Download full report of Ireland's Extremities (PDF, 9.8M)
Our challenge for the Ireland's Extremities trip was simple in concept:
- Visit North, South, East, West and Centre of Ireland
- Climb the highest mountain in each of the four provinces
- Use mountain-bikes and be unsupported (carry all gear) for the trip
- The bikes and all the gear to go with us, up the mountains too
At 800-odd miles, we carved it up into a neat 8 days and booked our B&B's, which looked doable enough as long as we could make good progress on the mountains with everything on our backs.
And so it turned out. The mountains were hard going in places, and we had some very long days (up 17/18 hours!), but a lot of the time was eating and chatting, both of which we are well-practiced at!
The challenge team started out as Davy, Rick, Enda and Mark, but unfortunately Mark had to leave us on the Thursday due to a prior engagement, so we completed the trip as three. Mark does have the mental and physical scars to prove he was there for most of it anyway!!
To the extremities, ...and beyond!!
Brow Head, the REAL southern-most point of Ireland, just a couple of miles away from Mizen Head. Google it if you don't believe it!Carrauntoohill in Kerry is a very dangerous mountain. We were glad of our guide Brian Galvin, who got us up and down late in the evening of the first day. Happily, we were able to bike much of it on the way down once we had cleared the crags, ridges and boulder sections. A pretty technical climb in places, though, given the packs and bikes on our backs.
Garraun Point on the Dingle Peninsula, just north of Slea Head - the weather was actually gorgeous, despite how dull it looks, and we spent quite a bit of time just taking in the views.
Mweelrea in Mayo was a brutal climb - horrible, horrible. The terrain on the lower slopes on Killary Harbour was energy sapping, just deep grass and hags and steep crags, and there is nothing rideable on the way down. Nobody seemed to be able to give us decent advice on the best way up and down, and there were no obvious paths, so it is clearly not climbed very much! Also, we climbed to the top of the first spot-height by mistake, then had to descend a fair bit to take on the main hill. Wind was HOWLING, but once the hail and cloud cleared, we had amazing views.
Hill of Uisneach, High Seat of Ancient Provincial Kings of Ireland, and Ireland's centre-point. A MAJOR disappointment - this sign is about as interesting as it got!
Lugnaquilla in Wicklow was a stroll in the park. We dandered up it compared to the others, and were able to bike nearly all of it down from the top. It was pretty misty, but a well-worn path showed us the way, so our only challenge was getting up and down before the Army closed the mountain for the firing range, which we JUST managed, eventually being shown off the hill by the lads in green!
Slieve Donard in County Down we know very well, but we were surprised at how long it took us, as all the steps that have been built made riding down very difficult and/or dangerous on the rigid bikes. So it was a carry most of the way down Glen River to the tree line. But the view off the top was awesome, above the clouds.
Burr Point on the Ards Peninsula we had visited last year on Day 1 of The Ulster Way, but this time we were nearing home, and the wind was on our tails.
Malin Head was a welcome sight. The scenery was incredible, ending a perfect day of unbroken sunshine with a strong wind on our backs.