Our friend Declan knows every small road around and can always be counted on for a great ride. So I asked him to put together a ride for us on Tuesday. He graciously drove down to Dublin to pick me up and we head up north to Dundalk for a loop around the Coolies.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
My last real riding day had the best weather of the trip. I'd been apologizing everywhere I went for the cool summer, certain that my mere my presence all summer here had caused the less than summer like weather. I assured locals that things would improve on August 19. Luckily for me, awesome conditions arrived days before my scheduled departure.
Monday, August 15, 2016
My final day into Dublin would have me climbing up the Wicklow Gap and then finishing off on the Sally Gap. It was a brilliant crystal clear day for it, with endless views and blue skies. It seems I finally remembered I had a camera and was inspired by the glorious weather.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Well enough of those gentle DaveB routes. Time to let SadiB back at it. Although she can't fully take credit as she took most of the route from JohnBs brownstuff 400km, but in reverse.
The route headed south first taking in the climb up to the Nine Stones on the shoulder of Mt Leinster. It then crossed over into County Wexford briefly to tick off another county before climbing over the Shay Elliot with the final descent down into Glendalough.
The tearoom at Huntington Castle fueled me for the climb up to the Nine Stones.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
As usual one can never trust the forecast. It called for sunshine, but I had a mix of showers and clouds for my short loop out to Humewood.
This was another DaveB route and one designed to give me a break before heading into the Wicklow Mountains tomorrow.
Don't let the lack of photos fool you. The scenery is splendid.
Friday, August 12, 2016
Today, I decided to take advantage of local knowledge and got my brother in law, Dave, to create a couple of loop routes for me to do in County Carlow. Most of John's extended family live in the area, so we visit here a lot. It is a gorgeous and underrated part of the country. It ha nice rolling hills and lovely views of mountains.
Dave called the route lumpy. I was nervous that DaveB might design routes like SadiB, seeking out roads crossing closely spaced contour lines. But he was very kind and plotted a gentle route with several coffee shop options. It was nice to have an easy day after so many hard ones. And the loop meant I didn't have to carry all my gear.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Wow, suddenly time is speeding up. I'm getting close to the end of the trip. It seems like ages ago that I was in Tullow at the wedding of Dave and Siobhan, and now here I am on my way back to Tullow with plans to have dinner with the newlyweds and catch up with family.
This has really been an awesome trip. I've had the chance to explore so many areas, but have really just scratched the surface. I now have a long list of places to come back and explore even more. One of the purposes of the blog is for me to look back and see routes and photos to jog my own memory and provide launching points. I have 10 years worth of tours already planned. I missed so much!
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
As I finished my ride yesterday, I rode up to the Swiss Cottage just after the last tour of the day. Knowing the tour was worthwhile, I came back at opening time this morning. The Swiss Cottage was built as the country house for the Butler family a mere two km from their castle in Cahir. It was designed to be informal and blend with nature. I like the tree trunk columns and thatched roof and different window shapes, but the crooked door and window frames were a bit odd. I was also put off by the idea that they dressed like peasants when they were here, yet had a fleet of servants in the basement attending to their needs. And despite the fact that there were two bedrooms upstairs, Lord and Lady Butler never slept here. They just came out for an occasional sunny afternoon party. I asked if that meant just twice a year!
After completing the tour, I rolled back into town and picked up some snacks for the day. This was a good choice as I had a hard day, with lots of climbing and strong headwinds and minimal services.
I had a favorable wind for a while, but given the almost loop nature of my ride, I knew I'd face less favorable ones for the second half. When I took the turn for Mahon Falls I realized I would be climbing, but had no idea I was about to do the 4th most difficult climb of the whole trip. A very stiff headwind and extended sections of 20% gradient made for a tough ride up to the falls. But I seem to be well trained now and made it up and over. The boardwalk out to the falls was packed with school kids, so I passed on getting a closer view.
The descent into Clonmel made up for the antagonizing headwind and soon I was at my B&B.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Last night after checking into my B&B and getting cleaned up, I wandered around Cahir enjoying the great light before dinner. When mapping out my route for the day, I decided I would tour the castle before my ride. Then I'd finish off with a tour of the Swiss Cottage. I'm not usually one to do the guided tours, but both places were nicely preserved and the only way to see the inside was on a tour. In addition to these local attractions, My hostess at the B&B also mentioned cycling over the Vee. I found the Vee on the maps and plotted a route that approached it from the south.
The castle tour was very interesting. I learned all the ways one could die trying to attack a castle like this!
Monday, August 8, 2016
John teased me when I told him my plans for the next few days. Each day I'd end up only 15 to 20 miles from where I started but would cover 60 or 70 miles getting there. We had several days like this on our first tour together in Ireland. At the time I jokingly made some coments about his poor navigation skills when upon reaching our destination, I saw distance signs clearly indicating we had taken the roundabout route. John should be pleased now that he's had such a great influence on me.
Leaving Tipperary town, my plan was to ride through the Glen of Aherlow and then head west along one of the regional cycle routes out to Kilmallock for lunch before turning back east aiming for Cahir.
Cahir was an amazing find with a very well preserved castle and the nicely restored Swiss Cottage and great coffee and nice restaurants and a lovely walking path and several interesting churches. I liked this town so much that I decided to stay for two nights. I really lucked out and found a fabulous B&B that had been modeled after the Swiss Cottage. My hostess there shared loads of local knowledge and gave me a few tips for things to see that only a local would know! This was my favorite B&B of the trip.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
Looking at the OSM Cycle maps I noticed lots of routes in County Tipperary, so I decided to aim for Tipperary town with plans to explore this area more. It happens that there are lots of very touristy towns in the county, but Tipperary town isn't one of them! In retrospect I should have aimed for Cashel or Cahir, but I did have a very nice host at the B&B who invited me in for tea and much good craic. Hours after going in for tea, I headed out and again, despite thinking I'd get a few blog posts done due to my early arrival, I barely managed one! Now there is nothing wrong with that. It's been great exploring and meeting and talking to people. I've found that I end up in far more conversations because I am traveling alone. Don't get me wrong. I love touring with John, but when you are with someone, you may not be as likely to strike up conversations with others.
Saturday, August 6, 2016
I've mentioned my routing strategy a few times. I use ridewithgps and the OSM Cycle maps. The OSM maps are great because the busy roads are clearly marked and one can put together an amazing and quiet route simply by connecting the white roads or lanes. With no real local knowledge I've been able to put together great routes. I've had exactly one dead end, where the map showed a through road. I've found a couple of gravel and dirt roads, and some roads that local cyclists don't even know. I had quite a few times in Donegal where I was certain I had just turned into someone's driveway, but the road was indeed a through road.
Despite the rough surfaces, this was one of my best days. And one worthy of my Honey Allroads bike. So if you are looking at my routes on ridewithgps and thinking of following my tracks, just bring fat tires and disk brakes for this one. And food. There are NO services. Fortunately I'd stopped at that great restaurant in Athenry and stocked up withn muffins for the day.
Well, my luck didn't run out, but I did find a few gravel and rocky forest roads on this day. It was the only time I really thought about issues of traveling alone. If I crash on this descent, no one will ever find my bones! So I picked my way down a couple of gnarly rocky trails. (John was tracking me with the Wahoo live track feature and find my iPhone, so he could at least tell emergency services where to start the search for bones.)
Friday, August 5, 2016
After our very noisy experience in Westport a couple of years ago, I wanted to avoid staying right in town, so I picked a hotel well out of town. The views were lovely and it was definitely more peaceful than being in the city, but sadly my room was right over the refrigeration units for the restaurant, so my sleep was not as uninterrupted as I'd hoped.
My goal for the next day was Athenry hoping to return to The Barracks, arestaurant we had enjoyed on a few occasions. But every room there was booked. So I finally decided to try Airbnb and found a nice place in Claregalway.
I cobbled together a ride using routes from a few rides we did in 2014. The route would take me over a few hills and set me up for lunch at Ashford Castle in Cong. Then it was onto Ross Abbey before hitting the village of Claregalway.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Because I've been riding on tiny off the beaten back roads, I rarely see other cyclists, so it was a real pleasure to find these two tandem riders checking out of the B&B at the same time I was. They had a guidebook and map from a Dutch author. I'd seen another couple using this book in Sligo the day before. We chatted for a while, comparing notes. They commented on my light load. I refrained from asking what all they were carrying in all these bags. Given that we were all at a B&B, I don't think they had camping gear. They told me they were heading for Clifden that day. I pointed out they'd be missing some great scenery on Achill Island, but I think they had an itinerary to follow. I had a very circuitous route planned, with accomodation pre-booked just outside of Westport. Our last stay in Westport had been rather eventful with a naked guy bursting into our room at 5AM followed by a loud party going on until 3AM the next day. So I found a hotel well out of town that at the very least should be a bit quieter.
I road along with the tandem briefly, but parted ways when I headed north to go back over Windy Gap again. It was so nice the first time, I decided it would make for a nice route back south.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Of course, I took my rest day on a sunny day. The next day was the worst weather of the trip, with cold sideways wind. But it was also one of the most enjoyable and memorable thanks to the epic conditions. I did not get a lot of photos thanks to the conditions, and many show rain spots on the lens, but I can't have folks thinking it never rains here.
I've had lots of days with occasional showers, but this was my only day where it really poured all day long. And after having mostly favorable winds coming up the coast, I suppose I had earned some proper headwinds. I also encountered all the standard obstacles, steep lanes with grass growing up the middle leading to some wind farm on top of a mountain, and lots of free range sheep roaming in the middle of the road. I sort of yodel to get their attention, because if I don't warn them, they dash across the road in front of me at the last minute. I don't want to end my tour felled by a startled sheep.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
A few people have asked if I am getting tired. The legs have held up quite well. I really have not been pushing beyond my comfort level. No speed work while touring. I'm climbing lots, but keeping it at a sane pace.
I've also gotten into a good routine. As soon as I check in to a B&B or hotel each night, I shower and wash my shorts. Then I look for dinner, and try to map out future rides, or work on the blog. However after afew long days recently, I decided to take a break and stay in Sligo for two nights, with a short loop ride on my rest day. I could explore town, and get caught up with photos. Despite all the down time, I still managed to do only one blog post. But I wandered all around Sligo, and the day off left me eager to get back moving.
Monday, August 1, 2016
I again had trouble finding accommodation last night, so I decided to eliminate a little stress by booking ahead. The downside of this was that I picked a place 110 km away and found a lovely town around halfway. One of the reasons I prefer not to book ahead is exactly this. With no set plans, if I see an interesting road, I can explore, and if I see a cool place to stay or cool town, I can stop there. But given the last two evenings where I spent hours trying to find something, I went for peace of mind. I really enjoyed the roads around Sligo on previous visits there and wanted to ride through the area west of Sligo, so I booked a hotel there. I ended up staying two nights, taking some time to explore the town the next day.
I continued to follow some of the sign posted long cycle routes in the area.