Barry Meehan 

Dingle Skellig Family / Leisure Cycling Routes 4k & 18k

"Travelling to the Dingle Skellig Hotel with a car load of kids, bikes and bags you will happily discover that all of your possible needs will be catered for. With a predominantly car free quayside loop, where everyone can watch local fisherman unload the days catch, before cycling along to a harbour look-out point to keep watch for Fungi the Dolphin, there will be smiles all-round.

Younger kids will probably be happy to cycle on back to the ‘Fungi kids club’ in the hotel after this. But for teenagers with plenty of energy and not yet ready for the ‘Teen Klub’, or leisure cyclists looking to extend this short route they can pedal on down a few hundred meters beyond the harbour car-park, take the first exit from the small roundabout and within about three kilometres a left turn will bring you onto a very quite country road that provides a wonderful variety of sights.

Passing through coastal woodland vegetation, on the way to the fabulous sea view, there are many other captivating sights to take in. A small ancient graveyard where an old Chapel remains, then on to the entrance to Eask Tower, all the while watching farmers going about their daily work, milking cows and rearing sheep in the most picturesque of settings. Even though this is a dead end, the spectacular view across the bay to Dingle Harbour and the Dingle Skellig Hotel itself are well worth the trip out on the bike.

If you are out there early enough you might even bump into this Cockrell as he makes the announcement to all in the bay below that the time has come to awake from their slumber.

After an early morning cycle, you can look forward to the renowned buffet breakfast. This you can enjoy whilst looking back out across the bay to where you have already been, whilst planning the rest of your day ahead.

Dingle Skellig Cold Buffett breakfast. There's a hot one too !
The Dingle Skellig Cold Buffett breakfast. There is also a hot one, if you still have space !

The families bikes will be safe in the secure Bicycle Storage room."

Dingle Skellig – Slea Head 44k and 62k Routes

"Upon arriving at the Dingle Skellig Hotel and taking a look at the secure Bike Storage Room, my first instinct was to put on my cycling gear and head out for a spin on my bike. So that’s exactly what I did.

Dingle is a very picturesque town built around a harbour on the Atlantic coast. This means that there are some great coastal cycling routes, the most famous and spectacularly scenic of which is ‘The Slea Head Drive’.

The entire ‘Slea Head Drive’ as signposted is just under 60k around but there are a number of options to shorten this and also a few ways to lengthen it too, if you so desired.

I cycled it twice during my stay at the Dingle Skellig Hotel and really enjoyed it both times.

The first afternoon I noticed that as soon as you leave the town the traffic becomes pretty sparse. I was expecting a busier route but as the majority of drivers are there to take in the scenery no one is in too much of a hurry, so most cars travel at ‘the speed of bike’.

Dingle bay itself is beautiful but Ventry beach came soon after, so I turned down to the car park for a look. The view of the calm blue ocean framed by the Kerry mountains in the distance is breath-taking and you really have to put training out of your mind and remember to take it all in.

Around the corner is Páidí O’Sé’s pub. A larger than life figure who transcended the sporting field when alive, his shadow still casts a wide arc throughout the country. Approaching the pub a ‘Crew Cab pick up’ came against me with ‘warrior’ emblazoned on its side which would have been a good vehicle for Páidí himself to travel in.

On I pedalled with the sea now coming into view down below.

On a bike you are up higher than in a car. This means that when all that anyone in a car might see would be a green hedge you can look over and see the view beyond. And what a spectacular view is to be found on the Slea Head Drive.

Whilst you can stop anywhere on a bike there are also plenty of ‘look out’ points for cars to pull in.

At one such ‘look out’ point a German couple came over as I was taking a photo and offered to take one of me with the spectacular backdrop behind. It turned out that the guy is a cyclocross racer with a fleet of bikes, so we had plenty to chat about.

On next to Slea Head itself, where a monument looks out over the sea towards the Blasket Islands. The view is breathtaking.

Then on a little further past a few stone cottages where I noticed a farmer and his two daughters who appeared to be in their twenties wrestling sheep as they tried to treat the animals. An unusual sight but one that embodied the hard working, no nonsense ethic of the area to perfection.

Around the next corner came Coomenole Strand way down below. This is one of those places that you look at and think ‘I must go down there some day’. I decided that today would be that day, as ‘some day’ may never come, and descended the steep narrow roadway to the picture perfect cove. So picture perfect in fact, that David Lean chose it as a location for filming during the making of the famous ‘Ryan’s Daughter’.

Climbing back up the very steep narrow road was more difficult but I was soon back out on the main route once again, with still very little traffic in sight.

On past Dunmore Head with yet more spectacular views and down through the village of Dunquin I was tempted to stop for a coffee. There are many coffee shops all the way along the Slea Head Drive but this afternoon I was looking forward to dinner in the Coastguard restaurant at the Dingle Skellig hotel so kept on moving.

One place worth stopping, especially if you are travelling with the family, is the Louis Mulcahy pottery shop and cafe. Last time there, our kids loved the chance to make their own piece of pottery which was a great new experience for them.

I stopped at Clogher head to take in another scenic wonder of the world and moved on once more towards Ballyferriter. This is a good point at which to turn for a shorter route back to Dingle, but I wanted to keep on exploring so pressed on ahead.

Noticing a sign for ‘Wine Strand’ curiosity got the better of me and I detoured left. Arriving at the picture perfect pier I noticed two couples picnicking on either side. An older couple sat amongst the tall grass whilst the younger couple were down on the pier where the guy was casting a line for fish. Both couples seemed relaxed and content. The calming waves of the ocean were having their effect.

Back on the road again where I could go straight on for Dingle, which I would do two days later, but now instead I turned left following the signs for The Slea Head Drive and Wild Atlantic Way once more.

Suddenly I heard the familiar sound of chain on sprockets and looked behind to see a young lad on a road bike coming tearing up alongside. We chatted a bit as our journeys coincided. Seán Brendaun is a good cyclist but an even better footballer and was on his was to under fifteen football training with An Ghaeltacht. A player with a club whose famous players include Páidí, Tomás, Darragh and Marc Ó Sé and Dara Ó Cinnéide wouldn’t have it any other way.

After bidding farewell to Seán Brendaun at the gates of his football club, I continued on and met more of his club mates travelling against me. Most on bikes instead being chauffeured by car which was great to see.

Mount Brandon was now rearing up ahead of me and with it’s stature of being Irelands’ second highest mountain I was glad to be turning right, back towards Dingle. A long flowing descent followed that brought me back in to town and on to the Dingle Skellig Hotel once more, where I now had a good appetite for dinner in the Coastguard restaurant overlooking the bay. But first I would have a quick swim and jacuzzi to revive myself for plenty more cycling the following day.

Two days later I did Slea head for a second time and even though it was the shorter 44k route it was just as spectacular. Especially as at 6 am I did not meet a single car and the only traffic was a fishing trawler that shadowed me as it headed out to sea."

The Dingle Skellig 112k route
"The sun was shining down upon the Dingle Skellig Hotel as I set off for another day of exploring what the Dingle peninsula has to offer cyclists. The plan was to visit Inch strand and come back via the Connor pass whilst taking in all of the majestic surroundings of the spectacular Kerry coastline.

Just out of Dingle I swung left along a deserted back road that travelled parallel to the main Dingle – Tralee road. The mountains ahead rose dauntingly up from land to sky but at least this road turned right and skirted the foot of the sleeping giants.

Eventually I was back out on the main road again, but not for long as a sign for Inch Strand in the direction of Castlemaine brought me back down to the coast once more. And what an impressive way to do so. Skirting through a small ravine the vast expanse of the Atlantic ocean presents itself with Irelands highest mountain, Carrauntoohill far off in the distance across the bay.

Inch strand itself was picture perfect and a nice place to stop for a coffee if you are making a day out of the cycling route.

Back on the road again and soon I spot a familiar looking jersey up ahead. The green, black and white of this years An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly cycling team is always easy to pick out. Having been in Calpe in January when the team received the full kit I had not seen it very often on the roads of Ireland, other than when being worn by Sean Kelly himself.

I drew up alongside to discover that the cyclist, Dennis, works for An Post in Tralee. A man in training for this years Ring of Kerry is a good man to meet on the road, so we chatted away and the kilometres to Castlemaine passed by quickly. As is usually the case when meeting a cyclist anywhere in Ireland, you will have a number of mutual acquaintances and this too makes for friendly conversation.

We parted in Castlemaine and I continued over Sliabh Mish and on down to Tralee. The first big race of the season, The Lacey Cup, crests this climb too, but all you see is the wheel in front. However, when out for a leisurely spin you get to take in all of the impressive surroundings which is much more enjoyable.

Skirting the town of Tralee I detoured slightly to cycle the canal path to Blennerville. The gravel surface is OK for cycling and the sight of the windmill up ahead draws you in.

I stopped for lunch at the petrol station in Blennerville when I saw the tables and chairs outside. Coffee and a nice roll was just what was needed. Then along came Matt Lacey who was in getting petrol. The Lacey Cup is named after his father, and his son Sean, has been the most prolific winner of the race. We had a grand chat about cycling, and then my lunch break was over and it was time to hop back on the bike again.

The road out of Blennerville is a long drag with a dead surface but within a few k’s I was warmed up again and the view out to my right distracted any struggling my legs were trying to convey.

Straight on through Camp without taking the main road to Dingle left turn, and the traffic once again disappeared. Castlegregory is a famous beachside village that is well worth a visit but I saw a sign for another beach and once again curiosity took hold of my handlebars and off I set in search of another stretch of paradise. Aughcashla beach was deserted in the mid-day sunshine.

The day was moving on and so was I. The Connor Pass beckoned as I ran out of water. I couldn’t remember any shop from this point on and knew that in temperatures now exceeding 23 degrees water would be vital to making it over Ireland’s highest mountain pass. My thoughts were focused on this when I suddenly noticed a guy washing his car beside his house. I pulled in immediately and asked for a top up from the hose. ‘I’ll do better than that’ he said, and in he went with my bottle only to emerge with it full of cool spring water from the fridge. Irish people are great to help out a stranger under pressure.

The road grew quiet as I emerged from the trees at the foot of The Connor Pass and tried to find a rhythm for the climb. The road is wide until the final third where it narrows to barely the width of a car as it cuts meanderingly through the cliffside. A waterfall came and went almost unnoticed at the beginning of the narrow section. Glancing to my right I caught sight of the spectacular view down into the valley below and off out to sea. The Viewing area at the summit was busy, and it was easy to see why, with such an amazing vista way off down below.

What goes up must come down. I was quickly back going again and travelling at speed, now with Dingle in my sights down below. The descent is wide and very fast with gradual bends and clear visibility for hundreds of meters ahead. It is as safe a fast descent as you will find in Ireland. That is sure to bring a smile to any daredevil cyclists face.

Back in the Dingle Skellig Hotel and Spa I decided to try the outdoor hot tub. Sitting there alone, overlooking the bay with a great days cycling in my legs and the sun shining down, I wondered how close this must be to paradise.

That evening I decided to sample the local seafood platter in the Blasket Bistro which was an absolute treat and rounded out the perfect day."

You can book the Dingle Skellig Online Here or by calling 1850 200 560 (Lines open 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday) 

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