Dingle to Fenit, via the Connor Pass

Day 115, Sunday 23 April
With just one more day of the ups & downs, and ins & outs of the long and rugged coastline peninsulas of the southwest of Ireland, I’m already beginning to feel nostalgic and reluctant to move on. This being a coastal cycle ride, I haven’t really been able to fully appreciate the inland challenges of the Caha Mountains of Beara, or MacGillycudddy’s Reeks inside the Ring of Kerry.
But, having already been around the western end of the Dingle peninsula and back to Dingle town, an inland treat lay in store for me today. Up and over the Connor Pass, on the high road to Tralee.

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Some very helpful road signs clarified the challenge ahead. With no luggage, Chris Froome’s legs and being just 32 years of age, I would be over this pass in under 30 minutes. In my dreams. Re-load the bags, halve the leg length, re-double the years…
I still enjoyed the long, slow grind to the top. The views, even on an overcast day, were well worth the effort. As for the dash back down to sea level, as a responsible parent and grandparent, I refuse to reveal my average or maximum downhill speed. When the force of gravity is on my side, I’ll never grow up.
This morning’s coffee stop was (quite accidentally) well chosen. I had the pleasure of meeting Michael O’Neil, landlord of the old Railway Tavern at Camp, on the Tralee road. He is a well known local character, an official Man o’ the West. But not as famous as his now demised dog Bobby, the À list celebrity singing Jack Russell. His live performances included a perfectly timed “woof woof” in a performance of “How much is that doggy in the window” and very tuneful backing vocals to Elvis Presley’s “Ain’t nothin but a hound dog”

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Michael is now a little older than when these postcards were first on sale but his now silver beard is still a very distinguished full set. The three famous postcard beards are: the late Pecker Dunne, travelling minstrel; Michael O’Neill himself; and local hero Denny who, in pre mobile phone society was the self appointed village phone attendant, on costant standby to answer incoming calls and pass on mesages to local no-phoners. To this day, he still sits outside the now unused phone box, waiting… Also in today’s photo is Bobby’s successor, a less vocal but very alert and sociable Jack Russell, plus two leather clad motorcycle tourers, Dubliner Gerry and Irish-Ozzie Tom Dooley. You couldn’t make it up. Thank you all for such a memorable coffee break and your generous RNLI contributions.
I did eventually reach today’s destination. Fenit All-weather (and Inshore) Lifeboat Station. With over 100 years of recorded Lifeboat history (minus a mid 20th century temporary lapse of service), this Station now has a Trent Class ALB and Aqua-docked D Class ILB, based in the unusual end-of-pier harbour. This allows them to respond to calls for help way out in the deep Atlantic Ocean and around the shallow waters of Tralee Bay. Many thanks to full-time Station Mechanic and active crew member Kevin and Fundraising Chairman, retired teacher, local sailor and great storyteller Mike O’Connor.


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