The sun was shining down upon the Dingle Skellig Hotel as I set off for another day of exploring what the Dingle peninsula has to offer cyclists. The plan was to visit Inch strand and come back via the Connor pass whilst taking in all of the majestic surroundings of the spectacular Kerry coastline.
Just out of Dingle I swung left along a deserted back road that travelled parallel to the main Dingle – Tralee road. The mountains ahead rose dauntingly up from land to sky but at least this road turned right and skirted the foot of the sleeping giants.
Eventually I was back out on the main road again, but not for long as a sign for Inch Strand in the direction of Castlemaine brought me back down to the coast once more. And what an impressive way to do so. Skirting through a small ravine the vast expanse of the Atlantic ocean presents itself with Irelands highest mountain, Carrauntoohill far off in the distance across the bay.
Inch strand itself was picture perfect and a nice place to stop for a coffee if you are making a day out of the cycling route.
Back on the road again and soon I spot a familiar looking jersey up ahead. The green, black and white of this years An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly cycling team is always easy to pick out. Having been in Calpe in January when the team received the full kit I had not seen it very often on the roads of Ireland, other than when being worn by Sean Kelly himself.
I drew up alongside to discover that the cyclist, Dennis, works for An Post in Tralee. A man in training for this years Ring of Kerry is a good man to meet on the road, so we chatted away and the kilometres to Castlemaine passed by quickly. As is usually the case when meeting a cyclist anywhere in Ireland, you will have a number of mutual acquaintances and this too makes for friendly conversation.
We parted in Castlemaine and I continued over Sliabh Mish and on down to Tralee. The first big race of the season, The Lacey Cup, crests this climb too, but all you see is the wheel in front. However, when out for a leisurely spin you get to take in all of the impressive surroundings which is much more enjoyable.
Skirting the town of Tralee I detoured slightly to cycle the canal path to Blennerville. The gravel surface is OK for cycling and the sight of the windmill up ahead draws you in.
I stopped for lunch at the petrol station in Blennerville when I saw the tables and chairs outside. Coffee and a nice roll was just what was needed. Then along came Matt Lacey who was in getting petrol. The Lacey Cup is named after his father, and his son Sean, has been the most prolific winner of the race. We had a grand chat about cycling, and then my lunch break was over and it was time to hop back on the bike again.
The road out of Blennerville is a long drag with a dead surface but within a few k’s I was warmed up again and the view out to my right distracted any struggling my legs were trying to convey.
Straight on through Camp without taking the main road to Dingle left turn, and the traffic once again disappeared. Castlegregory is a famous beachside village that is well worth a visit but I saw a sign for another beach and once again curiosity took hold of my handlebars and off I set in search of another stretch of paradise. Aughcashla beach was deserted in the mid-day sunshine.
The day was moving on and so was I. The Connor Pass beckoned as I ran out of water. I couldn’t remember any shop from this point on and knew that in temperatures now exceeding 23 degrees water would be vital to making it over Ireland’s highest mountain pass. My thoughts were focused on this when I suddenly noticed a guy washing his car beside his house. I pulled in immediately and asked for a top up from the hose. ‘I’ll do better than that’ he said, and in he went with my bottle only to emerge with it full of cool spring water from the fridge. Irish people are great to help out a stranger under pressure.
The road grew quiet as I emerged from the trees at the foot of The Connor Pass and tried to find a rhythm for the climb. The road is wide until the final third where it narrows to barely the width of a car as it cuts meanderingly through the cliffside. A waterfall came and went almost unnoticed at the beginning of the narrow section. Glancing to my right I caught sight of the spectacular view down into the valley below and off out to sea. The Viewing area at the summit was busy, and it was easy to see why, with such an amazing vista way off down below.
What goes up must come down. I was quickly back going again and travelling at speed, now with Dingle in my sights down below. The descent is wide and very fast with gradual bends and clear visibility for hundreds of meters ahead. It is as safe a fast descent as you will find in Ireland. That is sure to bring a smile to any daredevil cyclists face.
Back in the Dingle Skellig Hotel and Spa I decided to try the outdoor hot tub. Sitting there alone, overlooking the bay with a great days cycling in my legs and the sun shining down, I wondered how close this must be to paradise.
That evening I decided to sample the local seafood platter in the Blasket Bistro which was an absolute treat and rounded out the perfect day.
Here is the 110k route that I cycled on the day.
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Garmin route file : HERE
Mapmyride route file : HERE
Strava route file : HERE
Here is a clip of The Conor Pass Descent
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