One of the drawbacks of deciding to cycle around Ireland is that, well, you have to cycle quite a bit. Today was one of those days that I had planned to cover a good amount of ground; ended up being a sightseeing trip of about 160 km, but what scenery! While the lads headed for the hill route, taking in the sights of the Healy Pass (which, apparently, they thought was ‘class’), I decided to keep to the coastal route and round the western extremities of the Beara Peninsula before heading east towards Kenmare. With the sun shining and the Fuschia, Montbretia, Heather and Purple Loosestrife in full vibrant bloom, and the sea a deep blue, the landscape was picture-postcard beautiful. Actually, I realised my iPhone camera really couldn’t begin to capture the essence of the place.
Allihies and Eyeries are two small villages nestling in sheltered valleys at the western extremity of this peninsula. A patchwork of small fields, steep hillsides and colourful houses built on elevated sites present a very typical ‘traditional’ scene. Until not too long ago, small-scale agriculture supplemented by fishing would have been the dominant economic activities of the area, but you now sense that farming here is only barely hanging on. But for nature conservation, this is not what we want to see. In the recent past the kind of farming practiced here was good for nature, and was what we call High Nature Value (HNV) farming. The meadows would have been alive with the sound of calling Corncrakes and the hum of insects. The Choughs that I heard calling as I cycled past clearly still find the area suitable for them, as the short sward they depend on is still maintained by grazing animals. But for how long, I wonder? The European Commission has recognised the value of this HNV farming and the policy allows financial support to maintain this marginal activity, but defining HNV and putting in place significant measure to support it in Ireland has proven difficult. It would benefit both the farming community and wildlife of these peripheral areas if this could be done more speedily.
Glad to leave the short, steep testing climbs of Eyeries behind, my cycle along the northern side of the Beara Peninsula provided stunning views over the Kenmare Bay, a site of prime importance for nature conservation. It looked across the bay to Caherdaniel, our destination for the night, but yet I needed to cycle eastward to Kenmare. But the route wasn’t difficult so I could make reasonable headway. Had intended to stop at Uragh Woods, up a valley to the east, on a quest to find the Kerry Slug. But as Clare Heardman introduced it to us at Glengarriff Woods, I decided to push on.
Met up with Bella and Felix at Kenmare for a bit of urban experience; enjoyed the sights of a vibrant holiday destination, full of people enjoying themselves in the sun. The ice creams we had were good. The last leg of the day’s cycle took me westward along the Ring of Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way to Caherdaniel. Glad to reach my destination after a fantastically scenic trip.