The Best Bike Ride in Ireland

This is an account of a bike ride I made 10.04.10. Unfortunately I'd knocked my camera into White Balance for Bulb mode by accident so I couldn't quite correct the colour, but you'll get the idea anyway.
The Beara Peninsula is the middle one of 5 on the Southwest Coast of Ireland. Three quarters of it is in Co.Cork and a quarter in Co.Kerry. It offers challenging cycling, but the best scenery for cycling, in my opinion and the roads are quiet. Some of the road surfaces are bockety, but it's still great.
Mick, my son-in-law Keith and I drove to Glengarriffe (Gleann Garbh = a rugged glen, and that it certainly is) and started from there. Glengarriffe is unbelievably picturesque.
We headed west to Adrigole. Leaving Glengarriffe there's a 3 mile intermittent climb which offers the steepest climb of the day, in parts.


Leaving Glengarriffe

You cycle past small inlets, small lakes and great views out to sea.

Eventually you reach the peak of this section and there's a mostly downhill section to near Trafrask (Trá Phraisce = Beach with rubbish, I think. Could also mean porridge but such an "organic" beach would be unusual in Ireland!). This is a tiny hamlet. The cycle continues to Adrigole Village and then falls downhill to the junction for the Healy Pass.
This road was finished before world war 2 and was named after Tim Healy, a governor general of Ireland when Ireland was part of the Commonwealth (till 1948).


Adrigole Harbour. The beautiful mountain in the background is Hungry Hill, more than 2000ft. In Irish is Cnoc Daod. Meaning of Daod is unknown. It could be the name of some pagan god. Cnoc is Hill. This hill is a famous hillwalk, risky in bad weather.

The climb of the Healy pass is initially straight but then a series of hairpins.

There's nothing steep in in, but it is all uphill. I think the elevation is about 430m. About 100m on the far side (north) you can park your bike by a wall on the left and walk in about 50 m to a rock which gives you one of the best views in Europe.


View from Northern Side of Healy Pass


Keith Descending.

The descent is winding and a little steep in areas. Not one for blasting down as a slalom job. The climb of the Northern side is more difficult.
Eventually you pass the Síbín pub at the bottom and turn left and then first right.
This takes you through huge pines

on a coastal loop through Kilmacillogue Harbour where there is a pub, O'Sullivans, where we had sandwiches and coffee. They do fantastic fresh salmon sandwiches.
This harbour is gorgeous. You can turn right on the main road to Kenmare, instead of going to Kilmacillogue, but it's hillier and much less interesting.

Suitably refreshed we headed along the coast on a quiet road, and then slightly inland to meet the main road to Kenmare. This is scenic with some lovely views.

This view is inland to a sea-lough.

Reaching the outskirts of Kenmare we take a right to climb the Caha pass, known to everyone as the Tunnel Road, because there are a couple of short tunnels on it.


Climbing tunnel road

This climbs to a similar height as the Healy pass, and then drops down to Glengarriffe. On the right there is huge scenery as you descend.


This telephoto shot shows Barley Lake. There is a road going up to this which briefly maxes at 32%. You can see it on the right of the photograph and the steepest bit is near the bottom. I rode up it once, years ago on an MTB without getting off! On the way down, the braking had to be such that the heat blew off a patch on the inner aspect of my rear tube!

53 miles, just over 12mph. Boys cycling too hard for fun. I'll shoot them the next time! The weather was, as we say in Cork, massive!

12 comments on “The Best Bike Ride in Ireland”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    That looks beautiful. I'd guess that most outsiders wouldn't imagine so many mountains in Ireland. It's interesting how Ireland and Scotland share the word 'glen'.

  2. Garry Lee wrote:

    Glen is gleann = valley. Irish and Scots Gaelic were the same language until about 800 years ago and shared the same literary language until about 1750. It's very easy to learn one from the other. I can get the gist of Scots Gaelic, understanding about every second sentence. The vocabulary is I would guess, about 85% the same. E.g. all the parts of the body are the same. The pronunciation can be different, but among the 4 main dialects of Irish they vary anyway.
    Similar topographical words.
    Tairbeart in both = isthmus. Inbhear in both = estuary. Oileán = Eilean = island. Sliabh = mountain. Maol Cheann Tíre = Bare Area Headland in both = Mull of Kintyre. Some words are unique to one or the other. E.g. Duine = person in Irish = man in SG.
    Búrn = water (burren) is not in Irish. Uisce, Uisge in both.
    In some SG sounds Norse has influenced the pronunciation, so Caolas Loch Aillse (the strait of Loch Alsh) = Kyle of Lochalshe. Caolas in Irish is Koaylas, but in SG, taking on a Swedish sound is Keolas.

    I'm very interested in stuff like this, which is one of the reasons I love being retired!!

  3. Chris wrote:

    Yet more options for the long summer holidays. I’m not sure Mrs Bailey would fancy those hills, in fact I know she wouldn’t. However, she is the head of RE at a Catholic secondary school, so surely there will be some educational things for her to do in your part of Ireland while I’m trying to follow your routes. Is there any chance you could put this one into something like mapmyride.com, i.e. something non-GPS gadget specific?

    If I’m going to do a bike ride in Ireland, I reckon it should be The Best Bike Ride in Irleland!

  4. Garry Lee wrote:

    Chris, this one is dead easy. Head west from Glengarriffe, after the village of Adrigole take sign for Healy Pass, at bottom where sign says Kenmare turn left in opposite direction, first right and straight on from Kilmacillogue till back on Kenmare Road. Then at Bridge to Kenmare take right and follow this straight back to Glengariffe. It is impossible to get lost!

  5. Chris wrote:

    Just tried that from my end using online mapping and after Adrigole I fetched up in Leominster, Massachusetts. Another OS-type map purchase by the looks of it.

  6. Patrick wrote:

    When are you thinking you might go? Before you buy the map, let's see if we can work this one out from the clues ;). We've got plenty to go on for now – some names and the photos. For instance if you search Google for "Healy's Pass Ireland map" then "Kilmackillogue map" you see which way to go from Adrigole. Glengarriff to Kilmackillogue = 21.5 miles. After that it's off towards Kenmare. Here's my attempt:

    Best ride in Ireland

    Screenshot from RouteConverter

    Total route length (according to MapSource) about 52 miles – view track file (select all, copy and paste into Windows Notepad and save file with .gpx suffix, then I think you should be able to import it into mapmyride as a .gpx track). Here it is as a .gpx route.

    This looks like a tremendous ride. Good pics Garry.

  7. Garry wrote:

    That's spot on. There are in fact several variants of this you can do. You can do the whole peninsula incorporating the Glengarriff (spelt with and without a terminal "e") Kenmare bit. This is about 90 miles and a hard hard spectacular spin. If you incorporate the loop out along the coast to the west of Ardgroom it's 100 miles and a killer. Not worth doing that, though. You can do a crossing which is east of Glengarriffe this, from Ballylickey to Kilgarvan. A wild mountain road. Super cycle. You can also go from Ballylickey over the Priest's Leap which comes out at Bonane, on the Kerry part of the Glengarriffe Kenmare road. You can see these roads on the above. A point about Google Maps in Ireland is that the placenames marked on them are "townland" placenames and are only known to the people who live in these spots. I don't know why they do that! My mother was from Adrigole and I've heard of Trafrask and Dereenacarrin, but not Dromgarvan (half a mile from where she was from), nor Scart etc. I did hear of Rossmackowen. Adrigole, which is a village is not indicated on this map. It's half-way between Trafrask and Dromgarvan. The bottom of the Healy Pass on the Kerry side is called Lauragh and that's not on the map. AAARRRGGGHHH!

  8. Patrick wrote:

    Adrigole is on the map when you zoom in, but of course you can't zoom in on that image. I plotted the .gpx route in Garmin MapSource then viewed it in RouteConverter for the screenshot. To create the .gpx track I viewed the MapSource route in Google Earth (which as we know is poor in this part of the world) then saved it from GE to my hard drive.

    I now see why you say it would be hard to get lost. You're lucky to have such a playground so close by. Having said that, I'm pretty close to the Yorshire Dales, so I can't complain. I should make more of a point of driving up there with my bike instead of cycling from home so much. My wife fancies a cycle tour in Ireland so it may be that we come over some time.

  9. Chris wrote:

    Thanks for the email/RouteConverter maps, chaps.

  10. Garry Lee wrote:

    You should come. The Yorkshire Dales are fabulous and I've been there twice (once on Lejog and once for a tour of Yorkshire alone. The difference from Beara and West Cork and Kerry generally is total. Completely different scencery with big mountains, gorse, heather, rock, craggy coastline, lush vegetation in sheltered areas. Very like Scotland, but with scenery on a smaller scale, with better colour. Because SW Ireland is further South the flora is more varied and at certain times of the year the colour is as our American friends would say (God Bless 'em) "awesome"!
    Another great day out is the circuit of the Mizen peninsula, and Sheep's head is great on a sunny day, though the road surfaces are uberbockety.

  11. Kern wrote:

    Beara and Mizen are both on our agenda for the end of May.

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