Another day, another bike ride due to end in me picking up an American to give them a lift. I may have to head back and I’ve myself more time to cycle these spots, but the ride out to Slea head was filled with views, the sea nicely counterpointed by a cloudy sky, whilst inland the mist was in places almost close enough to touch. Coming back I indulged a little smuggery as I passed tour bus after tour bus heading the other way, keeping to time and battling the narrow roads while I freely peddled along.
Free except that Linda had started her day with the 7.15 bus to Tralee while I had started my ride after 8.30 and was then due to pick her up from the bus station with no means of getting in touch. My answer to her 3am “what time should I give up hope?” was a simple “I’ll be there” but I had to hope she was as keen as me to meet and would wait.
As I remember, adding to this in August, I was pleased with myself to be back at the hostel while the time had an 11 in it. An Irish lady was staying there with her son and was as keen today as she had been yesterday that I’d be around later to kick a ball around with him. Maybe I just looked like a football expert, or she’d seen Patrick and I having a kickabout the day before (which would have scotched the first idea, by the way) but my ego allows me to think otherwise. Odd. And sort of heartbreaking, in a ‘are you looking for male company for him?’ way. I had other things to do, though, and in the absence of staff snuck into the hostel to shower. I figured it would be worth the extra time.
That and the drive meant I wasn’t at Tralee till around 1. I’d stopped in a village, always pleased that every little place has a shop. The first shop was an odd one, a funny mix of things, but I found some fruit and then, joy, home made scones. Not much else in there, at all, very odd. The other end of the village had another shop, and I stopped there too, to make sure I could deliver on the promise I had just made, to render a scone to Linda on arrival. We’d not made a plan, so whether she’d feel able to leave the bus station and get lunch, I really didn’t know. Second shop much more conventional, for the record, bread and fillings got and eaten. I nearly ate the second scone anyway, mind.
So, to Tralee. The phone knew where the bus stop was and I pulled in. Could I see a familiar face? I could not. Did I dare leave the car and wander? It was a pay car park, but ought to be alright. I circled, realising the bus station was off to one side, so people waiting outside were doing something train-related. Eventually I parked the other side of the road and there, as I stood checking the traffic for space to cross, came the shout of “John”, part attention grabbing, part statement. Perhaps small part relief that I had actually arrived, too. Crossing made no sense, she waved me off and came to me.
And so I had company. No plan, other than the ring of Kerry, but company. Shortly into the ring I spotted a beach and pulled off. Brilliant beach-golden sands backed by dunes, with a stunt -real? – abandoned boat carcass to play on. And over the dunes, as we were warmed by the sun, another beach, stretching off. We found a route to walk through the long grass, discussing the kidnappers we were chasing and deciding they could not have for far, not with the terrain this difficult. Further along we saw a sign to Valentia island. I had read reviews of a hostel there and was intrigued; if this was the best they had to say, this might be interesting. It was Linda who made he decision, though, answering my ‘want to go?’ with a definitive yes, then pulling a map out of her bag. Glorious gardens, apparently, recommended by a local, no less. We had a goal, to go with the easy understanding we had already hit without effort.
The island isn’t big, though using a tourist map to navigate, with its oversize representations of sights and undersize visions of roads, wasn’t ideal. As soon as you cross the bridge there is a museum and tourist info, and I pulled in through the no entry side-a show-off does what?-and we wandered in.
We wandered out, too, wondering why we had wandered in when we knew we were heading for Glanleam gardens. Setting off, I got confused by the towns, or rather settlements. They’re only tiny, so expecting clear delineation so I could orient myself by them on the map was foolish. It gave us a chance to come back on ourselves via a pretty coastal road, though, and for Linda to point out, again definitively and with total accuracy, “Bench”. The statement both deserves, for its definitiveness, and doesn’t, for its lack of drama, an exclamation mark.
Glanleam house and gardens are reached down a single track road, which seems strange for a recommended tourist attraction until you realise this is a private house with beautiful tropical gardens that fell into disrepair until taken over by a German lady. She redid the gardens only to see them destroyed by a storm, so this is attempt two. She lives there now; driving in you pick a place to park on her drive and she could not have been more welcoming even though we arrived after 5 and opening hours are supposed to be 10-6. As she happily talked us through a route that would take in everything it was obvious we’d be a lot longer, but equally obvious she either didn’t mind or just liked us. There are reviews for this place on trip advisor that bear no relation to our experience, I’m not even convinced they are of the same place, the bad ones, though one or two sound like they might just have annoyed her. At any rate, the place is beautiful, stunning plant life, dramatic drops down onto the sea and a walk that takes you up to the lighthouse. Closed when we got there but we still got to have our own special scramble on the rocks and then ignore the signs saying ‘private’ because we were allowed to be there. Simply stunning in the sun.