Day 1: Rosslare to Tramore (100km 834m)
We had an early start on the first day of the tour as our Stena Line ferry arrived at Rosslare at 4am and we had no choice but to disembark and set off riding in search of coffee.
The scenery to begin with was quite uninspiring but soon improved.
Once fully caffeined we continued to Hook Head at the tip of the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford.
The Hook Lighthouse is situated on Hook Head in County Wexford and is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world. It marks the eastern entrance to Waterford harbour.
We continued inland alongside the Waterford estuary to Passage East. Here we crossed from County Wexford to County Waterford on our first of 11 ferries.
We spent the night at Tramore which is South East Ireland’s leading holiday resort.
Day 2: Tramore to Ballycotton. (98km 993m)
The next day it was raining a bit as we set off up the hill to the Copper Coast.
To us it looked a bit like Cornwall except the mines were for copper instead of tin.
We found the Waterford Greenway as we closed on Dunvargan which was very pleasant after an undulating morning. The Waterford Greenway is a 46km off road cycling trail between Waterford and Dunvargon.
We stopped for coffee and pastries in Dunvargon to fuel ourselves for one of the biggest climbs of the whole tour, over the Drum hills. Suitably fortified we conquered it and I even got an unexpected QOM. Lovely quiet lanes followed (still raining) and then we emerged on our first ‘N’ road. Irish roads have three categories: L for local, R for regional and N for national. The speed limit on the N roads is 100kph – seemingly regardless of the quality of the road. The N25 at this point was dual carriageway but we were able to ride along a hard shoulder so it wasn’t too bad. As we crossed the River Blackwater at the top of Youghal Harbour the road narrowed over a long bridge and everyone was very kind and gave us time and space to cycle across.
We stopped in Youghal and dripped for a while in a café. At this point we assumed that the wet weather was default and were resigned to it and just got on with enjoying a rather damp day. Little did we know that this would be the only period of persistent rain for the whole tour. On emerging from the cafe we realised that although the sky was still quite black the rain had stopped. Our onward ride to Ballycotton was very pleasant. We climbed a hill at Shangarry and were rewarded by a super view of Ballycotton Bay with its island and Ballycotton lighthouse.
We stayed at Pier 26 at Ballycotton and our third day started with a boat trip out to the Lighthouse. We saw seals.
Ballycotton lighthouse is one of the only two black lighthouses in Ireland. It was first lit in 1851 and automated in 1992. It is one of 70 lighthouses operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights around the coast of Ireland and continues to provide a vital role in maritime safety today.
Day 3: Ballycotton to Bandon. (74km 723m)
We were riding by 12:00 after the Ballycotton Lighthouse tour and our next objective was to cross the river downstream from Cork on the ferry at Passage West.
Once across the river the route was quite urban but once we were passed Cork airport it became increasingly rural – and hilly. We ended our third day just outside Bandon.
Day 4: Bandon to Schull. (87km 1078m)
A sunny day with light winds greeted us as we left Bandon
We had a scenic rural ride to Clonakilty when we smelt the salt water of Clonakilty Bay.
From this point at sea level we had a huge climb which gave us sublime sea views over wonderful coastal scenery all clear and blue. It is at this point that we encountered our first Wild Atlantic Way signs. We were to stay with The Wild Atlantic Way on and off for two weeks all the way to Greencastle in the north of Donegal.
In the distance we could see our next objective Galley Head Lighthouse
Galley Head is in a stunning location at the southern end of a headland known as Dungeady Island . It is an active nineteenth century lighthouse. Galley Head and its near neighbour Fastnet are among the most powerful lighthouses in Europe.
We could see Fastnet rock in the distance.
The weather was beautiful and very clear.The onward route was relentlessly hilly with some big climbs after Roscarbery. At Skibereen we found a nice cafe and drank two large pots of tea and ate a lot of chocolate cake. We agreed to deviate from the planned route and stayed on the big N road which was quiet and importantly straight with a good surface and graded climbs.
Schull was our destination at the end of Day 4. The weather was very calm and the harbour there was very picturesque. There were (young) people swimming. Schull is right down in the west of West Cork. We found a kiosk selling very good street food and had our supper outdoors by the harbour feeling very appreciative of the lovely weather and some great cycling.