Soloing it out West.
It’s been a busy enough weekend in this part of Kerry. Cycling didn’t seem to be the top of everyone’s agenda.
From a club perspective there was a wedding on Friday, which probably had a few members nursing hangovers, then there’s the small matter of Kerry heading up to Dublin this weekend for the All Ireland, which generally switches people’s focus. Add to that, one or two of my regular cycling companions leaving the good ship Kerry for a few days away in other areas of Ireland and the Rugby World Cup, the Saturday spin had SOLO stamped all over it.
Plan A was to jump in the car with the bike safely buckled in the back seat and head towards South Kerry. The towns of Cahersiveen and Waterville looked appealing and when you throw in Valentia Island and the Skellig Ring, there’s a nice 100 km spin to grace any loop cycle in the World. The thought of suffering on Coomanaspic on my own made my mind up not to go. That beast of a climb is way better suffered with friends!
Bring on plan B. Something familiar with a twist?Anyone living in the Tralee, Castlemaine areas can’t but notice the Short mountain. A slightly lower section of the Sliabh Mish mountains characterised by 4 or 5 radio masts, guarding over the Tralee and Mid-Kerry region like an old centurion. In a mocking way it invites the explorer with the promise adventures near Scotia’s grave and then great views at the summit. To those who have failed to reach the summit on their bikes and destroyed a good pair of cleats walking the final kilometers to the top, it mocks. With a middle antenna almost acting as a raised middle finger to its victim below. My record with the lung busting whore is 5-0 to me from the Tralee side and a slender 2-1 lead from the Castlemaine side ( both points volleyed in last year, after living with 3 years of failure.) As per normal it didn’t disappoint. A nice spin out through Ballyard is soon leading you to the start which has a steep enough early climb through a country road of high hedges, wild flowers and a sprinkling of farms. The land soon opens up to sheep grazed mountain side, with very little cover from the elements. The middle bit does give you a slight rest bite before she kicks on again a bit more aggressively for the last kilometer, topped off with a wicked pull to round things off. From the top there are panoramic views of Tralee to the North and Castlemaine harbour, Inch beach, South Kerry and the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks to the South.
I wasn’t in dare-devil mood, so took the steep descent with caution and cramping hands. As the Laharn road starts to level, I took a right at the cross-roads and cycled a delightful country road which winds its way down to Boolteens village. From then on it was business as normal on the moderately busy R 561. A straight road heading West which could best be described as rolling. I avoided the over priced coffee stop at Inch beach and kept going along the gental climbing road which gives fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean and its rocky shoreline below. The road cuts inland towards Annascaul, following the Anascaul river. My next stretch of road was very much virgin cycling territory. This is the “main” road to Minard castle. I’d walked it 20 years ago when doing the Dingle Way with my wife. I’d actually forgotten how hilly it is around there! Saying that, the road is a joy to cycle, with lots of bends, nice views back to Annascaul and virtually car free. Eventually you reach a small coastal inlet with the castle perched up on a small hill. The building you see dates from the late 16 century. It’s present appearance has a lot to do with Cromwell and his hooligans, who attempted to blow up the building and it’s occupants in 1650.
This was a good place for a rest, to eat a bit of fruit I brought with me and have a chat with some tourists. Quite rightly one of them commented: “I never realised there was so much to do and see in this area, you could easily spend a month here.”
Unsurprisingly the road kicks up again from sea-level and eventually brings you out on the N 86 between Lispole and Annascaul. Thankfully the worst of the climbing on this section of road is back towards Lispole, leaving me to enjoy the 3 sweeping hairpin bends and an easy ride into Annascaul. It’s not normally done, but a hot cup of coffee was calling in Annascaul with a quick snack. From then it was the steady 25 minute climb up to Glennagalt and the sweeping descent into Camp village. From here on its the busy N 86 into Blennerville and then Tralee. Highlight of this stretch being that I didn’t hang around and got from the top of Glennagalt to the front door in under 45 minutes. A result for me!