Saturday, 24 June 2017

Touring The Wild Atlantic Way (Ireland) Day 36 - 39

Touring The Wild Atlantic Way (Ireland) Day 36 - 39

Wednesday 21st June 2017 - Drizzly to start but it got better as the day went along!

Well this might be the longest day of the year, but our night certainly didn't seem to be the shortest. Almost from when we went to bed the heavy rain drummed on T4rdis2's roof making it difficult even for a deaf person to sleep!  And then after we'd been in bed for about an hour it just sounded like someone had opened fire with a semi automatic - I'm sure if we climb up on the roof we'll see dents where the hail stones hit!

So understandably, we were a bit bleary eyed when we eventually persuaded ourselves to role out of bed this morning, and because it was still dank and drizzly we really couldn't make up our minds what to do.  However, because we're near the end tip of the Ring-O-Dingle our choice was limited to cycling or walking, and as we wanted to see The Slea Head Drive (which is another narrow cliff hugging road) the former won out - even though coaches go along it we didn't want to take T4rdis2 up there.

The route starts in the town of Dingle, but we joined it a little further on as it passes right by our camp site, and once again the views were splendid - but they quickly got much better as the magnificent Blasket Islands (which were shrouded in sea mist) came into view.  The Islands lie on the very western edge of Europe - there are 6 largish ones and numerous rocky outcrops, and between them and the mainland lies Blasket Sound - a stretch of water that provided a short cut for vessels that were prepared to risk the unpredictable tides and off shore rocks.

The last Islanders moved away in 1954, but if your so minded you can still go for a walk or camp on The Great Blasket (the biggest island) by taking a ferry from Dingle, Ventry or Dunquin!  However, that wasn't on our itinerary for today, but we did find a very picturesque view point were we thought we'd be able to drink in the peace and tranquillity of the views.

That was until the tour busses started to arrive - 3 of them - so our idyllic resting place was very quickly over-run by people of several nationalities snapping quick pics!  I think the Star Wars connection might have been the attraction - apparently Jedi Temples had been built in the bay during filming!

Anyway, despite the crowds we still sat and enjoyed our scones and coffee because we knew we'd need the fortification for the hills to come.  The winding road continued upwards hugging the seaward side of Mount Eagle and each turn revealed a new view - but sometimes the view was of a huge coach barrelling down towards us.

Apparently the tour busses all go around the peninsulas in a clockwise direction so they never have any comings together, but in places they still needed every inch of space to squeeze by the jagged edges of rock - on more than one occasion we were very glad we weren't in the van!

On our way we paused several times to take in the sights which included ancient beehive huts, forts, and a Stonehouse that had been converted into a restaurant, and then we began our decent down to Ventry beach which was to be our lunch spot.  From there we completed our circle back towards home, but on the way we side tracked for a little nip along Wine Strand where there are several tiny coves that people take advantage of for swimming - it was quite tempting but a bit nippy today!  So instead we watched the cormorants on the rocks drying their wings.

Thursday 22nd June 2017 - Mostly sunny all day

This morning we left The Oratory House Campsite and headed off the Ring-O-Dingle, and in so doing we left the flaming fuchsia hedgerows behind.  Apparently the plants are a native of Chile but they were introduced to these parts in the 1850s, and planted extensively as hedging in the 1930s, and now they add a glorious splash of colour wherever you look!

Next stop was a view point just above Inch Beach - another 3 mile stretch of sand - a lovely view to sit and look at while we sipped our morning coffee before continuing our journey onto our next port of call, which was Fossa - just a short distance from Killarney.  We're going to spend the next 3 nights there at Beech Grove Caravan Park, and hopefully take the time to revisit The Gap of Dunlow and explore the Muckross Lake area by cycling along the Killarney National Park Cycle Path.

However, by the time we'd arrived and settled in today it was too late to do either of those things, so this afternoon we contented ourselves with walking into Killarney National Park and sitting in the sunshine at the lovely thatched Deenagh Lodge Cafe where we treated ourselves to coffee and cake while watching the numerous pony and traps passing by.

Friday 23rd June 2017 - mostly cloudy but the promised rain didn't arrive😀

This morning, as planned we set of to explore the Muckross Lake area which is all within The Killarney National Park Boundary. And there was a lot to see - an ancient castle, a stately home, the Torc Waterfall and the stunning lakes, and to get around it all the park provides an abundance of trails where the only thing you have to compete with are the Jaunting Cars, and the only thing you have to be careful of is what they leave behind 💩💩

We left the campsite and we were almost immediately on The Fossa Way - the same multi use path that we'd walked along yesterday, and as we could monitor it with our bike computers, we were quite suprised to learn that yesterday's outing had been 6 and a half miles - more than enough to use up the large slice of cake we'd indulged in!

Anyway, once we were on the trails properly we came across a small group of people snapping pics - the chap on the left is apparently one of 700  red deer that live in the park - he must be used to crowds because he wouldn't interrupt his mid morning snack to lift his head and pose for the cameras! And even though we explored the park quite thoroughly, we never did find the other 699!

Then we didn't peddle much further before we came across the domineering silhouette of Ross Castle which has stood on the banks of Lough Leane for over 600 years - it was built for the O'Donoghue
Chieftains who ruled Killarney in the 15th century.

From there we followed another trail up onto Ross Island, where there are numerous information  boards concerning the copper mines that have existed there for over 4000 years.  We learnt that in those early days the miners used stone hammers and fire to extract the copper ore. This they placed in charcoal fuelled pits that reached temperatures of 1,000 degrees to produce the metal!

Next we cycled down the side of Lough Leane from where we had lovely views of the Lakes and Mountains before we nipped along another side track to the ruin of Muckross Friary where a community of Observantine Franciscan Monks had resided in the 15th century.

And as we peddled away from there The grand  Muckross House itself came into view. (I took the picture while I was peddling - that's why it's a bit wonky)

Now, all our exploring had taken quite a while, so by this time finding a spot for lunch was our main mission- but once we got settled we got a bit of a scare!  I was just going to bite into my tuna sarnie (trying to avoid getting extra meat rations in the form of millions of midges), when I noticed a big red blob on John's ankle!  I thought he'd been attacked by a blood sucking leech - but on closer examination it turned out to be a big blob of jam that had dribbled out of his scone earlier😂😂😂

And once again we were lucky enough to have a splendid dining room overlooking the lake
Once fed and watered we carried on, first against the lake side, and then we followed a couple of pony and traps through the outskirts of Killarney - but quite soon we found ourselves travelling along a quiet road towards Torc Waterfall.  Here we noticed how densely and massively the rhododendrons were growing, despite the fact that it looked as if war had been waged on them in the recent past. Apparently they poses a serious threat to Killarney's forests because the plants grow up to 20 feet high in dense thickets, and each branch will take root wherever it touches soil.  Additionally, it's heavy shiny leaves reduce the sun light that can get to the forest floor and eliminate almost every other plant form, and as each flower can produce 3 - 7000 seeds  it reproduces prolifically. Then, to cap it all, the plant  contains toxins so nothing feeds on it - therefore it's only real enemies are  man with a chainsaw or spade!

Then eventually we reached Torc Waterfall car park where locked up our bikes and took the short walk to the fall itself.  It wasn't quite in spate, but as it fell 65 feet in several cascades it made a very pretty sight - however, once again the midges ensured that nobody lingered to long!  Nearly everybody looked as if they'd got insect induced Tourettes😁.

Finally, all that was left for us to do was wend our way back through the park as we headed for home at the end of our 28 mile ride - for the rest of the evening it will be feet up and take it easy in preparation for another long and hilly outing tomorrow

Saturday 24th June 2017 - Sunshine for most of the day!

Today's ride was to be a long one (about 38 miles), and also fairly tough with several long ascents! But we'd travelled that way before -  about 20 years ago -  so although our memories of it were vague, we new we were in for a treat, especially as the weather was so good.  Our main target was The Gap of Dunloe - a 6.8 mile long narrow mountain pass which was forged between the MacGillycuddy Reeks Range and Purple Mountain by glacial flows, and in places it reaches 1,500 feet in depth.

The Gap is behind us!
We left T4rdis2 and travelled along quite roads to Kate Kearney's Cottage which lies at the bottom of The Gap, and form there we held with tradition that demands the way up is by hiking, biking or by pony and trap. And as the road meanders lazily through awe inspiring vistas that are interjected by a series of old bridges and sparkling waterfalls your very glad you can only go slowly!

In the end the climb turned out to be easier than we thought, and even though we'd used 'Tour' power on our bikes for most of the way up, we'd still got plenty in reserve for later - and we certainly didn't need any assistance to get down the other side!   We just held on tight and zoomed into Black Valley, from where we did a short detour to Lord Brandon's Cottage.  From here we could have caught a boat that would have taken us back down through the lakes to Ross Castle but we wanted to see more, so instead we continued along part of The Ring of the Reeks cycle route.
You can just about see the road on the upper left of the picture
Spot John!

And then we took a short cut! Up Up and Up it went for a couple of miles to a view point called Moll's Gap, and as this overlooked both part of the Reeks and the road we'd just ridden up we made it today's dining room!
Then once we'd eaten - it all went downhill - at nearly 30 mph!  All we had to do was breath in when the many many tour busses passed by.

However, we had to smile when we nipped by a sheep dog demonstration. There were loads of busses in the car park, and as we stood watching the clever dog rounding up the sheep we wondered if his time would be better spent rounding up the people cos from what we'd seen along the way there were certain similarities in the way the visitors were being treated!

Next came the parking bay at Ladies' View where we were we took the time to admire the panoramic sight of the lakes and waterways that lead down to the huge lower Lough Lake

And then it was more down-hilling, back into Killarney and back along some  of the ground we'd covered yesterday though the National Park as we wended our way home at the end of a spectacular day.

Tomorrow we'll move on again - this time to the small settlement of Sneem on the Iveragh Peninsula of the Ring of Kerry - so the next instalment will be from there 😘

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