The Mealagh Valley is located in the hills to the north-east of the town of Bantry in West Cork.
Getting there...The best way to find the Mealagh Valley is from Bantyr itself regardless of what direction you are coming from. If you are travelling from say near Cork City then you need to allow plenty of time to get to Bantry....say 1h 30m and then another 15 mins or so to get to the parking area.
The easiest way to get there is probably via Bandon....Enniskeane....Dunmanway....Drimoleague....Bantry.
Directions from Cork City on the N71 : When you arrive in Bantry, follow the road for Glengarriff to the outskirts of the town and past Caseys filling station. Take the next right at Donemark Bridge...see photo below.
Once you turn off right, you stay on this narrow road for about 8 kms. Just keep going straight.
Directions from Glengarriff & Kerry on the N71 : As you approach the outskirts of Bantry, follow the N71 passing the golf club on the right. After a long bend in the road, take the next left and follow the road as above. See photo below.
As you approach the race venue, you will meet some race stewards. Follow their directions for parking.
Entries........These are normally taken at Cronin's Yard. The community hall where the prizes and refreshments will be later is about 900 metres away...a 10 minute walk.
Please note! There is no need to go to the community centre before the race. Cronin's Yard is approx 200 metres from the start line.
Course...The Mealagh Valley is a lovely quiet scenic spot for a race. It does however come at a price in that the course is very hilly. It's certainly not a race to set a 10 mile PB but it should be considered as more of a challenge.
From there, the road drops rapidly on the other side into a long downhill section. At the end, the road twists and turns in a series of short uphill and downhill sections until you come to the community centre.
Note that the finish line is just outside the centre. When you are finishing the race, you will be covering this part of the course again.
But first time around, you keep going! Past where the finish line will be and into another downhill section until you get to a narrow bridge over the Mealagh River which gives the valley it's name.
This is the lowest part of the course and just after the bridge, you come to the 1 mile mark. From here, the next 600 metres or so are really tough. It's all uphill but it changes from gradual to short steep secions and back again. The hardest part of the course is just before you reach the local primary school.....
If it looks steep then that's because it is! This is a really steep section but it's pretty short. At the top, you join another road...
The road now changes into a relatively flat section which will give you a chance to recover from all of that climbing. You are basically running along a road above the valley floor with a nice view of the surrounding area. It's not that the road is dead flat or anything like it but it is easier than the initial two miles. As you head up the valley, the road climbs but starts to drop after the 5 mile mark as you come to the next road junction...
From here, you are heading back down the valley again with views of the mountains of the Beara Peninsula way off in the distance. You might think at this stage that since you are heading back down the valley, it might get easier. Dream on! You get to around 7 miles and there is another long hill. Nothing drastic but still slow going.
Eventually, you get some fast downhill sections...
...and you eventually turn left and retrace your footsteps from the start towards the finish line.
Overall.....It's probably the toughest 10 mile road race in the country but it's a great spot when the weather is nice. Not a course for personal best times but it's still a little gem. Quiet, scenic and rural. As the organisers say, it's got everything except flat sections ;o)