We said our goodbyes to Ger and Christine and set off on a wet morning to continue our journey south. We reach a town called Kinsale in time for lunch – Paddy has fond memories of sailing here including competing in lots of races. A gap in the rain allows us enough time to have lunch on the quayside where we repeatedly have to scare away a persistent seagull who is intent on stealing what he can of our sandwiches.
The plan was to reach Clonakilty by late afternoon where we would be meeting up with lads Noel, Paul and Shane. The last time we saw these guys was in a hostel in Dushanbe, Tajikistan where we spent a great evening swapping stories and beers having crossed paths – us heading west to Uzbekistan on the bike and them east towards the Pamirs in their 1.2l Nissan Micra – part of the mass organised Mongul Rally challenge. We reach Clonakilty which, is a really lovely town, in plenty of time and so decide to cycle down to the nearby Inchydoney beach which is a stunning sandy paradise. The headland used to be an island before the British built a causeway which over time has silted up. After a nice stroll on the beach Paul picked us up in his van from a nearby supermarket and the lads were waiting for us with a pile of amazing food and the barbecue already smoking. It was an amazing evening – slightly surreal – but great to follow up on our hurried promises of meeting back up in Ireland.
The next day was a classic Irish ‘soft day’ and it was all a little miserable and damp. Not cold though and we kept our spirits up as we made our way down to a lovely coastal hamlet called Glandore. The kids sailing club was in full swing in the sheltered harbour when we arrived and we stopped for a cuppa and a scone while we watched them all whizzing about in their dinghies. On our way out we stopped at the local church where there were lots of info boards containing snippets of local history including one about the mythological goddess Cliona who had three brightly coloured birds who would lull the listener into a healing sleep. She was drowned in Glandore harbour after falling into one of the three magical waves of Ireland. – Irish mythology is so epic!!
There were some horribly stiff climbs waiting for us after Glandore and we spent a hard hour grinding up them sweating into our rain jackets. It’s incredibly rolling here and we were beginning to miss the Italian Alps!
If you ever spend any time in west Cork you won’t be able to ignore the red fuschia plants which adorn the hedge rows in the whole region. The plant isn’t native to Ireland being originally from Chile I think but the delicate, dangling red flowers are so ubiquitous that they have become the official symbol of west Cork.
By mid afternoon we’ve completed the rolling hill section and the rain has all but stopped as we free-wheel down into Baltimore. Here we take the small passenger ferry over to the island of Cape Clear. We get loaded on along with all the packages, post and other passengers and head out through the misty and rain towards it. We couldn’t see much and when we arrive into the small harbour a new weather front rolls in. Nevertheless we decide to take a bracing walk around the island and end up climbing the steep hill in the centre and hiking across the fields along an old foot path to where the church stands at the top. Soaked, we stomp back to the harbour by which time the rain has stopped and the clouds are beginning to part.
We cook our pasta on the quayside next to the village shop and get chatting to some of the local kids who are jumping into the water from the jetty. We’ve heard quite a bit of Irish being spoken here which is great to hear. After dinner we head over to one of the two island’s pubs for some Guniness before cycling round to the other harbour to hopefully find a free camp spot. There’s a convenient patch of flat ground right next to the water and despite the ‘No Camping’ sign and the island’s only official campsite staring down at us from the other side of the bay we pitch up our tent on the grass behind some handy rocks. It’s so dark by this point anyway that no one can see us and we fall asleep to the waves crashing on the rocks below.
The bad weather blew itself out completely overnight and we woke to a beautifully clear, fresh morning. We pack down quickly, push the bike down to the beach, put on some coffee and then brace ourselves for an early morning swim. Stunning (!) but we didn’t stay in for long – mainly due to the fact that two mischievous crows started to attack our breakfast cereal.
Wanting to capture the beautiful morning I reach for the camera from the handlebar bag and to my hotter realise it’s not there and I obviously left it in the public toilets on the other quay. Luckily it’s still early and we still have an hour and a half before our ferry leaves for Schull. I leave Paddy to clear up and run round to the other harbour to investigate. The camera isn’t in the toilet and the shop connecting to them isn’t open for another two hours so I wonder down to the quay and the friendly crew of the Baltimore ferry start ringing round the houses (literally) to find out who might have it. After speaking to Nellie who cleans the toilets and Tom who owns the shop we discover that Neal indeed had our camera and promised to drop it down to me before the second ferry was due to leave at 9:30am. The whole episode was a lovely way to finish off our time in this little community before heading onwards to Schull.
It was a beautiful morning – making up for the misty crossing the night before. The Fastnet lighthouse could be clearly seen on the horizon and as we headed into the beautiful harbour of Schull we were met with clear blue skies. Paddy was back in the town where he grew up and we wheeled the tandem off the ferry to explore the town.