Today was a transitional day on our tour: We moved across from western to the eastern side of the country. In what was generally workmanlike ride we did work in a few points of interest. Notably Glenquin Castle, which is in fact an armoured tower house, rather than a full-on castle. Impressive structure all the same. Andy also managed to work us up onto higher ground and we enjoyed the sweeping views on offer.
Took me back in time
On a personal level it was good to come across a roadside memorial that was erected to mark the visit of Pope John-Paul II to Ireland in 1979. That was in fact the last time I had visited the country to see the Pope in Dublin and near Knock. I had not been motivated by some religious fervour, rather as a spotty 14-year-old I would have done anything to get out of double physics!
Quite a thing to stumble across
We did wander past a large wind farm and were impressed by the sight of a man in climbing gear and harness, dangling from the end of a turbine blade seemingly redressing the edge with an angle grinder!
Our route essentially cut through the gap between the Mullaghareik and Ballyhoura Mountains. Initially on a series of R roads before picking up the N72 into Mallow and then down the N20 towards Cork. We did stop off briefly in Blarney, home to the famous stone, that gifts you the ‘gift of gab’ if you kiss it. Have you heard that old saying ‘they’ve kissed the blarney stone’ when somebody is waxing lyrical about something?
Yet again a tearoom left a load of stuff randomly on our table…
However, we were a little underwhelmed by the town and didn’t bother stopping long or checking out the castle that hosts the stone. Instead, we chose to press on.
Offered Ice Lollies!
Yet again we were riding in hot and humid conditions and as we struggled to find our digs briefly, we pulled up outside a house and have a chat to sort where we were. No sooner had we stopped than a women and daughter came over and asked if we were ok and offered us ice lollies! Luckily, they also knew where we had to get to and put us back on track. Yet more friendly and helpful people!
Barnbrow Country House was our destination. We rolled up its long, tree lined drive and broke out into the reception courtyard. We quickly got our rooms sorted and I somehow wound up with the best one. Just rewards after two days kipping on a sofa bed I suppose. It was sumptuously appointed and spacious. I did however have an evening long battle with the coffee maker in a bid get to deliver hot water for a cuppa. Then much later I discovered a kettle in the wardrobe doh!
Not everyday day of a biking trip has to be about covering hundreds of mines or going as fast as you can. This had been a chilled days riding. Just what we needed
Magical musical night
We sorted a taxi and headed into the local town of Ballycotton to have a few beers and get something to eat. His proved to be a bit of an unexpected highlight. Gerrard our driver arrived in a rather swish Audi A6. He whisked us into the town whilst simultaneously showing us the local sights, taking us to a viewpoint, before wittily recounting the tale of Rory Gallagher’s brother. The closest thing the area has to a celebrity, I think. All the time he was also on his phone laying horse racing bets and getting racing tips from his mate. What a character.
‘Shall we go to another pub? Ah, go on…’
We took in a pub he recommended ‘The Schooner Inn’ where we had the best scampi I have ever tasted, before crossing the road to take in the delights of ‘The Blackbird’. A couple of beers were quickly dealt with. The soft, lilting sound of Irish folk music played could be heard from the back of the pub. We wondered down a corridor and into a packed room to investigate. This was ‘The music room’. A feature of many a local pub in Ireland apparently. Here local folks were singing traditional tunes, accompanied by others playing guitars, accordions and Bodhrans (a circular, handheld drum). The atmosphere was fantastic and before we knew it,we were amongst the crowd and singing along. Magical.
I was chatting away to the locals about my Irish roots. A bit too much I later learnt, but anyway. What an epic evening. I had heard of these places but thought that the tales were exaggerated. It seems there were not. I was gutted to come away when Gerrard returned to collect us. It was great to sample a little of this Irish magic off the tourist trail.
Day Eight – In The Thunder and Rain
It was a good job that I had a great night’s sleep in my super comfortable room as today that other great Irish tradition finally hit us: Rain. Lots of it too! We were all kitted up and made our way down the drive. It was at this point that Matt on his GS dam nearly went off the track and down a steep slope as he tried to give room to a car coming up the drive some. I was just behind him and genuinely thought he was going to go. Luckily, he just about got through ok. Phew
In light of the poor weather, we just went directly to the appropriately named Waterford. Home to the world-renowned crystal used in glasses and decanters etc. But we were wet and in need of food and a hot drink. So, we checked the McDonalds instead. OK, I know, but I have to say rarely has the sight of a ‘Golden Arches’ been so welcome!
Old memories re-kindled
From here we took a beautifully engineered and all but deserted motorway (M9) to fast track us to the Wicklow Mountains. Another place I vaguely remember from childhood holidays in the 1970’s. Even in the rain it felt good to be roaring along in a line of three BMW 1200s rather than crammed into an asthmatic 1960s Ford Zephyr!
Taking a break from the gravel
Once in the National Park that encapsulates the Wicklow Mountains, we found ourselves picking our way along heavily wooded lanes. It was still raining and a little grey. To be honest the sights, when compared to what we say on the Atlantic coast, did not compare well. To make matters worse one section had been freshly re-gravelled. This went on for several miles and at times we were down to less than 30 mph. Not fun.
Only one thing for it. We stopped at a tea room. This time Matt didn’t, I repeat didn’t have a huge scone with cream and jam. However, I did. They were great! Yet again we bumped into more chatty locals, a Harley-riding ex-pat and his sister this time. She took a shine to Andy and keep mentioning she was single. Hilarious! There was also a family visiting from California in the USA. Quite a contrast in surroundings for them, but they seemed happy enough!
The next section was much better, no fresh gravel as the road wended it’s way through a lovely landscape of rolling valleys. A particular highlight was beautiful waterfall where we stopped for a while to get off the bikes and appreciate our surroundings better.
Sweeping views, mist hanging low
Then all of a sudden it seemed we dropped down from the national park and into the suburbs of Dublin. The traffic as so heavy that we crawled the 5 or 6 miles to our digs for the night. The only thing of note is that we did cross the famous River Liffey. Once reviled for the level of pollution it suffered. Now much improved and a notable landmark
Expensive city, so back to Uni for us!
We had really struggled to find affordable accommodation in the capital. Being quoted hundreds of pounds each in some cases! But a little thinking out of the box had us sorted. We stayed in the student halls of the DCU (Dublin City University). They rent them out over the summer when the students nurse their hangovers back with Mommy and Daddy. They are very basic but a relatively cost effective way to stay in Dublin
Back to Uni (Not that I actually went to Uni…)
We did have access to a kitchen but chose to head to the student bar, which still open to support the international students who were still on campus. The sight of three middle-aged bikers wondering in didn’t seem to raise eyebrows. So, we ordered beer and pizza and proceeded to have an excellent night! We didn’t head into the city centre as I feel it would just be like many other big cities and didn’t gel with the vibe of our tour.
The only way to sign off the trip!
One last pint, until the next time…
The next morning it was up early to head tot ferry port for our 9am sailing. Only 3 miles so the digs were super handy from that perspective too. The ferry we boarded the Norbay is a bit of shed, very much more oriented for freight traffic: Coming up from the vehicle deck involved negotiating narrow metal walkways and steep, steel steps. It genuinely brought to mind HMS Belfast, which I toured last year!
However, the lounge was comfy enough and the hot food and drinks were included in our ferry fare. We had got a good deal at £59 per bike/rider. So having the meals too was a real boon. A decent breakfast, soup and a roll at lunch and a three course meal about an hour before docking. Absolutely spot on! Then as an added bonus, just as I went up on deck to get some air, the BBMF Avro Lancaster flew directly over us! What a fabulous sight and the sound of the four merlin engines roaring away…awesome!
Andy eating Matt’s bread roll
The mighty Avro Lancaster PA474 of the BBMF was apparently on route to the IoM
Old tub, but such a smooth crossing
The crossing was smooth and uneventful and after getting of the ship first we all headed back to the midlands, splitting at Whitchurch as we had on the way up. I got home with 1332 mils added to odometer and a mass of memories that I will treasure forever. That, my friends was an epic trip. Thanks to Andy and Matt for being top company throughout and full praise to the people of Ireland, both north and south for your warmth and your welcome. To quote a certain Austrian, ‘I’ll be back…’
Here’s to the next trip.
Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly
The first two parts of the trip are recounted here: