Leaving the scenic surroundings of the Celtic Ross Hotel I turned right in the direction of Skibereen. The sun was reflecting its bright rays against the clear blue water and there was very little wind. A perfect day for a cycle.
Within 500 meters a sign for the Wild Atlantic Way directed me left along the quiet road towards Glandore. There was little or no traffic to be encountered along the rolling road which presented a few challenging short sharp climbs to awaken my rested body.
Passing by a small family home I noticed that an enterprising member of the household had set up a stall selling their home made produce to those passing by. I was tempted by a pot of strawberry jam but decided it may be a little too heavy for my jersey pockets.
As the road swept down into Glandore I noticed people stopping up ahead and decided to join them. Perhaps someone had spotted a whale or a dolphin I thought to myself. As I drew up alongside an American from Wisconsin I turned towards the water to gat a glimpse of what was bringing traffic to a halt on a Tuesday afternoon in West Cork. There was no Dolphin, nor was there a whale. The cause of the stopping motorists was the incredible view out across the bay that would actually take your breath away.
I began chatting to my compadre from Wisconsin and asked how he ended up in Glendore. The reply came that his neighbour had been to Ireland a few years back and had told him if he was going to see any part of Ireland he had to go to Glandore, and here he was, on a day when the sun was shining high up above in a cloudless sky.
I asked what he thought of his friends advice and was told ‘I’m gonna buy him a crate o’ beer when I get back’. I took this to mean that he was pleased with his friends recommendation.
On I went along the coastal roadway and crossed over the narrow bridge to Union Hall. Another picture perfect fishing village that looks out across the Harbour towards Glandore.
Next on the agenda was the road towards Castletownsend. Still following the signposts for the Wild Atlantic Way I also encountered Route 1 of the Skibereen cycle trail along with a big bin of colouring pencils.
Castletownsend was another beautiful fishing village with a big hill and a telephone box. These are a rare sight in Ireland to the extent that people now feel the need to take a ‘selfie’ if they see one. My bike is caught up in that craze too.
A few K later a small sign caught my eye. Castelhaven Castle sounded like a good name for a castle and the signpost indicated that it was just 1 half mile away so I took a detour. The half mile was straight down a steep windy road, something the signpost didn’t indicate. A ‘I hope this is worth the effort’ moment was had but then I rounded the final corner and just went ‘Wow’
The Castle is more the ruins of an old Church and graveyard but the location is incredible. I was alone except for an Englishman and his two friendly dogs. When the time came to get back on the road he mentioned his good wish that her hoped I had my Weetabix this morning to get back up that hill on a bicycle. I had Flahavans porridge, the perfect fuel for any mountain and was soon back on the road towards Bawnlahan.
The incredible thing about this road is that whilst one minute you are in what feels like a forest with land stretching out ahead for miles on end, a few bends of the road later the clear blue Atlantic is stretched out in front of you all the way to America. Then the road turns again and you are once again surrounded by a vast array of colourful roadside shrubbery.
No words typed on a computer screen can convey the air that surrounds you in this part of the World. A combination of salty seaweed filled air, mixed with the crisp freshness of a forest of trees creates an olfactory sensation that is very unusual. It is like a sweet smelling perfume version of vicks and olbas oil. The air smells so fresh and clean that it entices you to take deep breaths in through your nostrils. Then it opens and clears your nose enabling you to take in even more. I can see why a city dweller from the USA would be literally blown away by it.
A last view out towards a fishing trawler on the horizon satisfied me as I turned back in towards Skibereen. Again, a very quiet rolling road brought me towards another of Irelands most picturesque towns. A choice was now available to turn back towards Union Hall and enjoy the backroad quietness or to check out just how busy the N71 from Skibereen back to Rosscarbery would be.
I decided to check out the main road option although I am also attaching a map of the quieter option to cater for all tastes.
The road surface is like a billiard table. Really smooth. There is a hard shoulder for about half of the journey but the volume of traffic was not a problem on the narrower sections. Passing through Leap gives the option to fur night and return via backroads again but I continued on. I had started so I would finish.
Cars passing out indicated and gave plenty of room. The pace of life is a little more sedate down here and drivers seem a bit more considerate of cyclists. So if you want a quick smooth way back from Skibereen to Rosscarbery the main road is OK, but the back road part will make up part of my Celtic Ross 25k spin tomorrow, so I will let you know what that is like then.
Here is a downloadable map of todays Celtic Ross 57k
And here is a downloadable map with the option of excluding the main road Celtic Ross 57KM
Here is todays Strava file
And here is a smartphone downloadable course on mapmyride
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<a href=”http://www.mapmyride.com/courses/1437348″ target=”_blank”>View this Course</a> on <a href=”http://mapmyride.com” target=”_blank”>MapMyRide</a>
With over 760 meters of short sharp climbs this route would rate 5 out of 7 for difficulty. It is challenging but very rewarding.