By Eddie Smyth
It rained so had during the night I thought the TV had switched itself on and was blaring out static. I slipped out to check the bike at 08:00. It looked like a miserable puppy caught in a downpour. If only I could get it inside the hotel side door and up the stairs I would have been much happier.
Ballyvaughan to Killarney – via Tarbert Ferry (100 miles)
After breakfast I attempted to load the bike with my gear but I got drenched just taking the chain and locks off. Time for a rethink. It was intended that I take the R477 coastal route through Lack, Murroogh and Fanore to Lisdoonvarna but in this weather I would probably ride into the sea and not tell the difference. It’s very picturesque too, in nice weather, so I am told.
Instead, I waited until around 10:00 and headed down the A67 to reach Lisdoonvarna. The rains all but stopped. Well they would do because I had put my waterproof coveralls on again. It’s a great little road too. A steep climb with a couple of tasty hairpins to negotiate and then a few miles of moorland to enjoy. Turning right at Ennistimon, I did not stop until Lahinch, where the bridge over the river offered a great snapshot of the tumbling river below. It’s a pretty place too.
It might be a bit of a problem if you are low on fuel at this point. I never spotted a petrol station until Milltown Malby, where there are several, so if you leave Ballyvaughan without filling up there in the tiny petrol station by the chapel it’s 43km until you see another fuel stop. From this point on the towns get very touristy. The N67 is not the most direct route if you follow it all the way to Kilrush to catch the ferry over the Shannon to Tarbert. You can take a left south of Quilty and get there much quicker. I didn’t, I took the longer way and it was not as enthralling as I had hoped. The best view is the moment you hit the crest between Kilkee and Kilrush. But in the great scheme of things and the hindsight of stunning visual experiences I have ahead of me I would not recommended it as the best route.
I made my way to Killarney this way so as to catch the ferry at Killimer and across the Shannon and take the road up again and Tarbert. This cuts out a lot of road (20 miles) of less inspiring legend and also avoids Limerick. I arrived at the ferry port at exactly the moment the ferry had edged away from the pier. But I now have time for a cup of tea in the harbour café and stretch my legs. The sun was out. It was still a bit cold but the weather treated me with respect since I sulked about it at breakfast.
I checked out his web pages. Cool dude, great artwork.
I left the whole cargo of vehicles in the spinning flotsam of my rear wheel when we alighted at Tarbert. The N69 is a bit naughty as there are long, straight stretches with little traffic all the way to Listowel (which looks very nice for a stopover) and onward to Tralee. With the sun peeking to make sure I was warmer than previous days on this jaunt I felt very good about just about everything.
Instead of heading directly to Killarney from Tralee I took the N70 where the view of the Kerry Mountains came up on the horizon and truly resembled the Himalayas as they stared like a stage backdrop back at me across the wide valley below.
This road leads to Castlemain where I stopped for a sandwich and a refreshment at Knights bar in the town.
Here, at 12:30 I encountered the town drunk slopped over the bar as I disrobed in a corner seat. Next to me were four characters who, with darkened Latino skin were evidently also passing through the town. The drunk approached them and slurred, several times, ‘Sho, what part of Shpain are you from‘? After they made several attempts at understanding a single word he slurred they all chorused “Italy”.
‘What’sh the feckin’ differensh’ he said before telling them that Italian women were the most beautiful and feckable in the world.
He then fell asleep in his chair at the bar.
My sandwich came with a tub of fries. I was not going to be able to eat all my lunch. I noticed our Italian group had scoffed their lunches down so I handed them my chips and smiled. “That’s for Valentino guys, Gratzi”. At last they smiled.
At Kilorglin I took the left turn onto the N72 and the flat, smooth and slightly busier road directly to Killarney.
The reason for my visit was to meet Denis Smyth, my namesake of no relation, who runs the Roadtrooper.com biker’s touring website. We had planned to meet up one day and do a few runs around the remoter parts of the many peninsulas down these parts. The idea in my mind that I could be led through some of the most beautiful biking routes in the whole of Europe let alone Ireland had me drooling. Forget limericks, with names like Dingle, Kerry, Beara and Cork and Kerry mountains on the agenda I will be writing up poetry like the proverbial laureate by the time he’s finished with me.
I spent the next three days enjoying some of the best views, riding routes and craic ever. Each day offered a whole new experience as we circled and traversed the Rings of Beara, Kerry and Cork.