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.