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 🙂
Where did the rest of 2019 go!!! Here we are second week of the New Year and starting our ninth year of motorcycle touring. We had great plans to have completed our write up of the 2019 touring season but with our Flavour of Spain tour keeping us busy into October and then preparations for MotorcycleLive at the NEC in Birmingham, time rather slipped away from us! Our 9 days on the Kawasaki stand at MotorcycleLive in November went by in a very busy blur, it was great to catch up with everyone who visited both existing and potentially new clients.
Leading upto the bike show we had already received a significant number of enquiries regarding our 2020 tours and since then bookings have continued to come through consistently resulting in our tours already being nearly 90% full overall, a great way for us to head into the New Year and we are very much looking forward to riding with everyone. We will be visiting new locations with our Spanish & Portuguese Borders tour in June and returning to parts of the world we have not toured through in a while such as the Isle of Anglesey in October which we last toured in 2015 (hard to believe where the time has gone…).
Our last ride of 2019 was in the week leading upto MotorcycleLive and since then due to other commitments we had not turned a wheel until the 5th of January! New Year’s day we were up at the Ponderosa cafe on the Horseshoe Pass, Llangollen but with 4 wheels and walking gear!! Practically unheard of for us, but it was great to see so many people out and about braving quite chilly conditions. The weather “warmed up” to a balmy 8 degrees on Sunday 5th Jan and we headed out to the Ponderosa, surprisingly not as many bikes out as we thought but that could have been because it was blowing a howling gale up there as can be attested by Geraint trying to stand up straight for this photo!
It was good to get back out on the bikes, not least because we need to keep “bike fit”, muscle memory soon seems to wear off over the winter months and because of this we try and get out as often as we can this time of year – it has helped that the gritters have not had to be out salting the roads too often yet. We went out for another ride on the 10th of January, heading further into North Wales this time. The roads were practically empty although it was good to see a couple of others out and about heading towards Llyn Brenig. When the temperature dropped to 2 degrees over the Denbigh Moors it was time to call in at The DragonFly cafeon the A5 near Cerrigydrudion for a warming bowl of soup – they also have a fantastic log burner roaring in there so if you do find yourselves that way we can highly recommend it. Hopefully the weather will stay mild and we can get a few more ride-outs in over the coming weeks ahead of a planned research trip to Spain in late March….. and then before we’ll know it our first tour of 2020 will be starting in April – we cannot wait 🙂