Winding westwards through Ireland
In my last post, my brother and I left home with a crazy idea: cycle the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland within a month in order to be in Liverpool in time for our older brothers wedding. We cycled from Cornwall to Exeter and then caught a train to Carmarthen in Wales, an exhausting climb through the welsh mountains and we arrived at Fishguard. Now, a day later we are in Ireland and the adventure starts properly!
People I encounter whilst cycle touring often ask ‘what do you think about whilst you cycle dawn till dusk?’ The answer inevitably varies depending on the holiday, this time around it was the best way of retelling the many adventures we were having in Ireland.
During those monotonous hours of peddling I decided that the best approach was to select the most interesting photos and simply tell everyone who comes across this website the story as it happened. The first bit of our adventure through Ireland was arriving in Belfast and struggling finding the Norman Way.
The first part of the Irish cycle tour was more of an accidental decision than part of a deliberate route plan. We arrived in Rosslare at around 5pm and spotted signs for the Norman Way that were headed in generally the right direction (ie. West). We decided that following a sign posted route is a good a place as any to start and set off. Before leaving Rosslare we filled up all our numerous water bottles and the large platypus reservoir bag at a public tap… in a graveyard (See touring tip No. 4 Graveyards often have drinking water taps).
Having stocked up on water we were free to camp wherever we liked. We passed plenty of grassy verges but decided somewhere more private was preferred, after cycling for another hour we arrived at a ruined church, overgrown with grass. We were overjoyed to find it as it was getting late and we were tired from the ferry.
Another building on the Norman Way.
After leaving the Norman Way we headed for Cahir and cycled past the castle in the town center.
The next night something happened that really proved that the Irish reputation of being nice is well earned. We were cycling along at gone 6pm aiming for a campsite that I had found on the Maps.Me app when a man in a land rover pulls up and asks where we’re headed. He looks bemused when we tell him and it quickly becomes clear that there aren’t any campsites for miles. He offers us a spot in his garden and by the end of the evening we’re chatting with the family in the sitting room.
So the first rule of cycle touring I wrote in my notebook was:
‘Touring Tip 1: Don’t be afraid to accept offers of help!’
The following day we headed onwards to Killarney National Park. At first we were puzzled as to what the piles of brown sticks in many of the moorland areas were, but at one we stopped to investigate and found they were piles of peat cut from the ground. Peat was the primary heat source in Ireland, and it is still used in many places. It is cut during a dry spell and then left in large stacks to dry, where it shrinks to half the size and hardens. It is then piled up near the houses, a week’s worth of cutting can last the household all winter.
Three days later we arrived in Killarney National Park. It is one of the most well-known beauty spots in Ireland, including a rugged mountain range, with a huge lake at its heart and numerous waterfalls. There are many islands dotted around and Torc Waterfall feeds into it. In the evening we walked partially around the lake and enjoyed the sun setting over islands.
One of the most impressive ruins I’ve seen borders on the Killarney lake. It’s an old friary that has been well maintained and so its possible to walk through all the rooms and explore the upper quarters.
Inside one of the courtyards in the center of the ruin grew a huge gnarled Yew Tree, stretching two floors up and overlooked by narrow windows.
The following day we carried on and climbed up through the Killarney mountains all morning.
At the top we were welcomed by incredible views of the national park and our next destination: the start of the Wild Atlantic Way.
We descended to the coastal road and started looking for somewhere to camp, after about 40 minutes we past by a modern looking church completely on its own on beside the road. The next nearest thing was a golf course 10 minutes away so we decided the church was worth investigating. A look around the back revealed an outside tap so we pitched the tent as far behind it as possible and out of sight of the road.
The next stage of the journey is to work our way North along the coast. It’s now day 8, 26 days left to get around the Wild Atlantic Way and be in Liverpool in time for the wedding!
The cycle tour so far:
England – Cornwall to Wales
Ireland – Winding Westwards