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All posts for the month April, 2015

Ring of Kerry

After breakfast, prepared by Maria of Orchard House in Killarney, we set off to explore the 179km Ring of Kerry welcomed by our first sunny and rain free day in Ireland. We stopped off in Kenmare for lunch and then off to Blackwater, Sneem, Castlecove, Caherdaniel, Waterville to St Finans Bay along the Ring of Kerry. It was very pretty along the coast, but quite sedate in terms of actual riding. The roads in Ireland are very bumpy in general but otherwise uneventful. Looking for something a little more adventurous we took some of the Mountain passes ( Mullaghanattin , Ballagah Beam, Molls Gap and the Gap of Dunloe back into Killarney National Park) whilst tame by some of the other roads we have been on (Raiders Road in Scotland and Torr Rd in Northern Ireland) still a nice ride. During the pass we met Jean Pierre from Paris, who was touring on his own (we had passed him earlier on the Ring of Kerry) and it was interesting to here about his travels and he was envious of us being able to take a 12 month trip. Whilst riding the pass we had to stop along the way for Vince to do the boy thing and have a pee break … Surfice to say my SheWee has now been christened successfully! An interesting way to see the Killarney National Park is via the Jaunting Carts….it was lovely to see the horses and carriages in the Forrest.

And Vince says … that the N70 that runs west from Kenmare and marks the southern section of the Ring of Kerry is sealed, but is rutted in some sections – the left-hand track has subsided in places and is a good 3-4 inches lower than the rest of the road surface – where the rut ends and rises up to meet the road there’s a steep, sharp lip, and I can imagine that hitting that at speed would be quite disconcerting, especially as the rise was often at angles to the road – a good opportunity to lose your front wheel sliding across the lip. I choose to stay in the right wheel track and avoid the dramas ūüôā The ‘steep climb’ out of Catherdaniel described in Colette Coleman’s “Great Motorcycle Tours of Europe” was a complete non-event – we’d finished the climb and pushed on for a while when Karen asked over the intercom when was the climb coming up, as she was looking for something exciting to occur ūüôā And our usual preference is not to ride the same road twice, but I did backtrack 14km from Ballinskelligs back to Waterville so we could get away from the coastal route and go explore the mountain passes…¬†

English car drivers can shoe-horn their cars into the narrowest of gaps. The ride through the Yorkshire Dales was sublime, but would have been more enjoyable if the roads had been dry. Car and truck drivers are quite courteous, flashing their indicators in thanks once they’ve overtaken a slower vehicle (usually me, but also slow trucks and OAP’s in cars). [OAP – Old Age Pensioner, as per English newspapers].

Scotland is a rider’s paradise. Beautiful scenery, great roads, minimal traffic – everything has been laid out perfectly for the appreciative rider. @#$%ing lot of point-to-point speed cameras though – talk about the fun police. ¬†Just watch out for mud on country lanes, often trampled in by herds of cows crossing the road.¬†

Riding in Northern Ireland in spring-time is not for the feint-hearted. The combination of challenging roads and weather conditions make every ride a battle to be fought. The roads here are often very narrow. The ride across the steep and twisty Torr Road is the hardest sealed road I’ve ever ridden. I’ll try and post some photos and video later. Off-camber corners, roundabouts slippery as ice-skating rinks, Northern Ireland is like a textbook of riding hazards.¬†

In Ireland the roads are wider, and many roads include an emergency/stopping/passing/turning lane, so slow traffic can pull to the side and let fast traffic go through. The lane divider markings on country roads are very visible, so it makes for ¬†easy riding, but watch out for directional signs painted in Limerick;s town centre – today we were on a two-lane, one-way road, and both lanes were marked to show that traffic could either go straight ahead or turn right. There are that many warning and information signs on the side of the road that they can become a distraction as you try and figure out what’s coming up and they read like the race notes for a rally car – “Road narrows to sharp right over humped bridge with elderly crossing on far side and prancing deer seen near major junction ahead”.

The 100 kmh speed limit on country lanes in Ireland can be a bit disconcerting – in W.A. roads with driveways opening up onto them probably wouldn’t be posted at anything more than 80 kmh and probably lower. In the wet I just stick to around 50-60 on these twisty roads.¬†

250km in a day is often a full day’s ride. We’ve done a couple of 350+ km days and they are big day’s out.¬†

We managed to get our camping gear dry and packed up early. After a healthy (fruit, yoghurt, cereal and small pancakes) breakfast at Ashgrove House we set off around 9.30am for the short ride (100km) to Killarney ….I was frozen to the bone and my thermals needed washing…so we pulled over and Vince gave me his from his soft bag as he wasn’t using them …he’s so kind to me…best husband ever! Even with the thermals and my electric vest I was frozen and it rained continually. I see why Ireland is so green! But after six days of rain and cold I’m so over this weather ….cold and miserable!

We decided to find accommodation for two nights and do some day rides out …to the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninisula and Beara Peninsula. We stopped at Orchard House and got a lovely loft room for 35 Euro per person per night including full Irish Breakfast from David – son of the owners Maria and Mike.

We took a walk into town and got some washing done ¬†for 12 Euro. It’s great to have my icebreaker thermals back. We had lunch at the Laurels pub and although full of atmosphere the food was not the best. We went back to our B&B and I tried to warm up by hopping into bed whilst Vince caught up in emails etc as we finally have wifi again.

In the evening we went and had a look for an Irish charm for my bracelet and settled on a cladagh design by Tara’s Diary….the heart represents love, the crown represents loyalty, and the hands represent friendship….very special! We had a drink in The Shire…a Lord of the Rings themed pub….but it was very quiet with not a lot going on.

We got a few supplies at the local Spar…we thought we might try to catch some Irish music tonight but the pubs only start going late around 11.00pm and that’s past our bedtime!

We left the Travelodge in Galway around 10.30am…without breakfast… as they had a Contiki Tour of 60 in so no room for us. We couldn’t get dinner the night before because the kitchen was closed all day due to them changing all the bed’s over….and as charming as Shamous (the manager) was we still had to wait an hour for our room even though we arrived at 5.00pm!

It was raining, cold and miserable…so we had to decide whether or not just to say another night in Galway, go straight to Limerck and find accomodation, or go ahead with our original plan to see the Cliffs of Moher.

It was going to be a shorter day today on the bike …. So we decide to press on …going to the “Edge of the World”….the Cliffs of Moher. Enroute via the R478 we weaved our way up the aptly named Corkscrew Hill…quite difficult and steep.

When we got to the Cliffs of Moher, they charged us 6 Euro each for the privilege! Everywhere in Ireland costs these days…nothing’s for free. The cliffs are claimed to be the most amazing in the world (214m/700ft) with walks and views over the Atlantic Ocean. We had a nice, but pretty steep, walk….the rain had a short break whilst we were there and held off until the very end and then soaked us on the way back. We enjoyed it and walked up to the view point to the right with the castle and then over to the left to the top off the first cliff. It was not an easy walk and at times we had to climb over a style or two….not for the faint hearted or elderly. We didn’t enjoy all the other tourists…some people are so rude and inconsiderate….I guess we have been pretty spoilt with most places we have gone being a bit off the beaten track having few people to contend with. We also rode past the Burren ( a limestone and fossil like rock formation stretching as far as the eye can see and home to a variety of flora and fauna).

We headed on to Limerick and found a B&B (Ashgrove House) around 4.00pm and Helen was happy to rent us a room for 35 Euro each. It’s a bit expensive but I was feeling a bit sick with all the twisties we had today and needed to rest …so we took it.

Here’s a Limerick written in Limerick….

2Up Adventures are taking a motorbike riding trip

So the ANIMAL they sent on a really big ship

She went across the sea

and was waiting for thee,

Now the adventure really begins I’ll give you the tip

Dinner was found just around the corner, at the Shamrock Chinese Restauarant, built into the side of a petrol station. Dinner was bland and uninspiring, and walking back to our B&B a passing car clipped a puddle and showered me from head to foot in water.

Back at our B&B we spread out our tent and sleeping bags – still damp from camping at Portballantrae, and read our books in the evening.

We both had a restless night and were feeling cold…when we got up we realised why…there was frost all over the tent and bike….my air hawk was frozen solid!

This meant that some of the moisture had got into our tent making our sleeping bags damp! No wonder we felt cold. We put everything out to dry and went into town for breakfast at the Old Bushmills Inn….very warming and yummy!

Back at our campsite we packed up as best we could…although some things ( like the groundsheet) were not completely dry ….but the rain was on its way …so we hit the road by 10.30am.

We had a long drive (around 270 km taking 5 hours in the saddle) and the weather literally gave us all 4 seasons in 1 day ….rain, hail, snow and shine…..but always cold…in fact it really got above 2.5 degrees – and with the wind chill factor on the bike we were freezing …even with our electric vests. Enroute to Londonderry the snowflakes came so thick and fast they completely covered our visors and as fast as I wiped it clear it filled up again. I raised my visor to see but they were hitting me so hard in the face it felt like needles! Very scary ….as there was nowhere safe for Vince to pull over so he had to soldier on…he is amazing and I trust him with my life!

We stopped at Sligo for some lunch and to warm up a bit.

We knew we were in the Republic of Ireland once road signs changed from yards and miles to meters and Km and prices were now in Euros not Pounds.

We got to Galway around 5.00pm and eventually decided to check in to the Travelodge for a little comfort after a hard day….at 59 Euro it was a bargain compared to the UK.

Today we set off to visit the Giant’s Causeway which is very impressive with is hexagonal rocks jutting up and matching the same across to the Scottish coast. Nearby we saw Dunluce Castle which sits right on the cliff edge and history says the kitchen fell into the sea. We followed the Causeway Coastal Route all the way to Londonderry, the walled city, in which my great grandmother was born and we walked the walls taking in all the sites including the Bogside Murals. Outside the Guild Hall they were trying to set a record for the most people in “onesies”. The attending paramedic for the event, Robert, came and spoke with us about our bike and ride and asked if he could take a picture. When we first arrive another punter, Phillip, came and chatted and gave us the benefits of his wisdom both about Derry and BMWs.

Back at Bushmills we visited the oldest licensed distiller in the world….but we had just missed the last tour and tasting!

We had a lovely meal followed by port by the open field at the Old Bushmill’s Inn …very decedent.

We camped a second night back at Portballintrae so we didn’t have to pack up and set up the tent all over again….we will leave Northern Ireland tomorrow on a long ride to Gallway in Ireland.

After breakfast at Derrin House in Larne we said goodbye to Ivy (our host) who suggested that we take a route many motorcyclist enjoy along Torr Rd from Cushenden past Torr Head to Ballycastle.

We set off following the Game of Thrones Location Map…Cairncastle – where Ned Stark beheaded a Knights Watch deserter and Catelyn captures Tyrion Lannister and where Bran,Osha and Hodor take a last look over Winterfell before heading North.

We didn’t go to Slemish, in the Shillanavogy Valley where Daenerys Targaryen learns what at Khaleesi is and she and the Dothraki ride the grasslands as it meant a detour from the coastal route we were on.¬†

We stopped at Glenarm, where we visited Steenson Jewellery Workshop that made all the pieces for the GOT such as crowns, lion pins, stag pins, roses etc.

Next we went to Cushendun but we couldn’t find the actual caves where Davos Seaworth takes Melisandre ashore to give birth to the shadow baby who kills Lord Stannis’s brother Renly.

We took the detour on Torr Road, Ivy had suggested, and Vince said it was the hardest, most challenging sealed road he’s ever ridden on. Predominantly ridden in 2nd gear, sometimes 1st, standing up on the foot pegs, his weight over the front wheel up the inclines to try to keep us steady. The road was so steep and the weight distribution with the panniers so biased to the rear, that the front wheel was lifting of the ground at times as we travelled up the steep hills. These were “rollies” with attitude. I kept quiet on the back as I was very scared.

We rode past Murlough Bay and Fairh Head… which were used as the road to Pyke where Thegn Grayjoy and his sister, Asha, ride on horseback and where Davos is shipwrecked after the battle of Blackwater Bay.

We stopped at Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge and hiked the 3km there and back ….only to discover it was a very short bridge …a bit disappointing for the 5.90 (pounds) each they charged us. After the experience on the Torr Road it was nothing! Back to our GOT locations, Larrybane, nearby, is where Brienne is given a place in Renlys Kings Guard, Renly swears to Lady Stark he will avenge Ned’s death but is killed by the shadow baby. Magawry confides to Littlefinger she wants to be Queen and Davos tells Stannis what he witnessed in the cave with Melisandre.

We went to Ballintoy Harbour …Lordsport Harbour in the Iron Islands where Theon come homes and where he is baptised into the faith of the “Drowned God” and where the pirate, Salldhor Sann met Davos and pledged support to Stannis Baratheon.

We camped at Portballintrae and again didn’t cook, but we bought some supplies in Bushmills and made a simple snack dinner at our campsite, so we christened our plates and utensils. Our campsite cost 15 pounds per night and a pound each time you want to use the shower (on a 10 minute timer).

A few photos of Torr Road from the GoPro – they just don’t convey the steepness of the road …

It rained overnight at Southerness, so we had a bit of a late start to let the tent and fly cover etc dry out before we packed it away in the panniers…we were pleased that things packed away neatly again …as this was the 1st time we had used them and you know how it can be when things never seem to go back quite as compact.

We were headed for Cairnryan, where we would eventually get the ferry over to Ireland. We were unsure if we would spend the night there and travel to Ireland tomorrow or whether we would get the ferry to Larne today.

Vince had another ride from the Great Motorcycle Tours of Europe book he wanted to do….the Galloway Forest Ride and maybe go offroad on the Raiders Road. We met some riders who had just completed it and they said there was only a bit that was tricky….we had some trouble with a hill of particularly loose gravel….but Vince made it to the top safely with both of us on board….I probably needed a double scotch at the time….I find off road much scarier than he does…but he says that’s why I’m Adventure Girl…I feel the fear and do it anyway…he’s trying to convince me I’m braver than I think…

We arrived in Cairnryan around 2.10pm and decided to check out the ferry schedule before getting some lunch and working out accommodation. I did a reccie and there was a fast ferry of 1 hour at 5.30pm or the next day a ferry at 8.00am and 1.30pm both taking 2 hours and again the fast ferry at 5.30pm. ¬†I let Vince know and we decided on the fast ferry today. So we booked our tickets for two adults and a motorbike ….it was 69 pounds.

We went into the nearby town of Stranraer and had lunch at the Customs House …which claims to be¬†the last house before Ireland. Then we had to be back at Cainryan to check in before 4.30 pm. We were at the head of lane 2 and were the first vehicle to be boarded….. this is the second ferry crossing the ANIMAL has done (the first being to Isle of Skye)….. we are getting good at this! Once on board we went to the bar and had a diet coke and some potatoe chips whilst we travelled over the Irish Sea to Larne. Happy to say neither of us were seasick…thank goodness.

It was raining when we left Cairnryan (Scotland) and when we arrived at Larne (Northern Ireland). We quickly managed to find a B&B at Derrin House, where Ivy made us welcome and it was only 63 pounds for a double. She also suggested a local restaurant for dinner ….which was Checker’s Winebar. Vince had a Guinness and made me try some …I didn’t like it. I had a very “Irish” chicken schnitzel – it was battered instead of crumbed and served with pepper sauce! Well, we are in Northern Ireland after all…..

After a wonderful breakfast at Castle Vale House we headed back to the Scottish border we had whizzed past last night and took some photos of the first and last house is Scotland. We then headed south to Beal to see the Holy Island Lindisfarne….where the Vikings first landed ….we were told it was unlikely the tide would be right until around 2.00pm ….so we through the we would only see it from ¬†the mainland. However, the planets aligned for us, and when we got there, around 11.00am, the tide was out…..so we could drive across to the Island itself….Vince loves the series “Vikings” so this was special for him.

We then headed along the boarders ride that Vince has seen in “Great Motorcycle ¬†Tours of Europe” by Colette Coleman, and we had a great ride with twisties and rollies ( our made up word for roads that go up and down like a roller coaster) including becoming airborne at one point! We spent around 6 hours on the bike today and arrived at Southernness in the early evening in time to pitch our tent for the first time …..the Mutha Hubba NX3 is a thing to behold ….easy to put up….spacious and well designed. Our research paid off and the performance of our new Thermorest Neoair Everglade pillows and Thermorest Neoair Xtherm mattresses was impressive …. I guess you really do get what you pay for. We didn’t christen our Dragonfly and cook though …we got a meal at the local pub instead and met some very colourful local characters there including Greg from Glasgow (who claims to have climbed Ben Nevis) and Peter and Sharon from Ayr who take it in turns to get drunk.

After dinner we settled in for the night cuddled up in our little tent….we like camping! And at just 14 pounds so does our bank balance! Parkdean is a holiday park and although it’s “Butlins” type set up is not really our style …the toilet, shower and laundry facilities were exceptional and the site had power – not that we needed that!

As part of the up and down day we have had ….I’m sorry to say that the ANIMAL fell over for the first time today…..no one was hurt …in fact no one was actually on her at the time….we were at a fuel stop.

Now when you are two up …there is a rider and a pillion…and who do you think is in charge of the ANIMAL?….so who dropped her?…..was it Vince or Karen?…

I know it’s unbelievable but it was me…..Vince went in to pay and I just put my hand on the softbag and over she went….it was like slow motion….nothing I could do to stop 250kg from just falling over….I thought to myself oops…no way I can hide this one ’cause I can’t lift it up myself before he gets back and pretend nothing happened…..luckily no damage was done and we discovered that we can lift the bike together (I’m stronger than I look) ….useful to know …..scared the crap out of me at the time though…and Vince is never going to let me live it down!