Cycling to Mizen Head, Ireland, late June – early July 2019

Having ‘done’ Malin Head a few years ago, it was always intended to visit Mizen, the Land’s End of Ireland. This trip took about two weeks and c. 700 miles of cycling. We took an inland route there and came back along the south coast of Ireland.

Monday 24th June 2019 Left home about 11.15am and rode to Pembroke Dock, via Tesco and Bierpool Bike Shop (a good bike shop in Pembroke Dock). Reached the docks in plenty of time for early afternoon sailing – think we actually cast off at 3pm. Great views of St Anne’s Head, Skomer and Skokholm, and then Grassholm further out. Then a quiet sea, slight, until Rosslare at about 6.40pm. Cycled to IOAC (Int Outdoor Adventure Centre) where we camped – lovely sunny evening. Had noticed Chinese take away on google map so Chinese food. I’m reading The Secret Pilgrim – Le Carre. It’s billed as the last ‘Smiley’ novel, but he plays but a small part in the action, though at one point a rather touching, sweet even, role.

the r700 to kilkennyTuesday June 25th 2019 From Tagoat to Kilkenny. A long day in the saddle – Just over 60 miles. Slow getting off – c. 11am. Then headed westwards along quiet roads to Wellingtonbridge, then up to Old Ross then New Ross (thus avoiding the hellish N road). Stopped for lunch at a commemorative stone for various World Ploughing Contests – going back to 1973. I had a headache due to lack of caffeine, a familiar start of ride situation. After New Ross we followed the lovely R700 which winds for 40kms to Kilkenny, with our campsite (Tree Grove) just before the town’s ring road. Pitched and then shopped, some tension over whether to shop at Lidl or Supervalu! Campsite has a kettle, so a late tea. Mostly sunny weather. Traffic on the R700 was rather bad as we got near to Kilkenny. Too much, too wide, evidently commuting – though we didn’t reach Tree Grove until about 7.20pm. This reminded me of Josie Dew’s comment that what she wanted (to make cycling better) was less, and smaller traffic. Roads designed for old Fiat 500s are difficult for drivers when the traffic is mostly 4WDs and there’s a slow travel cyclist ‘in the way’. When shopping visited Kilkenny centre – seems very historic. Big castle along the main street. Nice Red Beer for dinner… Kilkenny is associated with Smithwick’s brewery. We don’t rate the beer much…

Kilkenny CathedralWednesday 26th June 2019 From Kilkenny to The Apple Farm near Cahe(i)r. 50 miles. Walked around the cathedral with its ancient monastic round tower (predates the cathedral) then we’d already worked out how to find the R695 which we used until we could go south towards Callan and then R691 which we followed to Killenaule. Had lunch in little garden at Ballingarry – lovely sprawling rosemary, astilbe (with bees all over it), arty paving slabs, excellent. A big local funeral was going on, people dressed up. Down the R689 to Fethard, rather excellent medieval bits, then managed to find our cross country route diagonally towards the Caher road. Then along the horribe and busy N24 east for two kms to The Apple Farm. Reached this at about 4.10pm so very good time considering we left Kilkenny at about 11am. Roads were mostly quiet and undulating so speedy for a bike. Lovely roses, apple trees everywhere! The Apple Farm gave us free apple juice to welcome us! Great shop too – bought a very fruity evening meal of cider, bread, crisps, bananas, some remainder of cheese. There’s a kettle in the shed so tea too. Excellent!

Thursday 27th June 2019 From The Apple Farm to Cork, 65miles. In morning we had strawberries for breakfast with apple juice, sitting in the sun at the edge of the orchard. Then set off along N24 took first left, worked our way to Ardfinnan on R665 then up and over the Knockmealdown Mountains, initially via a side road then joined the R668 over the pass and down to Lismore, a lovely town with a large castle and lots of elegant buildings. The video above is a bit poor, I only had my very basic phone camera, and I mixed up Wexford and Waterford, we are, of course, entering County Waterford! Guy put me off by laughing all the way through. But the pass is just as shown – lovely rounded mountains. Then down the N72 to Tallow then along R628 to Rathcormack then R614 all the way to Cork, a quiet route in. Found the hostel by noticing the church with the fish above the tower. Ate at Wetherspoons! The weak pound means that Wetherspoons was a great choice – cheap enough for Brits… Cork is a partying sort of place. We did try the Franciscan Well Brewery – city centre prices and very crowded. We asked a local where he would drink and he said, of course, ‘not in the town centre, I’d go to my favourite local out of the centre and pay less…’

O'Donovans Castle near DrimoleagueFriday 28th June 2019 From Cork (Shandon House Hostel) to Drimoleague, about 47 miles. We decided to go south across town and leave Cork via the little lane that joins Cork to R589. It might have been wiser to use the River Lee valley immediately to the west of Cork. It was tricky finding the little lane since there’s now a huge dual carriageway taking the N24 (?) west. We found the road eventually by doing a bit of cycle land alongside the new dual carriageway. Lots of traffic getting out of Cork too. The R589 reached Bandon and then the R586 got us to Drimoleague. Lunch was by the river (Bandon) in Ballineen – Guy glimpsed a bit of green down a side street. Friendly little dog sat with us for lunch. Great flower beds and a living willow tunnel in the making (I tied a bit back together that had come undone).Drimoleague has a Supervalu and so we stocked up and went up the the Top of the Rock campsite. Great secluded camping spot for us. Did a riverside walk along a mini version of the Ingleton waterfalls walk. Much smaller but very beautiful. Orchid spotted (haha). Kitchen allows for tea making so soaked in tea again as at the Apple Farm. My caffeine levels are OK again. The picture is actually from the next day – but it’s visible from the campsite on the other side of the valley. It belonged to the O’Donovans. Evidently the clan still meet here because there was a memorial to the millennium get together. I think the castle may have been knocked down by the O’Sullivans, the other big local clan. We saw an O’Sullivan castle the next day…

Coming up towards the Healey PassSaturday 29th June From Drimoleague to Adrigole, about 65 miles. A farm visit was in progress when we left, small children were guessing the age of oak trees (older than they thought), petting orphaned goslings, looking at the curious mix of goats, a calf and sheep that all grazed in a friendly manner in a field. Back route to Bantry via the ruined castle of the O’Donovans. Then tried to find back route to Killeal and found ourselves back on the route we came in on, so pushed along the main N road to Ballylickey, saw an O’Sullivan castle, then up to Killeal on the R road. Then through the Borlin valley though we almost got lost but a car pulled over and put us right (we were heading to her farm and beyond that were only footpaths). Borlin valley had a little col then a ruddy big col, so slow going. Must have been nigh on 1700′ at the top. Met a cycling club coming up as we were going down. Down to Kilgarvan where at the shop at the filling station we met Manfred from Germany who had cycled from Tipperary though accompanied by too much traffic owing to a closure of the N road from Tipperary. Yes, the R569 was ridiculously busy, tediously busy. Into Kenmare which didn’t have a food shop that we could see (must be one somewhere there) though a lovely touristy town, quaint pubs etc. Then Lauragh via a little col, then over the bigger Healey pass, excellent if occasionally drizzly. Great views of mtns c. the size of Cader Idris, and lakes and sea. The photo is from before Lauragh, a climb which gave great views over a lake, sparkling in the sun between the clouds. Then we went to see level at Lauragh and then over the Healey Pass. Arrived at campsite (Hungry Hill at Adrigole, not as nice as our last two campsites but more expensive tho’ does have a kettle so lots of tea) rather late at about 8.30pm. Shops closed (Pegs Shop) but we had a lot of food left.

Healey Pass

Sunday 30th June From Adrigole to Ballylickey (Eagle’s Point Camping) via the Ring of Beara – about 63 miles. Peg’s shop opens at 9am at weekends so we had an excuse to have a lie in. All the more sensible after yesterday’s late arrival. Got going at about 11am to Castletownbeare then over the spine of the island to start doing a ring around the tip of Beara. A bit cool and drizzly. Surprisingly hilly for a coast road – had lunch at a tiny beach, I paddled in a mild sea, tide coming in. Around to Allehies then further round to Castletownbeare. Was now about 4.45pm so shopped at Supervalu and hurried on. Back through Adrigole and then on to Glengarriff then on the N71 (quiet now at 7pm) to Ballylickey. Saw a fair number of tourers doing the ring of Beara. A Dutchman was doing Cork to Dingle then down the various fingers and back to Cork, he’d travelled from Kenmare that day and was camping at Allehies (saw his tent later by the beach there). Now snoozing in the large and pleasant campsite at Eagle’s Point. I didn’t seem to take photos today! The weather was a bit iffy, so the photo is from the top of the Healey Pass, yesterday.

Monday 1st July 2019 From Eagle’s Point to Barley Cove Caravan and Camping, about 50 miles. Mostly a very sunny day. We went down to Bantry on the relatively quiet N71, shopped ready for the remoteness of the Sheep’s Head peninsula. Went around the Sheep’s Head – just the ring that goes through Kilcrohane, though there’s evidently lots more beyond. A Dutch driver with wife and child in the car asked if a road went beyond our ring to reach nearer the end. Odd, no map! He looked at ours. And set off down a little lane that looked like i would get him a few miles nearer the end of the peninsula. Sat nav must have reached its limit. Then from Kilcrohane to Ahakista (sounds greek) then Durrus then the R591 towards Mizen. Via Toormoor (yes, we should), Goleen, then took the short route towards Mizen, but took the turning across a causeway for Barley Cove Caravan & Camping. Passed two gorgeous beaches before reaching the campsite. Pitched and then went to Mizen Head. Not the most spectacular headland, though a view of the Fastnet lighthouse enlivened it. The shop and a special viewing bridge were closed (7pm or so). Lots of photos, then back to campsite. I swam in the sea at the sandy beach very near the campsite – pretty cold. I had seen a head out in the sea, thought it was a seal then saw it was human. A German lady, retirement age, who when I later spoke to her said how warm the sea was, she swims throughout the year… The sea temperature made my local beach at Wiseman’s Bay seem positively tropical. The fall off from here to deep water is quick…. The video is from the Goat’s Pass on the Sheep’s Head peninsula, and note that when I said Berea, I meant Beara. We cycled through Berea, but it was in the USA…

Mizen HeadTuesday 2nd July 2019 From Barley Cove to Skibbereen (Hideaway Campsite). We set off initially to Crooktown – on the way there saw a memorial to Marconi who used a nearby headland to communicate with Poldhu in Cornwall and prove that although the curvature of the earth means straight line (line of sight, so to speak) communication is not possible between those two points nonetheless communications could be sent – over the horizon communication was after all possible! Hoorah, but why does it work?Though not known at the time, the signals bounce off the ionosphere so it works. Reminded us of Orford Ness and the project for over the horizon radar.

Most Southerly Pub in IrelandWe sped on to Crooktown where we saw the most southerly pub in Ireland, plus hordes of children getting into boats. Looked like a lot of fun! It is school hols already here (yes, 3 months of holiday, must be difficult to go back after that…). Then on through Goleen and then Toormoor (again) and then Schull (lunch in a car park but lots of flowers) Ballydehob(nob) where we ate a commemorative biscuit. Then on to the N71 which wasn’t so very busy and along the 16 kms to Skibbereen. We arrived at the campsite and put the tent up then cycled to Baltimore (13kms away) – even more children getting out of even more boats, so picturesque and very boatie. Ice cream on the quay then back to Skibbereen for dinner. We chatted to a man from Hull who had come to Skibbereen for the Rudge motorbike gathering, and stayed on for a few days. Rudges ceased production, apparently, back in 1939 when the factory was requisitioned. Lidl provided two irish beers – both surprisingly good (Crafty Beer Co Red, and their stout too). But €1.89 (we’re used to the Tesco and Sainsbury’s £1.50, but the pound is undervalued just now…).

St Patrick and St GeorgeWednesday 3rd July 2019 From Skibbereen to Kinsale (Dempsey’s Hostel) – about 50 miles. By the end of play yesterday there were two long distance cyclist’s tents, plus another tent where they arrived by car but were doing bike rides, plus the Rudge enthusiasts (who were impressive by their commitment to a bike that ceased production 80 years ago!). Everybody got going earlier than us but we weren’t much behind. The motorbikers had a problem with a clutch lever and set off for a garage. Hope they got the Rosslare Ferry in the afternoon. We set off for Castletownsend, where we knew Somerville and Ross lived back in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. We saw the church where Edith Somerville was organist for seventy years, and her grave next to the grave of her fellow writer and close friend Violet Martin Ross. Together they wrote the Memoirs of an Irish RM. The stained glass was wonderful. Two of the many marvellous characters of the old Anglo Irish. The churchyard contained a ginko biloba, unusual, I’ve one in a pot but they do get rather big. The picture is of the stained glass of St Patrick and St George, separated by a bit of Irish Sea. Then on to Unionhall (mackerel pate factory) then Leap, then Ross Carbery (large spider spotted with a curious sack underneath, unfortunately spotted when exploring my arm). then Clonakilty for lunch, which we ate in a park by the cathedral. Then onto the R600 through Timoleague (tremendous abbey ruins) then around a very pretty bay, the road at the waterside, some cycling tour group with a sag wagon overtook us (their bikes were probably a third the weight of ours, no bags, etc), then inland a bit to Ballinspittle, then the traffic increased severely and we arrived in Kinsale. Pretty, touristy, crowded. We hauled up at Dempsey’s Hostel. The wild-ish garden outside was lovely – evening primroses, a sprawling rosemary, roses, evergreen bushes.

Charles FortThursday 4th July 2019 From Kinsale to Clonvilla Caravan & Camping (nr Youghal). Left the hostel at about 10.30am after discussing music (folk), travels, bike riding with the hostel manager. She was more well travelled than us since one of her former jobs was that of an air hostess. Set off but got a bit side tracked by Charles Port which is a Vauban style massive pointy fort to keep out the French. American tourist: ‘I know I said I wanted to do this honey but frankly I need some downtime!’… Got us going saying ‘I need downtime!’. Then we set off to Belgooly and then Carrigaline and then Passage West where we got the ferry across the River Lee. Heron standing by the ferry landing. Then went to Cobh (pron. Kobe) where we saw the spot where millions (well something less than 3m) left for America. The railway station for America was there. Also the last place the Titanic called at before sinking – the port used to be called Queenstown. Then via Belvelly and the backroad near Barryscourt Castle to Midleton (traffic heavy on main road, so this neatly avoided the N25). Nice flowers in Midleton but heavy traffic. Then off to Cloyne then R629 to Shanagarry (Sharon and Garry?) where the tide was high so we stopped moving on and I swam. Sea warm but lower rather cold layers kept swirling up. Also not that clear but clear enough to see little white disks – jellyfish – here and there, not huge numbers. Nice view of Ballycotton and its two islands, one with a lighthouse. Then on until Guy spotted Clonvilla a bit earlier than we had expected since it is 11kms to Youghal where we planned to shop. Pitched up and went 2 kms back to Ballymacoda as a coda to the day’s cycling. Small shop so just milk and cereals, no beer. I’m afraid we just ate linguine (done in the microwave!) with salad dressing. We had eaten pasta at the hostel – excellent kitchen and even had pots of herbs (mint and basil used) for guests. There was a lady cyclist staying, just starting (third day) a big trip doing the coast of Ireland by bike. England, Wales and Scotland already done. I think she must be a school teacher. If only she had a blog I could read….

St Declan's OratoryFriday 5th July 2019 From Clonvilla to Tramore (Newtown Cove Caravan & Camping). About 53 miles. Through Youghal, with picturesque clock town and harbour (where we sat and stared at the shoals of small fish) and the location for some of the scenes (in a pub) of the John Huston and Gregory Peck film version of Moby Dick (which had the great Alan Villiers managing the Pequod, the whaling ship) and where Youghal stood in for New Bedford. Then onto the N25 until the turning for Ardmore. Ardmore is mostly about St Declan – an earlier christianizer of Ireland than Patrick – apparently they met. There are church ruins, his little cell and, on the shore, his retirement spot – another smaller church and a place of pilgrimage. The round tower, a place of safety for people and precious books and chalices, etc, is wonderfully tall. Then from Ardmore to Dungarvan following the coast road through Loskeran, with great views over Dungarvan as you approach the town. Dungarvan was a rather late lunch. Once again a harbour, and a castle. Then out on the Stradbally road. A quiet route – coinciding with a european cycle route following the coast, marked as route 1. Past old copper mines (this coast is called The Copper Coast). Eventually into Tramore and found the campsite – a family seaside hols sort of place and a bit of a shock after the quiet of Clonvilla. Curious that the rules said all sorts of thing – no cycling, no football except where designated, etc – that were simply ignored. Why have the rules then? We did cycle… a kettle and a microwave were very useful. We arrived so late (8pm) that exploring was put off to tomorrow. The photo is of St Declan’s Oratory, the oldest bit of that site.

Lafcadio Hearn Japanese GardenSaturday 6th July From Tramore to IOAC Camping, Tagoat, near Rosslare. About 40 miles. There were two things to do in Tramore after we got going at about 10am, the first was to see the Guillamene swimming cove. It is near the Newtown Cove Campsite. There were people already swimming so I decided to try it out. And yes, the water is quite cold being a cove and deep enough to dive in from the diving platform. I walked down the steps and gave myself a couple of minutes to get used to the temperature, a little bit numbing at first but then OK. Then I tried jumping off the diving platform which is excellent. Slightly unusual for indoor swimmers is the fact that it is hard to judge the depths because you are diving into a deep cove with weed at the bottom, but several people had dived head first before me so it was evidently fairly deep, looked to be probably 10+ feet deep. Great and very popular with locals. Then, secondly we went to the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens. Mr Hearn was a translator of Japanese back in Victorian times. Irish born, he lived mostly in Japan, though childhood hols brought him to Tramore. The garden is impressive, still very much developing (founded in 2012), and well worth a visit for 5€. Plenty to read for free on Gutenberg, so go and read some Lafcadio now! By now we were running late so we hurtled towards East Passage, getting onto some quiet back roads. Then after the ferry we headed for Tintern Abbey – sister to the abbey in Monmouthshire. Fascinating history, including a Staffordshire name – Colclough – and the dissolution. Then on to Wellingtonbridge then Tagoat, where once again we camped at the IOAC and ate veggie food from the nearby Chinese take-away. Ah, but with lovely Irish Milk Stout. Catching the ferry at 8am tomorrow so early night….

Tintern Abbey, County WexfordSunday 7th July 2019 We did about 18 miles today, to the ferry was about 3, and then from the ferry we did about another 15. The most memorable thing was an Irish man of Polish origin (I think) and his two boys setting off from Pembroke Dock to do various bits of England and mostly by bike (a bit by train). They had wonderful multicoloured cycling jerseys, and I recognised a Raleigh bike ridden by one of the boys – an classic Raleigh. They were aiming for 60kms per day, which is a very decent mileage for the under 12s. Other than that, we saw, as going out, Grassholm, various wonderful offshore bits of Pembrokeshire, and a pleasant ride through some lanes. Pembroke Dock seemed a bit seized up with traffic. The photo is of the Irish (County Wexford) Tintern Abbey that’s a sister of the one in Monmouthshire.

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