If you’re feeling up to a challenge and want to see some of the most rugged and remote scenery in Ireland, this journey is a real rite of passage. It can be broken into sections of course, but we decided to do a two-day trip staying overnight in Kenmare. Here’s an account of our adventure.
We parked our van at Coomhola, close to Ballylickey in West Cork. Setting off along the Borlin Valley towards Kilgarvan, the signpost says 21km, but it’s actually 27km! Not a terribly hard cycle as there’s a fine flat start and then a fairly gradual pull up as the valley opens out to your left, with Gougane Barra to your right. We hit it on a gloomy day, which then became quite wet, but it was still stunningly beautiful.
Our long freewheel down from the top into Kilgarvan, on beautiful roads possibly because of the proximity of a certain family of politicians (: was slightly spoiled because the rain had become heavy at that stage and our clothing wasn’t quite up to the mark. However, we had a fine hot snack at the filling station in Kilgarvan and completed the 11km along the busy-ish R569 to Kenmare. Drivers were courteous, however, in spite of the June bank holiday rush. We stayed in Abbey Court Bed and Breakfast on the outskirts of Kenmare where Brendan kindly dried out all our wet gear. Walking the 1km in to town for a lovely meal in No 35 that evening was just perfect.
The next day we were refreshed and ready for the real challenge. Taking the N71 from Kenmare towards Glengarrif , about 9km out that road you’ll see a turning for Bonane Heritage Park and the Priest’s Leap Pass. Signs for the Priest’s Leap are easy to follow, including some hints as to the difficulty level of the climb!
It’s only the last couple of kilometres to the summit that present the real difficulty and we’re not sure if our heavier-than-usual panniers or the thinness of the air up there contributed to our relief when we reached the top. Coupled with that relief was exhilaration of course! You would need to be a confident cyclist and if you see a car approaching on the particularly narrow and steep parts, an unlikely enough event, we would recommend stepping off your bike in good time.
Don’t let us put you off, however, once you’re prepared. The views up there are extraordinary and Bantry Bay is laid out before you as you get to the top. Our day up there was murky enough for anything and yet the beauty was beyond compare. We can’t wait to do it again in better weather. The journey back from Kenmare to our van at Coomhola was only 25km. We didn’t even need the defibrillator that was there on the wall!!
Feel free to contact us at City View Wheels if you’re intending to do the trip and want to ask any more advice about it.