Ride-out in Northern Ireland

Day 7 of our WISE motorcycle tour in September 2013 and we had a ride-out planned to take in the Giant’s Causeway and the Antrim Coastline.  Unfortunately the weather was not promising to be great, however, we got lucky for the morning and our visit to the Causeway with the rain not rolling in off the sea until midday.

We arrived around 9.45am and had a good welcome from the car park attendant, whilst there is no specific motorcycle parking, there is plenty of space and their only request was to park 3 bikes to a bay.  The Visitors Centre is very impressive but we felt quite expensive at £8.50 per person and this price does not include the bus you can take down to the Causeway itself (extra £2 for that!), and make note that if you are ever visiting and you just want to just use the cafe rather than do the whole visit, you would still have to pay the £8.50 entry fee!!!

All of that said, the Giant’s Causeway is impressive and ever changing with the weather conditions.  You are given an audio guide to help you along the way, the narrator tells the story of the Giant very well albeit somewhat “tongue in cheek”.  You do have to let your imagination take over when it comes to the rocks which represent the Camel and the Giant’s boot he left behind… 🙂  The walks along the Causeway are good and had the weather been better we would probably have spent longer here but at 12 noon the promised rain came rolling in off the sea and that was that for the remainder of the day – so much so that we had to cancel our planned ride along the Antrim Coast and divert inland instead to visit Joey Dunlop’s Bar in Ballymoney.

We had hoped to grab a bite to eat there but they were not serving food, but the coffee was good and the bar itself is well worth a visit.  Dunlop Memorial GardensOnly a very short walk from the bar is the Memorial Garden to both Joey and Robert Dunlop and even in the pouring rain it was a good place to visit.  Joey's BarThe bar is packed full of memorabilia – even a bike hanging from the ceiling as pictured here.  It was a great place to take shelter from the rain and we would recommend a visit there.

Sadly our motorcycle riding planned for the rest of the day also had to be curtailed due to the continuing rain but we were not deterred and instead took our clients to visit the Bushmills Distillery – unfortunately half way around the tour there the alarms went off and everyone had to pile outside back into the pouring rain for half an hour whilst they sorted things out!!!!  The wee dram given at the end of the tour was a welcome warm up and was a good end to what had turned out to not be one of the best days to be out on a motorbike……

We moved onto Scotland the following day – would that improve on the weather front?????

 

Riding from Southern to Northern Ireland

Our 10 day motorcycle tour of the UK and Ireland continued in September 2013 when we rode from Southern to Northern Ireland – it would seem that the rain saved itself for us on this particular day of riding.  Such a shame too as our route was taking in some of the National Peat Bog parks and the most northerly tip of Southern Ireland at Malin Head.

We had a planned coffee stop at Henry’s Bar in Cashelgarren and as we’ve said in a previous post they kindly pointed out to us that….“you don’t come to Ireland for the weather”!!  This was said to us as we dismounted our motorbikes and walked into their restaurant and despite being in soaking wet bike gear they were extremely welcoming and provided not only hot coffee and tea but homemade cakes aswell – there was even enough left to take with us for the rest of our ride, and all things considered it faired pretty well in the panniers on Bob’s KTM and the top box on Bill’s PanEuropean 🙂

Our ride continued from Cashelgarren through the National Peat Bog park, it had a very dramatic feel to it as we climbed up through the hillsides in the pouring rain!!! But as we reached the summit the weather improved and the views from the top were stunning over Lough Mourne and the valley on towards Ballybofey.

Lunch was pre-arranged at Letterkenny and once again the welcome we received was outstanding.  Even though we were walking into this sumptious restaurant with upholstered dining chairs, they had no problem with us sitting down in our wet motorcycle gear and had plenty of soup and sandwiches on hand to warm us up.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff at the restaurant for being so welcoming to some rather wet motorcyclists!!!

A good feed set us up to continue our ride to Malin Head, Southern Ireland’s most northerly tip.  The sea mist at Malin HeadThe ride there was drier thankfully but unfortunately this was not our day for sight seeing as the sea fog had rolled in and when we did arrive at Malin you could hardly see where the Atlantic Ocean was as you can see from this photo.  At least we could all say we had been there…. 🙂

 

We had a break in the weather fo the rest of our ride which took us on a short ferry crossing from Greencastle to Magilligan Point where we crossed into Northern Ireland – back to speed limits in “miles per hour” and GBP currency!  Our hotel for the next two nights was on the Antrim coast and close to Giant’s Causeway which was on our itinerary to visit the following day….. this would be after a good meal and some great hospitality in the bar that evening.

Will let you know about our 2 days in Northern Ireland in our next post.

More motorcycle touring in Southern Ireland

On our motorcycle tour of Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England in September 2013 we visited some beautiful parts of these countries and our second ride-out in Southern Ireland was no exception.  We remained within County Mayo but headed west and north from our hotel near Westport with our first ride onto Achill Island.

This is Achill Islandthe largest island off the coast of Ireland (quite a mouthful!) and as you ride to the beach at Keem bay (featured in this photo), you have the drama of the Atlantic ocean and the mountains rising out of it.  The road is well paved, albeit single track but we had no problem when we came across cars coming the other way – it is so quiet down on the beach and just breathtaking – we would recommend the ride to any motorcyclist.

We continued our ride-out for the day following even more of the Wild Atlantic Coastline, encountering very little in the way of traffic and with dramatic scenery at every twist and turn.  The roads in some places can feel very undulating but this is only due to them being laid over peat and adds to the grin factor when you arrive at a local hostelry for a bite to eat.  Our lunch stop was at the Inn 59 near Ballycroy and the welcome was just fantastic.  We turned up unannounced and the lady behind the bar put on a great spread for us of sandwiches, biscuits, teas and coffees and we had plenty of time to chat with the locals who were in for their lunch and a top up of iron…… for that read “a glass of Guiness”!!

After our non-alcoholic refreshment we set off for some more spectacular motorcycle touring through the northern edges of County Mayo picking up the Atlantic coastline again on our way to visit the Ceide Fields Neolithic site.  Sea cliffs near Ceide FieldsThis is well worth a visit and before you go into the visitors centre it is worth crossing the road from the car park and taking a photo or two of the rocky outcrops rising from the sea – not quite as high as The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, but just as awesome.

The visitor centre is well organised, excellent cafe with a good menu catering for all sorts of dietary requirements aswell as making an excellent cuppa.  There is a guided tour of the site together with a short film explaining how they came to discover the site – it’s good value for money and most of our group did the tour.

We had a mixed bag of weather for the return ride to the hotel, but it was only for 30 miles and the roads more than made up for it with a welcome hot shower before dinner we were set up right for the following day……. just as well as we encountered more than our fair share or rain – will bring you the “goss” in our next blog 🙂

Motorcycle Touring in Southern Ireland

Our last blog ended with something of a tease where we were going to update you on our Southern Ireland leg of our WISE Motorcycle tour, but time waits for no man and we find ourselves on a bit of a back foot in bringing you the news!!

We finished the blog with our crossing over to Ireland and we had 5 days in total before returning to the mainland, 3 in Southern Ireland and 2 in the North, both parts of the world have their own drama – and they do say to have the country so green you have to have the rain……. well to be fair we did 🙂  However, for the majority of the riding we were dry and as any motorcyclist knows – if you have ridden in poor weather you still have as much to talk about over dinner and a beer at night!

On docking in Dun Laoghaire we headed across country to County Mayo which was to be our base for 3 nights.  Strokestown FairWe had arranged to call for coffee at Strokestown Park not knowing that the fair was in town!  And there we were thinking they’d put the flags out for us…..  It was a fantastic community gathering, tug of war going on between local counties, cossaks riding horses bareback (!), a weanling cow to be won at €5 for a raffle ticket….. although not sure if we’d won that we could fit him in the panniers..:-)  The commentary for the bucking bronco was like something out of “Mrs Brown’s Boys” and had us all in hysterics.  It was a real family day out and we were made to feel very welcome as we rode through the park to the tearooms (can highly recommend the cream scones).

We had about 60 miles to ride from Strokestown over to our hotel near Westport and overlooking Lough’s Conn and Cullen.  Sunset over Lough ConnWe had the most fantastic sunset as you can see from this photo which was taken from the dining room of our hotel.

It was a great location to set off on our planned ride-outs for the following two days.  We headed south for the first full day of motorcycling in Southern Ireland to visit the National Famine Memorial at Croagh Patrick  – well worth stopping off at to see the sculpture which depicts a Coffin Ship with skeleton bodies and commemorates the anniversary of the Famine.  From here we rode along the Atlantic coastline before following the roads either side of Killary harbour which is one of only 3 fjords in Ireland and continued onto Kylemore Abbey for a lunch stop.

We then rode Connemara National Parkthrough the Connermara National Park and had hoped to see the Twelve Pins…….. but mizzle and fog meant that we only got to see around 1.5 of them!!!!   You can see from this photo that the countryside has a drama all of it’s own no matter what the weather and the rainbow we saw was stunning.  One things for sure and that is the fact that we will simply have to go back and do another motorcycle tour there just to see if we can spot all of the Twelve Pins 🙂

We finished our ride-out with a cuppa by a roaring log fire in Eddies Bar in Clonbur where we had a fantastic welcome – just a pity we were riding our motorbikes….. the selection of whiskeys on offer is amazing, next visit better be in a taxi!

We’ll bring you news of our second full day ride-out in County Mayo in our next blog…..