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Ireland Cycling Guide

Introduction

There are few places on earth that can match the southwest of Ireland for pure, rugged beauty. Along the coast, Atlantic rollers crash into precipitous cliffs, while inlets and bays are home to sheltered fishing harbors and white-sand beaches. Inland, rolling, emerald- green farmland is bounded by hedgerows and ancient drystone walls. Visitors are assured a warm welcome from people who seem always to have time to talk and have a love of sharing.

The following guide is a compilation of  background, safety and day-by-day routes of the area. Complete with restaurant suggestions and “Points of Interest,” this guide will provide you with thorough, applicable travel information for your next cycling tour through Ireland.

The Day-by-Day section of the guidebook will preview each days route and scenery or points of interest along the way. It’s suggested that you read this before you head out on the day’s ride. Typically, there are three levels of riding each day: easiest, intermediate and challenge.

We are passionate about cycle touring and believe there is no better way to experience the sights, sounds and scents of an area than on two wheels.

Enjoy!

Background on the Area

Southwest Ireland Highlights

COUNTY KERRY: A series of stunning peninsulas with iconic, Irish scenery: cliffs, beaches, serene lakes, and rugged mountains.dingle_penisula

DINGLE PENINSULA: The spectacular Slea Head loop is one of the most stunning bike rides in Ireland and one of the few pockets of Ireland where Gaelic is still widely spoken.Irish_pubPUBS: Even teetotalers should experience the warm collegiality that makes the pub the welcoming heart of most Irish towns and villages. The Guinness is great too.
kilarney_national_parkKILLARNEY NATIONAL PARK: Breathtaking scenery (lakes, waterfalls, and mountains) as well as an ancient castle, a Victorian manor house, and a 12th-century monastery.

Geography

This tour focuses on the southwest of Ireland; mostly in County Kerry with occasional forays across the border into County Cork.  Our routes explore three peninsulas (Dingle, Inveragh and Beara) where the Atlantic coast dominates much of the geography with its cliffs, sandy beaches and craggy inlets.

Despite its proximity to the coast, County Kerry is the most mountainous region of Ireland and contains two of its three highest mountains, Carrauntoohil, part of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, and Mount Brandon, part of the Slieve Mish Mountains.  The county also contains the westernmost point of Ireland: Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula.  Just off the coast are a number of islands, including the Blasket Islands, Valentia Island and Skellig Michael.  The last of these was used as a location for filming Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Skellig Michael (or Great Skellig) is the hermit-like setting where Rey tracks down Luke Skywalker.

 

Climate

The climate in the southwest of Ireland is influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the prevailing winds that blow onshore from the southwest.  These conditions result in a climate that is mild, changeable and moist.

The best time to visit is from mid-May to early-September.  The sunniest months are May and June, with an average of five to seven hours of sunshine per day.  July and August are the warmest months, but it is rarely hot.  While the wettest months are December and January, rainfall is common throughout the year.  However, the Atlantic weather fronts pass quickly, and it is common for a day to include both sunshine and rain.

Whenever you choose to travel, you should pack waterproofs and warm clothing.  The charts below show the monthly average temperatures (in Fahrenheit) and rainfall (in inches) for Killarney, a town at the center of our tours.

Average Monthly Temperatures in Fahrenheit
Average Monthly Rainfall in Inches

 

Irish History for Those …

 … in a Rush

It is complicated, the English do bad things but it all comes good in the end.

 … with a Little More Time but Who Don’t Need All the Details

  • 16,000 BCE, Ireland covered in ice
  • 12,000 BCE, Ireland becomes an Island – separate from Scotland
  • 8,000 BCE, first evidence of humans
  • 500 BCE, emergence of a distinct Celtic culture
  • 400 CE, Christianity arrives
  • 800, the Vikings arrive
  • 1171, the English (who were really French) arrive
  • 1348, the Black Death arrives and the English (mostly) leave
  • 1541, the English come back
  • 1740 & 1741, first Great Famine – 400,000 die and 150,000 leave
  • 1801, Ireland & Britain join to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
  • 1829, Catholic emancipation
  • 1845 to 1849, second Great Famine – 1 million die and 1 million leave
  • 1914, Irish Home Rule passed but delayed due to WWI
  • 1919, Irish War of Independence
  • 1921, Independence for Ireland (Irish Free State)
  • 1921, Northern Ireland remains part of UK
  • 1922, James Joyce’s Ulysses published
  • 1969, start of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland
  • 1973, Ireland joins the EEC – that becomes the EU
  • 1995, start of significant economic growth (the Celtic Tiger period)
  • 1998, Good Friday Agreement brings peace to Northern Ireland
  • 1999, Ireland adopts the Euro
  • 2015, referendum amends constitution to recognize same-sex marriage
  • 2016, Leo Varadkar elected – Ireland’s first openly gay (and bi-racial) prime minister
  • 2018, referendum amends constitution to allow for the legalizing of abortion

… Waiting for the Bathroom to be Free

Pre Christianity

It is thought that Ireland was still connected to Britain as late at 16,000 years ago when the climate was still cold and local ice caps persisted in parts of the country.

Ireland was settled much later than much of the rest of Europe with the first signs of humans 10,000 years ago.  In 4000 BCE farming spread to Ireland in the Stone Age.  Around 300 BCE, Celts came to Ireland bringing their iron tools, their weapons and a language that would evolve into Gaelic (the official Irish language).  There are many surviving myths about these Celtic warriors in Irish mythology.

The Romans referred to Ireland as Hibernia though Ireland was never a part of the Roman Empire, but Roman culture and practices did influence Ireland.

Early Christianity (400 to 800 CE)

Tradition maintains that in 432 CE, St. Patrick arrived on the island and made it his mission to convert the Irish to Christianity.  However, it is likely that there were already Christians living in Ireland at the time.  Patrick is also traditionally credited with preserving and codifying Irish laws and changing only those that conflicted with Christian practices.  He is credited with introducing the Roman alphabet, which allowed Irish monks to preserve parts of the extensive oral literature.  Whatever the genesis, Irish scholars excelled in the study of Latin and Christian theology in the monasteries that flourished shortly thereafter.

The plagues of the 660s and the 680s had a harrowing effect on Irish society. The golden age of the saints was over.  The first English involvement in Ireland took place in this period with the foundation of monasteries specifically for English students who wished to study and live in Ireland.

Early Medieval and Viking Era (800 to 1166 CE)

The first recorded Viking raid in Irish history occurred in 795 CE when Vikings from Norway looted the island. These raids disturbed the golden age of Christian Irish culture and marked the beginning of two centuries of intermittent warfare, with waves of Viking raiders plundering monasteries and towns throughout Ireland.  In the next century, the Vikings established coastal settlements most notably in Dublin.  The Battle of Clontarf, in 1014 CE, began the decline of Viking power in Ireland.

Norman Ireland (1168–1535)

By the 12th century, Ireland was divided politically into a shifting hierarchy of small kingdoms and dynasties vying against each other for supremacy over the whole island.

In 1167, exiled King Diarmait Mac Murchada of Leinster recruited Norman knights from England to regain his kingdom. Diarmait took control of several counties but King Henry II (of England), fearing the establishment of a rival Norman state, and himself landed in Ireland in 1171 with a large fleet.  Henry awarded the conquered Irish territories to his younger son John with the title Dominus Hiberniae (“Lord of Ireland”) and when he unexpectedly succeeded his brother as King John of England, the “Lordship of Ireland” fell directly under the English Crown.

The Normans initially controlled the entire east coast and some considerable distance inland.  Many of the local Irish kings also swore loyalty to King John.  Throughout the 13th century the policy of the English Kings was to weaken the power of the Norman Lords in Ireland by encouraging Internecine rivalries.

In 1261 the weakened Normans were defeated by Irish king Fineen MacCarthy at the Battle of Callann.  The war continued between the different lords and earls for about 100 years, causing much destruction, especially around Dublin.  In this chaotic time, local Irish lords won back large amounts of land that their families had lost since the conquest and held them after the war was over.

The Black Death arrived in Ireland in 1348.  the plague hit the English and Norman inhabitants, who lived in towns and villages, far harder than it did the native Irish, who lived in more rural settlements. As the plague lessened, the Gaelic language and Irish customs came to dominate the country again while the English-controlled territory shrank to a fortified area around Dublin.

Around the country, local Gaelic lords expanded their powers at the expense of the English government in Dublin while the remaining Dublin government was essentially put under the control of the Westminster Parliament.

Early modern Ireland (1536–1691)

In 1536, Henry VIII started the reconquest of Ireland, which had lent support to the House of York in the English Wars of the Roses.  In 1541, Henry promoted Ireland from a lordship to a full kingdom.  In this way, Henry could proclaim himself King of Ireland ruling over both the Gaelic Irish chieftains as well as the Hiberno-Norman aristocracy.  However, it took nearly a century (in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I) of negotiating and brutal fighting with the independent Irish and Old English lords to finally conquer the island and assert centralized government over the entire island.

However, the English did not succeed in converting the Catholic Irish to the Protestant religion and the brutal methods used by crown authority (including resorting to martial law) to bring the country under English control heightened resentment of English rule.

From the mid-16th to the early 17th century, crown governments carried out a policy of land confiscation and colonization known as Plantations.  Scottish and English Protestant colonists were sent to the provinces of Munster, Ulster and the counties of Laois and Offaly.  These Protestant settlers replaced the Irish Catholic landowners who were removed from their lands.  These settlers formed the ruling class of future British-appointed administrations in Ireland. Several Penal Laws, aimed at Catholics, Baptists and Presbyterians, were introduced to encourage conversion to the established (Anglican) Church of Ireland.

After an unusually bitter Irish Catholic rebellion and civil war, Oliver Cromwell, on behalf of the English Commonwealth, re-conquered Ireland by invasion which lasted from 1649 to 1651. Under Cromwell’s government, landownership in Ireland was transferred overwhelmingly to Puritan soldiery and commercial undertakers to pay for the war.  The Irish were dehumanized by the English and described as “savages” to make their displacement appear justified.  In 1654 the British parliament gave Oliver Cromwell a free hand to banish Irish “undesirables”.  Cromwell rounded up Catholics throughout the Irish countryside and placed them on ships bound for the Caribbean, mainly the island of Barbados.  By 1655, 12,000 political prisoners had been forcibly shipped to Barbados and into indentured servitude.

In fact, the 17th century was the bloodiest in Ireland’s history.  From 1688, Ireland became the main battleground after the Glorious Revolution, when the Catholic James II left London and the English Parliament replaced him with William of Orange.  The wealthier Irish Catholics backed James to try to reverse the Penal Laws and land confiscations, whereas Protestants supported William and Mary in this “Glorious Revolution” to preserve their property in the country.  James and William fought for the Kingdom of Ireland in the Williamite War, most famously at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, where James’s outnumbered forces were defeated.

Protestant ascendancy (1691–1801)

Most of the people of Ireland were Catholic peasants; very poor with little political power as many of their leaders had converted to Protestantism to avoid economic and political penalties.  There were two main Protestant groups:

  • The Presbyterians in Ulster lived in relatively good economic conditions but had little political power.
  • A small group of Anglo-Irish families who held most of the political power. They were loyal to the Anglican Church of Ireland.

This latter group owned the great bulk of the farmland, where the work was done by the Catholic peasants.  Many of these families were actually based in England and therefore absentee landlords whose loyalty was to England.  The Anglo-Irish who lived in Ireland became increasingly renowned as Irish nationalists and were offended by the English power over their island.  Men like Jonathan Swift and Edmund Burke, seen as spokesmen for this group, wanted more local control.

Irish antagonism toward England was aggravated by abusive absentee landlords who managed their estates inefficiently and exported food rather than using it for domestic consumption.  Two very cold winters near the end of the Little Ice Age led directly to a famine between 1740 and 1741, which killed about 400,000 people and caused over 150,000 Irish to leave the island.  In addition, Irish exports were reduced by the Navigation Acts from the 1660s, which placed tariffs on Irish products entering England, but exempted English goods from tariffs on entering Ireland.  Despite these events most of the 18th century was relatively peaceful in comparison with the preceding two centuries, and the population doubled to over four million.

In 1798 a group of dissident Protestants led a rebellion that was bloodily suppressed.  Principally in response to this rebellion, Irish self-government was ended altogether by the provisions of the Acts of Union 1800 (which abolished the Irish Parliament of that era).

Union with Great Britain (1801–1912)

In 1801, the Irish and the British parliaments enacted the Acts of Union. The merger fashioned a new political entity called United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  Part of the agreement forming the basis of this union was that the Test Act would be repealed to remove any remaining discrimination against Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists and other dissenter religions in the newly United Kingdom. However, King George III, controversially blocked attempts to repeal or change this discriminatory act.  Only in 1829 did parliament finally pass the Catholic Relief Act under the leadership of the Dublin-born Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington (hero of the Napoleonic Wars).

The second of Ireland’s “Great Famines”, An Gorta Mór struck from 1845–49, with potato blight, exacerbated by the political factors of the time leading to mass starvation and emigration.  The impact of emigration from Ireland was severe; the population dropped from over 8 million before the Famine to 4.4 million in 1911. Gaelic or Irish, once the island’s spoken language, declined in use sharply in the 19th century and was largely replaced by English.

During this time, there were a series of violent rebellions by Irish republicans led by Robert Emmet, the Young Irelanders and Thomas Francis Meagher.  All of which failed but ‘physical force nationalism’ remained an undercurrent.

The late 19th century witnessed major land reform and laws were passed that enabled most tenant farmers to purchase their lands and lowered the rents of the others.  These culminated with the Wyndham Land Purchase Act of 1903.  This Act set the conditions for the break-up of large estates and gradually devolved to rural landholders and tenant ownership of the lands; effectively ending the era of the absentee landlord and resolving the “Irish Land Question”.

In the 1870s the subject of Irish self-government again became a major focus of debate under Charles Stewart Parnell, founder of the Irish Parliamentary Party. The British prime minister, Gladstone, made two unsuccessful attempts to pass Home Rule in 1886 and 1893 and then Parnell’s leadership collapsed amid a divorce scandal and he died in 1891 at age 45.

In the early 1900s, there were tensions between Irish nationalists (who favored Irish independence) and Irish unionists (who favored maintenance of the Union with Britain).  Most of the island was predominantly nationalist, Catholic and agrarian. The northeast, however, was predominantly unionist, Protestant and industrialized.  Unionists feared a loss of political power and economic wealth in a predominantly rural, nationalist, Catholic Ireland.  Nationalists alleged they would remain economically and politically second-class citizens without self-government.  Out of this division, two conflicting sectarian movements grew, the Protestant Orange Order and the Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Home Rule, Easter Rising and War of Independence (1912–1922)

Home Rule became sure when, in 1910, the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) held the balance of power in Commons and the third Home Rule Bill was introduced in 1912.  Unionist resistance was instant with the formation of the Ulster Volunteers.  In turn, the Irish Volunteers were established to oppose them and enforce the introduction of self-government.

In September 1914, just as the WW I broke out, the UK Parliament passed the Third Home Rule Act to establish self-government for Ireland, but was suspended for the duration of the war.  To help ensure implementation of Home Rule after the war, nationalist leaders and the IPP supported Ireland’s participation with the Allies in the war effort.  Before the war ended, Britain made two concerted efforts to implement Home Rule, but the Irish sides (Nationalist and Unionist) were unable to agree to terms for the temporary or permanent exclusion of Ulster from its provisions.

In the December 1918 elections, Sinn Féin, the party of the nationalist rebels, won three-quarters of all seats in Ireland, twenty-seven MPs of which assembled in Dublin on 21 January 1919 to form a 32-county Irish Republic Parliament, the first Dáil Éireann singly declaring sovereignty over the whole island.

Unwilling to negotiate any understanding with Britain short of complete independence, the Irish Republican Army, the army of the newly declared Irish Republic, waged a guerilla war (the Irish War of Independence) from 1919 to 1921.  During the fighting and amid much acrimony, the Fourth Government of Ireland Act 1920 implemented Home Rule while separating the island into what the British government’s Act termed “Northern Ireland” and “Southern Ireland”.

In July 1921 the British and Irish governments agreed to a truce that halted the war. In December 1921 both governments signed an Anglo-Irish Treaty.  This abolished the Irish Republic and created the Irish Free State, a self-governing Dominion of the Commonwealth of Nations in the manner of Canada and Australia.  Under the Treaty, Northern Ireland promptly opt out of the Free State and stay within the United Kingdom. In 1922 both parliaments endorsed the Treaty, honoring independence for the 26-county Irish Free State (which renamed itself Ireland in 1937 and declared itself a republic in 1949); while the 6-county Northern Ireland, remained part of the United Kingdom.  For most of the next 75 years, each territory was strongly affiliated to either Catholic or Protestant ideologies.

Free State and Republic (1922–present)

The treaty to sever the Union divided the republican movement into anti-Treaty (who wanted to fight on until an Irish Republic of the full 32 counties was achieved) and pro-Treaty supporters (who accepted the Free State of the 26 counties as a first step towards full independence and unity).  Between 1922 and 1923 both sides fought the bloody Irish Civil War.  The new Irish Free State government defeated the anti-Treaty remnant of the Irish Republican Army, imposing multiple executions.  This division among nationalists still colors Irish politics today, specifically between the two leading Irish political parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

The Roman Catholic Church had a powerful influence over the Irish state for much of its history. The clergy’s influence meant that the Irish state had very conservative social policies, forbidding, for example, divorce, contraception, abortion, pornography as well as censoring and banning many books and films.  In addition, the Church largely controlled the State’s hospitals, schools and other social services.

With the partition of Ireland in 1922, 92.6% of the Free State’s population were Catholic while 7.4% were Protestant.  However, by the 1960s the Protestant population had fallen by half.

In 1937, a new Constitution re-established the state as Ireland (or Éire in Irish).  The state remained neutral throughout WW II although tens of thousands volunteered to serve in the British forces and recent studies have suggested a far greater level of involvement with the Allies than was realized at the time.

In 1949 the state was formally declared a republic and it left the British Commonwealth.

In the 1960s, Ireland underwent a major economic change under reforming Taoiseach (prime minister) Seán Lemass and Secretary of the Department of Finance T.K. Whitaker, who produced a series of economic plans. Free second-level education was introduced by Donogh O’Malley as Minister for Education in 1968. From the early 1960s, Ireland sought admission to the European Economic Community but, because 90% of exports were to the United Kingdom market, it did not do so until the UK itself joined the EEC in 1973.

Economic reforms in the 1980s help Ireland recover from a severe downturn in the 1970s leading to, by the 1990s, one of the world’s highest economic growth rates; a period when it became known as the Celtic Tiger.  Irish society adopted relatively liberal social policies during this period.  Divorce was legalized, homosexuality decriminalized, and abortion in limited cases was allowed.  There was also a widespread decline in religious practice, with weekly attendance at Roman Catholic Mass dropping by half in twenty years.

Ireland’s new-found prosperity ended abruptly in 2008 when the banking system collapsed due to the Irish property bubble bursting.  25% of GDP was needed to bail out failing Irish banks and force banking sector consolidation.  This was the largest banking bailout for any country in history and resulted in a major financial and political crisis as Ireland entered a recession.  Emigration rose to 1989 levels as the unemployment rate rose from 4.2% in 2007 to reach 14.6% as of February 2012.

Since 2014, Ireland has again experienced strong economic growth and is now dubbed the “Celtic Phoenix”.  The country is also becoming more progressive and less traditional.  In 2015, Ireland become the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage; becoming the first country in the world to do so by popular vote. In 2016, Leo Varadkar was elected as Taoiseach becoming Ireland’s first openly gay (and bi-racial) prime minister.  Social changed continued when in 2018, a referendum amended the constitution to allow for the legalizing of abortion.

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Towns & Cities

Dingle

Overview

Dingle is the westernmost town in Europe; protected from the Atlantic Ocean by an impressive natural harbor which is dinglehome to an active fishing fleet.  The town features brightly painted houses, traditional shop fronts and narrow streets that lead down to the busy harbor, leaving you in no doubt that this is a fishing town with strong connections to the sea.

The harbor is also famous for its resident dolphin – Fungie: a bottlenose dolphin who swam into the harbor in 1983 and has been a attracting attention ever since (see Things to Do below).  As you would expect, there are plenty of good quality restaurants serving locally-caught seafood.

Dingle is located in the heart of an Irish-speaking area, known as a Gaeltacht. Despite the fact that Dingle is one of Ireland’s largest Gaeltacht towns, the locals have voted to retain the name Dingle rather than go by the Gaelige name of An Daingean (which is the name you will see on most signposts).

The town is popular with tourists and expatriates; managing to be quaint, Irish and cosmopolitan all at the same time.  It is smaller and more intimate than its larger neighbor – Killarney – and despite being busy, it has a quiet charm with plenty of cafes, restaurants and, of course, bars.  Guinness seems to be served everywhere and, come evening, music is easy to find.

Eating & Drinking

Dingle has multiple fantastic restaurants and pubs to choose from.

Ashes Bar and Restaurant; allegedly serving the best seafood chowder in the world. Address: Main Street, Dingle, Ireland. Open 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM and 5:30 PM – 9.30 PM every day.

One of Dingle’s best restaurants is Out of the Blue, a quirky blue and yellow, fishing-shack-style restaurant located on the harbor. Its intense devotion to fresh local seafood (and only seafood) means that if they don’t like the daily catch, then they don’t open. Can be quite pricey. Open: 5:00 PM – 9:30 PM every day and 12.30 PM – 3:00 PM on Sundays. Address: The Wood, Dingle. +353 6 69 15 0811. www.outoftheblue.ie

For an upmarket dining experience in Dingle, Global Village is the recommendation. Varied, local, fresh ingredients and an exceptional wine list. Outstanding service by friendly, knowledgeable staff. Open: 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM every day. Address: Upper Main Street, Dingle. +353 6 69 15 2325. http://www.globalvillagedingle.com

For typical Irish dining there is Idás where they are devoted to serving the finest of Irish produce, much of which is from Kerry itself. Serving dishes such as lamb and seafood with foraged herbs. There is an early-bird menu offering two/three courses for a set price. Open 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM every day in summer. Address: John Street, Dingle. +353 6 69 15 0885.

Murphy’s – award-winning ice cream made in Dingle. An array of flavors to try such as Guinness, Kilbeggan whiskey, brown bread, sea salt, honeycomb, cooling mint. Address: Strand Street, Dingle. Open 11:00 – 6:00 PM every day. www.murphysicecream.ie

Sites and Things to Do

There are many boat tours available at the harbor from harbor tours to see Fungie to fast boats to Blasket Island.  There are also sea fishing trips and private boat charters. Head to the marina or contact Dingle Boat Tours +353 87 672 61 00. www.dingleboattours.com

Farmers Market: There is a Farmer’s Market in Dingle on a Friday from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM. Located on the corner of Bridge Street and Dykegate Lane. There is fresh local produce and a variety of handmade products.

Shopping: Dingle is full of arts and crafts shops with many stores clustered together on Green Street.

Dingle Cookery School: learn how to make Chowder, “one of the most welcoming dishes known to man”. The hands-on experience, if you want to get involved yourself, takes three hours and includes lunch. There is a demo option which includes tastings and is just one and a half hours. Address: Dingle Cookery School, An Choill, Dingle. +353 86 872 35 21. www.dinglecookeryschool.com

Sites

On the grounds of St. Mary’s Church the Diseart Centre of Irish Spirituality has 12 stained-glass windows by the celebrated artist Harry Clarke. The center also promotes cultural activities in all areas of Irish Spirituality and Celtic Culture. Address: 46 Green Street, Dingle. Open 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday – Friday, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM Saturdays. +353 66 915 24 76. www.diseart.ie

The Oceanworld Aquarium has over 1,000 species of marine animals, with ‘Adorable Otters & Reptile’ exhibits. There are daily reptile encounter sessions and feeding displays. Address: The Wood, Dingle. +353 66 915 21 11. www.dingle-oceanworld.ie

Drinking Pubs and Breweries

Dingle Distillery offers tours where visitors can view the entire production process for its artisan whiskeys, gins and vodkas – samples provided. Cost €15 per adult. Address: Slea Head Drive – on the RHS as you leave town. Open March 1st – May 31st 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM, 4:00 PM, June 1st– August 31st 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM, 3:00 PM, 4:00 PM, September 1st – 30th 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM, 4:00 PM. +353 66 402 90 11. www.dingledistillery.ie

Dick Mack’s: It was often common to have a store and pub operating cooperatively in Dingle. Dick Mack’s is one of the few that doubles as both, and a famous one at that. Brilliant atmosphere and the owner has recently started a micro-brewery behind his store. Often has live music. Address: 46 Green Street, Dingle. Open 12:00 PM – 11.30 PM every day.

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office: The Pier. +353 66 915 1188. www.dingle-peninsula.ie 9:15 AM – 5:00 PM Mon-Sat.

Stores:

Amidst the Fungie soft-toy-filled stores you’ll also find plenty of shops with quality goods made by local artisans.

For a supermarket, there is a SuperValu Dingle – Garvey’s in Dingle found on Holyground, Dingle. Open 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM Tues – Sun & 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM Monday. +353 66 915 1397.

The Little Cheese Shop. A tiny shop that overflows with aromatic cheeses from all over Ireland. Swiss-trained cheesemaker Maja Binder also makes her own range of Dingle Peninsula Cheeses. Address: Grey’s Lane, Dingle. Open 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM Monday – Friday and 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM Saturdays. Closed on Sundays. +353 8 76 25 5788.

Dingle Record Shop (a real hub for Irish music) is tucked away in a corner off Green Street. Great selection of music and podcasts recorded in store. Hours can be erratic. +353 8 72 98 4550. http://www.dinglerecordshop.com/

An Gailearaí Beag is a quaint gallery showcasing the work of the West Kerry Craft Guild and is usually operated by the artists themselves. Selling ceramics, paintings, wood carvings, photography, batik, jewelry, stained glass and more. Address: Main Street, Dingle. Open: 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM every day.

Fiadh Durham is the designer behind Fiadh Handwoven Design, which produces beautiful textiles using traditional handloom techniques inspired by the natural charms of the Dingle peninsula. Open every day in summer. Address: Main Street, Dingle. +353 87 754 21 41. www.fladh.ie

Please note, during high season, there can be high levels of tourist traffic in these parts. Please take extreme care whilst on the road and we recommend starting your rides earlier in the day to reduce your encounters with traffic.

Killarney

Overview

killarneyKillarney is the largest town on this tour and it is a well-oiled machine. Set in the middle of awe-inspiring scenery, Killarney has a lot to offer. Its proximity to lakes, waterfalls, national parks, and woodlands make it a must-visit town for the adventurous; the bars, pubs and restaurants attract the food-lovers; the local craft and daily live music sessions attract creative types.  In short, there is something to appeal to everyone.

The downside of all these attractions is that the town can get very busy with visitors and can feel a little manufactured.  However, it has a vibrant atmosphere and is a great place from which to explore the surrounding countryside.

Killarney traces its roots back to the early Bronze Age when copper ore was mined on nearby Ross Island. However, when Viscount Kenmare put into action plans to develop the region as an Irish version of England’s Lake District in the 1700s that Killarney really began to grow. Things really took off with the arrival of the railway in 1853, and visits by Sir Walter Scott in 1825 and Queen Victoria in 1861.

Eating & Drinking

Due to the large number of day trippers, many of the restaurants in the town are just “okay.” However, many of Killarney’s hotels have excellent restaurants and there are other good places to eat listed below.

One hotel restaurant that is worth a visit is Brownes Bar at the Great Southern Killarney Hotel, located adjacent to the train station. Serves imaginative, fresh, local food. Luxurious dining and reasonably priced for the quality. +353 6 46 63 8000. Open all day. +353 6 46 63 8000.

Brícín doubles as the town museum complete with Jonathan Fisher 18th century paintings of the national park and is decorated with antiques from a convent, an orphanage and a school.  The house specialty is the boxty (traditional potato pancake). They also offer 2- or 3-course fixed price menu before 6:45 PM. Open 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM Tuesday – Saturday. Address: 26 High Street, Killarney. +353 6 46 63 4902. www.bricin.com

The Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder is an Irish bar offering small, good food options with whiskey and wine tastings alongside. Can be quite expensive but makes for an enjoyable evening if you like a tipple of the amber nectar. Service is very friendly, and the staff are very knowledgeable. Open from 12:00 PM every day. Address: 93 New Street, Killarney. +353 6 46 63 5700. www.celticwhiskeybar.com

Jam is a local hideout which serves sandwiches, coffee and cake, and hot lunch dishes like shepherd’s pie, although the menu changes regularly. All made with locally sourced produce and, on nice days, there are a few outside tables. Open 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday – Saturday. Closed on Sundays. Address: Old Market Lane, Killarney. +353 6 46 63 7716. www.jam.ie

With delicious, high-quality food, and decent portions, Treyvaud’s is a family-run restaurant in the heart of the town. They specialize in International cuisine such as Succulent Kenmare Bay Scallops, Organic Kerry Beef, or for the adventurous, Pan Fried Medallions of Venison. Open: 12:00 PM – 11:30 PM Tuesday – Sunday. Address: 62 High Street, Killarney. +353 6 46 63 3062. www.treyvaudsrestaurant.com

If you fancy a walk (or a buggy ride) into the National Park, the Yew Tree Restaurant is located in the original Victorian lounge at Muckross Park Hotel. Executive Chef John O’Leary has created a wonderful choice of menus celebrating the best of the famous Wild Atlantic Way route using local Kerry produce. Full vegetarian menu available. +353 6 46 62 3400. Open: 6.30 PM – 9:00 PM. Closed on Mondays. Closed on Wednesdays until May 31.

Drinking Pubs and Entertainment

O’Connor’s is a tiny traditional pub, and very popular with the locals. Originally opened in 1929 by Matt Cahill, his daughter Kitty married Teddy O’Connor, a famous Kerry footballer. Live music plays every night and they serve good bar food in the summer months. Open: 10:30 AM – 11:00 PM Monday – Thursday, to 12:30 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. 12:30 PM – 11:00 PM Sundays. Address: 7 High Street, Killarney. +353 6 46 63 9424. www.oconnorstraditionalpub.com

Courtney’s is inconspicuous from the outside, but inside is a real gem. Family run since the late 1800s, it has music sessions many nights a week. Locals often visit to taste the whiskey and beer of the month and to watch their friends perform. Open: 5:00 PM – 11:30 PM Sunday – Thursdays, and 12:30 PM – 12.00 AM Fridays and Saturdays. Address: 24 Plunkett Street, Killarney. +353 6 46 63 2689. www.courtneysbar.com

Sites and Things to Do

Sites

St. Mary’s Cathedral: designed by renowned English Architect Augustus Welby Pugin and built in 1842, it is considered to be one of Ireland’s finest examples of High Gothic architecture. See the website for times of Mass. Address: New Street, Killarney. +353 64 663 1014. www.killarneyparish.com

The Franciscan Friary: beautifully built in the 1860s this building displays a decorative Flemish-style altarpiece, some impressive tile work and, most notably, stained-glass windows by Harry Clarke. See website for times of Mass. Address: Fair Hill, Killarney. +353 64 663 1334. http://www.franciscans.ie/friaries/killarney

Killarney has an internationally renowned National Park that is famous for its scenic beauty and scientific interest. The park encompasses the three Lakes of Killarney and the mountains and woods which surround them. It is also home to Muckross House, Muckross Traditional Farms, Muckross Abbey, and Dinis Cottage (see below). Open all year with 24-hour pedestrian access. Admission is free of charge. +353 64 663 14 40. www.killarneynationalpark.ie

Muckross House is a magnificent Victorian Mansion, beautifully situated amidst the scenery of Killarney National Park. Its elegantly furnished rooms portray the lifestyles of those who lived in the house in Victorian times. Entry is by guided tour only and last admission is one hour before closing time. Open daily from 9:00 AM – 5.30 PM and 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM in July and August. Admission: €9 Adult, €7.50 Senior/Student, children under five  are free of charge, €6 Children between 6-18 years old. There are family tickets available. +353 64 667 01 44. www.muckross-house.ie

Muckross Abbey is a major ecclesiastical site situated in Killarney National Park, founded in 1448 as a Franciscan friary by Donal McCarthy Mór it is in a remarkable state of preservation. Open all year round and free of charge. +353 64 663 14 40. www.killarneynationalpark.ie

Also in the National Park are the Muckross Traditional Farms which claim to transport you back in time to farming before the introduction of electricity. There are three separate working farms with animals and traditional machinery. There is a petting area and playground for children. Last admission is one hour before closing. Open: June – August every day from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, May & September every day from 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM, March – April & October Saturdays and Sundays 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM. Admissions: Adult €9, Senior/Student €7.50, children under 5 are free of charge, Children between 6-18 years old €6. +353 64 663 08 04. www.muckross-house.ie

Ross Castle is also found in Killarney National Park. Ross Castle is a restored 15th century castle that now houses a fine collection of 16th & 17thcentury oak furniture. The castle is surrounded by a fortified bawn, curtain wall and two circular flanking towers. Open March 3rd – October 31stevery day 9:30 AM – 5.45 PM. Last admission 45 minutes before closing. Access by guided tour only. Admission: Adult €5, Group/Senior €4, Child/Student: €3, Family €13. +353 64 663 58 51. www.heritageireland.ie/en/south-west/rosscastle/

On the western shores of Muckross Lake, Dinis Cottage dates back to the 1700s. It has been beautifully restored and operates as a tea room. The Old Weir Bridge and the Meeting of the Waters are within walking distance of the cottage. Open May – September every day 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM. +353 64 663 00 85. http://www.killarneynationalpark.ie/visit/dinis-cottage

There are two styles of boat tour in the national park.  Killarney Lake Tours and Killarney Day Tours (see next paragraph) offer a cruise around Lough Leane in their covered water buses.  Tours last about an hour and depart from Ross Castle.  Killarney Lake Tours: +353 64 663 2638 www.killarneylaketours.ie.

For a more extensive tour in smaller boats, Killarney Day Tours and Gap of Dunloe Tours operate open boats that visit all three lakes.  These boats leave from Ross Castle and can be arranged there or through your accommodation.  Killarney Day Tours (AKA O’Donoghue Bros): +353 64 663 1068.  www.killarneydaytour.com.  Gap of Dunloe Tours: +353 64 6630200 www.gapofdunloetours.com.  These are the boats you will use if you choose to ride the Easiest ride option on the Killarney loop day.

Killarney has a Natural Food Market on Fridays. Address: Killarney Retail Outlet, Fair Hill.

Killarney boasts its very own folk festival Killarney Folkfest, a new festival of folk music in July that, typically, has an impressive lineup of Irish and international artists.

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office is located on Beech Road. Very helpful staff. Open 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday – Saturday. +353 6 46 63 1633. www.killarney.ie.

Stores: There is a small local supermarket Spar on College Square. Open 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM every day. +353 6 46 63 1319.

There is also a nice food section at the rear of Dunes on New Street. Open 8.30 AM – 7.30 PM Monday – Saturday and 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM on Sundays. +353 6 46 63 5888.

For interesting local craftwork, including jewelry and pottery, with touristy wares and a restaurant there is Brícín. Address: 26 High Street, Killarney. Open: 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM Monday – Saturday. www.bricin.com

An eclectic music shop, Variety Sounds is with a decent selection of instruments, sheet music, traditional music, and even hard-to-find recordings. Open 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM Monday – Saturday and 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM on Sundays. Address: College Street, Killarney.

An interesting second-hand bookshop, Dungeon Bookshop is concealed above a newsagent (take the stairs at the back of the shop). Open: 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM every day, or with the newsagent’s hours. Located on College Street, Killarney.

Bike shop. O’Sullivans Cycles is the main bike shop in Killarney. Open: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM every day in summer. Address: 49 High Street, Killarney. +353 6 46 63 1282. www.osullivanscycles.com

Please note, during high season, there can be high levels of tourist traffic in these parts. Please take extreme care whilst on the road and we recommend starting your rides earlier in the day to reduce your encounters with traffic.

Kenmare

Overview

The land that became Kenmare was granted to the English scientist, Sir William Petty by Oliver Cromwell as part payment for completing the mapping of Ireland, the Down Survey in 1656.  He laid out the modern town in 1670.  This “planned” town is well laid out and compact; making it difficult to get lost and easy to explore. The ‘triangle-shaped’ center is where Henry Street and Main Street meet and where your routes begin and end.Kenmare

Kenmare’s Irish name “Neidin” means “little nest” – the town “nestles” on the mouth of the River Sneem flanked by mountains to the north and south.  It is also the link between the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara and is an ideal spot to explore both.  Despite its setting and location, the town hasn’t completely given itself up to tourism and goes about its business in a dignified and discreet manner – in contrast to its more commercial neighbor, Killarney.

Although small, the town is awash with restaurants, pubs, craft shops, galleries, and other great local shops. Kenmare is renowned for its traditional lace. During the years of famine, nuns from St. Clare’s, the local convent, introduced lace-making to create work for the local women and girls.

There is a famous old fair in Kenmare, dating back well over 200 years. Kenmare Fair, which takes place on August 15th every year, is an occasion for folk from all over Ireland to descend on the town to trade in cattle, sheep, and ponies, as well as bric-a-brac, crafts, and artisan foods.

Eating & Drinking

One of Kenmare’s best eateries is Lime Tree Restaurant at the ‘top’ of the town. The food is classic Irish with a contemporary approach. Recommended to book in advance and is one of the more expensive options in town. Open 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM every day. Address: 3A Shelbourne Street, Kenmare. +353 6 46 64 1225. http://www.limetreerestaurant.com/

We highly recommend Tom Crean Fish & Wine restaurant, named in honor of Kerry’s pioneering Antarctic explorer. This venerable restaurant uses only the best local organic produce, cheeses and fresh seafood, all served in modern, low-key surrounds. Personally, we suggest the oysters au naturel that seem to capture the scent of the sea; the homemade ravioli of prawn mousse, and sesame seed-crusted Atlantic salmon with lime and coriander – absolutely delicious. Open: 5:00 PM – 9:30 PM Friday – Sunday, and Wednesdays. Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Address: Main Street, Kenmare. +353 6 46 64 1589. https://tomcrean.ie/

Mulcahy’s Restaurant has been a Kenmare icon since 1995.  Relatively casual but the food is exceptional good – high quality, simply prepared.  Wild, free range, seasonal, and local are the recurrent themes.  Ranked among the 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland by McKenna Guides.  Open 5:00 PM to 12:00 AM daily.  Closed Tuesday.  Address: 13 Main Street, Kenmare. +353 64 664 2383  http://mulcahyskenmare.ie/

No. 35 Restaurant is a pleasant, informal restaurant serving pizza and pasta dishes with an emphasis on local produce. Open 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM every day. Address: 35 Main Street, Kenmare. +353 6 46 64 1559. http://www.no35kenmare.com/

Packie’s can be described as “striking a great balance between producing very tasty, original dishes without adulterating the food too much.” Specializing in meaty dishes like lamb loin slices, steaks, lamb casserole, they also serve great vegetarian options. Open 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM, Monday – Saturday, closed on Sundays. Address: 35 Henry Street, Kenmare. +353 6 46 64 1508.

For a delicious but simple “daytime” meal we suggest a visit to Boka Café. The service is exceptional, as are their burgers and sweet treats. Their fresh mint tea is simple and invigorating. Open: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM Thursday to Monday. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Address: Henry Street, Kenmare. +353 8 74 03 1665. www.boka.ie

Sites and Things to Do

PFK Gold and Silversmith: workshop and retail outlet where master Goldsmith and jewelry designer Paul F. Kelly produces handcrafted originals. He works in gold and silver with precious or semi-precious stones to create his distinctive style. Address: Henry Street, Kenmare. Open Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM. +353 64 664 25 90. www.pfk.ie

Kenmare has a Lace and Design Centre which is well worth a visit if you are an enthusiast or simply looking for a nice gift. There are demonstrations of Kenmare and other Irish laces. Located in The Square, Kenmare. Open Monday – Saturday, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM. +353 64 664 29 78. www.kenmarelace.ie

Sites

Market Day – Kenmare has a Farmer’s market on Wednesdays from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Address: An Cro, Bridge Street.

Carnegie Arts Centre is housed in the library and whose state-of-the-art theater stages a wide range of top quality drama and concerts. Address: Shelborne Street, Kenmare. Open from Thursday – Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. +353 6 46 64 8701.  www.carnegieartskenmare.ie

The Kenmare Heritage Centre is located in the old courthouse in The Square. It houses an exhibition telling the historyKenmare of the town from its origins as Neidín, through its founding as a market town by the Marquis of Lansdowne to the establishment of the Poor Clare Convent in 1861, which still stands behind Holy Cross Church. This is where local women were taught needlepoint lacemaking. There is a display of lace including designs for ‘the most important piece of lace ever made in Ireland’ upstairs from the Heritage Centre. Open 9:30 AM – 5:15 PM Monday – Wednesday, Friday & Saturday from April – October. Free Admission. +353 6 46 64 1233.

Useful Contacts

Tourist Information Office is located next to the courthouse in The Square. +353 64 664 12 33. It is open 9:30 AM – 5:15 PM Monday – Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from April to October.

Stores: There are lots of small, local shops in Kenmare, including craft shops and art galleries.

If you need a supermarket there is a SuperValu located Railway Road, Kenmare. +353 6 46 64 1307. Open 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM every day.

Please note, during high season, there can be high levels of tourist traffic in these parts. Please take extreme care whilst on the road and we recommend starting your rides earlier in the day to reduce your encounters with traffic.

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Day-by-Day

Camp to Dingle

Route Overview

DingleAll of today’s routes begin with a van transfer from your tour’s start location.  Where you are transferred to will depend on whether you are doing the Easiest, the Intermediate or the Challenge route.

On the Easy and Intermediate route, you ride out of Camp on a flat section around Tralee Bay with views of the sea to your right and the Slieve Mish Mountains to your left.

After the small hamlet of Kilcummin, the road climbs steadily over Conor Pass.  This twisting climb, with panoramic views across craggy moorland, is classic Ireland!  From the top of Conor Pass, you enjoy five miles of descending to Dingle Bay.

The Intermediate route includes an out-and-back section to Brandon Point, a local beauty spot with incredible views, before heading up the Conor Pass.

Those looking for a Challenge ride will start in Brandon and head into the Slieve Mish Mountains for hillier riding along quiet lanes.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This ride begins from the tiny village of Camp or with a transfer partway up the Conor Pass. The route from Camp is flat and picturesque: wide-open pastureland with grazing sheep. For 20 kilometers, the views to your right go far out to sea and to your left you can see the mountain ridge that runs the length of the peninsular.

The Conor pass (Irish: An Chonair) is a famous local climb that the locals all know and will ask if you’ve ridden. At 5.5km with an average grade of 6.3%, it is a challenging and beautiful introduction to the area. On fine-weather days, there are phenomenal views: to the north, Mount Brandon; to the south, Dingle Harbor.

As you descend into Dingle from the Conor Pass you pass Crean’s Brewery on your right-hand-side just as you enter the town.

Intermediate Route

The Intermediate Route also begins in Camp and follows the Easy route westwards along the bay. After passing through some small, pretty villages you turn right and follow the peninsula north to Brandon Point. The area is a very popular spot for bird watching, particularly in Autumn. Keep an eye out for whales and dolphin too.You return from Brandon Point by the same route (it is an out-and-back road). The route is scenic and flat all the way along the bay to the Conor Pass.

Challenge Route

This route begins in Brandon, a picturesque village with a great pub and follows the Intermediate route (backwards) to Camp. In Camp, there is (another) fantastic, traditional Irish pub: a great place to stop for refreshments and views across the bay.  The route is flat to Camp and then you turn south, climbing over the Caherconree mountain pass. The Caherconcree peak is 835m and is the second-highest peak of the Slieve Mish Mountains and the 26th highest on the island of Ireland. The descent to Castlemaine harbor is steep and technical.Once you arrive at the water you turn west (right) towards Dingle and ride on a larger road alongside the water. There is a good lunch option at Inch Beach where you can sit outside and watch the watersports.

From lunch the route is more rolling again; keeping you off the main road and following the quiet country lanes for the ride into Dingle.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

irelandIn Camp:  For a fantastic pub lunch, we recommend The Railway Tavern for its warm welcome, traditional food and interesting characters. Address: Camp Junction, Camp. Open 10:30 AM – 11:30 PM every day. +353 6 67 13 0188.

In Farrantooleen:  Another traditional Irish pub offering good food and a friendly atmosphere is Tomsins Bar in Farrantooleen. Serving soups, curries, roast dinners, as well as simple sandwiches. Open: 12:30 PM – 9:30 PM every day. +353 6 67 13 9088.

In Brandon: Murphy’s Bar serves a crackin’ crab sandwich and pint. It’s a small pub with a limited but fantastic menu. It has a superb location and is currently 5th generation owned!

At Inch BeachSammy’s Restaurant is the best spot for lunch and to watch watersports on the beach. They offer a varied menu including seafood, sandwiches, pastas, salads, burgers etc. It does get busy on nice weather days but you can usually get seating outdoors. Open: 9:00 AM – 7:30 PM Monday – Wednesday and 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM Thursday – Sunday. +353 6 69 15 8118.

In Dingle: Murphy’s Pub & Bed & Breakfast is a great option for a traditional Irish pub lunch. A popular choice for the locals, the staff are very friendly and there is always a great atmosphere. Open: 10:30 AM – 11:30 PM Monday – Saturday and 12:00 PM – 11:30 PM on Sundays. Address: Strand Street, Dingle. +353 6 69 15 1450. www.murphyspub.ie

For more lunch options in Dingle please see the ‘Dingle’ section of the ‘Towns and Cities’ in the introduction to this guidebook.

Points of Interest en Route

There is a Farmer’s Market in Tralee every Saturday from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. Address: Princes Street, opposite Brandon Hotel.

Castlegregory is slightly off route on today’s ride but can be well worth a short detour. It is a quiet village with nice views but things change as you continue north past the village towards Ballycurrane.  This sand-blown road along the Rough Point Peninsula is a watersports playground: windsurfing, wave-sailing and kitesurfing. The Maharees Islands (north of the peninsula) offer some of the best scuba diving in Ireland.  Tours can be organized from Waterworld (starting at €35 per dive). Address: Waterworld, Harbour House, Scraggane Pier. +353 66 713 92 92. www.waterworld.ie


Fungie the Dolphin

In 1983 a bottlenose dolphin arrived in Dingle Bay and local tourism hasn’t been quite the same since. Exceedingly friendly and showing an unusual fondness for Dinglehuman company, he enjoys swimming around with the local boats and fishing fleet.

There are boat tours to see the dolphin, nicknamed Fungie. He draws up to 12 boats at a time and more than 1,000 tourists a day flock to see him. Now known as Dingle’s mascot, there is a bronze statue of him outside the tourist office.

In the wild, bottlenose dolphins live for an average of 25 years, though they’ve been known to live up to 40 years of age in captivity. Fungie has been sighted for more than 30 years (easily recognizable from his distinctive markings), so there is widespread speculation as to how long Fungie will continue to grace us with his presence.

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Dingle Loop Day

Route Overview

For many, today’s Slea Head loop ride (part of the Wild Atlantic Way) is one of the highlights of their tour.  The scenery is stunning: sheltered harbors, sandy beaches, spectacular mountains and classic seascapes with precipitous cliffs.Slea_Head

Sights include a prehistoric fort at Dun Beag, ancient, dry-stone beehive huts, and the picturesque village of Ballyferriter.  The ride also includes plenty of other interesting stops: a whiskey distillery, a leather workshop, and a Celtic museum.  You even have the opportunity to pet sheep and watch sheepdog demonstrations!

Intermediate riders climb over the peninsula to return to Dingle across open moorland while the Easiest route avoids climbing by turning around at Dunquin to retrace the route back alongside the coast.  Challenge riders will do the Slea Head loop and then add on a loop that includes a ride across to Inch Beach to the Slieve Mish Mountains and up Conor Pass.

**Please note the importance of an early start today as the Slea Head loop gets very busy with tourist traffic.

Route Options

Easiest Route

On exiting Dingle, you head west and cross over the bridge out of town passing the Dingle Distillery on your right-hand-side. This loop offers exhilarating views across Dingle Bay and over to Great Blasket Island. Slea Head is about as far west as you can go in Europe (in fact Dunmore Head – just south of Dunquin – is the westernmost point of the European mainland plinth).

Your route moves you inland to enjoy the views from higher up before transferring you back to the main Slea Head road. The sweep of the sea, the craggy coves and the offshore islands that come into view as you round the point at Slea Head offer a spectacular sight.  The dramatic mix of sea and land can be appreciated from the many viewpoints, but Slea Head Viewpoint is the most popular.

A short distance further on, the road sweeps around to Coumeenoole – with a beach which is popular with surfers – and continues to climb and fall to Dunquin.  Just past Dunquin, the Blasket Centre is the turnaround point on today’s ride.

From the harbor at Dunquin, you can take a ferry (hourly) across to Blasket Island.  The island is deserted now – except for some stray donkeys – but is good for hiking, birdwatching, and exploring.

**Important to note – the road around Slea Head peninsula is the only route. This means it can be extremely busy in summer with cars and buses. The road is not especially wide, and there is no hard shoulder, and therefore can feel narrow with the flow of traffic.**

Intermediate Route

The Intermediate Route follows the same route as the Easiest Route from Dingle to the Blasket Centre. After visiting the Centre (near Dunquin), you continue northwards on the Slea Head loop. Dunquin is famous as the setting for David Lean’s epic drama Ryan’s Daughter. While the film was not a critical success upon release – though acclaimed today – the breathtaking scenery certainly did wonders for regional tourism.After Dunquin, you ride through ancient villages, with tumbling-down stone houses and pass by plenty of interesting stopping points, including Louis Mulcahy Pottery. The middle of the route is relatively flat before a cheeky last climb takes you back into Dingle.

**Important to note – the road around Slea Head peninsula is the only route. This means it can be extremely busy in summer with cars and buses. The road is not especially wide, and there is no hard shoulder, and therefore can feel narrow with the flow of traffic.**

Challenge Route

The Challenge Route follows the same route as the Intermediate Route: around the Slea Head Loop and back to Dingle. After this loop, you head westwards to Inch Beach. We keep you off the main road to avoid most of the traffic and the roads are rolling with views along the bay. After Inch Beach the 9km of road can be busy but the road is flat so passes quickly.Slea_head

From here you climb over the Caherconree mountain pass, a steep and challenging climb. The descent is technical so please pay attention. After Caherconree your route turns west at Camp where you ride to the base of Conor Pass, a flat road giving you a chance to recover and prepare for climb over Conor Pass.

After the descent, which is technical in places, you ride back to Dingle.

**Important to note – the road around Slea Head peninsula is the only route. This means it can be extremely busy in summer with cars and buses. The road is not especially wide, and there is no hard shoulder, and therefore can feel narrow with the flow of traffic.**

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Ventry there is a sweet Tea Shop “Penny’s Pottery and Café” but they only sell tea cakes, not sandwiches. They also sell locally-made pottery. Open every day from Easter. +353 8 76 78 9361. pennyspottery.com

In Dunquin the Blasket Centre serves simples lunches such as warming soups, salads, sea food, and sweet treats. Open every day in summer from, 10:00 AM. +353 6 69 15 6444. www.blasket.ie

In Ballyferriter, Louis Mulcahy Pottery Cafe is one of the best lunch stops on today’s route.  Here, you can combine lunch with throwing your own pot. Open sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, salads, soup must be followed by a fresh scone and jam. Open every day from Easter. On the Intermediate route, turn LEFT instead of right at 31.3km and follow the road for approximately 4.5km. After your visit turn back on yourself the way you came. Address: Clothar, Slea Head Loop, Ballyferriter. +353 66 915 62 29. www.louismulcahy.com

For those on the Challenge route we recommend the pub in Camp The Railway Tavern for its warm welcome, traditional food and interesting characters. Address: Camp Junction, Camp. Open 10:30 AM – 11:30 PM every day. +353 6 67 13 0188.

Or at Inch BeachSammy’s Restaurant is the best spot for lunch and to watch watersports on the beach. They offer a varied menu including seafood, sandwiches, pastas, salads, burgers etc. It does get busy on nice weather days but you can usually get seating outdoors. Open: 9:00 AM – 7:30 PM Monday – Wednesday and 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM Thursday – Sunday. +353 6 69 15 8118.

We also have restaurant options in Dingle. See the ‘Dingle’ section of your guidebook introduction for recommendations.

Points of Interest en Route

Stores

There is a SuperValu Dingle – Garvey’s in Dingle located on Holyground, Dingle. +353 66 915 1397. Open 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM Tuesday – Sunday & 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM Monday.

Sights

For Dingle Distillery see the ‘Dingle’ section of the introduction of this guidebook.

3km past Ventry, the Celtic & Prehistoric Centre is a very small museum with a lovely collection of artifacts. Opening hours can be sporadic but usually from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM every day in summer. Small admission charge. +353 8 77 70 3280

5km past Ventry, the Dunbeg Fort Visitors Centre is the home of Dunbeg Fort; an impressive example of a 500 BCE promontory fort. Built on a sheer cliff which projects south into Dingle Bay, it is one of the most dramatic archeological sites on the peninsula. Open March – November from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Admission €3 Adult, €1.50 Child. +353 66 915 90 70. www.dunbegfort.com

7km past Ventry, the Beehive Huts are thought to date back to the 12th Century when the incoming Normans forced the Irish off the good land and out to the periphery of the peninsula. Open all year round. Admission €3 Adult, Children are free of charge. +353 87 925 40 86. www.wildatlanticway.com

Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir (The Blasket Centre) is located on all of today’s loop rides. The center is on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula (Dunquin) and celebrates the story of the Blasket Islanders, the unique literary achievements of the island writers and their native language, culture and tradition. Open from March 18th – November 1st every day 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Last admission is 45 minutes before closing. Admission €5 Adult, €4 Group/Senior, €3 Child/Student, €13 Family. +353 66 915 64 44. www.heritageireland.ie/en/south-west/ionadanbhlascaoidmhoir-theblasketcentre/

The Gallarus Oratory is one of the best-preserved early-Christian churches in Ireland.  This small building is built from dry stones (no mortar) and is beautifully located – a couple of kilometers east of Ballyferriter and a short detour off the intermediate route.  The site is public and free with a private visitors center. +353 66 915 53 33. www.heritageireland.ie/en/south-west/gallarusoratory/

On both the Intermediate and Challenge routes, you ride through a village called Ballyferriter and pass by the Riasc Monastic Settlement. The remains of the ancient Riasc Monastic Settlement are thought to date back from the 6th century and include a series of clochans. Visitors can also view the remains of a square oratory and 10 inscribed slabs, including the impressive Riasc Stone, which features spiral designs and carved initials.

Slightly off-route is Louis Mulcahy Pottery where you can try your hand at being a potter and see a professional at work. There is also a shop and café. It is the ideal stop of the Slea Head Loop and stocks an extensive range of ceramics, from tiny pots to huge urns, tableware to giftware, in striking colors of West Kerry. Everything is made on site. Admission is €9.90 per person for the pottery experience. On the Intermediate route, turn LEFT instead of right at 31.3km and follow the road for approximately 4.5km. After your visit turn back on yourself the way you came. Address: Clothar, Ballyferriter. +353 66 915 62 29. www.louismulcahy.com


Blasket Island

The Blasket Island writers of the 1920s and 1930s produced books which are deemed classics in the world of literature. Their books described the lives of Island people who lived on the very edge of Europe, and brought to life the topography, life and times of their Island. They wrote all of their stories in the Irish language.

Sadly, the Blasket Island community of people declined as a result of the continuous emigration of its young generations until eventually the Island was abandoned in 1953 when only 22 inhabitants remained.

The Island remains unoccupied today, but visitors can venture by ferry over to this remote and wildly stunning place and spend several hours admiring at its natural beauty and what remains of years of human endeavor.

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Dingle to Killarney

Overview

Today you travel from the small fishing village of Dingle to the vibrant-but-touristy town of Killarney.Ross_Castle

Strong Intermediate and Challenge riders will ride all the way – leaving Dingle on a ridge ride that has sweeping views down to the Atlantic Ocean.  After descending to Inch Beach, via the beautiful Minard Castle, you enjoy 15 miles of flat cruising alongside Castlemaine Harbour before heading inland to the quaint market town of Milltown.  Most riders enjoy lunch here.  From Milltown, you ride along quiet lanes crossing rolling farmland peppered with farmhouses.

Riders on the Easiest route will take a van transfer to Milltown before joining the ride described above.  Milltown is a good place for lunch before starting your ride.

You stay overnight in bustling Killarney.  This bustling resort town was founded in the 18th Century to welcome visitors to some of the world’s most sublime lakeland scenery.  The town abuts the tranquil Killarney National Park with its lakefront 15th-century Ross castle.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Today’s easy route starts with a transfer to Milltown from where you join the Intermediate route (below) to Killarney.

Intermediate and Challenge Route

You leave Dingle along narrow, undulating roads that pass through tiny hamlets. You drop south of the main road to visit Minard Castle, one of only three of the mid-16th century Fitzgerald castles built on Dingle Peninsula with substantial remains. Once you rejoin the main road, it widens and can be busier but the views are still beautiful. You can stop at Inch Beach for a coffee and to watch water sports.

From Inch Beach, the route is flat with nice views across Castlemaine Bay.kilarney

After 30km you reach Milltown – the best place en route for lunch and a rest. After lunch the route becomes hillier again and you climb out of Milltown and head south to Killarney.

5km before Killarney, you pass Aghadoe with an overlook with great views of Killarney and Lough Leane. The site also includes ruins of a 13th-century castle and a Romanesque church as well as a modern hotel.  From Aghadoe, it is all downhill into Killarney.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

In Boolteens you have two options for lunch: The Anvil Bar and Restaurant or Murphy’s bar. Both are cash-only. The Anvil is a relaxed, family-run restaurant, pub and B&B serving Kerry Beef, Slieve Mish Lamb, and freshly caught Dingle Bay Seafood along with many other specialties. The food is good, there is a cozy atmosphere and friendly staff. Open every day from 10:00 AM. +353 6 69 76 7137. www.anvilbar.com. Murphy’s serves pizzas, sandwiches and the like and are well-known for their whiskey tasting. Open from 12:00 PM every day. +353 8 60 651695. www.murphysbarkeel.com

In Milltown:  Milltown has a few good options for lunch.  For an easy lunch try Dlicious [sic]. Run with a strong Spanish theme they serve good coffee, baguettes, paninis, fresh scones, crepes. Very friendly service. Open: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Tuesday – Fridays and 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM on Saturdays. Closed Sunday – Monday. Address: Church St. Corner, Milltown. +353 8 63 51 1675.

IrelandFor a more substantial pub meal there is Larkin’s Pub and Restaurant which serves traditional pub meals of meat, fish, salads, with vegetarian options available on request. Large portions and friendly locals. Open from 12:00 PM every day. Address: Main Street, Milltown. +353 6 69 76 7217. www.larkinspub.ie

For lunch in Killarney, see the ‘Town and Cities’ section of this guidebook.

Points of Interest en Route

Stores

There are cafés and bars in Annascaul (19km on the Intermediate route) where you can stop for coffee or a snack.

In Ballyarkane there is a fuel station and shop “Quik-Pick” on your right-hand-side (approximately 36km on the Intermediate route) where you can find a café and a shop with the essentials. Open every day. +353 8 68 73 7943.

There is a Spar in Milltown that is open every day from 7:00 AM – 10:00 apart from Sundays when it is open from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM. Located on Bridge Street, Milltown. +353 1 409 0300.

Sights

There is a Farmers Market in Milltown on Saturdays from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM. Address: Organic Centre, The Old Church, Milltown

Minard Castle is one of only three of the mid-16th century Fitzgerald castles built on Dingle Peninsula with substantial remains. The castle ruins are made up of a rectangular tower house built from roughly dressed sandstone blocks laid in a strong mortar. Three stories of the castle remain, but it is believed that originally there was a 4th story or attic space above those. The 1st and 2nd stories were vaulted. The strength of this castle was confirmed when, in 1650, Cromwell’s Army detonated charges at each of its corners, yet the castle still stood. Unfortuntely, all occupants of the castle were subsequently killed, and the structural damage done made the building uninhabitable. Located at 16km on the Intermediate route.

Aghadoe Church is an interesting ruined cathedral located on a hill overlooking Lough Leane and the town of Killarney. Located on the former site of a monastery founded by St. Finian the Leper in the 6th century, it is believed to have once been an important center of learning. The earliest church was most likely built of timber but there was a stone church on the site by the early 11th century. The current ruin is thought to have been finished in 1158 but possibly incorporated part of the old stone building in its northwest section. Located opposite the Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa.

There is also a scenic overlook, just before the hotel on the RHS of the road.

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Killarney Loop Day

Overview

Bikes, boats and buggies (the horse drawn variety) all feature on today’s stunning rides that head west of Killarney into the Iveragh Peninsula.

Those on the Easiest route start the day riding to the 15th-century Ross Castle from where you can board a small motorboat (own arrangements) that weaves past multiple islands including Innisfallen with its 7th-century ruined Ross_Castlemonastery.  The boat docks at Lord Brandon’s Cottage – a good lunch stop – from where you ride up the wild and craggy Gap of Dunloe.  At the top of the pass there are stunning views in all directions as you begin a five-mile descent down a steep-sided valley past mountain lakes, over stone bridges and past horse-drawn buggies to Kate Kearney’s cottage – good for a late lunch or afternoon tea.  From here it is an easy run back to Killarney.  Iconic Ireland!

The Intermediate ride is similar to the Leisure ride except that you ride in the opposite direction and cycle around Lough Leane rather than taking a boat ride.

The Challenge ride starts out through the Gap of Dunloe before heading into MacGillycuddy’s Reek – the mountain range that stretches down the Iveragh Peninsula and includes Ireland’s highest peaks.  The Epic ride takes on more mountains and mileage around the northern stretches of the Ring of Kerry.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This route starts with a gentle ride south through the National Park to Ross Castle.  Here you will take an open motorboat to Lord Brandon’s Cottage. You can arrange to take a boat on spec at Ross Castle or make arrangements in advance directly with the boat operators or with the help of your accommodation hosts.  To arrange it yourself, contact Killarney Day Tours (AKA O’Donoghue Bros) on +353 64 663 1068.  www.killarneydaytour.com. NOTE: boat times can be inconsistent so please check before you set off. If you have booked in advance you will have a specific crossing time. Lord Brandon’s Cottage makes for a good stop for coffee or lunch; set in Killarney National Park.On leaving Lord Brandon’s estate the route climbs (and climbs) until you reach the top of the Gap of Dunloe. The views on the way up are spectacular and you get the sense that you are being squeezed through a passage. The descent can be very tricky, especially on wet days, so take extra caution as you ride down the pass.

At the mouth of the Gap there are restaurants – Kate Kearney’s Cottage and Heather Restaurant – where you can stop for lunch or a snack. The atmosphere in either restaurant is usually great, full of locals as well as tourists. The ride back into Killarney is smooth and relatively flat.

Intermediate Route

For the Intermediate route, you leave Killarney heading west on the N72 across the top of Lough Leane. This road can be busy, but you are not on it for long before you turn south, following signs for the Gap of Dunloe.Ireland

At the mouth of the Gap of Dunloe you can stop for coffee and a breather before you ascend the climb. Both restaurants here have a nice atmosphere.

The climb to the top of the Gap of Dunloe is fantastic; you share the road with fellow cyclists, walkers, as well as horse and buggies. The climb is tough but the views make it worth it: craggy rocks, high-sided valley walls, and sheep jolting across the road.

Congratulate yourself at the top of the climb and take a moment to gather yourself. The descent can be very tricky, especially on wet days, so take extra caution as you ride down the pass.

At the bottom of the descent you have a few kilometers to recover before beginning another climb – this time up to Moll’s Gap (one of your lunch options). Spectacular vistas accompany you all the way up and then again on your ride back into Killarney.

Challenge Route

The Challenge route follows the Intermediate route west out of Killarney but doesn’t turn south to the Gap of Dunloe. Instead you continue westwards on stunning, quiet country lanes up and over to Glencar, one of the first tiny hamlets you will pass through today. Of this part of the route, an American travel journalist wrote, “I here and now declare this to be the most magnificent scenery on the face of God’s earth.” From Glencar, you begin climbing again, seemingly in the absolute back of beyond up the Ballaghbeama Gap, a cheeky climb that is steep in places. After a thrilling descent you join a slightly bigger road heading towards Moll’s Gap. The route directs you to turn left (at 57.7km) BEFORE you reach Moll’s Gap.

NOTE: if you are having lunch at Moll’s Gap, continue on the main road to Moll’s Gap before heading back on yourselves, otherwise you will have another climb to do before the next restaurant option.  If you miss the Molls Gap lunch option, consider a short detour to Lord Brandon’s Cottage: on RHS at the start of the Gap of Dunloe climb.

gap_of_dunloeAfter lunch, you are rewarded with a descent through more open pasturelands with views that go on for miles – if it’s not raining! Then, around 68km, you begin the final climb of the day: up the Gap of Dunloe. Congratulate yourself at the top of the climb and take a moment to gather yourself as the descent can be very tricky, especially on wet days. At the mouth of the Gap there are restaurants where you can stop, either for lunch or a snack. The atmosphere in either restaurant is usually great, full of locals as well as tourists.

The ride back into Killarney is smooth and relatively flat.

Epic Route

Today’s Epic route takes you west out of Killarney and onto the northern part of the Ring of Kerry. We manage to keep you off the busy main road from Beaufort to Caragh Bridge where you join the N70 (the Ring of Kerry). After Glenbeigh the views out to the water are simply stunning and are part of what gives the Ring of Kerry its fame. The route here is rolling (hilly in places) before you descend into Cahersiveen for lunch.After lunch the route is decidedly hillier than the first half of your ride. However, it also has some of the most stunning inland scenery you will come across on your tour. Numerous locals will ask if you’ve ridden the route inland back to Killarney as they know themselves how truly epic it is. Completely rural and untouched, the beauty is staggering – as are some of the inclines!

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

Lord Brandon’s Cottage Café is a lovely setting for a coffee break. Their food selection is relatively basic but you can sit and enjoy your coffee with views over the lake. Opening hours can vary but usually reliable in the high season (April – October) from mid-morning to mid- afternoon.

In the Gap of Dunloe you have multiple options for lunch: Kate Kearney’s Cottage or Heather Restaurant.

Kate Kearney’s Cottage is nestled at the entrance to the Gap of Dunloe and is a 150-year-old family-run establishment. It can be very touristy, but the locals also visit. The food is ‘traditional Irish’ and there is a great selection of beers. Quite often there is live music. Open: daily from 10:00 AM. +353 64 664 41 46. www. katekearneyscottage.com.

Heather Restaurant is 400m from the entrance to the Gap of Dunloe. The restaurant is bright and spacious, serving fresh, simply prepared, seasonal food. They also have a nice gift store selling jewelry, blankets, tweeds, sweaters etc. Open: daily from March 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM. +353 64 664 41 44. www.moriartys.ie/heather

The restaurant at Moll’s Gap is called Avoca. There are spectacular views from the restaurant, which serves fresh, local food alongside homemade cakes and great coffee. There is also a well-stocked shop which does charge tourist prices but has lovely gifts and souvenirs. Open daily, Monday – Friday 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM, Saturday – Sunday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM. +33 64 663 47 20.

For the Epic route we suggest stopping in Cahersiveen at The Fertha Bar & Restaurant or O’Neill’s The Point Seafood Bar. The Fertha Bar & Restaurant offers delicious, fresh ingredients beautifully presented. They offer a variety of options such as chicken Caesar salad, seafood chowder, scampi and meals are reasonably priced. Address: 20 Main Street, Cahersiveen. Open: 10:00 AM – 11:30 PM every day. +353 6 69 47 2023.

O’Neill’s The Point Seafood Bar is exactly that, seafood and plenty of options for it. Lobster, crab, fish and chips, local beer and Irish coffee are some of their specialties. Address: Renard Point | Valentia Harbour, Cahersiveen. Open: 11.30 AM – 10:00 PM Monday – Saturday. +353 6 69 47 2165.

Points of Interest en Route

See Killarney in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for more information on visiting the Killarney National Park, Ross Castle, and Muckross House.

If you choose to ride the Epic route today there is a small Famer’s Market in Glenbeigh every Sunday from the start of June to the end of August, from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM. Located in the Car Park opposite Centra Supermarket.

Also, on the Epic route, you can visit The Skywalk at Kells Bay Gardens. Inspired by plant exploration expeditions to the jungles of south-east Asia, The Skywalk is Ireland’s longest rope-bridge and is positioned as part of a looped walk through Kells Bay Gardens, which contains probably the largest collections of tree-ferns in the northern hemisphere. The walk can be completed as part of a guided tour, though most visitors prefer to explore the gardens alone. Guided tours must be booked in advance. Address: Kells Bay House, Kells, Cahersiveen. +353 66 947 79 75. www.kellsgardens.ie

Stores

There are small stores at both the Gap of Dunloe and Moll’s Gap. Both more tourist-souvenir shops but will have provisions of some kind.


The History and Legends of Ross Castle

Ross Castle was constructed towards the late 15th century by local ruling clan the O’Donoghues Mor (Ross).  Ownership changed hands during the Second Desmond Rebellion of the 1580s to the MacCarthy Mór. He then leased the castle and the lands to Sir Valentine Browne, ancestor of the Earls of Kenmare. The castle was amongst the last ones to cede to Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars.  Lord Muskerry (MacCarty) held the castle against Edmund Ludlow who marched to Ross with 4,000 foot soldiers and 200 horse. The final attack was across the water on ships that were built in Kinsale, brought by water to Killorglin and then dragged by oxen to Ross Castle. Legend has it that the sight of the ships unnerved the onlookers and the castle soon submitted.

At the end of the wars, the Brownes were able to show that their heir was too young to have taken part in the rebellion and they retained the lands. By approximately 1688, they had erected a mansion house near the castle, but their adherence to James II of England triggered them to be exiled. The castle became a military barracks and remained so until early in the 19th century. The Brownes never returned to live at Ross but built Kenmare House near Killarney.

There is a local legend that O’Donoghue leapt from the window of the grand chamber at the top of the castle and disappeared into the lake along with his horse, his table and his library. It is said that O’Donoghue now resides in a great palace at the bottom of the lake where he keeps a watch on everything he sees.


History of Muckross House

Muckross House was built in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the watercolorist Mary Balfour Herbert.  The setting is, perhaps, even more impressive than the sixty-five-room building.  The house is in the heart of Killarney National Park on a small peninsula between Muckross Lake and Lough Leane.

Extensive enhancements commenced in the 1850s in preparation for the visit of Queen Victoria in 1861. It is said that these improvements contributed to the financial difficulties of the Herbert family that resulted in the sale of the estate. In 1899 it was bought by Arthur Guinness, 1st Baron Ardilaun who wanted to preserve the dramatic landscape. He did not live in the house but rented it out to wealthy groups as a hunting lodge.

In August 1911 Muckross House was sold to William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy Californian mining magnate. He and his wife gifted it to their daughter Maud and her husband Arthur Rose Vincent as a wedding present. The couple lived there until Maud’s death from pneumonia in 1929.

In 1932 the house and its 11,000-acre estate were donated to the Irish nation becoming the first National Park in Ireland. In later years the park was expanded considerably by the acquisition of land from the former Earl of Kenmare’s estate.

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Killarney to Kenmare

Overview

The Easiest and Intermediate rides leave the city on bike paths through the Killarney National Park.  After 16km ofKillarney_National_Park pleasant lake-side riding, you start the vista-rich climb up to Molls Gap.  This section of road crosses open heathland with stunning views across to the MacGillycuddy’s Reek mountain range.  At the top of the climb there is a café where you can enjoy your success and savor the views.

From Molls Gap, it’s plain sailing on the Easiest route with a 7km descent followed by an easy cruise into Kenmare alongside the shores of Kenmare Bay.  Intermediate riders head a little further west along quiet country lanes to Blackwater Bridge before cruising in alongside Kenmare Bay.

The Challenge ride heads due west from Killarney for a hilly adventure on the small backroads of the MacGillycuddy’s Reek mountain range.  The Epic ride heads even further west – along the spine of MacGillycuddy’s Reek to the Atlantic coast.  Both rides, as they head east to Kenmare, follow the southern part of the Ring of Kerry; passing through the picturesque village of Sneem with its waterfalls and stone bridge.

You stay overnight in Kenmare.  Kenmare is beautifully located at the head of the Kenmare River.  The town is confidently cosmopolitan with gracious architecture and some excellent restaurants.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Today’s Easiest route takes you from Killarney to Kenmare starting south through the stunning National Park. The beginning of this ride is flat – about 16km of it, as you wind your way through the park, around Lough Leane and Muckross Lake. The next section is a climb up to Moll’s Gap, past Ladies View and Looscaunagh Lough. We recommend a coffee stop at Ladies View and then a lunch stop at Moll’s Gap – making the most of the stunning scenery at both locations. The road at this point can be busy but it is wide and open.

After lunch at Moll’s Gap you begin to descend, again on a large, open road before taking a sharp right onto a much smaller lane, with a grass center. The road takes you down to Kenmare Bay where you head east into the town.

Intermediate Route

Today’s Intermediate route follows the Easiest route out of Killarney and up to Moll’s Gap.  Both Ladies View and Moll’s Gap make good stopping points – making the most of the stunning scenery at both locations.After lunch at Moll’s Gap, you leave the main road (N71) and descend on the quieter R568 past Lough Barginnihy. A sharp left turn takes you onto an even quieter road through open fields and countryside down to Kenmare Bay at Blackwater Bridge. From here it’s an easy, flat 10km as you head eastwards into Kenmare alongside the bay.

Challenge Route

This route takes you on a different start than the Easiest and Intermediate options by going west out of Killarney and then south through the Gap of Dunloe; the first climb on a repeatedly hilly route. The climb to the top of the Gap of Dunloe is fantastically exciting; your fellow cyclists, the local horse and buggies, and walkers all share the road with you and then the views themselves are incredible.  NOTE: The descent can be very tricky, especially on wet days, so take extra caution as you ride down the pass.At the bottom of the descent you get little respite before you begin climbing again to Top Cross on a delightfully serene country lane. At the bottom of this descent you join a slightly larger road that rolls up and over another climb, the views all the while are stunning in every direction. Large open planes and vistas keep you distracted from the hills.

Once you reach our suggested lunch location in Sneem you can be reassured that the back of the ride has been broken and the roads going eastward, taking you into Kenmare via Blackwater Bridge, are much flatter.

Epic Route

The Epic route today lives up to its name: it is long, hilly, diverse and, in places, very isolated. The route begins by heading across the center of the Iveragh Peninsula, taking in lakes like Lough Acoose and passes such as Ballaghasheen Pass – a particularly sharp climb that will have you catching your breath. However, after this success it is downhill all the way to the coast and to Waterville – your recommended lunch location for today.

After lunch at 60km there is a cheeky climb as the route takes you south and eastwards along the water’s edge. The second half of your ride is predominantly water focused as you ride alongside Kenmare Bay, passing through various harbor towns and villages like Beenarouke, Caherdaniel, Westcove and Castlecove.

The town of Sneem is just before the 100km mark and makes for a good coffee stop, after which the route is decidedly flatter as it takes you into Kenmare via Blackwater Bridge.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend largely on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

At Ladies View there is a quaint café serving snacks and light lunches. Fantastic views. Located on the N71 towards Kenmare. Open 9:30 AM – 6:30 PM every day. +353 6 46 63 3430. www.ladiesview.com

At Moll’s Gap the restaurant is a part of the Avoca shop. Expensive due to its location but the food is good, with a variety of options. Fish & meat dishes, vegetarian options, salads, quiche, soup, and a great selection of sweet treats to burn off on your way to Kenmare. Open 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM Monday – Friday and 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM Saturday and Sunday. +353 6 46 63 4720.

In Sneem: for those on the Challenge route there are multiple lunch options here. We recommend D O’Shea Bar for a lovely cozy pub with great food. Reasonable choice on menu and fairly priced. Address: North Square, Inchinaleega East, Sneem. Open 12:00 PM – 9:00 PM every day. +353 6 46 64 5515. www.dosheas.com

Another option in Sneem is The Village Kitchen, serving great quality local food, and healthy portions: lamb stews, chicken schnitzel, fish and chips. Address: Bridge St, Inchinaleega East, Sneem. Open: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM every day. +353 6 46 64 5281.

For those on the Epic route we suggest stopping for lunch in Waterville. Dooleys Seafood & Steak House is a great option for what’s advertised: steak or seafood. High standard of service and lovely building. Address: Ring of Kerry, Waterville. Opening hours can vary but usually open from 11:00 AM every day in summer. +353 6 69 47 8766.

Another option in Waterville is the family-run An Corcan Restaurant. Delicious food and the staff are very accommodating. Serving food such as steak sandwiches, lamb, soup, seafood chowder. Address: Centrepoint, Main Street, Waterville. Open: 9:30 AM – 9:00 PM every day. +353 6 69 47 4711. www.ancorcan.com

Points of Interest en Route

Stores

There is the Avoca store at Moll’s Gap which sells very nice crafts, gifts, etc. Prices can be very expensive. Open 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM every day. +353 6 46 63 4720.

There is a small shop with the post office next door to the Blackwater Tavern (around 37.5km on the Intermediate route). Opening hours vary. +353 6 46 68 2003.

On the Challenge and Epic routes: in Sneem there is a MACE supermarket option located on South Square. Open 8:30 AM – 9:00 PM every day. +353 6 46 64 5116.

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Kenmare Loop Day

Overview

These loop rides explore the magnificent and unspoiled Beara Peninsula.  With flat riding at the coast and hills along the spine, there is something for everyone.Beara_Peninsula

The Easiest route is an in-and-out ride to Gleninchaquin Park – a working sheep farm in the folds of the Caha Mountains.  The route up to the farm takes you past a string of picturesque lakes and a bronze-age stone circle.  The café at the farm makes for a great lunch stop before a downhill run back to Kenmare.

The Intermediate route goes further west, through a chain of pretty fishing villages.  The only real challenge on this route is a two-mile climb over a verdant headland and up to Lake Glanmore.  After the climb, there are a couple of great options for lunch – including the aptly-named Pedals and Boots Café – that makes it worth the effort.

The Challenge and Epic routes push deeper into the Beara Peninsula reaching as far as the bustling port town of Castletownbere in County Cork.  The town includes McCarthy’s Bar – made famous by the book of the same name – complete with snug and live music.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This out and back ride is a stunning route along Kenmare Bay where the water is on your RHS and, weather permitting, you can see across to the Ring of Kerry on the Iveragh Peninsula. After approximately 13km the route turns south, signposted to Gleninchaquin Park.The road to the park is a steady 7km rolling climb through a narrow valley that rises to an open bowl towards the top.  3km in, you pass a track on the RHS that leads to the Uragh Stone Circle: a mystical place in a stunning setting between two lakes.  If you want to visit the stone circle, turn right onto this rough track and pass through a gate before you reach the path up to the megalithic site. You are asked to leave €2.00 in the honesty box.

Back on the tarmac, continue climbing a further 4KM up to Gleninchaquin Park. See Points of Interest en Route below for details about visiting the park.  The park is lovely, but this route is as much about the journey.

After visiting the park, you turn around and return to Kenmare the way you came. There is a second lunch option on your route back to town at Con’s Bar, which is approximately 34km into your ride at the Stars Outdoors Activity Center next to the bay.

Intermediate Route

This route takes you across the top of the Beara peninsula, along the coastline of Kenmare Bay. When conditions are right, the Ring of Kerry is visible across the bay. As the route splits south there is a 5km climb up onto the ridge where the views Kenmare_Baytransition from coastal to mountains of black sheet rock; the vistas are open and the scrublands are dotted with sheep.

There is a short descent on a wide-open, beautifully tarmacked road before you arrive at Glanmore Lake, a stunning mirrored lake in the middle of nowhere. Your first lunch option is here at Josie’s Restaurant. The lake is also at the southern tip of the loop and is where you turn back north. As you meet the water again there is another lunch option at Pedal and Boots which is a popular stop for cyclists.

After lunch there are more stunning views of the coastline as the route heads eastwards passing Derreen Gardens. The roads roll through houses and farmlands with high hedgerows. Occasionally the views open up to vast landscapes. The route rejoins the R571 at approximately 44km and takes you back into Kenmare the same way you rode out.

Challenge Route

The Challenge route follows the Intermediate ride for 24km when it splits right up the R574 and climbs up to Healy Pass at the Cork County line.  This is also the highest point of your ride and there are great views back to Glanmore Lake.

Glanmore_LakeThe descent from Healy Pass is winding and technical in places although the road is wider than on some of our otherroutes. At the bottom of the descent, in the small town of Adrigole, the route turns west along the  southern coast of the Beara Peninsula. The majority of the climbing is accomplished, and you can roll to lunch in Castletownbere without too many hiccups.After lunch the loop continues by pushing you north again and back along the top of the peninsula. The roads are well maintained through scrubland and farmland with no shortage of different views to keep you entertained.

Epic Route

This Epic route for today is a grand tour of the Beara Peninsula. It follows the same route as the Challenge route all the way to lunch in Castletownnbere.  Here the two routes split and the Epic riders continue the west, tracing the coastline. Although there are no major climbs after Healy Pass, the route is definitely “rolling” and with 1,750m of climbing over 130km you will, likely, feel it in your legs.  The Epic ride rejoins the Challenge ride at Eyeries for a relatively easy 40km cruise back to Kenmare.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on the route you choose.  See the route summaries above for the best towns for lunch on each route option.

Con’s Bar & Restaurant at Star Outdoors looks out on Kenmare Bay with the Ring of Kerry and the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range in the distance. They serve seafood caught there in the bay and the service is very friendly. Located 7km out of Kenmare on all the routes – both outbound and on the way back. Address: Castletownbere Road, Kenmare. +353 6 46 64 1222. https://www.staroutdoors.ie/activities/cons-marina-bar-restaurant/ Open every day from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

Gleninchaquin Park has a small café on site that serves simple lunches such a sandwiches and soups. +353 8 77 12 8553 http://gleninchaquinpark.com/ Open every day 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM.

Josie’s Restaurant is a small, well-run restaurant with a great view. Fantastic food, plenty of locally-caught seafood, and delicious cider. Address: Josie’s Lakeview House Restaurant, Lauragh, South Kerry. +353 6 46 68 3155. http://www.josiesrestaurant.ie/ Open every day from 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM.

Pedals and Boots Café is a favorite with walkers and cyclists for simple meal in a relaxed setting. Sandwiches, soups, scones, cakes and biscuits. Located at 31km on the Intermediate route. Address: Lauragh Lower, Killarney. +353 6 46 68 3101. Pedalsandboots.ie. Open April – October from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday to Saturday and every day July – August.

In Castletownbere:  Castletownbere has many options for lunch.  A nice choice for a seafood lunch is Murphy’s Restaurant.  A good, traditional lunch menu but can be very busy on the weekends.  Address: East End House | Castletownbere.  +353 2 77 0244.  Open 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM every day. Another seafood option in Castletownbere is Breen’s Lobster Bar, an Irish bar serving locally caught seafood. Don’t be put off by the décor, the food and service are both very good. Address: The Square. +353 2 77 0031. Open every day from 11:00 AM.

For a more traditional Irish pub experience we recommend MacCarthy’s Bar. Simple food such as sandwiches and soups, the atmosphere is lively and welcoming. Located in “The Square”. +353 2 77 0014. Open 9:00 AM – 12.30 AM Monday to Saturday and 12.30 PM – 11:00 PM on Sundays.  See below for information on the book that shares a name with this bar.


McCarthy’s Bar: A Book and a Pub

The full title of Pete McCarthy’s best-selling book is “McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery In Ireland” but, like the pub, it is mostly known as simply McCarthy’s Bar. Despite the numerous exotic locations Pete McCarthy has visited, he finds nothing else can match the particular magic of Ireland, his mother’s homeland. His journey begins in Cork and continues along the west coast to Donegal in the north. He travels through spectacular landscapes but at all times obeys the rule, “never pass a bar that has your name on it.”  On his journey he encounters McCarthy’s bars up and down the land – including the one in Castletownbere.  Written by someone who is both an insider and an outsider, McCarthy’s Bar is a funny and affectionate portrait of a rapidly changing country.


Points of Interest en Route

Sights

Gleninchaquin Park has breath-taking landscapes with paths that take log bridges over mountain streams and up Gleninchaquin_Parkcarved steps through rock passages. A real treat to explore.  There is a small café serving home-baked goods, teas and coffee. There are also numerous picnic spots to enjoy a picnic lunch you bring yourself. A €6 voluntary donation is requested to help maintain the park. +353 8 77 12 8553 http://gleninchaquinpark.com/Open every day 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM.

Derreen Gardens is a 60-acre 19th-century garden featuring woods, subtropical plants, paths & tiny houses. This is a quiet, peaceful garden with beautiful views out over the bay. The gardens are located on the return leg of the Intermediate, Challenge and Epic routes, shortly after Lauragh. +353 6 46 68 3588. www.derreengarden.com Open every day from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

On today’s Challenge and Epic routes you can visit Bere Island. Bere Island lies just off the coast of the Beara peninsula at the entrance to the magnificent Bantry Bay, and over the centuries it has stood guard over the deepwater harbor of Breehaven. The island has a fascinating military past and you can visit sites such as Mertello Towers and gun battery. Westcorkislands.com

Stores

As you enter Castletownbere there is a SuperValu on your left-hand-side. It is open 8:00 AM – 9:30 PM Monday – Saturday & 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM on Sundays. There is also a smaller Spar further up the same road on your right-hand-side.


Healy Pass & Famine Roads

The original track across Healy Pass (on today’s Challenge and Epic routes) was called the Kerry Pass. It was cut during the Great Famine (1845 and 1849) as a poor relief public works project.  These public project roads were known as Famine Roads. This famine road was renamed for Timothy Michael Healy, former Governor-General of the Irish Free State, who died in 1931 shortly after the road was improved.

Famine roads, in general, have been described as ‘a landscape legacy of often well-intentioned, but hopelessly misguided, initiatives’.  They were part of a project initially conceived by Robert Peel’s Conservative government to improve infrastructure in Ireland and thereby strengthen the economy, while at the same time providing paid employment for those without other means of sustenance following the failure of the potato crop in 1845.Famine_Roads

The scheme was not executed as initially envisaged, and road improvement schemes predominated. Funding arrangements were ill-conceived. The treasury’s object was to have the schemes funded at county level, but there was also a ‘half-grant system’. This led to government officials suspecting landowners of lining their own pockets.

Lack of tools, the malnutrition of the workers, appalling weather in the winter/spring of 1846/7, starvation wages (which could be as little as threepence-halfpenny a day), delays in payment, official suspicion that local officers were not sufficiently draconian in minimizing the numbers employed, and the fact that the schemes were not preventing the ever-increasing distress of the people eventually led to their abandonment.

In October 1846, whilst working to build these roads, Denis McKennedy of County Cork died. He was owed two weeks’ wages. The Board of Works was found culpable of gross negligence leading to his starvation and this was not an isolated case.

In more ancient times, Healy Pass was known as Bealach Scairt (the way of the sheltered caves) and was an ancient track across the Beara Peninsula. At the top of the pass, where Cork meets Kerry, funeral processions stopped and at this point pushed the corpse in the coffin over the border. The awaiting people then took the coffin from the opposite county.

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Safety and Enjoyment

Your safety is our first priority and should be yours, too! Here, we share some ideas on helping you get the most from your cycling tour – safely and while having fun.

Riding Safely

We have a few simple rules we ask you to follow:

    1. Always wear a cycle helmet fastened securely while cycling.
    2. Do not ride at night or in the dim light of dawn or dusk.
    3. Ride in single file and with the direction of traffic.
    4. Carry identification, details of your medical/travel insurance and emergency contact details.
    5. Sign an accident waiver indicating you are fit to ride and understand the risks.
    6. All cyclists under 16 years of age:
      • Must wear a florescent safety triangle or high visibility clothing.
      • Need to be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21 who is responsible for their safety at all times while cycling.

Daily Bike Checks

Your rental bikes are checked and tuned before every trip.  However, it is useful to do some regular checks just to keep things running smoothly. These checks should take less than five minutes to do.  Of course, if you’re in any doubt or have any concerns, give us a call and we’ll have a guide come out to you.  If they can’t fix a problem they’ll arrange for a new bike.

Brakes: 

  • Do both brake levers engage the brakes smoothly?  This test is best performed first on a stationary bike and then on a moving bike.
  • Are the shoes spaced evenly on either side of the wheel and the brake blocks close to but not rubbing on the wheel rims?
  • Are cables OK – not frayed – and under tension?

Handlebars & stem:

  • Check alignment – does the wheel point forward when the handlebars point forward?
  • Holding front wheel between legs check for lateral movement when flexing/twisting handlebars.
  • With front brake engaged, move bike back and forth to check for any rocking.  If there is movement, the headset may need tightening.

Gear changing.  This check is easily done as you set out at the start of your ride:

  • Check all front gears engage/change smoothly
  • Check all rear gears engage/change smoothly
  • Are cables OK – not frayed?

Chain:

  • If you’ve been riding in rain or on wet roads, you may want to wipe off your chain and apply a little lube the night before.  In the morning, run a clean rag over the chain to remove any excess oil.
  • But don’t overdo it; an over-oiled chain just attracts dirt.

Wheels & tires:

  • Inflate front & back tires to recommended tire pressure which should be written on the side.
  • Check front & rear wheels spin smoothly with little friction or noise and are true (no wobbles).
  • Check there are no loose or broken spokes in either wheel.
  • Check tires including sidewalls for cuts or other damage.
  • Check tires for any foreign bodies embedded in the tires and remove / replace tires as needed.
  • Are the quick-release mechanisms secure, correctly engaged and pointing backwards?

Frame:

  • Check for cracks and alignment in the frame, the headset & the handlebars – especially if you accidentally dropped the bike.
  • Pay extra attention and feel for problems in carbon forks and carbon rear stays where fitted.
  • General check for any loose parts.

Riding Safely

Here are our favorite top tips to help you have a safe trip.

  1. Ride predictably in smooth lines and avoid weaving or wobbling. When you stop – for example to check your map – we recommend that you move off the road. The more people there are in your group, the more important this becomes.
  2. Stay alert, be aware and anticipate; anticipate what other vehicles will do, anticipate what gear you will need to be in after you stop and anticipate the approaching road surface – do you need to avoid gravel, potholes or broken glass? Should you dismount to cross railroad tracks?  [FACT: 50% of urban accidents happen solo.  That is, people just fall off of their own accord.  A little anticipation would work wonders here.]
  3. Be as visible as you can be. Our fluorescent triangles are available to all guests and we recommend that riders of all standards wear them.  [When riding with our florescent triangles, we have noticed that cars give us a noticeably wider berth as they pass by.]
  4. Choose a safe riding position on the road. Stay as close as is safe to the right-hand side of the road as possible but do not be cowed into a dangerous riding position.  For example, avoid riding on grit, or dangerously broken pavement or where you are at risk of being hit by an opening car door.
  5. Obey the law. Drivers will give cyclist more respect, and you are far safer, if you obey all the traffic laws – including stopping at stop signs, riding on the right-hand side of the road and not riding under the influence of alcohol.  [FACT: 10% of ‘cyclist at fault’ accidents are caused by cyclist using the wrong side of the road.]
  6. Ride assertively but defensively. At intersections, make eye contact with drivers.  Assertive riding is easier for drivers to predict, but cars are bigger and harder than we are, so we always try to avoid getting into confrontations with them.  [FACT: 63% of cyclist collisions occur at intersections.  The most common cause of accidents, where the driver is at fault, is the driver’s failure to yield the right of way.]
  7. Check out your bike and make sure you are confident that it is roadworthy. Everyday check brakes, tires, quick release mechanisms, pedals and headsets.  Everything should fit snuggly and move smoothly.  Whether you are riding your own or a rented bike, the roadworthiness of that bike is your responsibility.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Cyclists

[Apologies to Stephen Covey]

As well as having a safe tour, we are keen for you to enjoy cycling and achieve a real sense of accomplishment.  This is likely to include riding within your limits and not exhausting yourself before lunch.  Here are some thoughts on how to stay happy on your bike.

  1. Eat before you are hungry. Even moderate cycling burns around 300 calories per hour so eat plenty of snacks such as power bars or trail mix.  We need to eat in enough time to allow our bodies to process the food and get the fuel to our legs before the fuel gauge reaches on empty.  Recovering from a fuel deficit is very difficult and will leave you tired for the rest of the day.  So, indulge yourself.  [Everybody’s metabolism is different, but when riding extended distances, it is typical to need to eat something every 45 minutes.  A nice big bowl of pasta the night before and a carbohydrate rich breakfast in the morning also help.]
  2. Drink before you are thirsty. It can get very hot on the bike in this area.  As you sweat, you will lose both water and essential salts.  You will not notice the effects until it is too late.  Drink plenty of water before you start to ride and then take regular sips en route.  [A good target is to drink either water or a sports drink at least every 30 minutes.]
  3. Ride at a pace that feels comfortable. Even when climbing hills, it is good practice to be able to keep a conversation going without being out of breath.  This means changing down to a low gear, keeping your cadence high and taking things easy.  If you are a slow rider riding with fitter friends, have them ride at your pace rather than you struggling to keep up with them.  This will also help them avoid sore legs the next day.
  4. The sun can get very intense, especially in the middle of the day so keep your shirt on and use a high factor sunscreen. [Watch for being burned through the gaps in your cycle helmet.  Many of the best helmets have extra wide gaps for better ventilation.  A bandana under the helmet can make all the difference.]
  5. Relax and change your hand position regularly. This helps avoid shoulder cricks or back aches.  Drop handlebars are better for being able to do this than straight handlebars.
  6. Check your bike. A sticking brake or skipping gear stops you relaxing and can be dangerous.  If you are unsure, talk to your guide, who will be happy to help you check things out if you have a concern.
  7. Smile, you are on vacation!

Seat Height Adjustment

Seat height adjustment is more craft than science.  The most important thing is that you feel safe and confident on the bike.  However, getting your saddle to the right height will also help you stay comfortable on longer rides, avoid saddle sores and conserve your energy while you pedal.

Bike fitters can spend hours getting your fit just right, but here are some simple rules of thumb.

  1. Stand and hold or prop yourself up against a wall.
  2. Position the pedals so the pedal cranks are vertical (one pedals at 12 o’clock and one pedal at 6 o’clock).
  3. Get on your bike and place your feet on the pedals. Move your foot so that your heel is on the pedal at 6 o’clock.
  4. When your seat is at the correct height, your leg (of the foot at 6 o’clock) should be straight but your knee shouldn’t be locked (technically, there should be a 25-30-degree flexion in the knee when the pedal is at the bottom most point).

If your seat is too low, it will make it harder to pedal and you may get knee pain at the front of the knee.  Too high and your hips will go from side to side which will make you tend to ride in too high a gear and you may develop pain at the back of your knees.

Saddle Sores

Saddle sores are the great unmentioned subject of cycling.  However, if you have not been riding much recently and start doing a lot of miles on a bike, you may well become just a little too familiar with this phenomenon.

To prevent sores, it’s helpful to know what they are.  Definition: A saddle sore is a skin ailment on the buttocks due to, or exacerbated by, riding on a bicycle saddle.  It often develops in three stages: skin abrasion, folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles) and, finally, abscess.  If it’s not obvious from the definition, it is better to stop the sores in the early stages than try and treat it in the final stage.

The best cure of all is to not get them in the first place.  The best way not to get them is to gradually build up your riding mileage and get used to your bike seat.  Doing rides before you come on the trip will help with this.  Other good preventative measures include:

  • Reducing the friction due to bobbing or swinging motion while pedaling, by setting the appropriate saddle height – see above.
  • If you have a favorite saddle, bring it along and we’ll fit it to your rental bike.
  • Wearing good cycling shorts, with a high-quality chamois insert.
  • Use petroleum jelly, chamois cream or lubricating gel on the chamois to further reduce friction.
  • Do not sit around in damp bike shorts after your ride and thoroughly wash and dry the affected area.
  • A friend who guides extreme mountain biking trips in the Colorado Rockies swears by putting hemorrhoid cream on the affected area. If all else fails, it’s worth a try!

There are pharmacies in all the main towns you’ll stay in if you need medical treatment.  Our primary message would be, if you think you have them, don’t ignore them.

Fixing a Flat

Of course, we hope you won’t ever need this skill – but just in case here is a checklist for fixing a flat – or repairing a puncture in your tyre as the English would say!  If it seems as though there are a lot of steps, you may be reassured by the fact we have seen all these steps completed in just over a minute

Remove the wheel. Sounds simple, but a couple of hints might make this easier.

  • If it’s the rear wheel, first put the chain on the smallest cog. This makes it easier to remove and replace the wheel.
  • Undo the quick release.
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to unscrew the quick release a little to get it over the lips on the fork – they’re known as lawyers’ lips!
  • You may have to loosen the brakes a little to get the tire past the brake blocks if there is still some air in the tires. On hybrid bikes this usually means squeezing the brake calipers together and unhitching the cable.  On road bikes there is usually a release mechanism on the caliper itself (or on the brake lever).
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel just drops out under gravity.

Let the air out of the tire.

  • For Presta valves, loosen the small nut at the top of the valve and press down.
  • For Schrader valves (like the valves on car tires) press the tip of a tool or stick onto the valve tip.

Before doing anything else, spin the wheel to see if you can find out what caused the flat. If you find it, either remove it now or mark it so you can remove it when you remove the tire.

If you’re very lucky, you’ll now be able to ease the tire off the rim with your bare hands. But to do this you may well need bear’s hands. Alternatively, you’ll need to use tire levers (irons):

  1. Insert the curved end of two tire levers under the edge of the tire about two spokes apart.
  2. Lever back the first tire lever to take the tire off the rim being careful not to pinch the inner tube and so add an extra hole to patch! Hook the free end of the lever around a spoke.  This leaves your hands free to lever back the second tire lever.
  3. Keeping the hooked lever stationary work the other lever around the tire until one side of the tire is completely removed from the rim but leaving the other side still seated on the rim. If a tire is very tight, you may need to engage a third lever.  When the third is in place, the middle one can be removed and re-inserted farther over.
  4. Remove the valve stem of the inner tube first then pull the rest of the inner tube from the tire. Try to keep the inner tube oriented with the tire so that when you find the hole you can navigate back to the same point in the tire and double check that what caused the flat isn’t still embedded.
  5. Look over the external and inside of the tire for damage and embedded debris. Remove any objects.  Then run your finger around the inside of the tire (carefully!) to detect any glass or thorns.  As a final check, inflate the tube and locate the puncture hole.  Check the tire at the corresponding place to ensure the offending object has been removed.  If you skip this step or are just a bit sloppy you may have another flat five minutes after getting back on your bike!
  6. Hopefully, you have a spare tube that your nice tour company gave you at the start of your ride. If not you’ll need to repair the hole in the old tube using a patch kit.
  7. Place some air in the new (or repaired) tube – just enough to give it some shape. Insert the valve stem on the tube into the valve hole in the wheel and then ease the rest of the tube into the tire.  Then ease the tire wall so the tube is sitting in line with the wheel not hanging outside of the wheel.

Now the tricky part.  Starting at the valve, work the tire back onto the rim using your thumbs or the muscle in the palm just under the thumb (actually the abductor pollicis brevis though knowing this won’t help you get the tire back on).  If the last section is hard to get on, try these things:

  • Ensure that the tire that is inside of the wheel is sitting well into the rim.
  • Hold the wheel horizontally against your stomach with the section of wheel without the tire on furthest away from you. Then use your abductor pollicis brevises to roll the tire onto the rim.
  • If none of this helps, use tire levers to work the bead onto the rim. However, if you resort to this there is a real risk of pinching the inner tube and creating another hole and being back to Step 4 above!

Inflate the tire.

As you inflate ensure that the tire is sitting evenly in the wheel.  If not, let out a little wire and reseat the tire in the rim.

When inflated, spin the wheel to ensure there are no bulges or wobbles. If there are, deflate the tire, reseat the tire on the rim and re-inflate.

Replace the wheel. (This is pretty much the reverse of Step 1.)

  • If you didn’t need to loosen the brakes to get the deflated wheel off, you may find you need to do it now to get it back on. A tap with the palm of your hand can also do the trick to ease the tire past the brake blocks.  DON’T FORGET TO RETIGHTEN THE BRAKES BEFORE HEADING OFF!
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to retighten the quick release a little after getting it over the fork lips before reengaging the quick release. The pressure needed to close the quick release should be enough to leave a small mark on the palm of your hand but not so much you need to apply all your strength and all the strength of your cycling partner to close it.
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel drops into place.

My Customized Itinerary

If you’ve made it this far, there’s likely an Ireland cycling trip in your future. We’d love to create the perfect custom itinerary for you! Please submit your request below for a no-obligation personalized cycling vacation to be created for you.

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