A Cycle Tour, 1st April 2008

At 8am I go downstairs for breakfast but find no sign of life in the drab dining room. The kitchen door is locked, and a glance through the glass shows no one is afoot. Shrugging my shoulders, I go upstairs and start packing my things: the house is nothing special, and I can do better elsewhere.

A few minutes later there’s a knock on my door and a shout from Veronica’s husband, Tom, that it’s 8 o’clock. I open the door and tell him I was downstairs at eight but he wasn’t. He apologises: he’d gone to a site meeting at the house they are building, but if I’ll come down now he’ll get my breakfast., which he does, after a fashion.

After such an indifferent show it’s time to weigh up my options. I can move to another place in Dingle, or stay here one more night. It’s a good day for walking – bright and sunny with a stiff breeze from the west – so I could continue along the Way and revisit Dingle by bus in a few days if I still want to see more of this locality. After a stroll round town I decide that the best thing I can do is stick with my original plan to go sight-seeing, and if I want to move out I can do that in the afternoon. So I hire a bike from Paddy’s, which costs me a mere ten euros for the day.

I set a course over the pass that leads to the northwest, towards the village of Murreagh and Smerwick Harbour, another large natural anchorage sheltered from the prevailing wind. All around is evidence of ancient occupation, set in spectacular scenery that seems almost to flow smoothly down from brown mountains across broad vales of grassland to rising again to form towering sea cliffs.

Gallarus Oratory is a remarkable stone structure built thirteen centuries ago. It keeps out the weather simply by the careful placing of angled and overlapped stones. The interpretative centre shows a helpful video that explains the post-glacial evolution of the landscape and the works left by the early human immigrants.

On the road to Ballyferriter I encounter my first serious hikers, a pair of German women walking the Way. They are relieved to have good weather after several wet days as they anxiously set a fast pace towards the foot of Brandon Mountain.

Cycling into the wind and up the hills proves hard for me, but my tour ends well with a walk over a high pass from Dunquin, an exhilarating descent to Ventry, and the byway into Dingle.

Mount Eagle & Cruach Mhartain beyond Ballyferriter

Ballydavid Head and Brandon Mountain from Ballyferriter

Gallarus Oratory, probably 8th Century

A fresh day at Clogher, with Great Blasket in the distance

Dinner at a seafood restaurant called “Out of the Blue”, which operates on the principle of serving only fresh fish caught locally (and no chips!) is excellent. Two of the most boring Americans I’ve ever heard sit at the next table. They’ve “picked up” a polite Japanese couple outside the door, and they spend their time inflicting their droning opinions about the English language. I stick my nose into James Joyce’s “Dubliners”, but I don’t have the energy for music, conversation or Guinness, so I go early to bed.

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