Update : 28/10/2016 : The YouTube video of Day 1 is now available for your viewing pleasure…Enjoy!
So this is Day 1 proper of my trip along the Wild Atlantic Way. The route takes me from Kinsale to Kenmare and is approximately 287 miles.
As you can see from the map above there are 3 Signature Points in this section of the route, namely :
- Old Head of Kinsale
- Mizen Head
- Dursey Island.
The Signature Points along the WAW are what have been deemed as the ‘unmissable’ along the route and to be fair they are unmissable, when you are here make sure you check them out! On my trip I managed to stop at each of these points my only warning in relation to them is – they are busy. You can go for many many miles and not see another soul, however as you approach these Signature Points everything else increases, so the traffic can get quite heavy at some points, annoyingly heavy and be aware no one in front of you seems to care or be aware of what is going on behind them.
Old Head of Kinsale :
The Old Head of Kinsale is a remarkably dramatic piece of Ireland, protruding more than 3km into the Atlantic Ocean. Located on the Southwest Coast in County Cork, it is famous for its world-class, 18-hole golf course. Nine holes play along the tops of the cliffs, but all 18 holes boast stunning views of the ocean. Long before it became a golfer’s paradise, Old Head was known for its lighthouse, established in the 17th century by Robert Reading. This is also the nearest land point to the site where the RMS Lusitania sank in 1915, after being hit by a German torpedo. Nearly 1,200 people perished in the incident. While Kinsale is a beautiful place to admire on land, it’s best seen from the sea. You can take in views of this port town and learn more about its history with a trip aboard ‘The Spirit of Kinsale’, which brings passengers across the harbour, past Charles Fort and right to the edge of the harbour where you will get a great view of the Old Head of Kinsale before returning to port passing James Fort on the way.
Mizen Head :
Located just 8km from Goleen, Mizen Head is a spellbinding place. As Ireland’s most southwesterly point, it is home to a signal station that was built to save lives off the rocky shoreline. It was completed in 1910 and later became the home of Ireland’s very first radio beacon in 1931. Here, inside the Keeper’s House, you’ll find a dynamic visitor centre that contains a café and gift shop. It also has a navigation aids simulator, displays the geology of the region, tells the story of Marconi in Crookhaven and discusses the lighthouse keepers’ hobbies. Once your tour of the visitor centre is complete, head outside and follow the path down the famous 99 steps and over the arched bridge that looks down upon the gorge. This route will take you to the signal station, which is open to the public. Along the way, there is stunning scenery to be admired, with the possibility of spotting seals, kittiwakes, gannets and choughs, not to mention minke, fin and humpback whales.
Dursey Island :
The most westerly of Cork’s inhabited islands, Dursey is separated from the mainland by a narrow sound known for its strong tides. It is accessed by Ireland’s only cable car, which runs about 250m above the sea. It can carry six people at a time (locals get preference) on the 15-minute journey. Without any shops, pubs or restaurants, this peaceful little island offers day-trippers an escape from the hustle and bustle of modern living. It is, however, home to three small villages and forms part of the Beara Way Walking Trail. Dursey is an excellent place for viewing wildlife, as a variety of birds can be seen here, including rare species from Siberia and America. Dolphins and whales can also frequently be spotted in the waters surrounding the island. On the island’s most westerly hill sits the 200-year-old Signal Tower, which boasts commanding views north to the Skellig Islands and south to Mizen Head. There are also ruins of the ancient church of Kilmichael, which is thought to have been founded by monks from Skellig Michael.
So after almost 300 miles on the route I have noticed a few things. Firstly the roads are amazing. Although some are small, some are twisty – which on a bike is obviously a good thing the surfaces are top class. It is clear a lot of money has been spent on the roads and it has certainly paid off. The numbers of tourists is easily evident, hire cars and camper vans are everywhere, this is actually one of the negatives. Secondly this route is clearly bringing in a lot of revenue. Every village you pass through on the route is a hive of activity, bars, restaurants and shops all with their own claim to fame litter the streets. Tourists mingle about everywhere, the streets and buildings are all fresh and tidy. It is great to see and means you are never far away from a pint of Guinness, an ice cold coke, a meal in a restaurant, some pub grub or a simple sandwich. Every taste is catered for along the route and everywhere is pleasant and stranger friendly. It is actually amazing how active some of the little towns and villages are. It’s brilliant. Finally, you can forget the sat nav. From starting in Kinsale (right to the end in Muff Co. Donegal) every junction is signposted with a WAW(N) or WAW(S) so you can follow the route without ever missing a turn. Unfortunately there are a few missing in Co. Sligo but I’m sure if this hasn’t already been addressed it will be soon. It is again another testament to the hard work that has went into transforming these coastal roads into one massive coastal touring route. Credit where it is due and it is definitely due here!
The Accommodation :
At the end of my Day I stayed at a fabulous B&B called Sheenview B&B – most notably it markets itself as Biker Friendly. It is. As soon as I arrived I was greeted at the front of the house and offered covered parking for the bike, a nice touch that was not standard at any of the other B&Bs I stopped at. As well as being biker friendly the room I was given was really nice and spotlessly clean, it had a great en-suite with a powerful shower. The room had no TV but there was a well quipped common room with all the facilities you would need, and what I consider an absolute must – free wifi, it was quick enabling me to stay on top of my social network updates and then watch some Sky TV on the iPad. Great. If I had to find a negative, the bed was a bit squeaky, but forgetting the squeak it was very comfortable and I had a great night’s sleep, and woke up to a great breakfast the following morning!
Now the Bad :
After a mere 300 miles on the road, a road that is going to be about 1,600 mile long I have a few points that need raised.
- Traffic : As I have said above the closer you get to a Signature Point the heavier the traffic gets, the problem is 90% of the traffic have no consideration for other road users at all. The route is littered with ‘RVs’ and ‘campervans.’ They are so inconsiderate it is actually hard to fathom! Some of the roads are small and tight but these juggernauts don’t care in the slightest. Too many have the very obvious mentality of ‘get out of my way because I’m bigger!’ regardless of who is in the right these monsters take it for granted it is them.
- Traffic Part II : ROI Learners are everywhere. That’s fine. We all have to learn, however they always seem to be alone. This practise (although once tolerated) is completely illegal, the result is unqualified, inexperienced drivers travelling these roads. They know but they don’t seem to care. It is ridiculously dangerous for everyone else, and has to beg the question if you are unlucky enough to be in a incident with one such driver will their insurance cover them? I wouldn’t like to be waiting to find that out!
- Traffic Part III : Speeds. This comes back to camper vans and another scourge of the route – hire cars. You could be travelling in a 100 kph zone. The traffic will doing 50kph. You could be in a town with a 40 kph limit, the same motors will be rattling through at 50 kph. It seems this must be a pretty comfortable cruising speed for these things, so regardless what the signs say they are going for 50 kph. They will not move out of your way, nor pull over when safe to do so to let the traffic flow. They see it as their right to do as they please. The law states that slower moving vehicles must pull over when safe to do so to allow other past. Don’t expect this to happen. Unfortunately far to often, even on a bike if I pulled out to see the road ahead the campervan I wanted to pass also pulled right to block my view! Honestly, It was not an isolated practise either. I have no idea why they feel so entitled but far to often their driving standards were diabolical!
From these first two days (Day Zero and Day 1) I can honestly see traffic becoming the number one problem for this section of the WAW. It could easily be overcome by other road users being aware of their surroundings, and being considerate to other road users, however how such ideas could be put into practise I have no idea!
One point that should be raised is ‘Farm Machinery & Tractors’ – These guys are clued in and I never once was stuck behind a local farmer for an unacceptable time. They seemed aware of me and always pulled in where possible to allow me and other vehicles past. So fair play and thanks to the locals, they are making sure they are doing their part to ensure the world’s largest dedicated coastal route remains free flowing. If only now the people who came to use and enjoy the road would remember there are many others looking to do the same and their actions are certainly hindering that enjoyment.
Onto Day Two…