The day began all soft, white and fluffy, the care of decoration extended to the lavender trash can liners and the whole country smells delicious, like fresh cut grass and a soft floral undertone. The thing about Ireland is that it makes breathing a delight, it was hard to resist the temptation to hang your head out the window like a puppy. Fortunately the narrow roads and Matt’s borderline maniacal left-hand driving helped curb that impulse. But at Maggie O’s it smelled even better as the comforting whiff of coffee and sweet French Toast seemed to lift you out of bed and carry you downstairs. (On a side note, we did not receive a discount to stay here or anything.) The morning was off to a great, relaxing start and we were looking forward to enjoying the fresh spring air when Maggie recommended renting bikes and taking the boat from Ross castle to cycle the Gap of Dunloe.
I nipped upstairs and got caught doing a bit of work, and when I nipped back down… well the morning morphed into a more frantic pace.
“Oh the boats leave at 11! I’ll call them and tell them to wait!” Maggie’s lilting accent could be heard calling someone as we started running to the bike shop. Soaked in sweat and a light morning fog we jogged up to O’Sullivan’s. The bike rental was more relaxed as the store owner casually chatted to us about sites to check out and adjusted the seats. Feeling a little frantic we finally set out for Ross Castle where I promptly began gawking at it, caught my elbow on a stone wall, wrecked my bike and tore my coat. Covered in sweat (and blood and dirt in my case) we pulled up to a red wooden boat, filled with angry Germans, their bikes, a cheerful Irish boat captain and a black dog. I don’t know exactly how late we were, but I do know it was enough to make eight Germans give a very hearty attempt to use their eyes to shoot death rays at us. The captain wisely seated us in the front of the boat with the dog so we were separated by the bikes and we set off!
The boat ride up through the lakes is beautiful and soothed the animosity, or maybe that happened when we all climbed out of the boat so Matt and the other guy in the boat could pull it through a shallow channel. Let’s just say that looked like hard work from the bank where I and the German ladies were watching, haha.
We didn’t hesitate grabbing our bikes and setting off toward Lord Brandon’s Cottage in a hurry when we finished the lake crossing though, you know, just in case. I would recommend taking your own snacks as the food here was a little overpriced while it under-delivered.
From here there is a scenic ride up a GIANT MOUNTAIN. I came up with a pretty genius plan for dealing with the unending uphill when I thought we were alone on the path I held onto Matt’s backpack while he pulled us both up the hill, cackling and encouraging him to go faster. I was quickly shamed out of this plan however when a deep chuckle carried down to us and an Irish man called out, “Hol’ on lass, I’ll get a whip for ya.” Face flaming and giggling madly, my tattered pride carried me up the rest of the way. The view at the top is awesome and sweetened by the rush of endorphins and the knowledge you can coast the rest of the way down through a beautiful soft green valley with a river chuckling alongside. The path is narrow and you have to share it with vehicles, horses, other bicyclers and walkers going in both directions so ride carefully!
Upon reaching Kate Kearney’s Cottage we stopped for a couple pints. I don’t know if it was the pints or the lack of a map but I think we got lost getting back to Killarney Town. We ended up riding through a field of sheep, along a busy road and through an Irish park and it took a couple hours but honestly I don’t know if that’s how it’s supposed to go.
I would definitely recommend taking the boat either the direction we did or you can also go in the opposite direction, taking the boats in the afternoon. We opted for the morning boat ride so that we had plenty of time in the afternoon to check out Ross Castle and the Muckross Gardens, which didn’t exactly work out anyways.