Thursday, 20 August 2009

Days 109 - 115 - of emerald fields and surging seas

A week off work usually involves disruption of a training programme. This week was no different, but was no let up in the intensity of exercise as I swapped running for cycling on a biking holiday in the south west and south of Ireland.

The cycling started gently - I had to go into central London on Thursday and then cycle across to Jarlath's. We loaded the car and set off to South Wales for the first night in a B&B in Fishguard in the Pembroke National Park. We had a ferry booked for the next afternoon and we planned to do a morning's cycling along the coast. The B&B was opulent. I had read a few reviews of the place, and the reality surpassed even the glowing recommendations online. We arrived, and were invited to take tea in the conservatory overlooking a stunning sunset over the Presili mountains and the surrounding fields. Tea was presented on a silver tray with cake and biscuits. A very nice touch. The place was beautifully decorated, and the next morning the breakfast lived up to the promise suggested by our evening snack.

We slotted in a 20 mile cycle in the morning, heading to the coast and then uphill back to Newport and back to the B&B. We had a few minutes to shower and then set off for the ferry.

The next twelve hours were the most stressful points on the trip. The ferry was delayed, plunging straight into the Stygian gloom of a fog smothered Irish Sea. The gloom and mist had shrouded the whole area, including the whole of Ireland. Not only was the ferry late, but traffic crawled out of Rosslare on the single lane road that snaked its way west through towns clogged with traffic. No dual carriageways until Cork, and no bypasses until 2010.

We finally made it to Schull after 11pm, rain lashed and soaked as we unloaded the gear. Only getting to sleep and waking up to a view across the harbour, fields and mountains restored spirits. It didn't seem like we would have the weather on our side with the morning damp and grey. We cycled west from Schull along the south of the Mizen peninsula, marvelling at the views across the Atlantic. By the time we reached Mizen Head, the most south-westerly point in Ireland and the site of Marconi's radio experiments, the sun had chased away the mist, and had burst through a suddenly blue sky. The landscape was transformed from beautiful to simply stunning - shimmering seas in a kaleidoscope of blues crashing frothing white waves against sharp granite cliffs. The place lived up to its name, the emerald isle shining a translucent green from lush, verdant fields.

The afternoon's cycling was excellent - we pushed hard and managed a decent 21 - 22 km/h average, pushing hard up the ascents and enjoying fast descents.

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