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More memorable rides
Cycling in Ireland, 1981
In the summer of 1981, five of us decided to go on holiday to County Kerry. Mark, Ted, Annie and Jayne travelled there by car (well, Annie’s Austin Allegro, actually) and I decided to cycle. After work on Friday 8th May 1981 I cycled to Chelmsford station, travelled by train to London, cycled from Liverpool Street to Paddington and, from there, caught the train to Fishguard. The overnight Ferry took me to Rosslare, from where I caught another train to Waterford.
I had hardly slept on the Ferry. I planned to cycle to a campsite just west of Killarney so my bike was laden with my tent, cooking gear and clothes for a fortnight. I rode from Waterford to Killarney, just stopping for the occasional Mars bar. This was 9th May 1981 and Bobby Sands had died on 5th May. As I rode through the towns and villages, the lamp posts had black flags hanging from them. As an Englishman, I felt just slightly uncomfortable about that. I felt pretty good when I reached Killarney, but, when I hit the mountains of MacGillycuddy's Reeks, the going got tough. I have no record of the location of the camp site - on the map above I have shown it at Fossa, but I can remember cycling through the mountains, so it may have been further south. I pitched my tent and, goodness, did I sleep well that night!
We had booked a cottage at Portmagee for the first week. Annie, Jayney, Mark and Ted travelled over on the Saturday night ferry and arrived at the cottage on the Sunday afternoon.  I cycled from the camp site to Portmagee and met up with the others that evening.

When I arrived at the cottage, I couldn’t help noticing that my knees were aching. They carried on aching for the rest of the holiday and, on and off, for the rest of my life!

The first week of our holiday was amazing. We explored the coastline, watching the seals at very close quarters each evening , took a boat trip out to Great Skellig to see the puffins and gannets, ate well, met some interesting locals and generally chilled out.

We hadn’t booked anywhere to stay for the second week, so the other four set out in Annie’s Allegro to look for a cottage on the Dingle Peninsula. We agreed to meet in Dingle that evening, and I set off again on my bike, looking forward to the ride but slightly concerned about my knees.

When we all met up in Dingle, the others had found a cottage at Dunquin on the far west of the peninsula, so I cycled there and we spent another fantastic week, including two days and one night alone with the rabbits on Great Blasket Island. (That night we were probably the most westerly five people in Europe not on a boat)!
At the end of the holiday, I cycled to Tralee and caught a train back to Rosslare.

The ride took me across the Conor Pass, the highest mountain pass in Ireland. I can remember the long, relentless climb, followed by a fast, winding descent in rain and mist, overtaking several cars, the cautious occupants looking startled by the mad, wet cyclist zooming past.