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October 2005 Club News

Ronnie | Sidecars | Veterans | Wales | Calendar

From Wales to the Isle of Man to Ireland by Bike

On the Ferry
On the Ferry

It's mid August ‘05 and we’re flying with Emirates to the UK. We broke the journey by stopping in Dubai for a few days (if you ever go there take a trip into the desert and enjoy an Arab meal complete with and free grog and belly dancers!). Mind you it can be a bit warm. It was the second highest August temp the first day we arrived: 47.3C!

We arrived at Heathrow to be met by my sister and family who drove us down the M4 to Cardiff. At my sister’s place we had a look in the garage for the 1986 R80RT my mate Ralph had got for us. He’d done a great job servicing it and sprucing it up. It was complete with BMW panniers and a top box.

A couple of days renewing relationships with my Welsh family before we were off to the Isle of Man and Ireland. They’d had quite a dry summer so far but what was the weather going to be like for our trip. Forecasting the weather is quite easy in Cardiff - If you can’t see the mountains it’s raining, if you can see the mountains is going to rain. After packing our gear on the Sunday it was 7.30 am Monday and we were off to meet Ralph and Mo at the local service station - we couldn’t see the mountains!

They were on a 1991 R100RT which looked in very good condition. It was the first time we’d seen them since they last come out to Oz, early last year. On different trips to Australia we had arranged a bike for them, they’d visited the South West, Esperance-Kalgoorlie etc, Kalbarri and Philip Island, and this time Ralph was returning the compliment. We’d known each other since we were kids.

He’s also got a Yamaha Faser (stripped down F1, 1000cc street bike), 2 beautiful Norton Dominators he’s restored as well as a few other restorations in the pipeline. The first destination was Liverpool to catch the ferry to the Isle of Man (IOM), we’d decided not to take the motorway but to take the minor roads in Wales before heading into England.

The first part of the trip was indeed quite wet, but after a couple of hours it started to fine up and we could put our wet weather gear away. I was loving the roads, smooth and twisty, although there was a fair amount of traffic particularly as we were getting closer to North East Wales and England. We were a bit early for the ferry so we decided to have a look around the Liverpool docks. A lot of work had been done with the old buildings, ships and wharfs, restoring them to how it was in the 19th century - fascinating. It was then time to ride the bikes onto the ferry and tie them to the rails that were put in place for motorbikes.

After watching a beautiful sunset over the Irish Sea we arrived at the IOM. We were too late for TT week, but luckily the Manx GP was on. Through a friend we had accommodation arranged in Douglas. After a great welcome by hosts, Hilary and Phil and family we were shown our rooms. Phil had a brilliantly restored Triton (Norton frame, Triumph motor). The work he’d done was excellent, and he recently had bought a new K1200RS BMW, which he thought was great.

Next day we did a lap of the TT circuit - great fun - how they ride at the speeds they do has to be seen to be believed bearing in mind the close proximity of the concrete walls etc. You can see why there are many deaths each year, although a lot of these are bikers pretending to be racers. Once you are out of Douglas there are no speed limits! We found out later there were 12 deaths Manx Week. Because of time constraints we were booked on the ferry for Wednesday morning but hoped to see some practice action, but unfortunately it was called off because of fog on the mountain.

The Isle of Man is certainly a beautiful place where motorcycling has a huge impact, in fact we were told most locals on the island have a bike. The ferry was delayed for three hours, great, we’ve got time for an ice-cream in Peel (other side of the Island) before doing another circuit of the track. Once again we had a smooth crossing across the notorious Irish Sea.

It was 7.30 pm when we rode into Dublin. There were people everywhere and the roads were a bit wet and covered with tram lines - which can be slippery. Dublin, like Liverpool and Cardiff had redeveloped a lot of the dockland area and there were now plenty of expensive houses and flats etc in its place - looks heaps better than the slums and broken-down factories etc. Eventually we found our B&B.

Green and twisty, but not a snake
What's long, green undulating and twisty? No, not a snake, an Irish road!

We parked the bikes, went straight to the nearest pub for a drink and a meal. They seem to start the evening a bit later in Ireland, not going out until 9, 10, or 11 o’clock - past our bedtime. Next morning, sun shining, we rode off towards NW Ireland (we thought), only we got lost - still in Dublin! A bloke on a bike pulled up next to us and Chris asked him the way. The guy, who was on his way home from work said “Follow me”! Isn’t the motorcycling community great?

So off we went at 100 mph, lane splitting (which Chris isn’t that keen on), overtaking on places where we shouldn’t have, trying to keep up with the bloke before he stopped at the outskirts of the city. He thought we should be all right from here. Somehow we were. At last Irish country roads, we headed to the north west of Eire (Sligo - where we thought we’d stay the night), stopping to see anything of interest on the way.

We changing our minds about Sligo deciding to ride a little further to a B&B outside a place called Pontoon. Before we had left Albany, Ronnie told us about a website called Bikestay. It lists motorcycle-friendly accommodation all over the world. I’d clicked onto Ireland and written down the cheaper places which looked good, county by county, together with phone numbers, this system worked really well. The best time to ring and book was lunch-time.

You had a good idea where you’d be that night and accommodation wasn’t booked out. By now the oil cooler on Ralph’s R100RT was leaking, spreading oil all over his boots and leathers. He bought some hose clamps and isolated the oil cooler, fixing the leak. This was done at a B&B, the bloke there was most helpful and his wife fixed us up with cake and coffee/tea - great people.

We dined that night at a hotel overlooking Loch Conn. Next day we meandered down the West Coast. The roads aren’t exactly wide and they can be pretty bouncy, but the bends are superb, we were having a great time. We were surprised at the lack of traffic especially as it was school holidays. We can only guess that not many people holiday in Ireland - so this is definitely a good place to go. The views were as you’d seen on the TV or postcards, stunning.

We then rode over a mountain range, arriving at Galway in the afternoon. Mo’s mum was born in Galway and she wanted to see the old house. Funny thing was that when we pulled into the town we stopped opposite the house, not good navigation - pure luck. As we were leaving Galway people were on their way home from work, but because of daylight saving we still had over 3 hours of riding time left, and so headed down the coast. We stayed the night in a B&B on the Cliffs of Moher, had a meal the other side of the road in a centuries old restaurant - beautiful.

Down the coast we rode until coming to a ferry outside Kilrush where we crossed the Shannon Causeway. It cost $4.00 for the 2 of us and saved a long ride inland to Limerick. The Dingle Peninsula was the next destination, again beautiful views and great roads (bends). We had booked ourselves into a place on the Ring of Kerry that night called Cahirsiveen. When we rang we asked if there was a pub where we could eat nearby. I don’t think we’d ever seen so many pubs in such a small street.

Irish noshing
Irish noshing near a different sort of Macca's

The peninsulas as well as the Beara Peninsula are all National Park and I think are most probably the most picturesque part of Ireland. Rolling hills, rugged coastline, and many pretty fishing villages. Roads as bendy as they can get - but still quite bumpy. After spending a fabulous day riding we then headed to Cork and then Cobh, where we had again booked accommodation - a place called Harleys B&B. I got some directions of where to go on the outskirts of town (quite involved) and thought it best to get some more further on.

I stopped to ask this guy where the street was, he didn’t know, and at the same time Ralph was yelling on his bike behind me. Where had we stopped? - outside Harleys B&B! Luck of the Irish! As we booked ourselves in I asked if he had a Harley - he didn’t know the front of a bike from the back! Cobh was an interesting place, very old, it was also where the Titanic left on its disastrous trip. Our room was on the third floor and as it was on the waterfront, it was not unusual to see a ship sail outside the window!

Next morning, yet another coastal road, stopping for a bite to eat at a pub in Dungarvan, there were another dozen bikes there - part of a tour group. We were now on the road to Waterford, I was interested to have a look at this place as my grandmother came from there. It was another lovely town with the River Nare cutting through the centre of it. We got a momento of the place at the Waterford Crystal factory. We were then in Wexford County, riding through John F. Kennedy Memorial Park (he was born there) towards Kilmore Quay - a very pretty place, old buildings, all thatched roofs. Before we knew it, we arrived on the outskirts of Rosslare where the ferry was to take us to Pembroke, South Wales.

We stayed at another great B&B (with a pub next door) it was incidentally another tranquil crossing on the Irish Sea - I think we were quite lucky. Ireland was brilliant, the people were very hospitable and friendly, we couldn’t fault the place. We’d heard many stories about the high rainfall, but I think going late August/September (their autumn) is the ideal time to go, as the weather we encountered was mainly mild and dry.

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