How time flies! We’ve already been cycling in Ireland for more than 2 weeks. Bruce is powering along getting stronger every day – his physio is working really well. Cycling is the best thing to heal a broken leg. He’s even starting to occasionally stand up on the pedals on the steeper uphills and walking more confidently even coming walking with me some afternoons after cycling. He’s starting to looking for geocaches again as well.
Ireland is amazing! 42 shades of green! Green! Green ! …. Green pastures everywhere! In all directions everywhere we looked in the first 10 days there were green hills with plump happy sheep and cows grazing on lush green grass;
the permanent grey sky being the exception of course. How lucky are these animals to have such incredible sea views to look at all day long and more grass than they could possibly ever eat. Much different to the Australian Monaro sheep and cows who are lucky to have a few blades of brown grass to eat, rarely is it green, but lots of rocks to chew instead. That’s the rugged nature of the Monaro in the foothills of Australia’s highest mountains.
The scenery is constantly changing here in Ireland. Much of the first 10 days or so down the east coast was long sandy/rocky beaches interspersed with small coastal towns many used as Dubliners weekend entertainment/holiday spots with numerous deserted caravan parks full of portable housing without a single tree. N ow we’ve travelled further west there are less mobile home parks but lots of ghost estates – new housing estates built in better economic times and now sit virtually empty.
Ireland has been hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis and currently has an unemployment level of approximately 14%. There are many properties for sale but everywhere we have noticed huge multi-storey country houses which we Australians can only ever dream about owning. The country areas are very well populated much more so than Australia as the farms are very small and the land has been subdivided into very small parcels. This makes it a cyclist’s paradise as there are thousands of kilometres of small backcountry roads winding their way between small villages and larger towns which seem to occur every 15-20 kilometres.
We cycled down the Irish east coast from Dublin and when we ran out of land we headed west following the coast where possible. We’ve cycled to the most south-westerly point on the Irish mainland – Mizen Head
and enjoyed the informative displays at the old signal station, also the Queenstown Museum in Cobh (pronounced “Cove”) had a most interesting display of the history of shipping including Irish emigration. Ireland’s population was over 8 million people in the 1840’s but because of the effects of the potato famine with people dying and many emigrating the population decreased to around 4.5 million people in the early 1900’s. Cobh was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic built in Belfast, Northern Ireland and Cobh was also the town where the survivors of the 1915 Lusitania shipping disaster were brought. Approximately 1200 people died, out of 1900 on-board the Lusitania when a German U-boat torpedoed it just off the Irish coast during WW1.
In Waterford we participated in the Waterford Crystal Tour which was very, very interesting. it’s a real work of art. It was amazing to see how the intricate detail is made and how complicated the procedure of making a decorated crystal wine goblet is, let alone the 2 metre high grandfather clock on display. We will certainly appreciate how delicate crystal work is now.
We have had so many other highlights it’s hard to record them all but I’ll name a few: green rolling hills in every directions, lovely beaches, rugged rocky coastline, small friendly villages and towns, polite, caring drivers who wait until it is safe to overtake us on the narrow roads, luxurious and affordable bed and breakfasts with water views from the bed.
There is one reason that Ireland is so greeeeeeen, yes it rains a lot, but actually we’ve been pretty lucky so far, lots of heavy mist which might last all day, but most of rain has occurred at night. It’s often grey and threatening with ominous clouds but the fronts have moved through quickly though it’s been great having a goretex jacket as there’s been some very blustery days too. The weather is a bit like Melbourne sunny one minute then light drizzle for a few minutes but really we’ve been really lucky and have even been rewarded with some beautiful sunny days and a few superb tail winds after 4 days of headwinds.
Yesterday we had a brilliant day visiting, my sister-in-law Stella’s mum (Bridie) and two of Stella’s sisters. Stella’s mum lives in the most amazing location, high on very green hill overlooking St Finans Bay. As we arrived the mist lifted and the views out Bridie’s windows are absolutely tremendous. There just happened to be an Irish dancing afternoon in the nearby tiny village which we went too.
We’ve seen thatched roof houses, quiet harbours, magnificent churches and abbeys, decaying castles and fortresses, vertical stone circles, multi-lingual road signage (Gaelic and English), history everywhere ( thousands of years of history in all directions). There might be a town of 2000 residents but it has a massive decorated cathedral and then the next town has an even more elaborate cathedral. We visited Ardmore which is apparently where St Declan converted the locals to Christianity back around 350AD before St Patrick even came to Ireland. We enjoyed the magnificent views and sunshine at Old Head and the short sharp hills with spectacular coastal views around Ardgroom on the Beara Penisula, so many magnificent places to visit we feel so lucky to have the opportunity to cycle around Ireland. Cycling Ireland is a dream come true. Well worth considering a motoring or cycling holiday here.
So far we’ve cycled some 900 kilometres from Dublin-Wexford via the East coast-Kilmore Quay-Waterford-Tramore-Dungarvan-Ardmore-Youghal (pronounced Yawl), Cobh, Kinsale-Old Head, Timoleague-Skibbereen-Mizen Head-Bantry-Castletownbere-Gursey cable car(mainland to Gursey Island is linked by an old 6 person cable car)-Amazing coastal cycling to Eyries(rivals Great Ocean Road)-Kenmare-Waterville (Charlie Chaplin town)-St Finan’s Bay-Valentia Island-Cahersiveen.