A quote from Bruce Weber, another cyclist, “you find yourself in a place where something has happened,” also reflects our experience in Ireland. In Ireland, you can’t go many miles without a sign or indicator of some event in Ireland’s history. Each day we passed tombs, dolmens, religious shrines, ruins, museums, famine villages, and indicators of emigration and “The Troubles”.
Our first few weeks, or was it a month, took us around the many southern peninsulas, including Dingle, Iveragh (Ring of Kerry), Beara and on to Mizzen Head with a hope of a tour of the Fastnet lighthouse. Unfortunately, the Fastnet tour wasn’t to be since an assembly of police officers were taking an Irish language course on Clear Island and had filled the boat tour. Maybe next time.
Living in the flat lands of Virginia, I hadn’t had an opportunity to train for steep climbs. Climbing the first pass (Connor Pass) took two hours for this ill prepared but determined cyclist, catching my breath every tenth of a mile up, cresting the top to the applause of another cyclist, and cycling down in 25 minutes into Dingle. Weeks later, as we traveled our last few kilometers towards Wexford, my husband and I decided that we had a reasonable idea of the distance we were capable of riding each day. Plugging in that daily distance, we mapped out our route for the eastern side of Ireland. Other travelers had forewarned us of an American football game taking place in Dublin on the upcoming weekend with the resultant lack of lodging in and around Dublin. With this knowledge we made our plans to circumvent the city (not a major loss since we had toured Dublin during our ’94 trip and much prefer the small towns anyway). Skirting Dublin included cycling over Wicklow gap which gave me some concern after my huffing and puffing up Connor Pass. Not to worry, several weeks of cycling and hill climbing resulted in the climb being much easier than Connor Pass – despite the length and altitude. From there it was up the East coast, on to Newry where we picked up the Newry Towpath leading to Portadown, which was a delight after traveling the busy roads.
A short visit in Derry and we were back in the Republic and headed to Malin Head. On our travels we crossed paths with several cyclists that were participating in a 7 day ride from Mizzen Head to Malin Head. It took us 17 days to complete our Mizzen Head to Malin Head ride, but in fairness, we did do it the long way around. Leaving Malin Head we picked back up on the Wild Atlantic Way and began to allot our remaining days so that we could include a stopover in Sligo and still make it back to Shannon for our flight home.