Second 100 miler of the year. The Ring of Kerry.

We hadn't cycled this for years, so the weather being stunning, we headed in the car for Killarney and parked near the Gleneagle Hotel on the West side of town. This is a famous drive in a car, of about 108 miles. It's also a famous cycle and we did it in a day, BUT I would recommend to the cycle-tourist to make 2 days of it, as the road surface is not smooth asphalt for much of it, but badly laid and consequently bumpy, tar-and-chip. It's uncomfortable doing more than 50-60 miles a day on such a surface. You can do this clockwise or anti-clockwise. I prefer anti-clockwise. There are only three climbs of significance on it, but a fair bit of undulation. None of it is what I would regard as steep and I did it on my racing bike with a compact chainset and a 27 tooth max sprocket, and did not use the lowest gear. For comfortable touring with a good load, a triple as usual is recommended.

From our parking spot we headed towards the town and took the ring road to the left and then the left turn for Killorglin. This is a busy enough road until after Killorglin, but not awful and mercifully it has few junctions. It's fairly flat to Killorglin, with fine views of the MacGillcuddy Reeks, Ireland's highest mountains, on the left. The highest mountain is Carrauntwohill, 3414 ft. (Corrán Tuathail = anti-clockwise sickle, as the mountain is shaped like a sickle when viewed from adjacent mountains).

Killorglin, a country town, is reached in something like 13 miles. It's famous for Puck fair, a horse-trading , etc., fair in which a wild mountain goat is crowned King Puck. Poc is the Irish for billygoat. Puck Fair is to Ireland what the Octoberfest is to Munich. Whether that's a recommendation or not, is a moot point! We had coffees and scones there and they were compatible with life.

You leave Killorglin and then approach Glenbeigh which is a seaside place. You see signs for a place with the unusual name Dooks, and this puzzled me for years until I realised that the Irish is Dumhacha (Doocha, Scottish type ch) and this means "sand dunes". That's exactly what you have there!

After that the scenery becomes impressive with mountains, big sea-views , etc. There are a few viewing spots for tourists.

You reach Caherciveen, a sizeable country town with eating options , etc. There must be a fair bit of gradual climbing before that, but it's not very noticeable, as the descent to the town in long and fast. After that there's lovely coastal scenery with a bay on the right. You can take a detour to Valentia island, Ballinskelligs etc. but we didn't. Valentia has nothing to do with Valencia in Spain. The island in Irish is called Oileán Dairbhre, but the bay is Cuan Bhéal Inse. Cuan is harbour. Bhéal Inse in English spelling would be vale eensha, hence Valentia.

There there's just moorland with distant but big scenery until you reach Waterville. With beautiful weather, which we had, this is a gorgeous quiet seaside place. There is a famous golf-club here and Charlie Chaplin came here on holidays for years.

This area was Irish speaking a while ago, but all the good speakers are gone now.

We had a lunch of toasted sandwiches with chips and tea here.

After Waterville you climb up to Coomakista (Cúm an Chiste = the mountain valley of the treasure). This climb which probably is about 4% at its steepest is just long. It peaks at around 700ft. At the top there's a parking place and one of the great views of Ireland, looking out to sea and towards Derrynane. You HAVE to stop here and take photos. There's always an accordion player there, and his claim to fame is that he's completely tuneless. He's the Eddie the Eagle of accordion players, Eddie having one leg in this case

From there there's an endless descent, winding, a bit bumpy, to the village of Derrynane. It's worthwhile stopping here and there to admire the view. Derrynane is famous as the residence of Daniel O'Connell, an Irish MP of the 19th century who championed Catholic Emancipation and so on. He was a tremendous lawyer whose boast was that he could "Drive a coach and four through any act of Parliament"

The scenery all along here is lovely. You will also pass by Staigue Fort, a 3000 year old stone fort which is from memory, about a half a mile from the road.

The road then goes up and down, with a lot of bumpiness through Sneem and on to Kenmare, one of Kerry's premier tourist towns. This part of the spin is quite wearing.

I was using a leather saddle which Mick had given me, a heavy Brooks Professional which he had failed to break in. On this spin, it broke me. I had, as one would say in Frog, le cul d'enfer.

After Kenmare, there is the long climb of a few miles of Moll's Gap. This is at about 900 ft. The views on the way up are good, but the views into the Black Valley from the top are great.

This is the Black Valley and the gap in the distance is the famous Gap of Dunloe. If you want to cycle into the Black Valley, you cycle to the left at Moll's Gap and take the first right which winds down into the Black Valley. You turn right there and follow the road around to the left, up past the youth hostel and turn right and veer into the Gap. From there, there is a magic 4 miles of stunning scenery until you reach Kate Kearney's Cottage. This is a few miles from Killarney. The Gap of Dunloe is very touristy, but in good weather it's amazing.

We took the road down to Killarney, mostly downhill but at the end undulating enough and very wearying for us, despite the views.

We had done this trip rather quickly, averaging 14.9 mph and it's too long for one day anyway, because of the condition of some of the road. As a two day spin in good weather, it seriously competes with anything. I wouldn't do it in high summer as there would be too much traffic. Had I done this myself, I would've done it at 12-13 mph, would have enjoyed it more and would not have been shattered.

We headed into Killarney and inhaled fish and chips, and then ice-cream. All three of us were shattered.

The reason I'm doing these long hard cycles is to get ready for Lejog, which I'm doing in July with the CTC. The route is on minor roads, it's VERY hilly (I did it last year) and it's no joke.

14 comments on “Second 100 miler of the year. The Ring of Kerry.”

  1. Chris wrote:

    Gorgeous scenery again, Garry. Did about 90 miles today along some beautiful lanes in the Yorkshire Wolds. We rode directly in to the northwesterly wind for half the day. I hadn't been out on the bike since the middle of April and got dropped on some of the hills today. My little computer is on the blink so I don't know how fast we averaged – and I never asked anyone else. It certainly wasn't nearly 15 mph. 14.9 mph over a testing 108 miles is seriously quick. That's my best average on my own over 30-odd miles going out to the coast on the flat roads. Maybe if I don't leave it for another six weeks I'll get there. Maybe...

  2. Garry Lee wrote:

    I wouldn't normally get near that average. I'm just very fit at the moment, having been doing 200 mpw for weeks on end, training for Lejog, but also taking advantage of the stunning weather we've been having. This will not last! Will be back to 12mph for such spins before long! Also, my two main cycling companions are very fit and they are less inclined to dawdle than I am. Speed does not matter, but how much you enjoy your cycling, or indeed the off-the-bike bits during cycles are the things that matter to me. On Lejog I will have no problems finishing last every day if it means that I've had fun with my photography, talking to farmers and so on!
    I've been to Yorkshire and been very near to the Yorkshire Wolds, but not in them. Neither have I been to Whitby and some more places. I've toured most of the Moors and nearly all the Dales. Yorkshire is wonderful. I've recommended everyone here who cycle-tours to go there, but I think that they have images of satanic mills and just don't believe me!

  3. Patrick wrote:

    Tell your friends the dark satanic mills were in Lancashire, not Yorkshire! Cotton came into Liverpool.

    I agree with Chris: superb scenery.

  4. Garry Lee wrote:

    I'm sick of telling them that!! I've a friend with whom, years ago, I've toured extensively in France, Spain, Germany and so on. He bought a motorhome and I don't know how many times I've told him that he should go to Yorkshire, that he'd love it. He's into cycling and walking. But he's one of those individuals who has to discover everything for himself. This is an example!
    I've often cycled in Germany with Mary. He told me that he was going with his wife to Frankfurt for a long weekend and asked me where they might go for a day trip. He suggested Heidelberg. I told him that I'd been there and that there was nothing to see there. His reply was that it was one of the most famous and visited places in Germany and so on. I said that I was aware of that, but as far as I could see, it was just famous for being famous. I told him to go to Marburg, or Weztlar, or Limburg or Burg Eltz, all superb places.
    After his weekend I asked him where he had gone. "We went to Heidelberg", said he, "but you know, there's nothing there".
    How do you deal with someone like that??!!

  5. Chris wrote:

    Garry wrote: Speed does not matter, but how much you enjoy your cycling, or indeed the off-the-bike bits during cycles are the things that matter to me.

    Very true. And yet, even though I never bothered with racing cycling, I still want to be able to do those longer rides at a fair pace. Yesterday I really struggled, and had a headache for much of the day.

    My lack of preparation just lately meant I missed the 200km Audax I had hoped to do last week. It started from the Humber Bridge and took in the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Wolds. Yesterday's ride leader told me how many out-of-towners were surprised and impressed last week with what the Wolds have to offer. The Yorkshire Wolds are often said to be the best-kept secret in Yorkshire, or the poor relation of the Dales and the Moors. As someone pointed out yesterday, there are no big-name towns in the Wolds, so that doesn’t help, and attempts by local tourist information bodies to raise their profile haven’t brought the Wolds out of the shadows of the Dales and Moors.

    As predicted, the weather was very changeable yesterday and I stuffed (too much) clothing for all eventualities in to my rack bag. I also used my new Altura Orkney handlebar bag for snacks, camera, and, er, some more clothes. But I never took the camera out of its case all day, despite the views that included the Howardian hills and our picturesque destination, Kirkham in North Yorkshire, so I’m not helping either, am I? In fact I’ve just realised I’ve never taken photographs when I’ve been out with the local member group.

  6. Garry Lee wrote:

    I finished last on some of the days in Lejog last year, I was having so much fun! At the end of the tour I sent all the participants a DVD with 1200 photos of the trip on it. Periodically I dig out the old photo albums of bike tours and really enjoy going through them. A few of them on the trip never even looked around them, I imagine. Cycletouring at its best is akin to yoga.
    Some years ago I went cycling in the River Lot area with Mary. We cycled this dull day up the Cele valley from Figeac. I could see that on a sunny day, this would be something else.
    About 3 years ago I came in the other direction, with friends, in early summer on a sunny day. It was flat, devoid of traffic. There were poppies everywhere. It was just magnificent. I'd love to do it again. That's what I love about cycling.

  7. Patrick wrote:

    When my bike computer stopped working last year I didn't bother to replace it. I'm pleased I didn't, as it added nothing to the pleasure of cycling. I used to find myself doing an extra loop near home, just to make up the mileage – extra loops I really didn't feel like.

    I can see how there's a difference between cycle touring and cycling for training, and I like Garry's comparison with yoga. One's choice of cycling companion(s) is crucial. When I'm out with my sons I'm conscious of being the straggler but I really don't care. When I cycle with Sandra I'm probably going slower than my default pace but have stopped noticing. Her approach is quite interesting. She hates any sort of 'training' on a bicycle. Cycling is just a pleasant way to go somewhere. She has this expression: "The wind in my sails," and I know exactly what she means. The most we normally cycle together is 12 miles or so on Sunday mornings. That is the sum total of her 'training' (although I don't ever refer to it as such, or she wouldn't come). But then, on the cycle tours we've done together, she's felt the wind in her sails and easily managed to keep up 60 miles per day on a fully loaded bike. She even gets cross with me when I keep stopping to take photos!

    An expression I like is the tail wagging the dog and this can happen when one becomes too preoccupied with numbers.

  8. Garry Lee wrote:

    Numbers are the enemy of fun. The speedometer on my touring bike has no average speed calculation, deliberately. My only interest in averages is as a gauge for getting fit for touring effortlessly at my leisure!

  9. Patrick wrote:

    Garry wrote: Numbers are the enemy of fun.

    Injuries even more so. A gammy knee can kill your cycling permanently. I suppose this is what you should think about as you get older, with thirty-odd more years of cycling to look forward to if you play your cards right. Forcing the distances or averages is for younger cyclists, I think. At 62, I'm happy if I can go 60 miles with no effect on my limbs.

  10. Garry Lee wrote:

    I thought gammy was Irish slang!. I've a slightly gammy hand, having had it go through the windscreen of a car, but after nearly 2 years, functionally, it's almost perfect. My knees are excellent but I never push big gears and I have triples or a Rohloff for the stinky little hills around here. I'm convinced that these middleaged males one sees forcing big gears up the Alps are doing their backs no good at all, either. I agree about forcing the averages. 20 years ago we used to tour about 70 mpd, on average. Now it's 50 or less on average, though Lejog (I'm rashered from training) is 65 and awfully hilly on the route we do. It includes Fleet Moss, Holme Moss on so on. But this is my last such tour. When Mary and I toured Yorkshire about 4 years ago, we averaged 38mpd and probably 10mph. I'm just 60 now, retired at 59, but life is a lottery. Maybe I'll be fortunate. My father died at 96 and there was longevity in his family, but I just think of the now. That's what keeps people happy!
    Your comment about knees is totally on my wavelength. I've had injuries from cycling, but that's my favourite activity. It's to NOT damage my knees that I've never gone skiing. A friend of mine (who still does a bit of cycling) has had 2 knee replacements, but he's been a crazy skier all his life and that, I'm sure, is the cause of his problem. Every few trips he'd come back with a new injury.

  11. Patrick wrote:

    I (we) have a contingency plan for if an injury ever stops me (us) cycling.

    danish-lady-motorcyclist Whenever we're waiting at a ferry port (and this goes back many years) we always see motorcyclists off on holiday. It was the same this year on the way to and from Denmark. We'd rather be cycling but those motorcycles have a certain appeal and we've often talked about touring the whole of Europe on one. Or on two, actually. One each. Sandra always says she couldn't handle one physically. Well, as we were waiting in the main square in Esbjerg last week there was a sleek blue motorcycle parked right next to us. Then a slim young Danish woman in tight jeans walked up and hopped onto it, started it up, popped her helmet on and off she went. She's the one in the picture (click to enlarge). I said to Sandra: "See? No problem for her."

    There's a retired Doctor living across the road from us. He's well into his 80s and he has a garage full of old BMW touring machines. Every now and then he's not around, then he's there again and he tells us he's just been to the Northern tip of Norway or across the Alps to Hungary – places like that. I do own a motorcycle but don't ride it very much as I haven't spent any time learning how it works and how to fix it. But as I say, it's an option.

  12. Garry Lee wrote:

    They're dangerous things! A scooter would be safer, I imagine. Once, about 17 years ago (gosh, time flies), a gang of us cycled from Strasbourg to Nice. In the Vosges one day, while sitting down near some castle or other, lines of leather-clad Germans came up the climb on big motorbikes, mostly BMWs. Sez I "What is it with these Germans and their big noisy bikes?" Mike Harris, a Cork-domiciled Englishman with a wry turn of phrase, retorted.. "Well you see, there was a time when each one was issued with his person tank, but now this is all they're left, poor things"

  13. Patrick wrote:

    Here's a photo of my motorcycle. It's pretty safe – slowish, upright, and very noisy, and you wear a massive helmet. Scooters, with their small wheels, are less stable than a proper motorcycle. That motorbike of mine is not much faster than a pedal cycle. An experienced pedal cyclist would make the transition fairly easily I'm sure. It would be the ideal type for Hilary's partner (she'd be able to hear him ten miles away).

  14. Garry Lee wrote:

    On reflection, the lesson is this. Start with the chainring bolts as they're dead easy to check and to tighten!. It would've taken 2 minutes instead of two hours

Leave a comment

Add a Smiley Smiley »