Motorcycle Touring In South West Ireland

We have toured many times in Ireland over the past years and it never fails to make us smile, a combination of the scenery, the rugged nature of the landscapes, the community feel and the warm welcome received.  A weather window presented itself recently with the promise of calm seas across to Dublin and so it was an ideal opportunity to spend 4 days on the Emerald Isle researching ahead of a tour coming up in September this year and for the future.

The Irish Tourist Board knew what they were doing when they started marketing the coastline as “The Wild Atlantic Way”, it can be wild due to the nature of the seas but also to the surrounding countryside which switches from mountains to rolling hills, sandy beaches to rocky coves, moorland to forests.  The weather can be unpredictable but then it only adds to the variety of this part of the world, one thing which is constant is the friendly nature of the people you meet.

The purpose of our trip was to check out some of the route we intend to use on our tour to the South West later this year, whilst we have run tours to the region before, on this visit we are heading further onto the Beara and we very much prefer to check the roads out first as well as the intended coffee and lunch stops.  As with many parts of the UK some of the smaller cafes and bars in Ireland are closing down which means it is so important to touch base with places we will be visiting.  One such town where we received a great welcome was Lismore, a pretty heritage town complete with a stunning castle, it had a good sense of community about the place and at least 3 good cafes for us to use in September.  A little treasure trove we came upon is now a home but was Bridget Greehy’s pub which closed in 2003 after 50 years of being open. Bridget used to bottle her own guiness at the back of the pub and the present owner gave us some of the labels as a momento, they have also maintained the windows with historic trinkets, old tins of ovaltine and large bottles of coca-cola where you could get 10p if you returned them to the shop (maybe something to consider in this “throw away” day and age?).  We also spotted a perfect pannier sized travel iron….. will have to try and get hold of one of those!!!

The main purpose of this trip was to once again visit the Beara Peninsula south of the Ring of Kerry and much quieter, we have ridden over the Healy Pass several times on previous tours but this time we went further west and were not disappointed.  Whilst the roads are not billiard smooth tarmac the landscape is breathtaking with harsh rock formations which the road curves through whilst you are rewarded with beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and the waves crashing onto the shore.  The road signage is pretty bold too, with this particular one painted onto a low wall they most definitely do not want you to go straight ahead 🙂 🙂

With several things “ticked off” our check list we headed back to Dublin Port for yet another calm sea crossing to Holyhead….. let’s hope we have those same seas in September, but more sunshine would be good too 🙂

Our South West of Ireland Tour September 2018

This was the second tour of the 2018 touring season for us in Ireland and as with our April visit to County Donegal the country delivered on many levels, we were not as lucky with the weather on this visit having blue skies for only a couple of days but even when there are grey clouds around the dramatic scenery of the Emerald Isle simply takes on another “face”.

Yes we had some rain, it is very unusual to visit Ireland and not encounter some of the wet stuff but as we keep being reminded by the locals – “oh! you don’t come here for the beep,beep, weather” 🙂  How true, what we do go for is the rugged feel to the countryside, the drama of the Wild Atlantic Way and the warm welcomes received at every coffee stop and at our hotels.  Joe at Ballyrafter House gave us wonderful hospitality when we called for morning coffee and freshly baked scones on day 2 of the tour and this was equalled by the Roadhouse cafe where we called on our way back to Dublin on the last day – they had laid up a long table for us for brunch and nothing was too much trouble for them 🙂

It’s hard to say which was our favourite ride during this particular tour given the change in scenery encountered each day.  We rode through the Wicklows on day 1, along the south coast of County Cork on day 2, visited Mizen Head – Ireland’s most southerly point on day 3, followed the Wild Atlantic Way on the Ring of Kerry on day 4, crossed the Shannon by ferry on day 5, were blown away by the sparse openness of Connemara on day 6 and marvelled at the beauty of Ballycroy National Park on day 7 – we would have equally been amazed by Achill Island on that particular ride-out but the rain decided to scupper our plans but as it turned out not our spirits….. there is something comforting turning up at your lunch stop to a roaring fire when you have been riding through a downpour 🙂

For many of our clients this was their first visit to Ireland and the majority felt that Connemara was “up there” as being one of their favourite places on the tour.  It is probably due to the fact that we are all so used to lots of traffic and the hustle and bustle of towns and cities but when you visit this West Coast county you feel like you are stepping out of the “rat race” and riding through a wilderness which is packed with beautiful scenery, small hamlets, the rugged coastline and the mountains of the National Park known as the “Twelve Bens or Pins”.  Whilst we did not have blue skies for this particular day we did have dry weather and all 12 of the Bens could be seen – unlike a visit there back in 2013 when our group were lucky to see 2 of them!

No matter the weather we always look forward to returning to Ireland and will be visiting the counties of Donegal and Mayo in May 2019 – it may seem a long way off as we sit here writing this but we are sure it will come around before we know it 🙂

 

2019 Tours Update

With two of our 2018 tours completed over recent days we are already being asked what our plans are for 2019.  We already have a comprehensive schedule planned and will be updating our website over the coming weeks with more information.  If you would like any details of the tours for next year and would like to register your expression of interest please contact us at info@dragonmototours.co.uk, call us on 07816 396614 or look out for the website updates on our tours page.

There will be two tours in Wales in 2019, one in April and the other in September.  Staying in the UK we shall be running our Devon tour in May which proved very popular when we last visited this county in 2017.

A touring season would not be complete without a sail across the Irish Sea and in late May 2019 we will be doing a two centre tour of the West Coast of Ireland staying in the counties of Donegal and Mayo.

Eight of our tours will be in mainland Europe – 3 in Spain,

2 in France, 2 in Germany and 1 in the Italian Dolomites.

Our clients enjoyed our Spain and Millau tour in 2017 so much that we are repeating it next year, albeit in reverse!!!  We’ll start in France and ride south with 3 days close to the Bridge and The Tarn Gorge before crossing the Pyrenees into Spain for a few days before a ferry sailing back to the UK.  Our other Spanish tours will include a 4 night stay on the Mediterranean coast and our ever popular Flavour of Spain will run in October 2019 – although this one will have a slightly “different flavour” to the previous three 🙂

Not everyone has the luxury of a 10 to 12 day tour and with this in mind we have 3 shorter European tours scheduled, the Saarland region of Germany in early May, the Black Forest in July and the Ardennes region of France and Belgium in late September.

 

County Donegal April 2018

Our first tour of 2018 has been and gone and we have had a great few days in County Donegal with a group of clients who took the spirit of Ireland to heart.  Given the time of year and the winter Ireland has experienced we were extremely lucky with the weather – certainly not warm enough to dip a toe in the Atlantic but in the main dry and clear and when it came to our visit to The Slieve League sea cliffs it was a superb day with blue skies.

This tour had been a long time coming with it being over 5 months since our last tour, whilst we enjoy the planning elements of a tour over the winter there is nothing quite like riding the roads, taking in the scenery and meeting the people.  The phrase “the craic in Ireland…” is often quoted but it is so incredibly true – everywhere we went people came up to us to ask where we’d travelled from and what would we be doing in Donegal, all of the cafes and visitors locations gave us a terrific welcome, not to forget the scones which are a “must have” whilst on the Emerald Isle 🙂

Laura checking her brake light!

Alex needed a swap from the Thruxton

The tour was not without its challenges – a sticking brake light for Laura, a swap in pillion seats for Alex and a puncture for Steve!  All thankfully resolved, although it did involve quite a bit of time on the ground for Geraint for the brakelight and puncture 🙂

The County of Donegal is almost beyond description which is why we never tire of returning to the area – in fact our 2019 tour is already scheduled for May – let us know if you are interested at info@dragonmototours.co.uk    The area has The Wild Atlantic Way coastal route, Ireland’s most northerly point at Malin Head and the Glenveagh National Park to name only a few of the rugged and beautiful locations.  The roads in places may be undulating given the peat the tarmac is laid over but in the main the grippy asphalt and sweeping bends through the National Park make for a seriously smile inducing ride – and when you turn a corner to see a (fortunately..) extinct volcano your day is complete!!!

We have several “thank yous” to do for this tour – Ireland for being as dramatic and stunning as ever, the weather for being kind to us – only a bit of mizzle with the a downpour coming as we checked in at Dublin Port to return home!  The cafes and people we visited for being so welcoming and last but not least our clients for making the tour such a lot of fun 🙂  A very big THANK YOU from The Dragons

 

 

 

 

 

A Winter research trip to Ireland

The winter months are obviously not the best time of year to go motorcycle touring, that is of course unless you can whisk yourself away to some hot foreign climes and hire yourself a bike for a few weeks – in fact in the winter of 2017 that is exactly what we did when we visited Malaysia and rode through the Cameron Highlands – a great experience where we met some lovely people and found great riding roads – you can read about it in our blog post from January 2017.

No such trip for us this year though instead we’ve had days in the office preparing our routes and itineraries ahead of this 2018 touring season and also planning for our 2019 and 2020 tours 🙂  We also took ourselves off to Ireland at the end of January to fine tune a couple of routes for our tour in September of this year but mainly to look ahead for the future.

There are some who think they can ride along the Wild Atlantic Way in just a few days which is actually possible but then you would miss such a lot of the splendour of the rugged landscape, the variety in scenery, the magnificance of the Atlantic whether it be on a calm or stormy day (in the case of this photo taken on our recent trip!)  and most importantly for us the people who are so very welcoming wherever you choose to visit.  We prefer to run our tours which take in the WAW in “chunks” staying in one county for 2 or 3 nights to make the most of the regional scenery and roads.

It is easy to forget that the WAW is not all about the coastline, yes this is the main focal point and the Irish tourist board have done an excellent job on providing routes and places of interest to visit close to the sea, but travel a short distance inland and you will be rewarded with spectacular scenery.

On this research trip we concentrated on Connemara and County Clare, whilst we are familiar with both counties having toured there previously, it is always worth a refresher now and then and we discovered new places to visit in the future (we’ll keep them under wraps for the time being though !!!) 🙂  There are some parts of the WAW which would be worth visiting if you are travelling by car but maybe not so good for a motorcycle tour, due in the main to the type of roads.  Whilst we are all familiar with the undulating nature of many of the road network in Ireland due to the peat bogs much of the tarmac is laid over, there are some which in the more remote locations are not, shall we say….. designed for 2 wheels!  If you do find yourself in a car in Connemara though you may wish to venture a few miles off-piste to some of the outer network of islands and take in the moonlike structure of the rock formations, very similar to The Burren National Park in County Clare but on a smaller scale.

Our winter research continues in February with a two week trip through France and Spain – look out for our facebook posts from that one and then in March we’ll be heading through Germany and Italy – we’re already looking forward to the new tours which will come out of these trips.  🙂

 

Happy Christmas from “The Dragons”

Without stating the obvious!!!  it’s Christmas next week but it seems like no time since we were preparing for the festivities in 2016….. This year has certainly flown by for us, we have had a terrific season of touring having covered nearly 24,000 miles in that time each one with a smile on our faces too 🙂  There are so many highlights to the 2017 season we are working on a YouTube video which we shall be putting up on our channel in the next few days reviewing the year, so look out for that one.

Even though the tours themselves are over we have not gone into hibernation as some may think!!!  The winter months are when we plan for the future and we are already well on the way with the route plans for the 2018 touring season and deciding on where to tour in 2019 with some research trips coming up in the first 3 months of next year.

Our 2018 tours are booking up quickly and if you are interested in any of them please get in touch so we can advise on availability.  We’ll be starting the season off in the Emerald Isle revisiting County Donegal.  When we were there in early May this year we had wall to wall sunshine so we are hoping the leprechauns are going to be on our side again in April 2018!

We have three tours next year in Spain, the first starts at the end of May when we are repeating our Northern Spain tour  which we first ran in June of this year – 8 riding days through a region of contrasts from lakes and mountains to gorges and valleys.  We then stay in Spain for a new tour  – the Spanish Spa and end our 2018 season as we did this year with our Flavour of Spain tour in October.

Also during 2018 we are touring through France, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Luxembourg and Austria so a lot to look forward to and for those of you who have already booked and for those considering joining us we are very much looking forward to riding with you.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very happy Christmas and a healthy and enjoyable 2018.  

 

 

Our 2017 Motorcycle Touring Season continues

We find ourselves in early July having completed eight of our tours for 2017 – quite where the time has gone who knows!!  Our most recent tour took us through the UK and Ireland with 11 days of terrific riding and a change of scenery at every turn.

Our tour was called  “WISE” which stands for Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England and was run in that order.  We started the tour in Wales at the tale end of the very hot spell which the UK was experiencing during the middle of June and the weather show cased the countryside superbly.  Day 1 we concentrated on the roads in Mid Wales, particular favourites of ours which we regularly ride on our On & Off-Road tours.

Lough Doo

Achill Island

Whilst the colder air and some rain came into the UK we managed to time things just right and crossed the sea to Ireland staying for one night on the east coast before riding across via the Marble Arch Caves in Northern Ireland which we visited and experienced the underground caverns complete with stalagmites and stalactites – we’d recommend a visit if you are ever passing that way.  For the following three nights we headed to the West Coast and took in many parts of the Wild Atlantic Way around Achill Island and the Connemara National Park – hidden treasures around every bend with variety from the crashing waves of the Atlantic on the rocks to calming loughs such as Lough Doo.  The people in Ireland are so very welcoming and never more so when you stop for a coffee – if we’d had a penny for every time we heard “will you be having a scone with that….” we’d be very rich indeed, their hospitality holds no bounds and incorporating that with great riding roads and terrific scenery it is no wonder we keep returning to the Emerald Isle (and on both visits this year we’ve had dry weather!!!!)

Scotland was our next port of call and after a promising calm sea crossing to Ayrshire the weather turned somewhat “dreich” as they say there.  Our group were determined not to let the weather beat us but it was something of a shame when we rode to the Mull of Galloway only to encounter so much fog you couldn’t even see the lighthouse 🙂  Still our second ride-out into the Trossachs National Park was significantly better and we enjoyed some of the best motorcycling roads in the area, stopping off at Loch Lomond Shores where we are always made to feel very welcome – they even let us park in the coach bays!!!  This area of Scotland is often referred to as “The Big Country” and with these high trees skirting the roads you can see why 🙂

Riding out of Scotland through the Borders into England for the last leg of our tour was a little challenging, the roads were some of the best transition day routes we run under normal weather conditions but we encountered driving rain and high winds across the open landscapes of the Dalveen Pass and through the border towns of Moffat and Selkirk passed St Marys Loch which was commented on as “exhilarating” by one client but maybe not one of those days you would ordinarily associate with riding a motorbike on!!!  Still the warm welcome at each of our cafes in Thornhill, St Marys Loch and Cornhill on Tweed more than made up the poor conditions – nothing like a toasted teacake and a brew to bring a smile back on any motorcyclists face……

The challenges on our England leg continued when a tree fell across our path on our ride-out through the Kielder Forest National Park – it was not even particularly windy that day but no doubt the lashing rain the day before had soaked the roots of the said pine tree – luckily the first van which turned up had a saw in the back (what are the chances of that!!!!) and the road was cleared in no time.  Fortunately for our last day of the tour riding through Northumberland, Durham, the North Pennines, Cumbria and Yorkshire the weather was once more back with its sun hat on and boosted by an excellent lemon drizzle cake at the White Monk tea rooms in Blanchland we all enjoyed the roads across the open moors.

Out of 11 days of riding we experienced 2 wet days and in anyone’s book for a motorcycle tour that’s pretty good going 🙂   We’ve got our Belgian Ardennes tour coming up in a few days followed by a 12 day tour of Spain and France where we take in the Millau Bridge.  As ever we are very much looking forward to all of our tours and will keep you updated with photos on our facebook page and gallery.  Enjoy your summer of riding – we know we will 🙂

 

How many scones can you have on a Motorcycle Tour….!

When you think of a tour of Ireland you think of the “great craic”, warm welcomes and rain!!!  We had all three but luckily only a small amount of the latter 🙂  and the other thing to now add to any motorcycle tour of the Emerald Isle is “scones”!!!!  Scones anyone...We had brown ones, fruit ones, warm ones, butter and jam with some, just butter with others and cream and jam was perhaps the favourite of the majority!!  The jam and cream ones were baked by Des and his team at The Thatch, Crinkill – if you are ever in that part of the world call by you will sure of a very warm welcome, it’s a 300 year old thatched cottage and has been in their family for 6 generations.

Our 4 day tour through the heart of Ireland started with a ride over the Views from Wicklow GapWicklow Mountains, the views from the top are wonderful, albeit a bit breezy on the tops!!!  The open landscape offered us a flowing ride both on ascent and descent before we rode through Curragh common, an area renowned for its horse racing studs and training grounds, onto our hotel for the evening.  We encountered a shower just before our coffee stop – they say timing is everything!!!!  which was true in this case as we came back out to the bikes just as it was blowing over.

Day 2 of the tour took us on the Lough Derg scenic ride, blue skies and very little traffic made for a pleasant ride to morning coffee at Flynn’s bar, no scones this time but a very warm welcome yet again with roaring fires and coffee and tea on constant refill.  Onto Killaloe for lunch overlooking a very full River Shannon which glinted in the sunshine before we rode over the hills to Kinvara on The Wild Atlantic Way.

Day 3 was something of a history lesson, with the visit to The Thatch that morning followed by a ride over Slieve Bloom mountainsthe Slieve Bloom mountains which, along with the Massif Central in France, are the oldest mountains in Europe – it’s a great ride over the wide open space which opens out to a panoramic view of the lowlands below.  We then picked up part of the Gordon Bennett route and stopped for a photo at the memorial which explains a little about the history of the road race which took place in 1903 – the average speed of that race was 49.2mph over the 327.5 mile distance – some going in that era we think you’ll agree.  Our last step back in time for the day was a visit to The Kilbeggan Whiskey distillery which is the oldest licenced distillery in Ireland dating back to 1757, the tour was excellent and as we were riding bikes they gave us a handful of minatures to take away which we were able to taste after dinner in the hotel that evening 🙂

The last day of our tour was a country ride back to Dublin Port and the afternoon ferry.  We took the scenic route all the way rather than the motorway and had a lovely dry roads all day.  Morning coffee in Granard was made even better by the warm, homemade fruit scones which everyone tucked into heartily before heading onto lunch in “Ireland’s Ancient east” as the region around Ardee is known.

A warm welcome We thoroughly enjoyed riding the roads through Central Ireland over the 4 days of the tour, even some of the peat roads, which can be undulating at times, brought a grin to everyone’s faces.  We are looking forward to returning to Ireland in September when we head further south to the Ring of Kerry, details of which are on our website.