I had been told, by everyone from my professors to tour guides to other girls in my hostel, that Slea Head is the most important part of the Dingle Peninsula. If you've only got one day to see Dingle, they said, make sure to bike through it. There are guided tours by bus or car available, but it isn't quite the same experience as having rode through the entire thing on your own. By that, I assumed that they meant the bike ride was a pleasant thing and you would enjoy every minute of it. And maybe some of them do! Those people, though, are likely masochists who enjoy the feeling of absolute exhaustion.
That isn't to say that you shouldn't bike the Slea Head Drive; in fact, I highly recommend it. I just want to make it clear: this is not an easy trek, and you should not approach it lightly. It will take six to seven hours, on average; the weather is almost never desirable for biking; you will go kilometers upon kilometers without seeing another living being; there are no bathrooms anywhere.
In order to fully enjoy the bike ride, there are certain things you should probably do:
1. Go shopping immediately beforehand. Buy enough for two quick meals, if you can. A couple of sandwiches, some fruit, and a few liters of water will probably do just fine, but it can't hurt to buy more than you need. I can honestly say there was never a time when I felt I had too much food, or wouldn't be able to eat it all, and by the end of the bike I was perfectly ready to drink the entire harbor.
2. Wear sunscreen! The weather is incredibly inconsistent along the drive; the mountains send in clouds and rain one minute and then blow them away the next, so even if you don't think there's going to be all that much sun, you should try to be prepared for it. The same thing goes for rain! Plenty of stores along Dingle's main street sell cheap rain jackets, made to be lightweight and protect you from the elements. They're a smart investment, at least for a full day cycling.
3. Go at your own pace, and absolutely pace yourself. Fifty kilometers sounds like a lot. In fact, it's even more than you might expect it to be. Unless you're used to biking that kind of distance, it's going to be really difficult to finish it all. That's okay! Take your time. Stop as much as you need to for water or food, take some photos, and talk to the other people you meet along the way. Don't go racing through the first few kilometers, either. Just because you're excited and full of energy now doesn't mean you should waste it all right away. It's okay to take your time, and it will work out better for you in the long run.
4. Up until my trip to Ireland, it had probably been nearly ten years since I'd used a bicycle. This is fine and won't cause a problem in terms of actually riding the bike; it's kind of hard to forget how. The problem will come when the wind blows a little too strong or you stumble across a pothole or a puddle and fall, because, if you've got the wonderful luck I do, your bike chain will break and you will have no idea how to fix it. Try and look up basic bike maintenance before you leave for the trek, and save the instructions to your phone. You can fix it without help, even if you've got no idea, but you're going to have some real trouble doing it.
5. Take a map! The map that you can get from the tourist office is okay, and bike rentals will have their own version, but I wouldn't recommend relying on them. They aren't very detailed and they don't tell you much. For most of the trip, I had no idea where I was or how far along the road I'd gone. I spent a lot of time reminding myself that it's about the journey and not the destination, but it's hard to keep that in mind when you're in the middle of nowhere watching sheep cross the road and you've got four hours to make it home. Buy a map from SuperValu, if you can find it, and check it as frequently as you need to in order to keep the panic at bay.
6. At some point, you're going to come to a few signs. One will point to your right, and say that there are ten kilometers left until Dingle. The other will point to the left and say twenty kilometers to Dingle. You might say to yourself that you want to take the long way around, because the shortcut is for weenies. This is not the case. The shortcut is for people who desire continued use of their legs. You will be proud of yourself for finishing the extra ten kilometers, but you also might end up sitting on the side of the road frowning at the ground because twenty kilometers is a lot more than you thought it was and you're very tired and you want ice cream or a nap. Or both.
7. Yell at the wind. It won't make it go away or help you move any faster, but it's funny and it will make you feel better. It will also entertain the people working on the land nearby. (If you are experiencing rain rather than wind, you can still yell. It'll have the same effect.)
8. Don't let yourself get too caught up in the stress or the pain. The main point of the drive is the view, and it's worth some sore muscles.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Hi! My name is Taylor Haggerty. I'm twenty years old and currently go to school in Bloomington, Indiana, for magazine design and poetry. This summer I'll be studying English and history in Dublin, Ireland!</p>