By Eddie Smyth
After taking three days to get from Worcestershire to Killarney, via Dublin, Westport and Kilrush I now have three more days in the company of my good friend Denis who runs the biker website www.roadtrooper.com, with the promise of riding some of the most glorious touring roads you could hope to imagine anywhere in Europe, let alone Ireland itself.
Ireland – The bit in the middle (2016)
With a sharp eye on the weather each morning we chose to take our chances on a different ride around each of the peninsulas within our reach. As I had already driven along the Dingle peninsula back when Pontius was only part of the ground crew it was agreed that we would head that way only if the weather held each day to encourage a longer run. The plan would include the Ring of Beara, The Ring of Kerry and a jaunt over the Cork and Kerry Mountains. But it’s not just the peninsulas that grab your attention, the roads around Killarney and towards Kenmare have their own special appeal. Several of these roads are little known and almost resemble cycle tracks through some valleys and up into narrow gorges that could scrape both sides of your crash helmet. It’s going to be an amazing three days.
Tuesday – The Beara Peninsula
The fuel station was located at the very start of our journey. Denis, filled his BMW GS800 and grabbed a filled wrap and some water and I followed suit. Then as we headed out of town I was happy to follow suit for the rest of the day. We rode out in mild sunshine, skirting Lough Leane, through Muckross and up towards Moll’s Gap. Already the views suggesting this would be a day for keeping the camera handy and the side stand well oiled, for regular use.
First stop was the layby at the crest of Moll’s Gap.
There’s a café here too. The road up to this point is Italian Alps in miniature. I can’t wait to try it going down. We rode on to Kenmare and over the bridge, continuing onto the N71 that leads to Glengarriff. The road was quiet, mildly twisty yet afforded a few passing places to allow momentum to be maintained. My first experience of Denis’s tour guide knowledge came into play around halfway along this 20 mile stretch. We took a left along one of those narrow, unmarked roads that can’t decide whether it’s off-roading or a farm track with grass and gravel strewn down the middle. Blind bends, pot holes to remind you to lift you bottom off the seat sharpish and humps the size of links course bunkers to roll over.
We crunched along, standing on the pegs at times, and even grass tracked a little into a wide valley surrounded by hills, with no sign of habitation unless you really looked hard. We parked up and took a walk up a sheep track to a circle of standing stones with a depression in the earth in the middle that looked like it could have been a Neolithic foot spa.
We chatted a while with a couple who were touring in their car. The scenery was far more interesting. In the distance, too far to walk to in motorbike boots, was a waterfall coming straight off the mountain top.
Despite the blandness of all the views we have to push on. We have barely covered 40 miles this morning. Back onto the N71 we crossed from Kerry into Cork territory to Adrigole which meant taking the R572. We turned right at this point cleaving our path across the Caha Mountains, hairpins and nothing but scenery all around us until we reached Lauragh and left towards Collorus. The scenery didn’t stop, it just rolled out all around us in a never ending scroll across our visors. The sea was to our left when we reached Adrigole, now it was on our right.As we traveled from scenic point, to village, to layby, we kept spotting the marker posts depicting the W.A.W. route.
High cliff faces, craggy edges and short, nippy straights kept us entertained, smiling and focused, all around the bottom end of the Beara peninsula and back up the R572 to Castletownbere. Somewhere unmarked became our second excursion into narrow strip tarmac. Inland, up and over the (or between) the peaks, of the Caha Mountains.We arrived back at Moll’s Gap where Denis took a left then stopped to ask if I wanted to end the day with a ride through the Black Valley. This sort of leading question is like blind man’s bluff. It’s like being offered the chef’s surprise in a Pyongyang restaurant. Am I in for great enchantment or gastro enteritis?
It’s more than a road through a valley, a gorge, a few open stretches where hairpin bends come at you when you least expect them. It’s a naturally formed 3D, surreal simulator type of awesome road riding that runs for about 15 miles. You barely have time to let the clutch out before you are pulling your fingers back for another gear to cope with the changes.
It was a fantastic run that takes you all the way down to The Gap of Dunloe where tourists gather to hike, cycle or ride in gypsy horse drawn carts. This route has to be experienced. I can’t describe it. Maybe this should have been written by Hemmingway.
We got home around late tea time. Not a drop of rain and not a squeak of complaint, apart from a bit of saddle soreness. I think we did the day proud. After a dinner of superb homemade Irish stew we walked into Killarney and where I could try another whiskey and some of the well-respected local beer.