Millstreet – Bantry 72kms
Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bikeJohn F Kennedy
So many reasons for cycling Malin to Mizen. Nothing is as exhilarating as riding a bike. You feel the warm sun on your face; even on the warmest, gentlest of days you feel the cooling breeze. There are days you want to cover every part of your body from the wet and cold and on other days you just want to don just a t shirt and shorts. Take in the fresh air, smell the honeysuckle in hedgerows, admire the stunning Irish vistas unfolding slowly before your eyes. Living. Over the week all our senses were overloaded with nature at its best; in a kilometre on the bike you will appreciate the great outdoors more than you would in a 1,000 kilometre car journey. Over 700 kilometres, it’s a veritable sensual feast.
The finish line is fast approaching and today is one of the days I most looked forward to. Heading back to Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh where I spent the most wonderful month attending Irish College in 1973. Getting an early start set the day up nicely and we quickly made progress out of Millstreet, so good we missed our turn for Ballyvourney! But sometimes it’s for the best and we ended up on a marvellous route. Realising we were gone too far, we stopped to look at our map when a lady pulled up and advised us to continue on to Macroom or if we preferred hills she recommended another road through Clondrohid which brought us over by Renaree! The local roads always appeal best and we had a nice long 11km pull to the top of Renaree with the added pleasure of a great 5km downhill to Ballingeary.
Great memories of my time in the Gaeltacht with a lot of my class mates from CBS Carlow. Céilís, football, hurling, hikes and treasure hunts…. it was a magical month that left an indelible impression on all of us. The next time Ballingeary came onto my radar was the explosion of John O Driscoll on the International Rules game in 1986. He was only a kid but won the third test and the series for Ireland with his lightning pace and his 15 points haul. He went onto play for Cork for a good number of years after.
We left Ballingeary and headed out to Cork’s Glendalough… Gougane Barra. Saint Finbarr built a monastery here in the 6th century on an island in the lake, the ruins of which are still there beside the beautiful oratory with its stunning stained glass windows. The Lake is the source or Cork’s famous River Lee.
We reluctantly left Gougane Barra behind and cycled back out to the main road and we were straight into the famous Pass of Keimaneigh. In the 19th century this road would have been much more difficult as it passed through the rugged but it still retains its beauty today. Cath Céim an Fhia was a famous poem we learned in school about the Battle of Keimaneigh.
Once we crested the Pass it was virtually downhill all the way through Kealkill into Bantry. Heavy rain from Kealkill meant we were glad to roll into the square in Bantry for our final overnight stop. Just 54kms to go. But who’s counting!