Galway Mayo Sligo and Achill Island
We've got the length of Cavan anyway but the weather isn't too promising. Cavan is much bigger than we expected and rather cleaner too, but we soon exhausted all there was to see. It's about 11 o'clock and we are retiring with high hopes of tomorrow.
George, the general factotum of the Farnum Arms Hotel knocked our bedroom door about 8 a.m. and told us that as it wasn't a good cycling morning we'd be well advised to take the 9.15 a.m. 'bus as far as Longford. He told us he'd order our breakfast and so we wouldn't waste any time. We didn't arrive until 9.45. Our bicycles were put on the top; the radio blared forth " Music While you work". All along the road we picked up more bicycles which were put on top of ours and we couldn't help wondering what ours would look like when they were brought down at Longford. At Arva a lady and gentleman got in and sat on the opposite side from us and their conversation which we couldn't help hearing and the fact that they were studying maps and had bicycles, we gathered that they were touring too. We arrived in Longford too early for lunch. It looked quite a busy market town, but we were anxious to get as far on our way as we could so we didn't take time to see much of the town. We asked a civic Guard the nearest place, on our way to Athlone, where we could have lunch and he told us Ballymahon was half way and we set off. Meta's bicycle had acquired a rattle and her carrier had got badly knocked about so we'd to do some first aid before we got far and then the rain came on and we'd to climb into our cycling capes. It was showery and very cold all the way to Ballymahon and the wind was on our faces. The country was uninterestingly flat with little to relieve the monotony save the poppies and daisies growing in the fields. We weren't sorry to sight Ballymahon and our lunch. Whilst waiting in the hotel we chatted to one of the residents whose hands were covered in chilblains due to the cold weather. After lunch we went along to the cycle shop to have Meta's cycle properly fixed. While in here we could hear the wind howling and were told it was blowing from Athlone so we knew it would be no picnic from here on. We battled on to Athlone passing en route Goldsmith's "Deserted Village", but though we looked hard we couldn't find any trace of "Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain". Athlone appeared quite busy with the usual Saturday crowd about. Our first intention had been to stay .the night here but decided that as we'd come part of the way by bus we could make on to Ballinasloe, so we bought a loaf and some cooked ham for our tea and started on our way once more. We hadn't gone far until the rain came on again so we went up a wee lane and discovered a lean-to shed. We brought out the loaf and whacked off great big doorsteps with a blunt knife and buttered them with the butter that we'd pinched from the Cavan hotel the previous day, knowing that we couldn't buy any as its rationed here too. We'd had our flasks filled with boiling water at Ballymahon so just dropped in our little tea-bag and were soon enjoying our tea. We'd to shelter here for the best part of an hour and it was still raining slightly when we made up our minds to continue. We arrived in Ballinaslow at McCarrolls Hotel as the lady and gentleman who'd been in the 'bus came out of it. They had taken another bus to Athlone and cycled from there. This was a very nice hotel: each was given a separate room and after coffee and a rest in the lounge we retired for the night.
Were awakened early by the Chapel bells and the sound of the feet of the passers by going in their thousands to early Mass. Breakfasted about 8.30 and set off immediately. At first the wind was barely noticeable, the road much better than from Longford to Ballinasloe and the country around slightly more interesting but still flat. We had gone about 8/10 miles when the rain came on again, not heavily, but like a Scotch mist. When hunger prompted us we began looking for some kind of shelter to have our lunch. Coming to a farm house with a cart shed at the side we asked permission to go in here. The farmer came in and after he'd gone we got out our flask, dropped in the tea bag and attacked the by now stale loaf. At this early stage we came to the conclusion that we did not like Eire bread. When about to start we heard a peculiar grunt and a more peculiar sucking sound and an investigation found, behind a corrugated iron partition, an enormous pig and a wee pig wallowing away in its trough. However, as they were occupying separate tables in our dining room and it was pouring heavily outside we couldn't afford to be too fussy, so with this jolly company and lots of hens and chickens and an odd turkey or two we proceeded to satisfy the pangs of hunger. The hens seemed to enjoy the bread more than we did so we let them have it. The farmer came back to talk to us. He had a peculiar brogue and we couldn't make out all he was saying, but he seemed to blame the bad weather on the war. We gave him a few pickles of tea for which he was overwhelmingly thankful. Black market tea in Eire costs 32/- a lb. When the rain showed signs of slackening we set off followed by his blessing..The wind had increased as the rain slackened and we had it on our faces to Athenry, but as our direction from here was still the same we had still to continue the push to Galway. About 4 miles from Galway we got our first glimpse of the sea and the road from here really did begin to get more interesting. We were blown to bits on arrival in Galway Square, considered the hotels and decided on the Royal. Could hardly sign the register our hands were so stiff, but after a wash and a good tea of fresh salmon and salad we were ready for anything. We found Galway very interesting with its mixture of old and new. Our first visit was to the Cladagh, passing on the way the Spanish Arch. The Claddagh is the oldest fishing village in Ireland and the houses at one time were all built higgledy-piggledy and indeed there are some left standing yet, but on the whole few thatched cottages remain, the majority having been replaced by little houses that one might see anywhere. We walked on to Salthill where the sea was very rough and it felt very bracing. Had an ice here and got the 'bus back to Galway. After a rest in the lounge and a chat to the manager who informed us that a lady and gentleman had just arrived, all in, from Ballinasloe, we set out in quest of supper which we got in a near-by cafe. Returning to the hotel we found our friends of the previous evening waiting for us in the corridor. They were simply exhausted with the wind and had just had a meal and were waiting to speak to us before going to bed. Unless the wind died down they intended staying in Galway. They couldn't understand how we'd ventured out, even for a walk, after riding for nearly 40 miles in such a wind. We felt quite tough as we said "Goodnight".
MONDAY: 11th June
Everybody had been expecting great things from the new moon which rose on Sunday night, but when we got up there appeared to be a little change in the weather. After breakfast we did the shops in Galway, but saw nothing in the way of novelties that we could buy, and the price of clothes, etc., were prohibitive, even had we been inclined to buy anything.The River Corrib attracted us and we went along to the Galway Fisheries, but were disappointed in not seeing any salmon as it had been too rough for the fishermen to get out. As usual we found ourselves in the very back of the town so made our way back to the more civilised quarters, bought tomatoes for our tea at 9d. each and a small loaf, then went back to the hotel for lunch. When Meta's bicycle was brought round we discovered a nail in the front wheel. It was fortunate that we were so handy to a repair shop and hadn't had to start in on the road somewhere. While it was being repaired we chatted to the lady and gentleman who had definitely made up their minds to stay a few days in Galway.Leaving Galwayin a drizzle and a headwind about 2.30 we proceeded by the shore of Lough Corrib for quite a bit, with distant views of the Twelve Pins. We were soon able to remove our capes as the rain went over and at Oughterard the sun came out. This was a beautiful little spot with a delightful big river which must be a joy to anglers. Though only a village there were three or four big hotels here, so it must be a big angling centre. Our road led by the side of the river for a little, then through a variety of bog, mooreland and mountains. Here we met the full force of the wind: it hurled down on us with fury and it was with the greatest difficulty that we could push our bicycles along, even walking. It was perfectly beautiful country with lakes, dotted over with little islands, but unfortunately we couldn't get appreciating it for the awful wind. For a bit we had it on our side and though we did our best to stay on the road we always found ourselves into the ditch. We were nearly out for the count and ready to drop when we found a more or less sheltered spot, got out our precious flask and our tomatoes and had a cup of tea. Feeling better able to carry on after this, we got back onto the road again, but the wind seemed to have increased in force and the lake looked terribly angry. We had intended making to Recess, but just when we got to the hotel at Maam Cross the heavens opened and we were glad to fall in here exhausted. We got the last two rooms, and while sitting at our tea, chatted to two girls who were on a walking tour and were having dinner. This was a very homely wee hotel and the hikers and bikers sat around the fire comparing notes until about 10 o'clock when a gentleman joined us from another lounge. He said " I believe you were cycling", and when we said "Yes" he xxx crossed himself and said "God bless my soul! Did you not know that was a gale - not a storm." He couldn't believe that anybody would have been foolhardy enough to try to ride through it. He was very interesting, having travelled a lot over the world as well as having climbed every mountain, fished in every lough and river, walked in every county in Ireland. We chatted away to him for quite some time, then he rang for a whiskey and soda and asked us to join him . When we refused and also his cigarettes he said "two saints".
We were last down to breakfast but soon made up for lost time. Our fisherman friend was quite annoyed that we didn't ask for some of the trout that he'd caught the previous day, for our breakfast, but we merely took what was given to us - bacon and egg. It would appear we are doing this tour the wrong way round. According to our fisherman friend the prevailing winds are from Sligo to Galway and so it would appear from the way in which all the trees are bending.-5-Though still stormy the gale had died down so we got on our way about 10 o'clock. Thev run from Maam Cross to Recess was beautiful, being seldom without sight of a lough or a river with theTwelve Pins in the background which were beautifully coloured in the sunlight. We were glad we hadn't tried to make to Recess the previous night for the rain and storm would have spoiled it for us. Here there are three lakes skirting base of the Twelve Pins. The road from Recess to Cliften continues by the Ballynahinch Lake which has some beautiful wooded islands dotted over it. We were fortunate in finding a cart shed on the sheltered side of the road (minus its cart) in which to have our lunch of hard-boiled eggs and more sawdusty bread. The wind was still blowing against us, but by now we'd got so used to pushing that we'd ceased to mind.Cliften was horribly disappointing. We imagined from the Guide Book that it would be a picturesque little town : instead we found a dirty, squalid village and fair day being in progress didn't enhance the picture any. Certainly it was beautifully situated, but that is all that could be said for it. We didn't spend long here but got a glimpse of the sea before proceeding on our way via Kylemore to Leenane. It had begun to get very warm and we soon had to discard our coats. To our amazement the wind ceased to blow and we thought we'd been transported to another world. The scenery all around was magnificent. We went through Moyard and Letterfrack which would be good places for anglers with their rivers and loughs. The Pass of Kylemore was thrilling. The sun was shining brightly, the top of every mountain was clear and every lough was blue. Dotted all over the country were rhododendrons growing wild and in full bloom. Coming to Kylemore Castle we turned our bicycles up the drive in quest of tea. The view from the terrace of the castle was wonderful: the lake so blue and the mountains in the background so colourful.. There was an air of tranquility about which made one long to remain away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Going inside everything was most spacious. We arrived in the dining room and had a seat at a table along with a young chap who was reading a book. A nun came to take our order and when she went away our friend began to read an extract from his book "Ireland on £10" which he'd found in the library. He'd come to the part dealing with Kylemore Castle and informed us it had once belonged to a Manchester cotton merchant who got into money difficulties and was forced to sell.Some Benedictine Dames of Ypres had bought it (being bombed out in the last war) and had started a boarding school and kind of hotel in it. Up till two years ago men were not allowed to sleep on the premises, but now this has been done away with. The fireplace in the library had cost £2,500 being some special kind of marbel hand carved. After tea of nice home-made bread and jam we went along to view the library and fireplace. Certainly the latter was very handsome but I shouldn't like to pay that for it. The view from this room was breathtakingly lovely. We did a bit more sight-seeing, then got under way again.The road continued through the Pass of Kylemore by the side of Lough Macarrigeen and Lough Fee with rhododendrons blooming in profusion, then along Killary Bay down to Leenane. This is past description and surpassed expectations.We arrived at Leenane Hotel in time for a wash before dinner. We were placed at the table with two other Belfast people - brother and sister - and just when we'd finished the first course our friend from Kylemore joined us. He was as surprised as we were. The other two apparently had met him beforeand started chaffing him about where he'd been. They kept making suggestions about where he could visit, one of them being Clare Island. One could be taken over by boat from Louisberg for £1. and tips. He looked meaningly at us when he said "If there was someone else to share expenses it would be worth while", but we didn't rise to the baitas we'd no wish to ride the waves and maybe be marooned on Clare Island for days on account of the storm. After dinner we went a walk along the Galway Road, leaving it by a wee path along the side of a river up into the mountains. At all the little whitewashed cottages arum lilies were in full bloom and as we returned to the hotel the sun was setting behind the mountains which rose from the water's edge. If we were disappointed in Clifden Leenane, Killary Bay and Kylemore had more than repaid us.
Our plans were via Louisberg to Westport, but we now felt we wouldn't like to leave out Achill Island and we didn't see how we could take in Louisberg and Achill, so after chatting to a man at the hotel who told us that the road by Louisberg was very rough with the possibility of burst tyres and the certainty of a head wind, we decided by the direct road to Westport and from there to Mallaranney. If the other road was more lovely than the one we came through we'll go back and do it over again. We went through the Erriff Valley with the Partry Mountains on the right and the Sheefry Hills on the left. As we drew near to Westport we could see Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay, the latter with little islands dotted over it. The going to Westport was easy with the wind in our favour for the first time.The shops in Westport were closing for the half day when we arrived and we were just in time to buy some cooked ham and a loaf for our lunch. We'd omitted to get our flask filled in the hotel at Leenane so decided to call at some house on the way to Newport. Abut three miles along the road, with the wind in our faces, we stopped at a house. Here was a young girl and a kiddie of about 5 years. In conversation we discovered that the child had been born in London but they came over here during the time of the first bombing. We were amazed to hear that until she had got married this girl had lived all her life on the island of Innish Sheer: her husband all his on Clare Island: her husband all his on Clare Island, and until they went to London they'd seldom been on the mainland. She had brought the kiddie back and the two of them lived with her parents on Innish Sheer and she was only over on the mainland to look after her brother while his wife was away. The chat was good but we'd lost a lot of miles in front of us, so we had to say 'goodbye' and get to it again. The wind hadn't died down any during our rest and we'd quite a push for a few more miles before finding a sheltered spot to have our lunch. Eventually we found another cart-shed, but the wind whistled through it as there was no wall at the back of it, so we didn't waste any time eating and got going again. Newport seemed quite a nice little town with a grand river, but we only stopped long enough to ask directions to Mallaranny. Such a wee narrow street we'd to go down with a blind turn at the bottom. The wind was still against us and it was really hard going. Had a lot of walking to do and thought we'd better stop the night at Mullaranny as it was about 18 miles further from there to Keel on Achill.WE were walking up a long, steep hill when an old wrinkled woman came out of a wee thatched cottage and hailed us with "May the Lord Almighty save ye". We chatted to her, or rather she chatted to us telling us all about her family: how she'd had eleven children, but "the Lord had taken four of them home early before they were full of sin". She was expecting her oldest son with his Yankee bride and family over soon. What the Yankee bride would think of the modern conveniences to be had in a white-washed cottage, where one opens the door to throw out the dishwater, would be worth hearing. After receiving her blessing over and over again we continued on our way, eventually arriving at Mallaranny. Unfortunately it was misty so we didn't see it to advantage, but we were told by the Civic Guard to whom we spoke that it was very lovely: there were 365 little islands dotted over the bay. He also told us that there was a bus on to Achill at 7.30 that evening, so we decided to have our tea in the Gt Southern Railway hotel and get that bus rather than push on another 18 miles with a head wind. The hotel was very sumptuous: after a wash we sat at the fire in the lounge while waiting for our tea, then when we'd a general walk round and hadseen all there was to see we went back to the barracks again to wait for the bus. Out came our guard again to continue the conversation. An old woman passed, dressed in a shawl, singing baway. He told us that she was 74 years of age, had walked 3 miles that morning to the bog, worked all day in the bog stacking peat and was now walking home at 7.30 p.m. And she could still sing!! She was perfectly happy and contented with her lot. This guard was very interesting, telling us lots of the folk lore of the district. Amongst other things he told us was that when Achill sound was built and a railroad laid over it to the Island that the story was rife that the first and last trains would carry coffins: this turned out to be true, for lots of the Islanders cross to Scotland every year for the potato gathering and that year, while in some big building, a fire broke out and lots of them were burned to death. The first train brought the coffins of the victims back. Again when some of the Islanders were crossing over for the potato gathering the boat was sunk and the last train brought the bodies back. NO trains run now and the lines have been lifted: were lifted during the time of the trouble in Ireland: even the bridges over the rivers from Westport to Achill have been taken away. There are still traces of the tracks.The bus, of course, was about half an hour late, but we didn't mind as the guard kept us in chat and we made friends with the Seargents wee children. Such lovely children they were too, running around in their wee bare feet. When the bus eventually did come they followed us inside and had to be forcibly ejected before it started. it was about 9 miles from Mallaranny to Achill Sound: the Sound just took the bus and no more - in fact the driving mirror was damaged going over - but at last we were on Achill. We had hoped to get this into our tour but didn't dare build on it. At every pub (and there were many on the way) the bus stopped for the benefit of any of the passengers who wanted to quench their thirst or that of the driver's or conductor's. We understood then why the bus was never up to time. We arrived at Keel about 10 o'clock, had a walk over the lovely strand and a view of the Cathedral Rocks, then came back by the road and into the Hotel. This was much more modern than we'd hoped to find on an Island. The food was exceptionally good and we'd nice home-made bread. When chatting round the fire about midnight a man came from another lounge and joined us. ;ater we discovered that he was Tommy Thompson of 'Ulster Half Hour' fame. He kept us chatting, chiefly about Tommy Thompson, until long after midnight, so we called it a day and went to bed.
We know we haven't seen Achill to advantage as the mists didn't lift off the mountains all day. After breakfast we got on our bicycles with the idea of going to Keem. We called en route at the Knitting Industry place, but there were no small things to be had - just jumper suits at £5.19.6. From here the road wound uphill and when we'd pushed our bicycles up some distance we remembered a girl in the hotel telling us about a Major Freer's place on the way to Keem where we could call and have refreshments. Apparently it was the thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. Going along to the Major's in numbers, where each was provided with tea and then if the day was good folk-dancing was enjoyed by all outside on the lawn, if wet, in a room inside. There were few sign-posts in the island and nothing to tell us if we were on the right track, but we saw a house quite a distance from the road (if one could call it a road) that we were on, so turned our bicycles as if going up the side of the mountain. Arrived at the house we soon discovered it was the Major's. We'd tea, but not a sight of the man himself. The place was quite interesting and after a walk round we came away. Boy was it a stiff climb to Keem. We felt as if we were holding the bicycles up straight. Even if it hadn't been steep it would have been madness to try to ride for the road which was a series of boulders was right on the edge of the cliffs. Keem nestled between two mountains: it was a perfectly lovely wee bay, but we contented ourselves looking at it from the top of the road which was a series of boulders was right on the edge of the cliffs. Keem nestled between two mountains: it was a perfectly lovely wee bay, but we contented ourselves looking at it from the top of the road not relishing the push back up the hill. Walking our bicycles back we'd to put on the brakes to keep them from running away from us. The rain came on before we got back to the hotel for lunch and we were confined to the house until after dinner. However we decided that a rest wouldn't do us any harm and looked over the register seeing quite a few names of people that we knew. Afterwards, profiting by our morning's experience, we set out on foot for Dugort. The walk was chiefly by bog roads for about 4 miles. Never shall we forget the effect Dugort had on us. We both wanted to run away. Whether it was the low mist on the mountains, the lowering sky and the unearthly silence or not, but the whole place had a terribly eerie silence. Even the big waves coming in didn't make any noise. We both found ourselves running back again the way we'd come. We branched off this road and took another route to Keel. Peeping through the windows we could see our friend of Kylemore sitting at the fire chatting to Tommy Thompson. We'd a yarn with him and learned that he'd spent the previous night at the railway hotel in Mallranney. He intended spending two nights on the Island and then was making his way back to Westport and home to Dublin. We gathered that he was really on leave from the R.A.F. and was having a few days cycling. As we hoped to catch the 8 a.m. bus for Newport we asked for our breakfast early and retired before midnight.
Again there seemed to be a strong wind when we got up at 7 a.m. We'd breakfast, got our bicycles and took up our stand for the bus. Achill showed us glimpses of what she could be like: the mists had cleared off the mountains and the run down to Mallaranny was perfectly lovely. It seemed much shorter going back to Newport by bus than it did when we were pushing against the wind but it was after 10 by the time we left the bus. The road to Castlebar ran first by the Newport river which is nice and broad, then turned into the mountains. We'd the wind and the road in our favour and the going was grand: the country was beautiful. We kept asking the children we met how far we were from Castlebar just to hear their lovely soft brogues. When they said 'a moile' we knew to multiply by at least 3. We didn't spend long in Castlebar: it was a dirty looking wee place and it came on rain just when we were turning out of it. Fortunately it soon went over. Again we were fortunate in having the wind behind us on our way to Pontoon. The sun came out and the beautiful country was shown up to advantage. It was perfectly delightful riding between Lough Conn and Lough Cullen. Here again the loughs were dotted over with little wooded islands. We had our lunch at Pontoon, having got sandwiches from the hotel, but the old bread had got so stale that we couldn't eat them and had to give them to the birds.The country was softerhere and more wooded. It was quite a pleasant run to Ballina. We got the addresses of the two girls who lived here and whom we'd met at Downings and decided to call and see them. They bwere delighted when we called: wanted to make us tea, but realising that their 1/2 oz wasn't elastic we refused. We left our bicycles with Miss Gray and went out to view the town. It was quite a busy little place with some good shops. We had tea in the Imperial hotel which we were ready for, not having enjoyed our lunch, then went back and collected our bicycles. Our intention had been to spend the night in Ballina, but the going was so easy in comparison with what we had done that we decided we could get a bit further. We got an address from Miss Gray at Enniscrone and set off about 6.30. Unfortunately it was cold and wet when we'd had our supper so we didn't get seeing one of the famous sunsets at Enniscrone. There were only two other people in the hotel - a man and his wife from Dublin, who spoke of the war as "the emergency". We chatted to them for a time, then went to bed about 11 o'clock.
The gentle rain from heaven was falling when we were at breakfast but the blue sky began to show and our spirits rose. We left about 10 o'clock and our road was along the coast. It was quite a good road and we'd good views of the big breakers rolling in. We hadn't gone far until we'd to dismount and remove our coats. It had got very hot. The scenery all along to Sligo was lovely with distant views of the Donegal mountains. At Dromore West there was a lovely river with a waterfall; and the Owenmore at Ballysodare was simply beautiful, falling over shelving rocks. With so much rain all the rivers were very full and we saw them all to advantage. The country all around was nicely wooded with mountains and hills in the background.Sligo was quite the busiest and most prosperous looking town we'd been in: maybe because it was Saturday and such a lovely day, but it seemed crowded. We went to the Grand Hotel for our tea and asked permission to leave our bicycles whilst we did the shops. Our intention had been to spend the night here, but as we'd made better progress than we'd expected we decided to get on further, so after 'doing the shops' and enjoying an ice with whipped cream, we got to our steeds and set off to Dromahaire. The road was one of the loveliest we'd been on: well wooded with here a wee lake and there a river. Our first glimpse of Lough Gill was from the top of a steep hill: there it was shining so blue in the distance with the little wooded islands dotted over it. The well wooded road led us right round the lough when we'd a glimpse of Innishfree and try as we would neither of us could remember any more of the poem than " I shall arise and go now, and go to Inishfree". When we left the lake our road led all the way between trees to the quaint wee village of of Dromahaire. We booked at the hotel, had a wash and then a walk round and up the river. This place is of historical interest and has several ruins about. Quite a restful little spot. The hotel was more of a country inn, but not bad. We had supper after 10 and so to bed.
The sun was shining brightly when we awoke for the first time about 7 a.m. After dozing off we were awakened by the Chapel Bells and the tramp of the feet of the villagers passing on their way to early Mass. After breakfast we started off about 9.30 on the last lap. The road surface was the worst we'd struck so far and didn't improve until we were nearly at the border. It was quite pleasant scenery - something like our Saintfield Road, until we got our first glimpse of Lough Erne and here it was perfectly lovely. The morning had been too bright; the blue sky had disappeared and rain threatened all the way so that we didn't see the place to advantage. We arrived at the outskirts of Enniskillen to see the first Eire flag we'd seen on all our journey, and people flocking in hundreds apparently to some political meeting. Suppose someone was trying to stir up feeling in this border town. This was the first place we'd any difficulty in getting anything to eat and we were ravenous, only having had a few cream cracker biscuits since breakfast. We realised we were back to rationing again and had to be content with toast and margarine. We couldn't get anything substantial in any hotel until after 6 o'clock, and our train went at 6.20.Seated in the train for home we asked each other "Would you do it again?" and the emphatic answer was an emphatic "yes".
1946 The following year, and the trip continues....
FRIDAY - 15/6/1946
The longed for day had arrived and we at last find ourselves in Dublin on the first stage of our tour. We came by 5.15.p.m. train straight from work, reserving our appetites until we got to Dublin in anticipation of the good things we'd get there. However when we got to Ross's hotel it was too late to have a meal so we'd to return to Dublin with our belts pulled tight. We went to the Savoy which was crowded and noisy and nobody seemed to be listening to the orchestra, but we enjoyed our meal, then did a bit of exploring. We were afraid to venture too far as the hotel porter had warned us in a very severe tone that the hotel closed at 11,30 p.m. and if we were out after that we were out for the night so far as they were concerned. We went in quest of a 'bus back to the hotel and had quite a time to queue up but just as we were getting alarmed one came along that we were able to get into. Travelling on the same bus were Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Thompson whom we'd last seen in Achill Island. They too were going to Rosses Hotel having arrived that evening from Killarney. We'd only time for a little chat before the porter switched off the lights promptly at 11.30, but we've been told things to look for in Killarney and Glengariff, and have been warned against the ponies in Dunloe's Gap as Tommy was thrown from his mount and almost carried into a lake with his foot in the stirrups. We are now retiring wondering if we should submit to this possible indignity.
Breakfasted before 8am then set off to the station. This was only across the road. Fortunately we were early so got comfortable seats, and quite a few people had to stand who came about 20 minutes later. The train wasn't due into Cork until about 6 p.m.so they hadn't a very pleasant journey in front of them. There was quite an interesting set of people in the carriage and what with chatting, knitting and reading the time didn't seem long. We went for the early lunch which was a break too. We'd decided, if the weather was fine, to leave the train at Mallow Junction and cycle the 20 odd miles into Cork, so when we'd got this length and the sun beckoned us out we said 'goodbye' to our travelling companions and set off with high hopes. We'd a cup of tea from our flasks on the outskirts of Mallow before setting off. The road was quite pleasant and easy. We thought we might have seen the mountains from here, but there were just hills. It was interesting to come to the milestones and see how we were averaging. We did roughly two miles in fifteen minutes. Cork came up to expectations. Such a lovely city with broad streets. After a meal at the Metropole Hotel we did a bit of sightseeing of the city itself, then took a 'bus out to Blackrock. Leaving the 'bus at the terminal, we walked along about a mile to see if we could sight the open sea, but turned before doing so as it was beginning to get late. We walked back into Cork by the river: this is a lovely tree-lined walk of about 3/4 miles and it looked particularly lovely with the light reflected in the water. We have just got back to the hotel and its after 11.30, so we're calling it a day and going to bed.
SUNDAY: GOUGANE BARRA.
If all the days turn out as well as this one we'll be very content. When we left Cork it was raining slightly, but before we got clear of the city we'd to dismount and don our capes for it had come on quite heavily. and we had, once more, our old friend the headwind. A few miles on lour way we were able to remove the capes, but unfortunately not for long as it came on more heavily still and the wind was particularly nasty.. Here we suffered a casualty: while struggling into the capes again the bicycle with the flasks toppled over and one was broken. This meant that we'd now only one, but that was all we'd had the previous year, so we consoled ourselves with the fact that two would have been luxury. Before we got to Dripsey the sun had come out and the wind had more or less calmed down, or else we weren't facing it. The road lay alongside the River Lee for quite a bit: there was still no sign of mountains, but it was very pleasant along the river and at Inchigeela it was most picturesque. Before coming to the pass of Keimaneigh we left the main road and have arrived at Cougane Barra - a lovely spot, one would think at the end of the world, but what a lovely ending. There don't appear to be any houses about: just just two hotels sitting on the lake side. We chose the more modern one, but they are both owned by the same family so expect there isn't much difference. In any case we are perfectly satisfied and have just enjoyed a lovely tea of freshly cooked ham and salad, home made bread and sponge sandwich. After tea we went over to the little island on the lake. Here is the shrine and hermitage of St. Finbarr who retired here after founding the school at Cork. Its a lovely little island with rhododendrons in bloom around it. Coming back to the mainland we continued along a wee path bordered by little fir trees which led into the mountains. London Pride and another lovely purple flower like snapdragon are growing wild everywhere you look. This is a grand walk with the mountains in front and to the side and the sound of waterfalls all around. We continued until we thought we'd found the source of the river Lee, then returned the way we'd come, as there was no other way back without crossing the mountains. Two of the folks staying in the hotel are now out boating on the lake, but as it has got quite chilly we are content to sit in the lounge at the fire and chat to a Cork lady who, apparently, comes here every year just for a rest. Here comes our glass of milk and next comes bed. We are tired but happy.
MONDAY - GLENGARRIFF.
The sun did not behave kindly to us when we were leaving Cougane Barra, in fact, before we got down to the main road there was a slight drizzle. However this didn't last long though it remained dull through the pass of Keimaneigh, said to have been cut through in the Ice age. Its name means the Deer's Leap. Here the growth is marvellous, ranging from London Pride to all kinds of trees, chiefly rowan. Coming out of the Pass the view was of hills and mountains sweeping down into the valley. The colouring was beautiful. At Ballylickey Bridge we got our first view of Bantry Bay and from here on the road was perfectly wonderful, and though it was dull the visibility was good. At the top of a steep hill, overlooking Bantry Bay we stopped for lunch. Such a view we had: it seemed a waste of time to sit there eating when there was so much to be seen. It was only a matter of minutes now before we got into Glengariff as it was all downhill, but we'd to shelter from a sharp shower. We arrived in the village about 2 o'clock and experience difficulty in finding accommodation. Eventually we got fixed up at the Golf Links Hotel for one night only. We explored the immediate country and had to admit that we were very disappointed in the place. Such dirty wee shops! We went for afternoon tea to the Eccles Hotel and glad hadn't arranged to stay here as we weren't impressed. We were beseiged with offers to be rowed over to Carinish Island and eventually fixed up with one man while another old fellow with a paralysed arm who'd been pestering us too, cursed us as we were walking down the jetty. Indeed we wouldn't have liked to ask such a fragile looking person to take us out on the water at all. Well, we weren't far out until we were force to review our opinion of Glengarriff. It has to be seen from the water: its just impossible to describe how lovely it is and it was a sheer delight to sit back in the boat and listen to the old chappie's blarney. Of course he claimed that Glengarriff was much nicer than Killarney and told us we'd be wasting our time to go on there. Landing on the island we discovered terraces and porticos, Italian fountains, sunken gardens with lily ponds, all surrounded by tropical plants and shrubs. The view from the island is particularly lovely and one could spend an afternoon here easily. Rowing back to the mainland in the evening, everything was bathed in sunshine and we shan't forget Glengariff soon.We hadn't seen much of the Links Hotel before setting out, but on our return we'd a marvellous tea of fresh salmon and salad followed by jelly and whipped cream, then a walk round the grounds' As it had turned quite cold and we'd no coats we were glad to come into one of the lounges. This was filled with English people who were just discussing the island. One remarked that she thought it was too artificial set amidst such natural beauty, but we considered the jagged ring of mountain peaks that surround this lovely bay, made an ideal setting for such a gem. We didn't enter into any argument, but hearing music proceeding from the lounge across the hall we quietly betook ourselves there. Here one of four Belfast boys who also were on a cycling tour was seated at the piano, and could he play! It wasn't long before he had everybody singing. These boys had been on a cycling tour in the west last June and from what they said must have followed in our tracks. They spoke of the terrible storm going from Oughterard to Maam Cross. We endorsed every word they said. The party in this lounge hasn't broken up yet, but we consider we've had enough for one day.
TUESDAY - SNEEM
This has been a day of surprises. Firstly we never thought we'd be stopping here. The weather decided for us as to whether we should go by the Healy Pass or by the Tunnel Road to Kenmare. It was rather cold and breezy so we set off by the latter route. It was a beautiful road climbing up and ever up and each step took us into newer loveliness. Just as we were going to stretch up and knock for admission into Heaven we turned a corner and beheld a Tunnel. This was the explanation of the name. This tunnel was 600 yds long, and halfway across we stepped out of County Cork into County Kerry. Such a panorama spread before us when coming out of this tunnel: There were several other smaller tunnels too. The road from here into Kenmare was very easy, being all downhill, but we considered, but we considered that we'd well earned this free wheel having walked up about 6 miles on the other side. We'd to shelter from rain several times before getting into Kenmare, but didn't get wet. Crossing the fine bridge over the Roughty River we were nearly blown into the water sideways. The view is particularly lovely here, the estuary widening out with its many little inlets and the water mirroring the trees along the shore. In the distance the rugged summits of McGillicuddy's Reeks. We went along to the Gt Southern Railway Hotel for lunch and were fortunate in escaping a terrific shower. We took a snap from the grounds of the hotel and hope it comes out. Leaving the hotel we encountered a man we'd met earlier on the descent into the town and he greeted us like long lost friends. Wanted to know where we'd come from and whither going. He told us he was a cattle dealer and was conversant with all the places of interest.. He shook hands on leaving, and wished us 'God Speed'. We didn't get any shopping done either. We might have been unlucky in getting into Kenmare on fair day, but it just looked another dirty wee town and there seemed nothing to buy. Leaving here about 3 o'clock, we cycled for about 8 miles beside a 6 ft. wall which completely blotted out our view of Kenmare Bay, until we came to Blackwater Bridge and we turned over here. From here on the road was very interesting with tier after tier of mountain in front and all around us.We were looking for Parknasilla town as we'd hoped to put up at the hotel here, but got quite a surprise to find that there was no town - not even a village - just the hotel, and this wasn't open. A new wing was being added and the hotel wouldn't open until July.We asked a kiddie running along in his wee bare feet how far it was to the next town and he told us " two moiles". Well, "the town" was just a village. It had about four shops and three would-be hotels. We chose the cleanest looking one - Fitzgerald's and on asking could they accommodate us Mrs Fitzgerald nearly fell on our necks. "The lovely Northern accent" apparently went to her head. She couldn't get us in quickly enough. A maid showed us up to a room with running water and twin beds. This was quite a surprise for we never expected anything like this in such a tiny wee place. We were just getting ready to have a wash up when there was a knock on the door and the maid entered with two glasses on a tray. Meta said "What's that?" and was told "Wine, madam", then the maid walked to the dressing table, set the glasses down and walked out., and not a minute too soon for we nearly choked ourselves laughing. We couldn't think of anything we'd said that might have been interpreted as an order for wine. However we sipped it and discovered it to be raw whiskey. Ass neither of us fancied this on empty stomachs we poured it down the sink, never remembering the milk bottle we had which would have held it. We finished tidying up, then reeled down the stairs to tea, weak with laughter and hunger. Every time the maid addressed us she said "Madam" and at tea time she brought in one of the kiddies from the village who sang to us in Irish, Latin and English. She'd a nice wee voice. Mrs Fitzgerald told us all the folk lore of the district. Apparently there is another Carinish Island here which the Sneem folk claim to be much nicer than the one at Glengarriff. Unfortunately we won't be able to see it as the Earl of Dunraven is now on the island. It is supposed to be more natural than the other one and has sandy coves which seals frequent. Mrs Fitzgerald told us we should go along and see the Parknasilla Hotel, so we got on our bicycles, which seemed wonderfully light without the luggage, and were soon back at the hotel. Trust the Railway People to to pick a fine site for their hotel. All around rise wooded hills, and the estuary is studded with a maze of tree-covered islands. We walked a bit down the path to find what we took to be the private bathing beach of the hotel. Parknasilla is Ireland's luxury hotel and costs about £25 a week to stay in it. It must have a very mild climate here for palm trees are growing profusely in the grounds. Coming back to Sneem we went into the pub-cum-grocery-cum-drapery to see if we could get any sweets. They recognised our Northern accent immediately and ask us if we knew Rosie McAlister 0f Knock House. We explained that Belfast was somewhat bigger than Sneem and though we knew where Knock House was we didn't know Rosie. They couldn't understand why this was so. We didn't get any sweets. So far we haven't managed to run any to earth anywhere. Just when we got back to our hotel the rain came down in torrents. We are now anxious to find out if the whiskey is on the bill.
VALENCIA ISLAND Wednesday
We never expected to be spending a night here - the stepping stone to America, but here we are.The whiskey was on the house! It was only part of the welcome. We had a great send off and were glad we weren't offered any more of the beverage to help- us on our way. Mrs Fitzgerald hopes to see us back next year, not for just a night, but for at least a week. There were only two others stopping in the hotel. A young English pair who apparently were spending their time climbing the mountains all around. They departed after breakfast and didn't get back until about 8 p.m. each day. We had nearly finished breakfast before they arrived.We seemed to be encircled in mountains and it was impossible to see how we could get out of them without climbing over the top of one. However we contented ourselves with following the road up and ever up. Each step took us further into loveliness, until we came out of the Pass of Coomikista, when a view burst upon us that surpassed anything we've ever seen. All that the poets have ever written about this part of the world is perfectly justified. Castlecove nearly took our breath away. We took a snap here, but it won't take in the colouring. The strand was lovely and white, the sea so blue and sitting out was an island looking like a mountain with the spray splashing up round it.. From here into Waterville was a series of breath-taking views. Waterville itself seemed a lovely wee place. We stopped at the Butler's Arms hotel for afternoon tea - a grand hotel, under the same management as Cong in Galway and the lakes in Killarney. We did full justice to as nice a tea as we've ever got anywhere pre-war and while a sleet shower was spending itself outside we got into conversation with a lady in the hotel who seemed very interested in our tour. She asked us where we were making for and we told her eventually Killarney, but we hoped to spend the night at Caherciveen. She said "Why not go to Valencia Island: there's a great hotel there, under the same management as this one". We decided to give this consideration so she told us how to get to the island. Leaving Waterville the wind was against us, but it was a good road and we seemed to be fortunate all the way in that we just missed showers. When we came to the turn that took us to the ferry for Valencia we decided we'd go along and see if we could get over. There were others waiting for the ferry too - one of them the Minister's wife who had ordered the ferry for 6.30 It was after that when we came along and we all continued to wait in the shelter of a wall. There was no place else to shelter. When another hail shower came on we were forced into a byre We'd just about decided that we'd make our way to Cahirciveen when the ferry was seen leaving the other side - just one hour after it was due to take the minister's wife over. We didn't know whether we'd manage to get put up in the hotel, but Mrs Parson told us there was a second hotel on the island and we'd be alright. However the hotel wasn't booked out and it is a lovely place - so bright and clean with all modern conveniences. It reminds us of a boat. When we went to sign the register our hands were so cold that we could hardly hold the pen. However after a good tea of fresh grilled salmon and pure white bread and cake we soon revived sufficiently to set out on our bicycles again to see as much of the island again before dark. The island is 6 miles long and 2 miles wide. We went along a lovely road with rhododendrons in masses of bloom on one side and and well wooded country sweeping down to the sea on the other: this took us to the Wireless station and Lighthouse. We did not see the tropical gardens of Glenleam, the residence of the Knight of Kerry as we hadn't too much time. We came back by another route, past the Cable Station back to the hotel. We were struck by the substantial houses built here: expect these are for the people employed in the Cable Station. The whole village was lighted by electricity when we got back. We have just been chatting to a Dublin lady and gentleman in the lounge until past midnight. Now we've discovered hot water bottles in our beds! It is June, isn't it?
KILLARNEY - THURSDAY
We were up quite early so that we could get away as soon as possible after breakfast as we'd a long cycle in front of us. At breakfast we'd chatted to a man from Blackpool who was covering quite a lot of ground. When we got our luggage strapped on to our bicycles the Chapel bells started ringing and the Islanders were proceeding en masse to Chapel. This was some kind of Holy Day and we were fortunate in getting away from the island before the men who were responsible for the ferry went off to chapel too. We saw a horse being lowered into the boat and next a cart and wondered where in the world we'd get room for ourselves and our bicycles. However this boat was cast off and a bigger one drawn forward and we were soon seated in this, towing the horse and cart behind. It came on rain heavily before we got to the mainland and we set off encased in our capes on the way to Cahirciveen. However, it had cleared before we got far along the road and when we got into Cahirciveen we rang up the Lake Hotel in Killarney to see if they could put us up.. They could only take us for that one night, so we tentatively booked.. Cahirciveen seemed the most promising town we'd been in so far and we managed to get a few sweets here. The road may not have been just as wonderful as the previous days run, but it was extremely beautiful and quite easy going on the whole. What has struck us everywhere we have been is the arum lilies growing round all the wee cottages. The tinier the cottage the bigger the show of lilies. We have been wondering are these grown for the chapels. We also haven't seen an animated dog and we, ourselves, couldn't cycle as much here as we could in the west. It probably is the climate. On arrival at Killarney we went straight to the Glebe Hotel and managed to get accommodated here, but we have to sleep out. We are just over the way from the hotel. We've a lovely approach to our room - through O'Hara's bar. We've drawn a blank here again so far as shopping is concerned. The shops are either closed for half day, or closed for the Holy Day. We have booked for the Lakes tour in the morning which leaves the hotel at 10 a.m. This means we'll have about half an hour for shopping. The town is bigger than we thought it would be. We've had a walk around and have had supper, now to our bed over the pub!
KILLARNEY - Friday.
There was a dance in the town somewhere last night and the overflow congregated under our window and had folk-dancing in the street. This went on until after 4 a.m. and we felt like getting up and throwing water down on the dancers. This, combined with the smell of incense burning wasn't conducive to restful sleep. The noise didn't subside until nearly 5 o'clock and an alarm clock went off at 6.30 a.m. There was no sleep after this. We did a little shopping after breakfast, then up through O'Mara's with our purchases. We'd liked the arum lilies we'd seen around the cottages until now when we discovered a bucket full of them in the bathroom here and the smell of them was overpowering. We set off from the hotel in jaunting cars, sharing ours with a young English couple. They had been married a couple of years and the husband had been in the army and been billeted in N. Ireland for quite some time. They'd just had a week in the North and were spending a few days at Killarney. The old jarvey pointed out all the places of interest and the morning was beautifully bright and sunny. We had decided, when we came to the Gap of Dunloe to proceed on foot as we wanted to take some snaps and knew we couldn't do this if we proceeded on ponies. Beside, we'd Tommy Thompson's vivid picture in our memories. The Gap runs between Magillicuddy's Reeks and the Toomies and Purple Mountains and the guides demonstrated the Killarney echoes. The visibility was marvellous and everyone was in high spirits. There'd been quite a number of jaunting cars from other hotels too and all the visitors started off on the ponies at the same time. It was quite laughable to see some of them and we wondered how we'd have looked ourselves in the same position. We hadn't gone far when until we came to the conclusion that it was Tommy's own fault that he'd fallen, the ponies seemed as safe as armchairs. However we were quite enjoying our walk and a guide took us a short cut over the face of a mountain. This brought us out ahead of the party and we arrived at the Lakes just after two Australian soldiers. The various hotels send the lunches to this spot and its possible to buy tea. Most of the people sat down very gingerly for lunch and looked sorry for themselves. We could afford to feel superior now! Before lunch was over the rain had come on and it rained all the time we were in the boats going down the Lakes. This didn't tend to damp our ardour. While the tops of the mountains were blotted out there was still plenty to be seen. The boat we were in was rowed by four men - one of them with a face like a sphinx. He never smiled or moved a muscle. The foremost rower kept everyone amused with the yarns he spun. He'd bitten more than one piece out of the Blarney stone. We'd the thrill of shooting the rapids on entering the Middle Lake. This he told us was commonly called the "Lady's Lake" because the water was placid and unruffled like a lady's temper. We tried to take snaps of the shooting of the rapids, but the visibility wasn't too good and the motion of the boat won't help anything. We got out of the boats at Ross Castle and soon after the rain went over. From here we returned to the hotel by Jaunting Car. Certainly we can say that anything that has been written about Killarney is fully justified. But it is different from Glengariff. Each has an appeal of its own. After dinner we went to the pictures, then had a walk round before going to roost over O'Hara's bar. We're hoping for a quieter night tonight as we're very tired.
DUBLIN - SATURDAY
It was after 2 a.m. before the noise below us ceased but we were thankful for even that much sleep. We stole quietly away from O'Mara's bar to the hotel for our breakfast, got our luggage on our bicycles and on to the station for the 10 a.m. train for Dublin. Our Jaunting Car friends came to see us off. They were a very nice pair and very friendly. The journey home wasn't as comfortable as the one going. We couldn't get lunch on the train, but managed tea at Limerick Junction. We got into Dublin at 6.30 p.m. tired and hungry. We parked our luggage and bicycles in Ross's, then went out to look for one of the two places the lady on Valencia Island had told us we should go to for tea. We found the Unicorn and were just going upstairs when a lady put her head out of the office and spoke to us in broken English. Apparently one has to book a table before one can dine here. There was a table vacant and we were given the number and Yvonne showed us up. We were placed at a table with the queerest looking young man we'd ever seen. The whole place had a peculiar air and everybody seemed to be staring at us. Meta made the excuse that we'd better go out and look for the others so we came down the stairs as quietly as possible. However we didn't get past the office. We made some excuse to get out and bolted. The place gave us the creeps. We expected to be served stewed frogs or grilled snails. After this experience we didn't look for the second place the lady had recommended, but went to the Ivanhoe hotel and had a substantial tea here. Then we got on a 'bus and went out to DunLaoghrie. It was a lovely warm evening - nearly too warm and the place was packed. We'd only time to turn and come back again to get back to Ross's for 11.30.
SUNDAY - HOME
We slept the sleep of the just and wakened up refreshed to a lovely morning. After breakfast we got our bicycles and set off through Phoenix Park to Lucan. It was a very nice run through the Park nand we went to Patrick Sarsfield's place at Lucan and had a seat at the river, then to the Spa Hotel for lunch. This is a lovely hotel, but there were some terribly crippled people there. We came back to Dublin the way we'd come and on to Amiens Street Station. It was only here that both of us gave expression to what was uppermost in our minds - we'd done all the tour and never had a puncture! The run home was quite enjoyable. We met a friend of Meta's and chatting to her made the journey pass quickly. Did we enjoy ourselves? WE DID.