The weather improves

Sorry the blog has not kept up to us.  There have been a few places where wi fi was not good and other places where we had too much to see and do.

Friday, July 18

It was another day of intermitant rain with lots of wind, but nowhere near the “gale” that had been predicted. Galway is a very small town with very little for the hard core tourist to do. After packing up, we left our panniers at Nora’s Cozy Cottage storage shed and headed east along Galway Bay on the route we will take tomorrow toward Rossaveal and the ferry to Inishmore. The road between Galway and Rossaveal although appearing quite remote is the only road linking the two areas and is a major route with quite a bit of traffic. In places there is a sidewalk but in most of those places the sidewalk is bumpy and undulating because of the driveways that intersect it and the ruts in the pavement. We stopped for our usual late morning coffee and later for lunch before turning around and heading back to Galway to retrieve our panniers and move to our Airbnb room for the evening. It took a bit to find our abode which, in our case, is not unusual. We checked in, took our panniers into our room and then went to our host’s favorite fish and chips place for dinner. Our room was notable due to its size (tiny tiny) lack of any storage space (none), lack of hooks (1) to hang clothing, lack of heat and lack of lighting in the stairway right outside our door (tricky.) It was also notable because neither the sink in the bathroom, which we shared with the host and another Airbnb couple, nor the kitchen sink had hot water. The kitchen was not clean and neither were the dishes. The shower did have hot water. In this case you don’t get what you pay for. We have found that Airbnb lacks consistent standards for its places to stay as was exemplified by the differences between the Cozy Cottage which we stayed in the last 2 days and was extremely well stocked and spotless and this night’s poor excuse for a room and surroundings. We did, however, get a good night’s sleep.

Saturday, July 19

Galway-Rossaveal We awoke to a steady, heavy rain accompanied by wind which did not let up all day. Nevertheless, at 9:30 we pedaled on. The wind was either in our faces or cross and never behind us for all 35 k between Galway and Rossaveal, the town from which you catch the ferry to the Aran Islands. We were soaked by the time we stopped for coffee at 11:30. We spread our clothing out in the unused bar side of the restaurant and hastened the drying by using the hand dryers in the bathrooms.

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Our first rest stop on the way to Rossaveel.

Most of our clothing was reasonably dry after an hour, and we took off again into the wind and rain for another hour when we stopped in a small grocery store, bought drinks and ate our PB&J in the entry way. Our clothes were again soaked. There was nowhere to dry them so we donned them again and rode the last 6 k. wet. Fortunately, the undulations in the terrain permitted us to stay warm enough to make it to our Airbnb lodging. It was in the middle of nowhere, but was only about 2 k from the ferry that we’ll take tomorrow to the Aran Islands. Out hostess, Sarah, drove out to meet us after we called her as we could not find her place on our own. Once there, we dried off as best we could, had coffee and hung up all of our wet clothes. We talked with Sarah for a while and watched a recap of the Tour de France that we saw 2 days ago. Sarah drove us to a near-by pub for dinner. While waiting for her boyfriend, Liam, to picked us up from the pub, we met a couple from Dublin who were here to sail their boat, but the weather was too awful to sail. They bought us a drink, and we enjoyed their company. When we were done, Liam  took us to a small grocery store for some provisions and then back to our lodging for the evening. Our room is in a new home with very large rooms and sparse furniture. It is spotless. Sarah and Liam made us feel at home and offered us food and drink. The weather continues pretty lousy, but the report is good (by Irish standards) for tomorrow. As we ready for bed, the sky is getting a little definition and brighter. We have our fingers and everything else crossed.

Sunday, July 19  Rossaveel-Inishmor=Doolin

We rode to the ferry slip and caught the 10:30 ferry to Inishmor, the largest of the 3 Aran Islands. The 45 minute ferry ride was smooth. The weather continued to improve. The sun came out and there was more blue sky then we have seen in a month. Happy cyclists today!!! We were able to leave our panniers at a bike rental place at the port in Inishmor and rode unencumbered to the ancient fort that is at the top of the island.

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Cliffs guarding the rear of the walled fort

It was only about 7 k. with most of it uphill right out of the port. The fort, a ring fort, consisting of a number of concentric rings and jagged rocks planted in the ground to slow down attacking enemies. It is estimated that it was built in 500 BCE. The walls are all made of stone. The original walls were 13 feet thick. The fort is protected on the ocean side by a sheer cliff about 150 feet high. It was bright and sunny and made for some great views along the coast.

We pedaled back to the port and treated ourselves to an Irish coffee that we felt we were due after yesterday’s marathon ride through the rain.

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We caught the 4 p.m. ferry to Doolin, a very small and picturesque village on the mainland south of Galway and Rosseveal.

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Cliffs of Mahr near Doolin
Cliffs of Mahr near Doolin

To the untrained eye, there are only 2 businesses in Doolin, B&B’s and pubs. To the trained eye, there are only 2 businesses in Doolin, B&B’s and pubs. In order to feel welcome, we stayed at a B&B and ate in a pub. We ended the evening in another pub with Irish music played by 5 musicians who were joined by 2 older singers who spontaneously broke into song. The musicians were the best we have seen in Ireland. The singers had had better days, but were passionate and very entertaining.

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Monday, July 20 Doolin-Ennis

We spent the day in the saddle. It rained on and off, mostly off, but was cool, cloudy and windy. The ride was mostly on rural roads with not too much climbing. After all day on peaceful lanes, the last 6 km into Ennis was on a bigger and busier road with little or no shoulder and some trucks. The drivers have been very courteous waiting to pass us most of the time when no vehicles are coming in the opposite direction and giving us plenty of room. The countryside was filled with many farms and many stone walls. The farms here in the midlands of Ireland are much bigger than the ones we saw coming out of Dublin. There were a few scattered metal barns and heavy farm equipment. The crops appear to be mostly grain. There have been roadside stands that sell strawberries and raspberries that come from the south east part of Ireland, but we haven’t seen any of those berry patches. We pulled into Ennis about 4:15 p.m. went to the Visitor’s Center, found a place to stay, got Ed’s rain pants slightly altered and bought Maggie an Ireland bike jersey, all before 6 p.m. We stayed at the Hostel right on the canal running through the center of town. We then began the process of deciding what we were going to do next. The weather has been very discouraging. No sun, no blue sky, rain or the threat of rain and wind. We were bummed. We had been headed toward Limerick, but have been told that it is a big city with few tourist attractions and  misable. We decided to sleep on it.

Tuesday, July 21 Ennis-Dingle

The weather started out fair, but with rain in the air accompanied by wind. We decided on a major change of plans. After doing our research, we arranged to rent a bike rack from the bike shop where Maggie bought her jersey. We rented a car at the Shannon Airport.. Ed took a taxi to the airport and picked up the rental car while Maggie stayed at the hostel and found a place for us to stay in Dingle for 2 nights. The weather was improving. There was no rain after about 9 a.m. and the clouds were thinning. When Ed returned with the car we visited the Friary, which is in the center of Ennis. It was built in the 13th century and is partly restored, partly added on to in the late middle-ages and well preserved. It is and was a beautiful building with a large cemetery attached.

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Original Friaru cloister
Original Friaru cloister

After the friary, we loaded the bikes on the car and took off for the Dingle peninsula. The weather kept getting better, despite the forecast which was for more rain. We took the shortcut from Ennis which avoided Limerick but necessitated us taking a short, 2 mile, ferry ride across the Shannon River. The ferry runs every half hour. We arrived at the ferry slip at 3:30 and were able to drive right on.

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The weather was still improving and the checkered pattern of the fields got prettier and prettier on the drive to Dingle, a tiny town on a peninsula just north of the famous Ring of Kerry. Our B&B was just a kilometer out of the town with our bedroom window facing a picturesque view of the bay.

From our bedroom window, Kenmore
From our bedroom window, Kenmore

Wednesday, July 22 Dingle

The day was beautiful. We took off on our bikes to ride the Dingle Peninsula, which is a 29 mile loop ride mostly along the coast. You get long dramatic views of the sea, cliffs, small villages and rock fenced farms fields. It is much shorter than the ride route around the Ring of Kerry on the Kerry Peninsula, so taking our time and stopping frequently along the road made for a great day of riding. It’s not crowded and we encountered only a few tour buses. The weather could not have been better and the scenery gorgeous. We stopped often to take pictures and visit the many ruins and sights along the way.

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The highlight was a museum detailing the history of the people from Blasket Island. The island is very steep, just off the coast and no longer inhabited. There was an excellent 20 minute film documenting the harsh life of the Blasket people. They were farmers and fishers and the film was mostly interviews with the last occupants. A number of the islanders have written books including stories of their memories of life on Blasket. The excerpts are very well written and moving.

Thursday, July 23

We left Dingle around 10 a.m. and drove about 20 miles before Ed realized his handlebar bag was missing. We called the place we stayed last night but it was not there. We drove back to Dingle, called the police and recovered the bag which had been left on the top of the car, dropped off without our noticing and found along the road by a Good Samaritan who called the police and left it at an ice cream shop (pretty funny given our love for ice cream) in Dingle. We then drove to Kenmore via Killarney and stopped at Killarney National Park, Ireland’s first national park, and rode our bikes through the park. We took a tour of Muckross House, a beautiful mansion built in the 1840’s and occupied until the 1950’s.

Muckross House
Muckross House

It is full of many of the original and period furnishings with many original art works by one of the owners who was quite a good artist. We also visited the ruined Abbey (amazing) which was built in the 1200’s with many of its parts having survived.

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Killarney National Park
     Killarney National Park
Killarney nNational Park
Killarney nNational Park

From there we drove the last 20 miles to Kenmore along the southeast portion of the Ring of Kerry. It’s not particularly picturesque in this inland section. The road is very narrow and twisty. Driving on the “wrong” side of the road with bikes on the back sticking out about 1 foot on each side of the car was a little nerve racking. At times the outside of the car scraped the very thick foliage that lined the roadway. Our Airbnb place for the next three nights is a beautiful old house filled with antiques overlooking the bay.

View from our window,      Kenmore, Ireland
View from our window, Kenmore, Ireland

Our hostess, Hanna, is terrific and she makes a mean breakfast. Each morning we’ve had lively conversations over coffee with the other guests.

Friday, July 24 The famous “Ring of Kerry”

The road around the Kerry peninsula is extremely narrow and busy with trucks, cars, and tour buses. Frequently the road is down to one lane and looks very scarey to ride a bike on. We decided to be tourists and drive to the end of the peninsula and back instead.

Ring of Kerry
  Ring of Kerry

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Valentia
    Valentia

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At the far end of the peninsula we drove over a small bridge to Valentia Island for lunch and a drive to the lighthouse. It’s on a very rugged and scenic spot used to guide the ships into the harbor. It dates back to the 1800’s and still in use. After returning to Kenmare, we had dinner early, showered, and went out at 9:00 to a Pub to listen to 2 guys playing guitar and singing Irish folk music.

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They were terrific and had a wonderful selection of tunes. We lasted until around 11:00.

Saturday, July 25 Beara Peninsula

The day was sunny when we left Hanna’s to ride the bottom loop of the Beara Peninsula. It’s the red headed step peninsula to the south of Dingle and Kerry. There were NO tour busses, about 2 cars, and quite a few cyclists. We got our climbing in by going over 2 unnamed passes into the mountains which run down the spine of the peninsula. The views from up there of the coast were pretty dramatic.

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From our window

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Our lunch and coffee was in a colorful little village of about 100 people and 500 sheep. On the way back to the B&B we gave a ride into town to 2 college age girls from Italy who are walking/ hitching around Ireland for their summer break. They also were tired of the rain and cold weather. Back in town we walked around a bit including taking in a small Saturday street market and visiting a beautiful church very near the center of town.

Kenmore
Kenmore

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Dinner was a picnic in our room with some planning for the next couple of days. Tomorrow we’ll head toward Cobh (pronounced Cove.)

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