The Ride: About 32 miles, 1,500 feet of climbing. For a map, click here.
The day begins with easy riding along the coast with beautiful views of the mouth of the Kenmare River and the cloud shrouded peaks of the mountains on the Kerry Peninsula across the water.
About 15 miles into the ride, we stopped for lunch at Teddy O’Sullivan’s Pub, which was run not by Teddy O’Sullivan but Helen Moriarty (a descendant of Dr. Morriarty, perhaps?). The pub was beside the Killmacalogue harbor pier and offered fresh steamed mussels and soda bread … mmm!
The afternoon began with some relatively easy rolling countryside. But about 23 miles into the ride, near the village of Eyeries, we began the first of a couple of breathtaking climbs, and I’m not talking about the views, though those were good too.
The first was a climb of about 200 feet over one mile, the second about 300 feet over two miles.
But once over the top of the spine, it was a fast, 300-foot, 1.5 mile plunge down into Castletownbere, a town far different from any other we would stay in during our six days of riding.
Castletownbere is a working fishing village. It doesn’t cater to tourists, and there are few of them. It’s billed as the largest white fish port in Ireland – whatever that is. But the seafood chowder and grilled salmon were pretty good.
In the middle of town is pub called MacCarthy’s that figures prominently in McCarthy’s Bar, a novel of travel and personal discovery written by an English Irishman named Pete McCarthy, whose rules of travel include “Never pass a bar that has your name on it.”
Well, I’m not related to any McCarthy’s, but I considered myself bound to the rule because I have a friend named McCarthy. Well, that’s as good an excuse as any, isn’t it.
Those of us used to America bars with blaring music, crowds trying to shout over the music, video games and at least three flat panel, HDTV’s in eyesight from any point in the bar will find MacCarthy’s either a disappointment or a charming departure.
The front room of MacCarthy’s (the bar pictured on the cover of the book) is a grocery store. On the right is a wall of staples – detergent, sugar, flour, pasta, canned goods. On the left is a refrigerated case with eggs, milk, cheese and some fish and meat. On the right is beneath the shelves of staples is a throwback to an earlier age – a betrothing booth where families used to sit down and has out the fine print of arranged marriages.
Through a partition toward the back is the tavern itself – a small bar and three or four tables that friends and strangers alike crowd around. Altogether the place can’t seat more than about 20 people, but they still find room for live entertainment – traditional Irish music beginning about 9:30 or 10 at night.
It seems like everything in town is owned by one of three families – the McCarthys, the Murphys and the O’Sullivans, especially the O’Sullivans.
They’re in the construction business, the real estate business, fishing, auto repair, oil supplies. There’s a lawyer and a dentist too. And as I learned the next day, their history runs deep.