Ireland end to end: Kenmare to Listowel

Stayed at a very good B/B in Kenmare only let down by our hostess’s recommendation of a good place for music. “You”ll get a great meal in Davitts,” she said, “Then cross the road to Crowley’s pub for some great music.

As it happened there was great music in the restaurant. A fiddler and guitarist kept us entertained while we ate and then, as recommended, we crossed the road to the dingy recesses of Crowleys pub. Dingy recesses are fine, and the Murphy’s was so good even Hamish managed to down a half pint, but the live music was not what we expected.

We were looking for some authentic traditional music, what we got was four Essex accents with guitars pretending they were traditional singers. We left as they strangled Roger Miller’s King of the Road. Trailers for sale or rent, my arse…

Shortly after 9am, the real Kings of the Road left Kenmare, Hamish leading. First mistake. He missed the Killarney road and we ended up immediately climbing a big hill. This, as it happened, was to be our day of big hills.

We eventually found the right road and it immediately began climbing, higher and higher until we were amongst mountains. This was the infamous Moll’s Gap, the high pass on the Ring of Kerry, and it was quite beautiful. We had great views of Carrantoohill and Tomies Mountain, with the Gap of Dunloe in between and, as a real bonus, the sun was shining.

A magnificent descent took us down by the lakes of Killarney, down by the horse shit of the jaunting cars at Muckross and into the fleshpots of Killarney. It was time for a coffee.

We found what looked like an ideal cafe, with seats and a table outside where we could keep an eye on our bikes. We had just ordered two coffees and two fruit scones and I was just about to sink my teeth into the jam covered cream laden scone when a guy came up to us and proceeded to blether for about 45 mins. He was in his late sixties and had a ponytail. All right, I’ m maybe slightly biased against older men with enough hair to wear it in a ponytail but this guy was a bore. He kept asking me about places I had been and he had apparently always been somewhere better, bigger or higher, and always on his bike. He had cycled the highest road in the world, the coldest road in the world and, oh yes, he had met the Dalai Lama!

We coudln’t get away from this guy and when the opportunity did arise we rushed off in such a hurry I left my specs behind. At least that’s my excuse.

We stopped some miles out of Killarney to check the map and that’s when I noticed my specs were missing. I have to confessnthis is becoming something of a habit. I put my sunglasses down somewhere on Day 1 and cycled off without them. Hamish has suggested I tie  them round my neck with a bit of string.

Fortunately the next village had a pharmacy and sold reading specs. I bought two pairs, just in case…

In a town called Castleisland we asked about the road to Listowel, where we planned to stop for the night. The chap we spoke to advised us to follow the main road to Tralee and then Listowel but we reckoned that might add a few miles to the day’s tally. We wanted to take a direct route that we saw on the map. The guy looked at us, smiled, and said we didn’t really want to take that road. “I live up there,” he said,”and I drive my truck up that road. Sometimes it doesn’t make it. It’s steep, very steep.”

We had just ridden the famed Healy’s Pass over the Caha mountains, and earlier in the day Moll’s Gap – we were pretty sure we could manage another hill or two…

Later on we asked someone else and he looked at us as if to say, “You don’t want to go that way – that’s the High Road!”

But we did, and off we went, and it didn’t take long before we saw what they were talking about. A brute of an incline turned a bend, then went on and on, and on… At one point I decided I’d be faster pushing the bike, and I was, but Hamish heroically pedalled all the way up.

Two miles later we reached the crossroads at the top of the hill and we stood for a few moments, pale- faced, shaking and groaning quietly. We were too knackered to even contemplate the view back to MacGillicuddy’s Reeks.

Little did we know that was only the first of a series of steep hills in the next 10 miles, the most undulating 10 miles I’ve cycled in years. But we made it, not only that but we made it in some style. As we approached Listowell we noticed gathering storm clouds of biblical proportions, and not being very keen on being rained on by frogs or even cats and dogs we went hell for leather. We found a B/B just as the heavens opened.

That was a few hours ago. Since then we’ve showered, napped, and had a delightful meal in a Chinese restaurant. So, now bellyfull of rice and noodles and prawn crackers we are resting in preparation for tomorrows epic – across the Shannon and into County Clare, home of Irish traditional music, the Burren and the matchmaker of Lisdoonvarna.

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