Tralee to Dublin

Neil Armstrong

I had wanted to postpone booking my train back across Ireland and also the ferry journey via what was described in Ireland as “The Celtic Sea” from Dublin to the mainland, until after I had arrived at the furthest point west and could be certain how many days it would take to cycle to the railhead at Tralee. I then discovered that a potential problem was that for part of the journey I would have to reserve a place for my cycle well in advance as the number of places available on each train was limited. When I was at Killarney I booked the train from Tralee, leaving an extra day spare in case I needed it which, unexpectedly, turned out to be a sensible decision.

I had intended to take the night ferry to Liverpool, having previously used that service from Liverpool some years before. It was a vehicle ferry and the price included a shared cabin and an unlimited breakfast with the type of food that lorry drivers would like. I tried to book online but found that this was impossible as you had to book a vehicle at the same time and a bicycle did not count as a vehicle. I telephoned the ferry booking office but they refused to accept a booking for a bike. The result was that I now had to stay overnight in Dublin because the train I had booked from Tralee did not arrive until the middle of the day. Subsequently, I remembered that, last time, I had booked my bike as a motorcycle!

I arranged with my helpful host to leave my cycle at the B&B until I needed it later. I had to pick up my ticket from the station so went first to collect it in case of last-minute problems. I also needed a battery for my watch which had given up a few days before. One of the pleasures of the ride was that time had seemed irrelevant but, sadly, I was now back in the real world.

I asked my host for directions to the station which turned out to be through the maze of streets in the centre of the town. Sensing my confusion, my host pointed out a very tall church spire and said that if I aimed for that it would take me to the station. So, instead of going down the main road, l crossed it and was immediately in a park and heading along Neil Armstrong Way and soon passed a sculpture commemorating Neil Armstrong’s visit on the 18th April 1997 to open the Kerry County Museum Exploration of Space exhibition. After Neil Armstrong‘s death, it was decided to create the pathway to the museum to commemorate his visit, and the sculpture with an exhibition board had been moved there. (see photo at top of post). After passing the modern looking Museum and the rest of the park, I threaded my way through the attractive streets in the centre of Tralee aiming at the spire which, it turned out, overlooked the station.

I then searched for a shop to change the battery. Neither of the two watch shops could remove and replace the sealed back of my sports watch but both directed me to a watchmaker who they said would certainly be able to do it. I tracked him down in a small shop and he said that he had the appropriate battery and would do it straightaway. It was a fiddly job and there followed another of those moments when we sat and philosophised about the pleasures of Ireland. He would not take anything for the work which he said he had enjoyed doing for me.

The pattern of ferries to Holyhead involved main ferries early in the morning and the evening, and a fast ferry in the middle of the day. I had arranged to stay with friends in Chester who had invited me to pop in if I was in the area. When I found that I would have to be returning via Holyhead, I booked on the midday ferry.

The train journey turned to be as beautiful as I had hoped. The route headed south towards Killarney past the hills and then west to Mallow (where I had cycled on my way across Ireland), to connect to the Cork – Dublin line. I passed near a number of places I was familiar with including the level crossing at Rathmore where I had had a long wait. I was slightly worried about the connection to the Cork -Dublin line as there was not much leeway in the time shown but the train was waiting and the connection seemed quite a social occasion between the train staff, travellers and relations. Soon after leaving Mallow, to my surprise, I received a message on my mobile phone. It was bad news from Stena Ferries: it was likely that tomorrow’s midday ferry would be cancelled
because of bad weather and I was advised to rebook onto the early morning or evening ferry. I would now have to catch the morning ferry or else I would be stuck in Holyhead all night.

I had been looking forward to my overnight stay in Dublin and a leisurely start next morning which had fortuitously been arranged for me. I had been due to represent Britain in my 80 to 85 age group at the European Championships at Ibiza in the Sprint Duathlon in October. However, I thought that I had no possibility of being fit enough for an international by then so had informed British Triathlon who had then told the team captain, Joan Lennon, who I had got to know well at previous internationals and had great respect for. She had been in touch to say how sorry she was and, when I sent her a link to this blog, she emailed me to say that her family in Ireland would be more than happy to put me up for the night and that her sister Margaret and husband David lived
in Dublin. I telephoned them and, when I explained the circumstances, Margaret replied enthusiastically that they would certainly put me up and would enjoy hearing about my travels. She gave me directions to cycle from the station to their house which
was in easy cycling distance so I would have plenty of time in the morning to cycle
from there to catch my midday ferry.

On arrival at Hueston Station in Dublin, I set off to the address which was in a residential area on the other side of the centre and found myself in the evening commuter traffic heading along the Quays.  I recognised a bridge where I had once stood trying to cross the road and watched the heavy traffic with amazement; I was now in it! I found, as in London, it is not as bad as it looks when you are part of it and there were not the adrenaline charged cyclists jumping the lights as there are in London, they were far more courteous. I heard a bus behind me hoot but I dared not take my eyes of the road ahead. It hooted again and then pulled alongside, slowed down and the driver leaned out to point out that the strap holding my baggage had come loose – it could have got in my wheel and brought me off into the traffic.

Getting out of the centre, I started worriedly rehearsing what I would say about my early start and as soon as I got into the house I unburdened myself. Perhaps recognising my anxiety, David said with a smile, “Don’t worry I will drive you to the Docks and will wake you up at 5 o’clock”. What a relief!

A scrumptious meal was already waiting and we spent much of the evening chatting about a variety of interesting Irish and British subjects, but avoided Brexit. Margaret and David had the same relaxed and friendly manner as Joan and I felt really at home.

Dingle to Tralee

This is an accident!
Milking cow

Woke up feeling very relaxed as it was an easy ride today which started by returning along the main road to Annascaul, then over the spine of the Peninsula to the North coast picking up the main road to Tralee, the capital of Kerry. This is an easier route than the Connor Pass but still promises some undulating climbs which I was quite looking forward to as my last challenge.

Firstly, I had a final look around Dingle and came across these useful washing machines at the rear of the supermarket.

Just finished the next day

Although I had already ridden the next few miles before, it seemed quite different because I was now seeing the countryside, hills and horizon from the opposite angle. A difficult, winding, narrow part of the road had been replaced by a new road with a mile long cycle path. It was a pleasure to ride into Annascaul again, where I had received such a good welcome and a lot of help wherever I went. Near the South Pole Inn I went into the local shop and saw that they had a few tables on one side so I had a coffee and a bun and bought a newspaper to read. This shop had been in the Ashes family since 1916 and there was an intriguing display of photographs on the wall showing some of the history of the family, shop and High Street since then.

If you can describe this better than I do please change

Annascaul’s sense of history continued with a sculpture commemorating Jerome Connor,  born here in 1874, dying in Dublin in 1943. In 1888 Jerome, whose father had been a stonemason, emigrated to Massachusetts with his family and became a major Irish American sculptor whose most famous work was probably Nuns of the Battlefield standing in Washington D C, a tribute to more than 600 nuns who nursed soldiers from both sides in the American Civil War. In 1925, Jerome returned and set up his own studio in Dublin and, among many other works, created the poignant Lusitania Memorial in Cobn, the last stop where many passengers embarked the Cunard liner. The ship was sunk soon after leaving the harbour and included in the monument were the figures of two fishermen showing their emotion after picking up survivors and the drowned.

Jerome whole statue

Jerome Connor

Cycling up the road, there were only sheep in the fields but I came across a single milking cow and we stared at each other for a couple of minutes in mutual
incomprehension. I started climbing the pass, and the hills to the north were made more spectacular by the overhanging clouds.

Clouds over mountain

I had earlier donned my light, running, visibility wind proof which had protected me from the mist and drizzle. At the summit I stopped to view the scene ahead and remembered looking at an almost identical scene 15 cycling days beforehand, seeing the sea in the distance knowing that it was downhill all the way to the railhead at Fishguard where I would be catching the train home. Rain started to fall and, as I knew I had a long downhill ahead, I put my rain jacket on. The rain stopped halfway down and, as I took off the jacket again, I looked upwards and saw that it was still falling on the higher slopes.

The sea on the horizon

It was a scenic ride into the town with the shore on one side and, later, the Tralee Bay wetlands on the other. I also passed a lake by the road with waders feeding on the mud. Behind, more extensive reed beds became visible and then I passed the entrance to the main wetlands with directions to the main water channels and reed beds with pedal boats, cafe and observation towers. There was a notice advertising guided tours. Fortunately, I had no difficulty finding my Bed and Breakfast as it was on the way in but still a convenient walking distance to the centre of the town.

It is hard to see the waders

I received a great welcome and care was taken to ensure that my bike was properly secured under cover. After settling in, I headed into town to the restaurant recommended by my helpful host, to find that it was so popular that there was a queue for tables. I tried my sometimes successful trick of walking inside to see if I could spot a place on a counter or end of the bar where I could sit and eat, but without success, and was told it would be 20 minutes to half an hour before a table would be available. It looked very attractive inside with happy diners and the food on the tables looked delicious. At it was the first place I had come to and, by then, it seemed a long time since I had eaten, I decided to look around the town. There were the usual places to eat,
MacDonalds etc. but I wanted somewhere Irish but did not find anywhere until I was back near the restaurant again and saw a pub almost deserted and which served traditional food in a separate restaurant area. I checked the first restaurant again but there are still a long queue so returned to the quiet pub.

The pub had a large standing area and it seemed strange that it was so empty, particularly as it was clear from the number of beer pumps that they were set up for large numbers of customer. I spotted a poster advertising FRESHERS FORTHNIGHT with a list of gigs which were being held at the pub but none that night – 12th. I mentioned to the barman that it seemed very quiet and he said they were not so busy this year, and that the students now bought cheap cans of beer from the supermarket, which they drank first, and did not buy much in the pub. It had been interesting to have just read in the newspaper that the proportion of students that did not drink alcohol at all
had been increasing year by year and was now about 25%. The Irish stew was good.

freshers cut.png

I walked back through the town and it had seemed very quiet without any sign of students. I returned to the bed and Breakfast realising that my cycling tour was now over but anticipating an interesting journey looking at the countryside on the train I would soon be taking right across Ireland to Dublin on the East coast.