Dingle Skellig – Slea Head 44k and 62k Routes

Upon arriving at the Dingle Skellig Hotel and taking a look at the secure Bike Storage Room, my first instinct was to put on my cycling gear and head out for a spin on my bike. So that’s exactly what I did.

 

Dingle Skellig Bike Storage Room
Dingle Skellig Bike Storage Room

 

Dingle is a very picturesque town built around a harbour on the Atlantic coast. This means that there are some great coastal cycling routes, the most famous and spectacularly scenic of which is ‘The Slea Head Drive’.

IMG_3371

 

The entire ‘Slea Head Drive’ as signposted is just under 60k around but there are a number of options to shorten this and also a few ways to lengthen it too, if you so desired.

I cycled it twice during my stay at the Dingle Skellig Hotel and really enjoyed it both times.

The first afternoon I noticed that as soon as you leave the town the traffic becomes pretty sparse. I was expecting a busier route but as the majority of drivers are there to take in the scenery no one is in too much of a hurry, so most cars travel at ‘the speed of bike’.

Dingle bay itself is beautiful but Ventry beach came soon after, so I turned down to the car park for a look. The view of the calm blue ocean framed by the Kerry mountains in the distance is breath-taking and you really have to put training out of your mind and remember to take it all in.

 

Ventry Beach
Ventry Beach

 

Around the corner is Páidí O’Sé’s pub. A larger than life figure who transcended the sporting field when alive, his shadow still casts a wide arc throughout the country. Approaching the pub a ‘Crew Cab pick up’ came against me with ‘warrior’ emblazoned on its side which would have been a good vehicle for Páidí himself to travel in.

Paidí Ó Sé's in Ventry
Paidí Ó Sé’s in Ventry

 

On I pedalled with the sea now coming into view down below.

On a bike you are up higher than in a car. This means that when all that anyone in a car might see would be a green hedge you can look over and see the view beyond. And what a spectacular view is to be found on the Slea Head Drive.

Whilst you can stop anywhere on a bike there are also plenty of ‘look out’ points for cars to pull in.

At one such ‘look out’ point a German couple came over as I was taking a photo and offered to take one of me with the spectacular backdrop behind. It turned out that the guy is a cyclocross racer with a fleet of bikes, so we had plenty to chat about.

 

Taken by my new German friends
Taken by my new German friends
The road cuts through the cliffside
The road cuts through the cliffside
The views are breathtaking
The road winds on majestically

 

On next to Slea Head itself, where a monument looks out over the sea towards the Blasket Islands. The view is breathtaking.

 

Slea Head Monument
Slea Head Monument

 

Then on a little further past a few stone cottages where I noticed a farmer and his two daughters who appeared to be in their twenties wrestling sheep as they tried to treat the animals. An unusual sight but one that embodied the hard working, no nonsense ethic of the area to perfection.

 

A father and Daughters farm together
A Father and daughters farming together

 

Around the next corner came Coomenole Strand way down below. This is one of those places that you look at and think ‘I must go down there some day’. I decided that today would be that day, as ‘some day’ may never come, and descended the steep narrow roadway to the picture perfect cove. So picture perfect in fact, that David Lean chose it as a location for filming during the making of the famous ‘Ryan’s Daughter’.

 

It's a long way down.
It’s a long way down.

 

Climbing back up the very steep narrow road was more difficult but I was soon back out on the main route once again, with still very little traffic in sight.

On past Dunmore Head with yet more spectacular views and down through the village of Dunquin I was tempted to stop for a coffee. There are many coffee shops all the way along the Slea Head Drive but this afternoon I was looking forward to dinner in the Coastguard restaurant at the Dingle Skellig hotel so kept on moving.

One place worth stopping, especially if you are travelling with the family, is the Louis Mulcahy pottery shop and cafe. Last time there, our kids loved the chance to make their own piece of pottery which was a great new experience for them.

I stopped at Clogher head to take in another scenic wonder of the world and moved on once more towards Ballyferriter. This is a good point at which to turn for a shorter route back to Dingle, but I wanted to keep on exploring so pressed on ahead.

Noticing a sign for ‘Wine Strand’ curiosity got the better of me and I detoured left. Arriving at the picture perfect pier I noticed two couples picnicking on either side. An older couple sat amongst the tall grass whilst the younger couple were down on the pier where the guy was casting a line for fish. Both couples seemed relaxed and content. The calming waves of the ocean were having their effect.

 

A couple enjoying a picnic
A couple enjoying a picnic
A picnic and a spot of fishing
A picnic and a spot of fishing

 

Back on the road again where I could go straight on for Dingle, which I would do two days later, but now instead I turned left following the signs for The Slea Head Drive and Wild Atlantic Way once more.

Suddenly I heard the familiar sound of chain on sprockets and looked behind to see a young lad on a road bike coming tearing up alongside. We chatted a bit as our journeys coincided. Seán Brendaun is a good cyclist but an even better footballer and was on his was to under fifteen football training with An Ghaeltacht. A player with a club whose famous players include Páidí, Tomás, Darragh and Marc Ó Sé and Dara Ó Cinnéide wouldn’t have it any other way.

Seán Brendaun
Seán Brendaun

 

After bidding farewell to Seán Brendaun at the gates of his football club, I continued on and met more of his club mates travelling against me. Most on bikes instead being chauffeured by car which was great to see.

 

Mount Brandon rising up ahead
Mount Brandon rising up ahead

 

Mount Brandon was now rearing up ahead of me and with it’s stature of being Irelands’ second highest mountain I was glad to be turning right, back towards Dingle. A long flowing descent followed that brought me back in to town and on to the Dingle Skellig Hotel once more, where I now had a good appetite for dinner in the Coastguard restaurant overlooking the bay. But first I would have a quick swim and jacuzzi to revive myself for plenty more cycling the following day.

 

Two days later I did Slea head for a second time and even though it was the shorter 44k route it was just as spectacular. Especially as at 6 am I did not meet a single car and the only traffic was a fishing trawler that shadowed me as it headed out to sea.

 

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Garmin 44k Route file : HERE

Mapmyride 44K Route file : HERE

Strava 44k Route file : HERE

Garmin 62k Route file : HERE

Mapmyride 62k Route file : HERE

Strava 62k Route file : HERE

 

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

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