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.  🙂

 

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 🙂