Undercover in north Kerry
Often an overlooked part of the Kingdom of Kerry, but the north has plenty to offer for those in the know.
Castles, a round tower, quiet roads, flat roads, hilly roads, rivers, peaceful villages are just a taste of the cycling experience in north Kerry.
Bullock Hill (Tralee to Doon)
Towns en Route
6 out of 10
Area of Kerry
This route starts with a bang in the shape of a short but steep climb. After that it’s pretty much flat with the occasional stretches of rolling terrain. The condition of the roads are fairly good with just the odd exception, though during winter they are liable to get quite dirty in places. I did this route on a road bike and it was fine. A hybrid or even a mountain bike would also be sufficient for this route. The route is ideally suited to an individual spin or a small group. Large faster groups would be advised to find an alternative.
On leaving Tralee, the first objective is to get up to the Doon area that over-looks the town to the north. I chose the notorious Bullock Hill, that is reached off the Bracker O’Regan road near the pedestrian crossing. An easier option is take a left on the Abbeydorney road after the Sunday’s Well estate. Once up this short but steep/narrow climb there are great views of Tralee and Tralee Bay down to your left.
Once at the top of Bullock Hill there is a short and thankfully much more gentle climb to reach the top of Doon. This is followed by a nice quick descent onto the R557. You go straight cross this road and enter the Tubrid area of Ardfert. At the next junction take a right followed by a quick left and follow this narrow and at times bumpy road through the fields and farm land of Kilgubin. Taking a left at the cross onto a wider road proceed to the junction of the Lixnaw-Lerrig road. From here the ruins of the castle at Ballymacaquinn should be visible. Take a left and then an immediate right and proceed past Killahan NS which lies to your left followed by the castle to your right. The castle does appear to be on private farmland. So I am not certain if it can be visited or whether it even safe to do so. The local Tourist Office would be a good place to enquire. From here on the road takes a decidedly straight path, with Causeway village visible to the left.
At the junction of the R551 take a right turn towards Ballyduff. Although slightly wider and a little busier this road is still relatively quiet. The terrain in this area becomes slightly rolling and reminds me very much of being in the Yorkshire Dales. This is the Drommartin area of Ballyduff. Take the unmarked turn to the left up a gentle pull (beyond the stand alone house) followed by a second right at a crossroads. Proceed downhill onto what is the nicest road of trip. A downhill stretch that is laced with lots of bends, hedgerows, farms and small cottages. At the junction take a left. Don’t panic here, as the road gets a bit rough and gives you a sense that it’s going nowhere, but it comes good and as you enter Dowds Cross. Take a right turn onto Benmore Estate and past the Ballyduff GAA field and into Ballyduff village.
Break time: Ballyduff was my choice for a coffee stop. It’s probably the biggest village on the route with the most choice. My preference was the Centra Shop towards the top of the village on the right, although there are other options. Lixnaw and Kilflynn both offer opportunities for a break.
Getting back to the task in hand and the second leg of this journey. Cycling back down the village take the left turn (opposite the road from the GAA grounds). This takes you down a hill and through the Bishops Court area and onto a T-junction. From here take the right turn on to what’s known locally as “Ladies Walk” and proceed through a spectacular arch of trees before reaching the rear of the Rattoo Round Tower that can be spotted over to the right.
Within 800 metres take the left turn for Lixnaw and proceed over the River Brick. The bridge which is new, had its news worthy moment back in 2007 when the previous bridge collapsed under the strain of a large pig lorry! This road will bring you out into the centre of Lixnaw village. At the time of writing the village was decked out in flags and bunting as the village prepared for the Kerry Senior Hurling Final against local rivals Ballyduff. Proceed left before taking a right turn onto the R557.
Cycle approximately 4 km along this road before taking a left turn for Kilflynn. This road runs up a steady incline and past the Crotta Hurling field before entering the village of Kilflynn. Kilflynn village is pretty much a cross-roads with 2 pubs, a church, a shop and post office. Not necessarily much happening there but all the same a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Proceed down the hill and over the narrow bridge, before a moderate climb up to the main N69 Tralee-Listowel road. From here the centre of Tralee is roughly 10 km with over half the distance downhill.
Traffic: Generally this is a very quite route bar for the final few kilometres from Kilflynn to Tralee on the N69. You might find it busy at certain times with farm traffic and lorries that service the Dairy Master and Kerrygroup factories in the area.
Facilities: There are shops en-route at Ballyduff, Lixnaw and Kilflynn villages. As far as I’m aware Tralee is the only place where you might find a bicycle shop.
Conclusion: I thoroughly enjoyed this route as it took me on a few roads I had never travelled before. For the distance the route is slow. I would recommend giving yourselves 3 to 4 hours at least and enjoying the fine countryside. Navigation could be a problem as many of the roads are unmarked, but with good planning and perseverance I promise you a memorable day out in north Kerry.