Cycling Ireland’s Slea Head Road: The Best & Worst Day of Our Lives

We are not tremendous athletes.  And yet, on Monday July 15, 2013, we decided to cycle around Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula.

crossing

Andrew had read that this was the best way to see the peninsula, plus we could visit a brewpub, so he was sold.  From our lodging at O’Neil’s Bed & Breakfast, bellies full of Bailey’s-drenched oatmeal, we set out.  Our first stop was Foxy John’s Pub, which also functions as a hardware store, and a bicycle rental shop.  Here we obtained excellent road bikes and helmets, and set out to find Slea Head Road.

We had a bit of a rocky start.  The pub is in the middle of Dingle, and there are many hills.  We were at the top of one.  And, my bike was a thing possessed.  I could’ve sworn it was an unbroken pony or something.  It took off down the hill in the midst of traffic, with me seated upon it, screaming at the top of my lungs.  There were many different gears on the bike, but I had no idea how to use any of them.  I careened down the hill, and at the bottom came to rest on a sidewalk out of harm’s way, and I looked at Andrew.  “I’m not so sure I can deal with forty kilometres of this.  I think we will die.”

Well, we pressed on.  We eventually got the hang of it.  These are extremely high-quality road bikes.  They are magnificent steeds.  They do not compare to our Canadian Tire bargain-bikes, let me tell you.

IMG_5657Perhaps the most gorgeous sheep pasture on planet earth.

It didn’t take long before we realized we were biking along the most stunning cliffs.  Because we were on bikes, we could easily stop and go check it out.  If you’re driving, there’d be no place to leave your car, except at towns or whatever.  But the Slea Head Road is a narrow one-lane.  I dunno… maybe people DO leave their rental cars on the side of the road around there.  But as a North American prairie-girl, I felt that there simply wouldn’t be room to do that — and with bikes, we felt pretty footloose and fancy-free to wander about into sheep pastures and whatnot.

bikes resting

One of the first things we encountered was a donkey whose fence came right up to the road, and he was standing right there, and as we struggled to bike up the hill and went past him, he looked right at us and brayed a tremendously loud, angry, gum-flapping, “EEEEEE-AWWWWW!”  Oh man, that donkey.  It was hilarious.  You really should’ve been there.

We soon stopped at a stone restaurant (incidentally titled Stonehouse Restaurant & Cafe) for soup and bread and ice cream and to give our bottoms something different to sit on, and visited Dunbeg Fort, which was right there.  I found it endlessly fascinating, how they built all these structures with loose stones.  That sounds sarcastic, but come on, look at the pictures — it’s just beautiful and amazing!

Next we stopped to see the “beehive huts” — stone structures that looked like beehives, I think maybe the monks built them?  Ha, look at me, too lazy to look it up.  Anyway, we began taking breaks everywhere, the scenery was so utterly breathtaking… and our butts were sore.

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At a rest stop (above… I think you can see the sleeping giant, too) where cars could also pull over and park, a lovely English couple insisted on taking our picture for us.  They also insisted we remove our helmets and I remove my sunglasses.  I was terrified I’d look haggard, but as it turns out, it’s impossible to look terrible on Dingle Peninsula.  I challenge you to try.  There’s just something magical about that place!

crossing prettyCrossing at Slea Head.

The scenery continued to grow ever-more stunning.  I know I’ve already used that word in this post.  Whatever.  It continues to apply, and honestly I just can’t help myself.  Coupled with the very old stone houses and bright green grassy hills dotted with sheep, it was completely spectacular.  We were so happy!  And… getting so sore!  Ha.

IMG_5841

At last we made it to the brew pub… and they weren’t serving food at the time we arrived.  Oh.  BUT!  The beer was most delicious.  Win!

We then encountered Dunmore Head.  There were a bunch of tour buses stopping here — which is weird because I didn’t remember them passing us, but whatever — anyway we stopped because hey, they were all stopping.  And I found the scenery riveting.  And I found this path utterly beguiling and told Andrew that I MUST follow it.  He said he’d guard the bikes and rest while I did that.  And so, I trotted out on my little solo adventure, and brought the camera so that I could show Andrew what I had seen.

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Following the beguiling path.

IMG_5828Selfie!  (sort of)

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A wistful picture of where I wished I would go… but I felt the pull to return to Andrew.  I had gone far enough.  I missed him.

We biked on!  Stopped at a hotel for supper.  Might’ve been in Dun Choain, or Ballyferriter.  I have no idea.  But the food was delicious.

IMG_5856

Nope, no food pictures here.  WE ATE IT ALL.

So sore.  Biked on.  Saw ruins of monk’s ancient dwellings.  Wow!  Biked on.  Saw ancient church built of stone, found it amazing!

church

Wow!

So sore….  Biked on.

All this time, we’d been steadily climbing higher and higher.  But now, at this point, things suddenly changed.  I think we coasted downhill at a super-speed for about 10 kilometres, all the way back to Dingle.  I was terrified on my possessed steed, so I actually rode the brake the entire way, but Andrew just went for it.  It was a very twisty, turny road, so I lost sight of him entirely, and it was just me, gliding along in the midst of the greenery, clinging to my insane road bike, taking it all in and hoping Andrew was having great success.  He was.  I was happily reunited with him after several kilometres of phenomenal coasting.

At one point one of us may have fallen off our bicycle and into a bush, but it was merely incidental, and there are no pictures to document this highly amusing event.

IMG_5675When we arrived safely back in Dingle and returned our bikes and helmets and slowly walked back to O’Neil’s, Andrew said, “This was the best and worst day of my life.”  But mostly the best.  (The worst was just how our butts felt.  It was TOTALLY worth it.)

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2 responses to “Cycling Ireland’s Slea Head Road: The Best & Worst Day of Our Lives

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