The Celtic Ross 26k
"I rushed my breakfast in The Celtic Ross Hotel this morning. It was delicious, but the sight of two swans gliding gracefully along the clear water as I looked out from my breakfast table made me impatient to get out on the bike and make the most of my last day in West Cork.
I began with a short 2 kilometre roll down to the pier, beside the estuary that presents itself in front of the hotel. A lone fisherman cast out his line in competition with a few ducks, swans and water hens. This roadway is popular with walkers, joggers and casual cyclists who all enjoy the fresh sea air along with the incredible scenic delights.
A small pier indicates the point of return. A small English registered camper van had set up base for the previous night but there was no sign of life as yet at this hour of the morning.
A return along the same roadway was just as enjoyable before I began my ‘proper’ spin for the day.
Once again, I was immediately on quiet back roads as I left The Celtic Ross in my wake. The roads were deserted and meandered gracefully around twists and turns, up and down.
The road less travelled is always my favourite so a back road, off a back road led me to a short climb that could just as easily be described as a staircase. Luckily the view at the top was worth the effort. On the way down I had to duck under a fence placed across the road to direct cows into a milking parlour. Obviously the farmer wasn’t expecting any traffic, that’s how quiet this road is. A little further on I came across the remains of what must have once been a palatial home.
Now heading in the direction of Glandore once more I detoured into a field to check out the Drombeg stone circle. Worth a look if you are in the area.
Just around the corner I looked out to sea again before rounding the next corner to look down upon Glandore and Union hall.
In Glandore I spotted a sign for The Strand and my curiosity getting the better of me ventured down the narrow path and steep steps to check it out with my bike over my shoulder.
The silence of an unoccupied small inlet, save for the lapping of small waves coming ashore as gently as is possible , was incredibly relaxing. If anyone ever felt a little stressed, then this is the place to come to.
The silence was then disturbed by a soft padding behind me. I turned around to see a black Labrador flick a green tennis ball from his mouth towards my foot. I fell for the bait and threw the ball. Once was not enough for my new friend who was pretty quick at playing fetch.
Back on the road once more I passed the bridge to Union Hall and proceeded on towards Leap. With a large body of water on the left of this inlet and the forested hills across in the distance I was reminded of a smaller version of The Puget Sound up near Seattle in the USA. A planned diversion back inland before Leap went out the window as I wanted to take in every bit of this spectacular part of Ireland.
In the village of Leap itself I turned right onto the main road for a few hundred meters before another right brought me back onto the hilly backroads once more. Save for two tractors I met no other traffic for the next 12 kilometres. The road climbed up high enough to display much of West Cork out before me, before descending back down to sea level at the Celtic Ross Hotel once more.
For a short route this had plenty of challenges to offer along with some stunning scenery. With over 508 meters of climbing it would have a difficulty rating of 5/7 for this distance."
The Celtic Ross 57k
"Leaving the scenic surroundings of the Celtic Ross Hotel I turned right in the direction of Skibereen. The sun was reflecting its bright rays against the clear blue water and there was very little wind. A perfect day for a cycle.
Within 500 meters a sign for the Wild Atlantic Way directed me left along the quiet road towards Glandore. There was little or no traffic to be encountered along the rolling road which presented a few challenging short sharp climbs to awaken my rested body.
Passing by a small family home I noticed that an enterprising member of the household had set up a stall selling their home made produce to those passing by. I was tempted by a pot of strawberry jam but decided it may be a little too heavy for my jersey pockets.
As the road swept down into Glandore I noticed people stopping up ahead and decided to join them. Perhaps someone had spotted a whale or a dolphin I thought to myself. As I drew up alongside an American from Wisconsin I turned towards the water to gat a glimpse of what was bringing traffic to a halt on a Tuesday afternoon in West Cork. There was no Dolphin, nor was there a whale. The cause of the stopping motorists was the incredible view out across the bay that would actually take your breath away.
I began chatting to my compadre from Wisconsin and asked how he ended up in Glendore. The reply came that his neighbour had been to Ireland a few years back and had told him if he was going to see any part of Ireland he had to go to Glandore, and here he was, on a day when the sun was shining high up above in a cloudless sky.
I asked what he thought of his friends advice and was told ‘I’m gonna buy him a crate o’ beer when I get back’. I took this to mean that he was pleased with his friends recommendation.
On I went along the coastal roadway and crossed over the narrow bridge to Union Hall. Another picture perfect fishing village that looks out across the Harbour towards Glandore.
Next on the agenda was the road towards Castletownsend. Still following the signposts for the Wild Atlantic Way I also encountered Route 1 of the Skibereen cycle trail along with a big bin of colouring pencils.
Castletownsend was another beautiful fishing village with a big hill and a telephone box. These are a rare sight in Ireland to the extent that people now feel the need to take a ‘selfie’ if they see one. My bike is caught up in that craze too.
A few K later a small sign caught my eye. Castelhaven Castle sounded like a good name for a castle and the signpost indicated that it was just 1 half mile away so I took a detour. The half mile was straight down a steep windy road, something the signpost didn’t indicate. A ‘I hope this is worth the effort’ moment was had but then I rounded the final corner and just went ‘Wow’
The Castle is more the ruins of an old Church and graveyard but the location is incredible. I was alone except for an Englishman and his two friendly dogs. When the time came to get back on the road he mentioned his good wish that her hoped I had my Weetabix this morning to get back up that hill on a bicycle. I had Flahavans porridge, the perfect fuel for any mountain and was soon back on the road towards Bawnlahan.
The incredible thing about this road is that whilst one minute you are in what feels like a forest with land stretching out ahead for miles on end, a few bends of the road later the clear blue Atlantic is stretched out in front of you all the way to America. Then the road turns again and you are once again surrounded by a vast array of colourful roadside shrubbery.
No words typed on a computer screen can convey the air that surrounds you in this part of the World. A combination of salty seaweed filled air, mixed with the crisp freshness of a forest of trees creates an olfactory sensation that is very unusual. It is like a sweet smelling perfume version of vicks and olbas oil. The air smells so fresh and clean that it entices you to take deep breaths in through your nostrils. Then it opens and clears your nose enabling you to take in even more. I can see why a city dweller from the USA would be literally blown away by it.
A last view out towards a fishing trawler on the horizon satisfied me as I turned back in towards Skibereen. Again, a very quiet rolling road brought me towards another of Irelands most picturesque towns. A choice was now available to turn back towards Union Hall and enjoy the backroad quietness or to check out just how busy the N71 from Skibereen back to Rosscarbery would be.
I decided to check out the main road option although I am also attaching a map of the quieter option to cater for all tastes.
The road surface is like a billiard table. Really smooth. There is a hard shoulder for about half of the journey but the volume of traffic was not a problem on the narrower sections. Passing through Leap gives the option to fur night and return via backroads again but I continued on. I had started so I would finish.
Cars passing out indicated and gave plenty of room. The pace of life is a little more sedate down here and drivers seem a bit more considerate of cyclists. So if you want a quick smooth way back from Skibereen to Rosscarbery the main road is OK, but the back road part will make up part of my Celtic Ross 25k spin tomorrow, so I will let you know what that is like then."
The Celtic Ross 111k
"Leaving the Celtic Ross Hotel this morning I had two choices. I could turn left, inland towards Dunmanway or I could cross the causeway, turn right and make my way along the coast. Checking the forecast informed me that the day would begin overcast and clear later, so I turned left and inland.
In this part of the country once you begin at sea level there is only one way the road will go, and that is up. The first fifteen kilometres or so were mostly uphill on the road to Dunmanway. However the surface was good and the traffic was almost nonexistant. It was so sparse that I began to count. In forty minutes I met two cars, one van and a tractor with a quad in the trailer behind. This is a safe, quiet road.
My planned route veered right in the picturesque Dunmanway. For the next twelve kilometres or so I was on a busier main road. Busier, rather than actually busy.
The twin villages of Ballineen and Enniskean were my way point for turning right, back onto a quieter road once more. Then a left turn brought me into the hills far away from all signs of traffic bar the odd sheep or cow.
The crossroads of Ballinascarty produced an interesting piece of memoribillia. A bright shiney stainless steel replica of a model T Ford caught my eye and I went to take a look. It turns out that William Ford, the father of Henry Ford left this crossroads back in 1846 in a horse drawn carriage bound for a boat that would take him, his parents and siblings on a one way trip to America.
William’s son Henry built his own motor car. Then he teamed up with a racing cyclist called Tom Cooper to build an 80 Horsepower racing car which actually won a race.
Now he had a taste for success and set about building an affordable car for the masses and the Model T was born. The rest, they say is history but an interesting insight into Henry Fords determination and desire for success can be found in this story.
When the Ford motor company was up and running he called his engineers into his office one day and asked them to design an eight cylinder engine cast out of one solid block. The engineers, who were the best in their field told him that it was not possible. Fords’ reply was that he did not care if it was possible or not, just do it. The engineers went away and after many failures Ford got his way and they succeeded. This determination and persistence played a big part in the success of Henry Ford.
Back on the bike I headed cross country once more towards Timoleague. Another picture perfect part of West Cork and the location for my joining The Wild Atlantic Way again.
A footpath/cyclepath joins Timoleague to Courtmacsherry and on a day like today is one of the most beautiful places on earth to ride a bike.
It was now approaching lunchtime so I was on the lookout for a coffee stop. A sign for the golden pheasant cafe caught my eye and I rolled in through the garden entrance. This is one of the most incredible cafes that I have visited. It is a cafe, a gift shop, a garden walk and an avery all rolled into one. I sat outside soaking up the surroundings and enjoyed every minute of it.
Coffee break over it was time to get back on the bike and ride the roller coaster up and downs of the coastal road towards Clonakilty. Again the traffic was almost non existent and I met as many people out picking blackberries as I did cars or vans.
I found a pub with my name on it, but didn’t venture inside. The flat harbour road route to Clonakilty was more appealing.
Skirting Clonakilty I was soon back on a road with a constant sea view out to my left. I wondered to myself if passengers on the QE2 would have seen as much of the ocean as I did today.
A steady stream of picturesque coves, inlets and beaches culminated in ‘The Long Strand’ just three kilometres from my return to the Celtic Ross Hotel. The water looked so clear that I was tempted to go for a swim in my Assos shorts. I thought the better of it though and just took a photo instead.
Back at the hotel I bumped into a group of English motorists in some beautiful classic convertibles. They too had travelled along The Wild Atlantic Way today. Their total distance for the day was just over sixty one miles. I had travelled further on my bike :-)"
You can book the Celtic Ross Hotel Online Here or by calling 1850 200 560 (Lines open 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday)