Heading out the road towards Sneem from The Kenmare Bay hotel this morning I found bright orange and fifty shades of green leaves falling like snowflakes from the tunnel of trees overhead. Autumn had arrived. On any other morning I would have been disappointed at the lack of sunshine but today I was in Kerry, cycling through some of the most spectacular mountainous terrain in the land, so life was good.
The road to Sneem is part of both the Wild Atlantic Way and The Ring of Kerry, so it goes without saying that there was plenty to look at. A bike really is the best way to explore any scenic route as you see a whole lot more and can stop any place at anytime to take it all in.
Turning right at the water pump in the middle of the village I now faced the wind as the road began to rise. Every bend of the road brought a new surprise, from fully decked out Kerry supporter scarecrows to a number of sheep farmers driving with their flashers on as their sheepdogs ran alongside.
Ireland’s highest mountain Carrauntoohil rose up before me as I approached the left turn that would take me over the Ballaghbeama Gap. An almost uninhibited road carved out of a rocky mountainside held very little traffic aside from a few sheep.
Over the top a winding descent brought me down into a mist covered valley. With conditions worsening it almost added to the sense of achievement in conquering one of Ireland’s toughest climbs.
The road now dragged on uphill towards the turn off for The Gap of Dunloe which was next up on today’s to do list. Passing Kate Kearney’s cottage Jarvies stood by tending to their ponies which were attached to jaunting cars awaiting tourists looking for a novel way to explore The Gap. I pedalled on weaving through the mass of walkers as far as the first bridge after which the atmosphere of the road turned into a peaceful calm of solitude.
Another winding narrow road carved out of rock led to the summit where The Black Valley lay in wait. This turned out to be the highlight of a route full of highlights. A fast descent on narrow roads led to a junction manned by a man in a cap. I asked which way for Molls gap and was directed in a swift concise manner. I noticed a tourist in a car behind me stop to also speak with the man and wondered if he spends his days standing at the junction in the middle of what feels like the least inhabited part of the Country waiting to direct those who have lost their way.
The Black Valley is an amazing place to cycle through. The road twists and turns past small waterfalls and rocky woodland outcroppings surrounded by the highest mountains in the land and is most definitely best sampled on a bike.
Looking across at Molls Gap straight ahead I still had a loop to complete in order to reach that height in the distance. Another winding climb brought me to my final summit of the day before the ten kilometre descent back down to the Kenmare Bay hotel once again.
This route would rate a six out of seven for difficulty.
Here is a downloadable map of todays Kenmare Bay 110k
Here is todays Strava file
And here is a smartphone downloadable file on mapmyride
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