Bicycle Touring through Ireland: Part 3

​Part 1: Winding Westwards

Part 2: Starting the Wild Atlantic Way

Part 3: The Wild Atlantic

The third week of the holiday consisted of gradually cycling up the coast and taking in the sea. 

The Cliffs of Loop Head Peninsula, we found that many tourist offices big up their local area and aren’t much use in narrowing down what the ‘must see’ spots are. Loop Head was one of the areas we were persuaded to cycle and turned out to be worthwhile. 

CLIFFS OF MOHER

The Cliffs of Moher were honestly a disappointment. We cycled up a large hill only to find the whole place was a tourist trap and flooded with people and buses. Dingle Peninsula  mentioned in the earlier post and The Burren that we cycled through the following day completely eclipsed Moher in terms of atmosphere. However, my observations may just be because I dislike large crowds of noisy people and it was a murky day when we visited. 

THE BURREN

The Burren is a national park stretching for miles along the coast before Galway. It was one of the most interesting spots along the Atlantic Way. The entire area was huge, cracked slabs of large limestone cliffs from the glacial era. 

The flat slabs made the perfect spot for a nap when the sun appeared for a rare moment. 

We whizzed by Dunguaire Castle, the name of which comes from the Dun (medieval Fort) of King Guaire, the legendary King of Connacht. 

WESTERN GREENWAY AND ACHILL ISLAND

We spent a day going along the Western Greenway, a 26 mile long cycle track stretching from Westport to Achill Island. The previous night we managed to wild camp beside it next to a river that reminded me of Dartmoor back home. 

Then the following morning we carried on to Achill Island. 

Throughout the holiday we repeatedly heard about how nice Achill Island was. We got there and it was blowing a gale in the opposite direction to us. We ended up doing a loop along the Southern coast of the island which has earned the reputation of being beautiful. 

The following evening we camped back on the mainland up the coast, it turned out to be midge central but out of the way enough to light a fire and so was really good.

GLENVEAGH NATIONAL PARK

We climbed up and up to Glenveagh National Park, just behind us the whole way where a trio of French cyclists. The pattern involved them overtaking, then half an hour later we overtook and left them behind.

And then we reached the end of the Wild Atlantic Way, with 4 days left to cycle to Belfast we decided to pop in on the Giant’s Causeway…

Bicycle Touring through Ireland: Part 2

Part 1: Winding Westwards 
Part 2: Starting the Wild Atlantic Way

THE RING OF KERRY

We joined the Wild Atlantic Way at the start of the Ring of Kerry, a famous coastal scenic route. It was shrouded in mist and cloud when we arrived and the day was spent plodding along in the rain.

Despite the weather earlier in the day we were greeted by a fantastic sunset. I think as long as the evening is dry, rain is mostly survivable. It’s the endless wet that ruins holidays. 

Perhaps the best view of the Ring of Kerry we saw was from Dingle Peninsula further up the coast. It was funny to see the places we had been at the day before covered in cloud whilst we were in the sun. 

That evening we explored down a lane leading towards the sea and found a spot sheltered from the sea. 

DINGLE PENINSULA

By the end of the tour we concluded that Dingle Peninsula is perhaps the most beautiful part of the Wild Atlantic Way, mainly because unlike the Ring it isn’t flooded by tourists. It is also the westernmost point of Ireland and so we decided early on to camp as far on it as possible.

The wild campsite we found was just off to the right of the above photo… In another graveyard. Modern graveyards are a great place to camp, most have water taps, nice grass and tend to be out of view. We normally try to camp in a far corner in the unclaimed land.

The second rule of bicycle touring I came up with is: 

‘If you camp in a public place, expect someone to come and use it for it’s intended purpose.’

And the story behind that rule is that we were boiling gammon for supper when someone came through the gate, they glanced at us then went to stand infront of a grave and pay us no more attention. We huddled down and tried to be invisible to avoid getting dragged into a conversation that would result in our eviction. A couple minutes later another two people arrived, then a group of three people, all standing in front of the grave. We huddled down further and weathered their shocked glances. After fifteen minutes, they all filed back out one by one. And we both breathed a sigh of relief.

Later on we went for an evening stroll towards an incredibly twisty slipway winding down the cliff, which can be seen further up the page. We got to the slipway, and what do we find? A car, driven half way down the slipway before the driver realised that he probably shouldn’t be driving down a slipway designed for taking sheep to market from the nearby islands. The poor chap was hunting around for someone with the skill to reverse a car up a steep incline with multiple sharp corners.

We checked whether he was still there again at 11pm and fortunately he appeared to have found someone capable of moving the car.

The next day was a 410m climb up to An Chonair, and then one of the most perfect descents possible. It was a narrow mountain road but one where you could see the next few bends ahead and so build up speed without the worry of crashing into a car.

The next few weeks were spent gradually working our way up the coast.

 Bicycle Touring through Ireland: Part 1

Part 1: Winding Westwards 
I spent the last 34 days bicycle touring through Ireland. Our soul aim for the entire tour was to cycle the Wild Atlantic Way and be back in England for a wedding.

People along the way often asked, ‘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 the story. The first bit of which is arriving in Belfast and finding the Norman Way. 

THE NORMAN WAY

The first part of the Irish cycle tour was more of an accidental decision than part of a deliberate route decision.  We arrived in Rosslare and spotted signs for the Norman Way that were headed in generally the right direction. Following them led us past various ruined churches and castles. Our first night in Ireland was spent camping in one of the ruined churches along the route. We were overjoyed to find it as it was getting late and we were tired from the ferry. 

After leaving the Norman Way we headed for Cahir and cycled past the castle in the town centre. 

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 map 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: 

‘Don’t be afraid to accept offers of help!’

The following day we headed onwards to Killarney National Park. Passing many peat bogs along the route. Peat is the primary heat source in Ireland. 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.

KILLARNEY NATIONAL PARK 

Killarney National Park is one of the most well-known beauty spots in Ireland. It includes a mountain range with a huge lake at its heart. 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 possible to walk through all the rooms and explore the upper quarters. 

Muckross Friary 

In an inside courtyard grew a huge gnarled Yew Tree, stretching two floors up and overlooked by narrow windows. 

And the following day we climbed up all morning and was welcomed by incredible views of the national park from the top. 

The next stage of the journey is joining the Wild Atlantic Way and working our way upwards. 

A Summer Cycle Tour

I’ve been super busy recently, I got home on Friday and since then have spent all my time preparing for the cycling holiday over the summer. I’m away 25th May onwards and so this is my last update for awhile. Look to the right of the homepage at the Instagram photos to get an idea of where I am at a given time.

I’ve broken down the holiday into two phases:

Phase 1: Ireland

Phase 1 – roughly 1000 miles to cycle, but the actual route will hug the coastline

This Google route map is only a rough guide, the actual route will be a lot less direct and hug the Irish coast. We’re cycling from home to Exeter, then catching a train to Carmarthen. We will meander in Wales for a day, then catch a ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare, Ireland. From there we head directly to Killarney national park and link up with the Wild Atlantic Way, a cycle route that follows Ireland’s west coast. Around the 18th June we start worrying about my brother’s wedding and cut straight along to Belfast to catch the ferry, arriving just in time for the wedding in Liverpool!

Phase 2: the Baltic Sea

Phase 2 is the big bit, we’re catching a ferry from Hull to The Hague, and then heading north to join Eurovelo 10 and cycle the Baltic Sea. 


We are mostly wild camping so regular updates are impossible, but I will attempt to keep you updated, either here or on my Instagram profile.

 

Hartland Moor Cycle

A beautiful ride indeed. I cycled along Bournemouth seafront and then across on the chain ferry to Studland. First stop on the ride was to try and find Old Harry Rocks, I tried in first year but kept seeing them on a different cliff to the one I was on (it got very frustrating). This time I was determined to find them, even though it meant walking/riding along a coastal path for 20 minutes with my bike. The question in my mind was: how far can you force a road bike along gravel tracks before getting a puncture? Fortunately for me, very far!

Once I finally found Old Harry, they were looking amazing in the sunshine, I stopped for a quick break and took some photos.

The views along the Purbeck Hills to Corfe Castle are stunning, and also a good place to go ridiculously fast down hill.

Stopped for a break by Corfe Castle and recieved the official phone call that I was now an uncle. Climbing the hill for signal gave me a good view of the castle too.
I made some friends, and discovered Arne beach.

I do confess to getting a bit lost in Poole, the roads there are why I hardly ever go out that way. New Forest is much easier to navigate without looking at a map constantly.

New Forest Exploration

I’ve finished university! To celebrate handing in my dissertation I decided to explore more of the New Forest and fill in a few blank spots that I haven’t covered before.

I found a woodland full of Beech trees in their spring growth. It looks perfect for some camping or hammocking, provided it stays dry.

My lack of exercise over the past few months caught up to me about half way around, I spotted a comfty looking tree and had a quick nap! Rhinefield Ornamental Drive is beautiful area to walk around, the Giant Redwoods and Douglas Fir trees are in contrast to the oak and beech covering the rest of the forest.

The original route was down the A338 towards Ringwood for a few miles but when I got there the traffic was too busy. So I went straight across and explored down a small lane, hoping it would curl back south  – it didn’t. The trouble with Dorset is that its littered with mansions and vast gardens that appear to link up roads on the map, but in reality there’s a massive gate in the way. On the plus side, I found a nice church.

Ellingham – St Mary All Saints

I made surprisingly good speed overall on the ride, my last ride in the New Forest will be a sad business indeed. If the weather holds up I plan to go across to Old Harry Rocks tomorrow, and then maybe Kimmeridge at the weekend.

 

Dorset Bluebells Cycle

London Road amidst the bluebells

I’ve always liked bluebell woods and recently noticed they had once again started appearing. I researched bluebell woods in Dorset and found the nearest is in Pamphill. It’s only 10 miles away so I extended the ride a little bit.

It was probably the most exploratory cycling ride I’ve done this year. I glimpsed some water through some shrubbery and bashed my way through stinging nettles to find a  secluded swamp.

And then later on I took a wrong turn and found a steep hill, I slogged up it and discovered the road ended and a bridleway started. Not wanting to waste the effort spent climbing the hill I carried on and hoped I wouldn’t get a puncture. As I cycled along I thought that the bridleway looked like a runway. Turns out it is, and was home to the RAF Glider Squadron Regiment from 1943 to 1980.

The final notable bit of the ride was discovering another bluebell wood that was even more impressive than the first.

And lastly the Relive video of the ride:

 

Tour of the Schlösser

Schloss Linnep

The walk begung at Schloss Linnep, a striking water castle that has existed since 1090, though been rebuilt many times since then. It was the home to the knights and lords of Linnep until the mid 1400’s and then various lordly families. It was my favourite castle we visited today.

Schloss Hugenpoet

After Linnep we walked on towards Landsberg Schloss. I noticed another building surrounded by water and so we managed to discover a third Schloss.

The name can be interpreted as ‘toad’s nest’ and may be an indication of the swampy floodplains surrounding it. Nowadays it is a 5* hotel.

Landsberg

The final Schloss on our walk is a privately owned and so we couldn’t get close however we did see the new residential tower built in 1992. It’s supposedly built in a similar style to the main castle complex though I think the main castle probably looks way better.

Tomorrow we will hopefully visit more schloss!

And in case you are wondering…
Schloss – a château, palace, or manor house.
Schlösser – multiple schloss.

Exploring Ahrweiler

The weekend was spent in Ahrweiler, a town famous for its spas and 2000 years of red wine production. Visiting in April meant that the vines weren’t in leaf but we got splendid views of the bare vineyards.

The vineyards are built in rugged cliffs, at times there are only two rows of grapevine before another wall raises it the ground higher.  A small track winds inbetween the vines up the hill.

Nestled into the hill above the vineyard is Weingut Försterhof, an unusual building that proudly claims to have no pointy corners.  It’s a popular place for wine tasting and visiting the vineyards.

The woodland was covered in Wood Anemones, a small white flower that carpets the ground.

Many of the houses in Ahrweiler are built in the fachwerkhäuser style, similar to Tudor buildings in England.  Down the street is one of the old fortification gates into the city.


The church in Arhweiler is a beautiful blend of yellow and white.

Discovering Düsseldorf

See Day 1 here: Welcome to Germany

The second morning in Germany was boring. I spent it secluded in the house writing my dissertation, I wanted to get a lot of writing done by 1pm so we could look around Düsseldorf in the afternoon.

We started off the afternoon by catching the tram across the city to Nordpark, a large public garden near the Rhine.


There were a lot of Daffodils, including this variety that I haven’t come across before.

We then walked up the Rhine and towards the bridge, we needed to get towards the skyscraper in the middle.
From the skyscraper we then struck into the city, passing by Fatty and Skinny having a staring contest. Pretty grotesque sculptures.
We then headed towards the famous königsallee, Germany’s busiest high-end shopping street. The clothes were expensive and not very practical looking!
We finished the day walking between Düssledorf’s famous breweries. The first of which was Uerige, a building that can be traced back to the 1600’s. It is one of the few remaining independant breweries, yet outputs an amazing 3.5 million pints a year.

The beer was bitter, but had no body. After taking a sip the taste would vanish off the tongue. It’s like the German equivilent to an English ale but is different in many ways.

Tomorrow we go to Ahrweiler!