Home again, and a big thank you

Well, I slept in my own bed last night; it’s really nice to be home.  There are so many people I need to thank, and I cannot possibly name them all, but few need special mention – Gillian (my bank manager, logistics organiser, partner, pickmeupper extraordinare, covering all domestic chores in my absence, meeting me in Westport), Karen, my first overnight stop and my farewell breakfast, Graham for driving me to Newry and meeting me in Letterkenny, Mary and Lesley, their map of Ireland and farewell card, Joe, and his offer of accommodation in Belfast, Ian for picking me on the side of the road near Mallow, and for bringing me home, Pat for giving me the time off, Ger L, Paul G, John K, John H, Franko, Brid, Niall B, for picking up the slack in my absence, Sarah and Andrew, Allanah Keelan & Boo, Judy & John, Keith & Elaine, Raymond & Catherine, Nora, Matt & Margaret, AnnMarie, Tricia & Bill, Brian & Jo, Abby & Matt, John W, Margaret McC, John B, Kieran R, Mick B, Ger N, Mags K, Kieran I, Rose C, Noel O’C, David H, Cathal G, Mags C, Brendan McG, Mary McH, Trish McL, Liz and Dave, Andew G, Alan C, Denis B, Eoin O’R, Karen B, stranger Dave, Randy and Ellen Rosenberg from Philadelphia, Shiela and Leslie from Enniskillen, and everyone else who sent me good wishes.

The final stats

Days travelling – 24
Days cycling – 20
Wet days – 11
Distance travelled – 1296.79km
Total height ascended – 9,418m
Total calories burned – 42,189
Falls – 3
Bites/stings – 2

What I missed most

  • good coffee every day
  • my power shower
  • being able to open the wardrobe and have a choice of fresh clothes to wear
  • smokeless fuels, you forget the difference this has made in Dublin
  • having someone pack/unpack for me
  • my laptop

What I will miss now that I’m home

  • comments, texts, mails and general support and encouragement from everyone
  • the wide open spaces
  • starting a new adventure every day
  • being in the outdoors all day (even in the rain)
  • visiting/researching new locations

What I won’t miss

  • the hills, the hills
  • loose dogs barking and chasing me
  • inconsiderate and ignorant drivers
  • token bicycle lanes
  • potholes and poor road surfaces
  • the smell of dirty/damp clothes
  • the uncertainty of where I will sleep/eat when I arrive in a new town
  • the smell of slurry
  • Bruises, blisters, pains

What will be different

  • I’ll certainly be keeping up with the cycling, and keeping fit in general
  • Commuting to work is an option, we’ll have to see.  Starting out on a wet dark morning needs a lot of discipline
  • Lots more hill training
  • A much greater apprciation of what cyclists have to put up with on Ireland’s roads

I’ve updated the Itinerary map, the Best Of (So Far) list, and I’ve added some extra photos to the blog, all up on the right hand side.  I’ve just collected my Farmhouse Apple Pie from Margaret, my mother-in-law, and I’m off to brew a pot of coffee.

Here’s to next year’s adventure

Thanks to one and all, Kieran.

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Longueville House

Spent a very pleasant evening in Longueville House, Ian’s country pile in Mallow. The building is Georgian and dates from 1720, the conservatory is a Victorian Turner addition from 1862. Good to see that renovations and extensions are not just a recent phenonomen. They were offering a dinner/b&b deal and we had nothing better to so with our Friday evening. A real old world place, our menu included the caution that the pigeon might contain some shot.

We met a really interesting couple from Philadelphia, Randy and Ellen. Randy is a Nueroligist and Ellen is a Physio Therapist, both of them badly needed by yours truly at this stage. Neither have any ethnic connections with Ireland but have always wanted to visit; Randy plays classical flute with an orchestra back home and has bought an Irish Flute to learn our music. He was only dying for us to ask him for a rendition, so we duly obliged. He can actually play the thing. Needless to say it was a late night (I had to turn out the lights when we left, the staff had all gone off to bed).

Breakfast this morning was a coruncopia of local produce, their own muesli, something really awful looking with elderflower in it, lots of compotes and a lovely cooked breakfast. A long walk in the 2.5 acre walled kitchen garden after breakfast (with their three dogs), was the perfect end to a really idyllic overnight.

As we were checking out the heavens had opened and it was really teeming down. Any lingering thoughts that I might have one last day’s cycling was quickly dismissed. The bicycle fits perfectly into the boot of Ian’s station wagon, and it would be a shame to get it wet when it’s nice and dry in there. We we decide to head for home, passing through Mallow town initially. It has a lovely building, the Clock Hiuse at the end of the street, built in 1855 by Sir Denham Orlando Jephson. It was also the home of Thomas Osborne Davis (1852-1928), who penned the famous rebel song “A Nation Once Again”. We stopped briefly in Abbeyleix, because of heavy traffic, and because we parked the car. Some nice coffee and cake, and back on the road. So the last 293km of the trip was in 4 wheels rather than on 2, but the body was really creaking, and the weather was crap. Plus I had good company in the car that I wouldn’t have had if I was cycling. Nice to be home, and I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight. I’m off the make real coffee now, I’ll post one more blog update tomorrow wrapping everything up.

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In the rebel county

I left Killarney bathed in sunshine. There were loads of signs for Killorglin, but my book said that unless it was Puck Fair week there was little to attract one to the town, so I took it’s advice and headed in the opposite direction. The mountains look really fantastic this close up. Headed out on the Cork road, and this then splits with Mallow/Waterford road, which takes a more northerly line heading east through Cork county. This is one long drag with few enough towns on it, Mallow is 66km away.

It must be a slurry spreading day today, a terrible stench has been assaulting me on and off since I left Castleisland. Either that or I’ve picked up something on my shoe. Stopped in Rathmore for a cuppa, no Americanos in Danny Pats (3 pints beer/stout €10), either tea or coffee, plain and simple. Place is festooned with Kerry colours. The N72 is a mixed bag, some good patches and some awful ones. Where possible I try and stick to the hard shoulder, but sometimes there isn’t one, or it’s so potholed or has loose stone that cycling on it is impossible. Where there are yellow markings at the edge of the road, but no hard shoulder, I will cycle inside the line if there is enough room, and I think sometimes this is most dangerous, as the other drivers see you as being in a separate lane and drive by at way too fast a speed, sometimes only inches away.

Finally made it to the rebel county, and I was at least 3km inside the county boundary before I got to see the maroon chequered flags for the first time, clearly they are not as big fans of the game here as they are in Kerry. It’s getting cold and I’m putting on extra layers; this is a first. About 20km short Mallow Ian came along in his car, we took the front wheel off and loaded it into the boot, thank God he’s got an estate. We drive the last bit to Mallow, having found a nice b&b for the night, see picture below. Completed 73km for the day.

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In Killarney, home of the jarvey

A pleasant cycle to Kerry International Airport and Farranfore. On the helpful advice of the receptionist in River Island I’m taking the main road to Killarney rather than going cross country, seems like there are terrible hills that direction. A bit of a climb again out of Farranfore and I’m on my way to Killarney. There are as many Cork, Limerick and Dublin reg cars on the road as there are Kerry reg ones; maybe most locals are in Dublin at this stage. There’s plenty of evidence of support for the local team, based on flags, bunting, roadside signs, and even a painted mini. The Magillucuddy Reeks look so majestic as I reach Killarney. A quick pit stop for coffee and photo with ass and cart (evidence), and I’m on my way again. It’s overcast and a little chilly, my blisters are killing me.

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Castleisland, no castle, no island

I’m taking Denis’ advice and heading to Cork today, though in the interests of impartiality I’m going to try and be in Waterford by Sunday. I don’t want to be in a Cork/Kerry sandwich. And I need to remember which side my bread is buttered on. There’s a Flemings auctioneers across the road from the hotel, I wonder if it’s any relation to Lorraine Foran, I think it’s to this town she moved. The share price is substantially positive on the NAMA news, so hopefully this will last. So far the punt from early March is showing a very positive return.

Crag Cave, one of the most extensive cave systems in Ireland open to the public, is located just outside Castleisland. The town’s main street is second only to O’Connell St in Dublin in terms of width, and Castleisland has some notable sons:
– Businessman Mike McAuliffe operates one of South West Ireland’s largest and longest running transport companies McAuliffe Trucking from a depot outside the town. He is also Kerry’s largest pig producer.
– Mick Galway, Irish rugby international player and coach. He hails from Currow.
– Con Houlihan, Irish sports journalist and columnist for the Evening Herald.
– Charlie Nelligan, who was the Kerry GAA goalkeeper for many years during the 1970s and 1980s. He won All Ireland football medals playing with Kerry and has also trained the Kerry Minor Footballers in recent years. Charlie played his club football with the Castleisland Desmonds.

The hotel here has been one of the better ones on the trip. It seems that 3* can mean anything at all, so varied has been my experience. The River Island Hotel is a pleasant warm and inviting place, the people lovely. Food last night was much better than the average hotel fare that I’ve had, a comfortable nights sleep in a clean and cozy room. What more could you ask for. This evening I’m meeting Ian, in either Mallow or Fermoy, so I need to get my skates on, initially going to Killarney and then heading east. The weather forecast is good and I’ve no major pains or aches.

There’s been lots of people dying this week, some famous, some not so. One person who has died, and most won’t recognise the name, is Mary Travers. She was the female member of a three-part harmony group called Peter, Paul and Mary and their hits included “If I Had a Hammer”, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and “Puff (The Magic Dragon)”. When the person is part of the soundtrack of your own young like it just seems to resonate a bit more.

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Safely back in the kingdom

Spent the afternoon in Limerick, county No 12. The slow climb out of Glin was rewarded with a nice decent into Athea, a little village at a crossroads. Stop at the Gables for a quick lunch, I’ve another climb before I get to Abbeyfeale. Nice toasted chicken sambo/chips. Coffee awful! A long, long climb out of Athea up into the Mullaghareirk Mountains before I’m rewarded with the downhill run, only spoiled for the last kilometer or so by some new stony road dressing.

Abbeyfeale come from “Abbey on The Feale”. The abbey is gone but the river is still there, a river shared with Listowel. In the main square there’s a statue of Father William Casey. Fr. Casey was the parish priest from 1883 to 1907 and helped the tenant farmers fight against their landlords. Some enterprising young locals have added a bottle of Ballygowan to the priest’s outstretched hand to make the statue a bit more contemporary. I’m not sure if you can make out the detail from the photo below. Onwards and upwards – the N21 to Castleisland. A brand new road, about 20 km in total; it was a pleasure to cycle, even if the traffic was fast. This road seems to go up for about 12km alongside the Glanaruddery Mountains and the down for 8km. On the way I spotted what may be Kerry’s answer the the Angel of the North statue in Newcastle. Other than the fact that it was getting late and cold the downward stretch was really fun. Safely out of Limerick before it got dark. Found a nice 3* hotel with a warm Offaly welcome – the River Valley Hotel. The final photo is one from the top of the hill looking down in Castleisland. Weather was kind, but you can really feel the chill in the evening. Lots of aches and pains, scratches and bruises and my chest is pRticularly sore. For some reason today seemed to really take it out of me, 70.5km.

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Limerick diversion

Left Kilkee in hazy sunshine. Passed through Moyasta, where the last of the West Clare Railway is preserved. There is some old CIE rolling stock here also. Into Kilrush and stop at Turbridy’s on the quay for coffee. The chap behind the counter has to look at the menu for instructions on how to make an americano, clearly a big demand item. Sarah, they have a Polski Sklep here. Then on to Moneypoint and Killimer. Both these places are by the river, not 2km apart, but the road involved negotiating two pointless hills. Took my second tumble of the trip on one; had just stopped for a breather and couldn’t release my foot quickly enough. Got a handlebar in the chest that winded me for a while. Then onto the ferry for a 20 min ride to Tarbert in Co Kerry, county no 11.

The signs actually say Tarbert Island, though I can’t really see any evidence of this. Don’t stop, but take the N69 road towards Glin and away from Listowel, as well as it’s Writers Week in June each year, it also has a horse racing festival, and that is on today, so decide to give it a wide berth. A lovely ride by the side of the estuary, but the road is busy. Glin has a castle, and a knight, and a pretty stone library (see picture below). Glin is on a hill, and 6km outside Glin I’m still climbing (having had my third fall), maybe Listowel would have been easier.

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