. There was a button on the right side of the door protected by a plastic cover and with an odd sign (they sort of looked like ……….stylized ……flames) below it. I begged Anna, no, we do not understand what that sign means and maybe this is not the way out. She swiped my hand away and looked at me with disdain. “I know all” she trumpeted. She lifted the plastic cover and proceeded to push the button with extreme prejudice and with a maniacal laughter. Promptly, the blaring fire alarm started wailing. Another couple in a vehicle parking their car at the same time looked at us suspiciously and locked their doors.

We were so embarrassed. We then walked down the ramp and as we were leaving the car park we could see the attendant feverishly working an electrical panel trying to get the alarm to cease. There was a crowd of locals gathered on the street who came to see what All of the commotion was all about. I am sure there has not been this much excitement in Kilkenny since the Middle Ages! We felt so bad for the attendant.

To be honest, that’s not how it went down at all! Anna was not sure about the button and actually pointed out the stylized flames to me (it was Greek to me at that point), but, I encouraged her to lift the plastic cover and push the button the bling it was an after hours door release. She unfortunately followed my advice! Writer’s license………!

We went back to the hotel bar where a great duo was playing Irish music and steadily increased their playing volume as there was this annoying alarm from outside drowning them out! Once Anna sat down and had an ale she recalled the event and had a deep, dirt belly laugh that must of gone on for 5 minutes! It was all very therapeutic l. We closed down the bar at about 10:45 PM. The local Kilkenny draught was excellent!

Even though the day had not been that active, we were still tired and fell into a deep slumber.

Kenmare Loop A- the Beara Peninsula

Anna definitely did not feel right last night. She had just ordered soup for her meal but after one bite bailed. I ended finishing up her meal in addition to mine. We crashed early!!

The room was very quite and conducive to a good sleep which we had. In total, I think we slept 11 hours.

My name today is Com O’Leary. He is a local dentist in Kenmare. We are obviously getting lazy with choosing the names!

Anna did not bike today instead choosing to take her time after breakfast to pack and then go into town to tour the sights.

I, on the other hand, was going to get my last cycle in. The tour company was going to pick us up at the B&B by 4 PM so I got on my way by 10 AM. I was going to cycle the Beara Peninsula.

The weather looked sunny but of course this could change on a dime. The way out was undulating but then a left hand turn started me up Healy Pass. It was a good climb but very quiet with no other cyclists. I took a few pictures at the top of the pass and then enjoyed another long and very fast descent.

I was amused by road signs in chalk before every bend warning me to “slow down” and ‘dangerous turn ahead”!

There was a pub at the end of the descent called the Smokey Pickle Cafe.

I got a picture of it and though it said it was open but it looked abandoned. I was on a mission to get back to Kenmare so I did not linger. The tour then took me onto quiet country lanes with grass strips in the middle looking appropriate for wheeled carts! There were overhanging trees and bushes enveloping me as I rode. Fantastic! As I rode on I noted a small bridge to the left and stopped for some pictures of a lovely small lake.

This section was so beautiful and relaxing I really settled into the ride becoming one with the bike and just appreciated being here. Life was good, I felt strong and I opened my mouth to roar my approval and……a bug flew into my mouth. I chocked, coughed and sputtered for awhile until I got my composure back! Once again, don’t be too proud.

After awhile, I took a side road to Tuosist which was amazing as well. Tree enveloped roads with open areas affording lovely views of the sea. I again achieved a high level of relaxation when a large bee struck me in the upper lip. It hurt. Thankfully I was able to soldier on.

I was making great time and feeling strong when I reconnected with the main road back to Kenmare. This was the last stretch of cycling I would do in Ireland. I was surprised by how trouble free it had been. All felt good. I would simply power in to Kenmare way ahead of schedule. You know….life has a way of correcting your optimism. As I was riding, literally 4 km out of town I suddenly heard a loud pop like a gunshot. The rear tire exploded. Thankfully I was on a flat stretch and the bike remained stable. I thought, no problem, a quick repair and I would be on my way. I pulled out the repair kit provided by the tour company but noted a piece was missing to attach the CO2 canister. Oh well, I guess I would be walking the rest of the way! I was just happy I was not 30 km out!

I walked into town and thankfully the first shop I laid eyes on was a bike repair shop. The fellow inside was very helpful after I finally got him to understand I wanted a rear bike tire repair and not a tube. He promised to get it done while I went for a latte and light lunch at a cafe next door.

After lunch I went back to the bike shop and, as promised, the bike was ready to go. He had to replace the tire and showed me the major tire cut. I could not have repaired it “in the field” even if I had wanted to.

I returned to the B&B and re-packed getting the bike ready for pick up when Anna showed up. Good timing. She stayed at the B&B while I went into town to finally do a small tour and get some photographs of the town before we departed. This included the stone circle, the local church and Cromwell’s Bridge.

When I got back to the B&B, Fiona our driver, was waiting. We had a pleasant drive back to Killarney and registered for our rental car and then Fiona dropped us off at Murphy’s Guesthouse.

We had a nice pub meal and then a final walk around town. We stopped in at the Scott’s Hotel pub for 2 G and T’s to celebrate the end of the bike tour. We had a good chuckle when Anna asked the bartender for our second G and T requesting “Jingle Gin” (instead of our favourite Dingle Gin). Afterwards we decided we should cap off the night with an Irish Coffee and stopped in at the swanky Killarney Park Hotel. It is a five star hotel and had a very nice but sparsely populated bar (no wonder, the room rates were $350 Euros and up!). After the Irish coffees, we suddenly came to the realization we had not had an Irish whiskey so I ordered a 12 year old Power’s whiskey and Anna had the 12 year old Redbreast whiskey. What a great way to top off out bike tour.

Except it wasn’t. On the way back to our guesthouse, we stopped in for a Murphy’s Dingle Sea Salt ice cream ( OK, I did). We joined in a rendition of “Stand by Me” with a boisterous group of American tourists queued up waiting for the tasty treat.

Tomorrow we were off to Cork and Waterford with me driving, hopefully, on the left side of the road in a manual rental vehicle. Fiona has told us on our drive into Killarney that the one way roads in Cork were “lethal”!! My confidence was waning. How would we do?

Killarney to Kenmare

I had a much better sleep than Anna! It was a travel day again and Anna would be back on the bike after a 2 day break touring Killarney National Park. She would do the easy route and I the intermediate route.

My name today is George Mayberry- he was from Kenmare and participated in the 1908 Summer Olympics.

Breakfast included steaming bowls of oatmeal with Bailey’s (the breakfast of champions). A perfect combination. I also had bacon and pancakes which were rolled as I was quite hungry that morning (I am always hungry when cycling). Patrick was coming to pick up our bags at 10 AM so we packed and were ready when he arrived. He brought along his son which was nice. After the pleasantries we were off! There was a fine drizzle and the roads were wet.

The first part of our shared journey was a pleasant, flat section through the Killarney National Park. Most pleasant. We were going to take our time and take plenty of pictures along the way. Always thinking of our audience.

We initially thought the GPS route was going to bypass the Muckross Abbey, but, to our delight there was a connecting path to it. The sun came out and this being Sunday why not go to church. The Franciscan Abbey was most interesting and very photogenic. We spent a lot of time enjoying the serene atmosphere whilst Anna educated me on the architectural nuances she had learned from her Ross Castle tour.

There was a yew tree in the centre court that apparently has a chemical valued in chemotherapy! Anna couldn’t help but give it a hug!

There were so many details to wonder at in this ancient Abbey. The detail in the roof….

……the spookiness of the darkened kitchen area

……the Gaelic symbols

……the cemetery

I kept taking pictures of Anna amongst the ruins (drive by shootings she would say)……

We finally tore ourselves away and pedalled on. The pathway in the park was so peaceful and beautiful. It worked it’s magic on us. There were definitely more cyclists out today.

A nice bridge appeared linking two of the lakes and we stopped to drink in the views before reaching our rest point Dinis Cottage.

We finally came to Dinis Cottage and stopped in for an Apple tart with fresh cream and a scone with lattes and enjoyed the view.

After Dinis Cottage we connected with the Ring of Kerry again and started the undulating climb up to Moll’s Gap. The weather suddenly became very changeable and we had frequent stops to either put on or take off our rain gear.

An intersection appeared with a lovely old boarded up church and a bridge over a picturesque creek. Another stop for more photos. Would we ever get to Kenmare?

We got to Ladies View and did enjoy the views. Anna even spotted a red deer enjoying it’s own meal in the brush below us. Anna was thrilled that she finally found a leprechaun crossing. We had not seen one in all of journeys to date. Ireland would not be complete without one!

At Ladies View I stated with authority that rain was not needed up to Moll’s Gap. Perhaps it was because we had changed gear at least four times up to that point. Anna said “I don’t know, I think I am going to keep my rain jacket on”. “Non-believer” I cried out as I mounted my trusty steed and powered on. Just around the next corner the deluge including hail started! Anna was right, I was wrong! I became soaked and appeared to metamorphosed into a water droplet!

We finally reached Moll’s Gap!! I was proud of Anna’s accomplishment and photographed her reaching the crest. I am not sure if there was a frown or a smile on her face!

At this point, we parted ways. Anna was to head directly to Kenmare and I was going to head in the opposite direction to get more kilometres in. As soon as Anna headed off I began cycling away and my saddle almost fell off!! What??? I had not noticed the bolt holding my saddle in place had loosened over our tour thus far. I am so glad this had not happened during one of my 50 km/hr descents!

I went into mechanic mode (my dad would be proud), removed the rear seat rack and adjusted the saddle…..tightly! All was good now and I was ready for my sustained descent to Blackwater Bridge.

As I started the descent, I came upon a beautiful lake called Loughbarfinnihy (say that quickly three times in a row) and just had to stop for a few final photos.

There were a lot more cyclists on this descent route than I had seen on the whole tour. I got ahead of them and really powered down the hill. What great fun! I then turned off the main road to get to Blackwater Bridge which placed me on a very quite country lane which was like a roller coaster again. I loved it. Eventually, the fun ended and I reached the main road into Kenmare and cruised the final 11 km into town.

The route took me right past the our B&B the Rockcrest House which was beautiful. Instead of going into the B&B I went into town and had some vegetable soup and a latte at a local cafe. Yum!

I got back to the B&B and met the very friendly proprietor and went up to our room lucky “7”. Anna was waiting just having arrived 30 minutes earlier. We both had hot showers and unpacked. She was feeling a little under the weather and chilled so she covered up with a blanket and rested while I worked on this blog posting.

The evening was going to be relaxed. Kenmare was very different from Killarney. More laid back. Perfect for the end of our bike tour portion of the trip.

It appeared Anna was done with the cycling and would likely tour Kenmare and surrounding walking paths, go to the Lace & Design Center (Kenmare is famous for it’s lace) and be the official photographer of the town. I would ride my final cycle out on the Beara Peninsula.

We enjoyed dinner in town and had an early night.

Killarney C(K)aper B- The Pastorale

Another sleep in. So unlike me. Perhaps it was all of the partying last night!

My name today was Eamon Kelly (see below).

We had another great breakfast at the B&B and then parted ways again.

Anna was to do a guided tour of the Gap of Dunloe, the Black Valley (Anna found out it is so named because it was the last place in Ireland to get electrical power), Lord Brandon’s Cottage and then a boat ride through the lakes and rivers of Killarney National Park returning to Ross Castle.

I, on the other hand, was to do a “challenge” bike ride east of Killarney. The topography was to be much different from yesterday. More rolling, quiet lanes and farmlands. Less mountainous and less scenic. Interestingly though, I would gain more elevation on this tour.

The weather started sunny but soon some clouds and rain rolled in. I had to get the rain gear on again but thankfully it did not last more than 20-30 minutes. I did not take a lot of pictures. I got into touring mode and just looked and smelled as I rode. I did pass through a small village Gneevgullia with an interesting statue to a poet born in that parish (Eamon Kelly) and more religious statues (there are a lot of these in Ireland!).

The kilometres melted away as I drank in the pastoral views. I love cycling. Some of the road sections were bone-jarring but I would take this any day over vehicle traffic. I quickly rode through Rathmore but did not stop. I later found out from our B&B proprietor that he was born very close to that town.

Some sections of the road on this tour felt like being on a roller coaster with short, steep climbs and then windy fast descents. Too much fun!

About 12 km out of Killarney I took a side tour past Lough Guitane and enjoyed more twisty roads until I arrived back in Killarney National Park. I went back to the Muckross House thinking I would grab a bite to eat but it was too busy with tourists. I rode back into town and finally had a late lunch at a local French Patisserie- the Petit Delice. I had a lovely prawn salad and a vegetable lunch croissant. Delice!!

As I got back early, I decided to get back on the bike and visit Ross Castle and then bike through this side of the Killarney National Park. Very relaxing! I ran into Anna again after her tour and she was off to find a pint and shop a little.

It is our last night in Killarney and tomorrow we head off the Kenmare. I loved Killarney for it’s beautiful National Park and the wilder mountain passes and hidden quiet valleys. The town is busy and very touristy but it is a great place to base your self out of to explore the beautiful countryside.

We tried to have dinner at the Bricin Restaurant and Boxty House but it was fully booked for the night- disappointing. They serve a local potato pancake as a main course which is unique to this area. We will look for it elsewhere as our journeys continue. I remembered a small restaurant off High Street on one of the side lanes. We found it again the Stonechat Restaurant. Luckily they had one table for 2 but we had to be out by 8 PM. No problem! We both ordered the lamb shank which was huge and very tasty. We then walked around town relaxed. We stopped into a local bar and noted a bunch of fellows fixated on a TV screen and so we watched our first hurling match. Very interesting. We did not really understand all of the rules but it was definitely a fast paced game. Just for your information, Cork bested Waterford! We enjoyed some Irish Coffees at Gabys and as we were leaving Anna decided to be dramatic and broke one of the glasses! The barman was most understanding. We decided to retire earlier tonight and returned to our B&B.

It’s hard to believe tomorrow was our last stop on the bike tour portion of our Ireland trip. Time flies when you are truly enjoying yourselves! Now it’s on to Kenmare.

Killarney C(K)aper A

Another good sleep! I must admit, I felt a little tired after yesterday. This likely accounts for me sleeping in today. However, Anna decided I felt like Finn O’Malley today!

The breakfast at our B&B was freshly made and substantial. They really do mean breakfast! Anna had oatmeal with Baileys Liquor. Try it- I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Everything was served hot (and I do mean hot). The coffee was particularly good. This B&B also had the best shower. Instant hot (and I do mean hot) water that was anti-low flow. Ah………!

Anna’s and I paths would again diverge today. She wanted a day off the bike and would do a walking tour of the Killarney National Park, Ross Castle, St. Mary’s Church and Cathedral, the Franciscan Friary and then the town. I would cycle out to the Gap of Dunloe, then descend into the Black Valley (sounds ominous, doesn’t it?) followed by a climb up to Molls Gap and followed by a final descent down a portion of the Ring of Kerry returning to Killarney.

The ride up the Gap of Dunloe was steep but grew progressively more scenic. It was not busy which was great. A good portion of it is really encouraged mainly for walkers, cyclists and jaunting carts. It looked like it was going to rain but didn’t. There were great views all around.

The descent down the other side was fun but you had to watch your speed as there were wet sections and horse droppings. If you fell it would not be pretty.

The Black Valley was likely the finest section I cycled through to date. A wonderfully quiet and picturesque lane which undulated part green fields, lovely stone cottages and small waterfalls. Any fatigue I felt earlier melted away.

The climb to Molls Gap was steep again but eventually conquered. I was surprised when I found out Kenmare (our final stop on this bike tour) was only 10 km away. I was going to have lunch at the Gap but there were too many people from a bus tour at the restaurant so decided to ride on. The descent from Molls Gap was on smooth road and delivered nice views of the Killarney Lakes below. Along the way, I stopped at Ladies View, the Torc Waterfall and the Muckross House.

Before I knew it I was back in Killarney and ran into Anna (not literally!) along High Street. I was quite hungry so we stopped in at a cafe for a very good latte and a slice of Guinness Walnut Bread. Guinness can do no wrong!

It was back to the B&B to work on this blog posting and to relax before our evening “on the town”. We had a great dinner at Gabeys Seafood restaurant and then headed back to our B&B to be picked up and driven to a performance of “Celtic Steps”. This was a performance of Irish song and dance at the local raceway. Our cab driver was late but did eventually arrive and whisked us down to the venue. We grabbed a pint of local Killarney Blond Ale and thoroughly enjoyed the energetic performance. Both the musicians and the dancers were top notch. The cab was right on time to take us back to our B&B but we then decided a nightcap was in order and we proceeded back to town and I chose a bar that was holding some chaps 40th birthday celebration. Oh….those were the days my friend! Why not crash it? We tried to fit in and enjoyed the finger food but after one G and T headed back to our B&B for a well earned sleep.

Dingle to Killarney

We had a reasonable sleep but not as good as the night before. I was up earlier than Anna to finish the blog as I had technical glitches the night prior.

I know you are dying to know……my name today is John Sheahan.

We packed up and then had another great breakfast at the Greenmount B&B. We were sorry to leave it as our host, Gary, had been so gracious. We remembered this B&B had been upgraded at no charge when we booked.

Our itinerary today was quite different compared to previous days. Anna was to have Patrick, our guide, pick her up at 10 AM and then drive her to Milltown to cycle the remainder of the way to Killarney. I was to cycle the entire way.

After our goodbyes, I headed off sure the route was along the main highway. I finally looked at the GPS to see it was warning me “off course”. I had already cycled 2-3 km so I had to backtrack to the tourist office to pick up the route start again and then re-attempted the route. I had a good laugh when it re-directed me back to the B&B we had stayed at and then took me along the road right in front of it!

Anna and Patrick apparently had some problem getting the e-bike into the van and had to resort to taking off the front tire. I guess neither of us had “clean starts”.

My initial route was lovely to start. Narrow, quiet lane ways with lovely views. I cycled through surrounding rows of fuchsia bushes dotted with foxgloves.

I eventually came back to the main road but thankfully crossed it to take a cul de sac road to Minard Castle. It had been heavily damaged many years ago and never repaired. It was located by a very rocky beach known as Storm Beach.

I then was reconnected to the main road for fast cycling past Inch Beach. I stopped for a few photos as the beach looked huge especially with the tide out.

The next stretch just had to be ridden through as quickly as possible. There were not any worthwhile sights and the road was a major highway. I ramped up my speed and let her rip! I eventually reached Castlemaine. A rather nondescript village but I was hungry and saw a bar (Griffen’s) so I stopped. The place looked like it had seen better years, but, I decided to risk it. I walked into the bar with full cycling gear and 5 older Irish gentlemen literally stopped slurping from their Guinness glasses and looked at me wearily. You could have heard a pin drop! I broke the silence by saying the only thing I though they would want to hear- “I’ve been cycling a ways and thought I would stop in for a pint of Guinness”. Smiles suddenly erupted and before I knew it they were all chatting with me and asking me how the roads were and offering sage advice. I breathed a sigh of relief and took another risk “do you have a bar menu?”. The bartender replied in the affirmative and gave me a menu with 5 short options. I was now committed and decided to order a chicken dish I had never heard of before- Goujons. It took a long time to come but when it arrived I was very pleasantly surprised. They were herb breaded chicken pieces fried to perfection with a sweet sauce and if I say so myself a sweet salad. It was inexpensive but probably the best value and really tasty meal I had in Ireland thus far. The proprietor was definitely tipped!

Back on my steed, I rode through Milltown and then had another very pleasant but hilly 18 km stretch on a ridge line as I approached Killarney. It started to rain quite heavily about 12 km out of town so I stopped to put rain gear on. There were many beautiful old churches and ancient graveyards along the way.

After the ridge line ended there was a very steep descent into Killarney. As I arrived the sun came out and I found our B&B quite quickly. I found Anna waiting in our room. She had a pleasant day with Patrick and rode the final 20 km into Killarney from Milltown. Once she arrived in Killarney she got a tour of the town

highlights and a lot of useful information from Patrick. He lived within 7 km of town so it was convenient for him to meet with Anna again.

We got settled in our B&B and then walked around town. It was much more of a tourist town than Dingle. There were many “lanes” off the main roads. We also found a beautiful Franciscan Abbey.

We had a nice dinner at Treyvauds and then hit the pub scene again at Husseys Bar which had a “snub” room up front! We ordered a pint of Guinness for me and a pint of Murphy’s for Anna. We had truly transitioned to being Irish!

As we were enjoying our beer, we noted a local Irishman talking with two acquaintances. Try as we might we could not understand him with his very thick Irish accent except for the universally understood F*** and Jesus Christ which happened to be about every third word spoken!

It was back to our B&B to get a good night’s sleep. I was looking forward to the Killarney area because of it’s National Park, beautiful lakes and mountainous terrain! Would it meet our expectations?

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