Beautiful Ireland

This year I spend my holiday in Ireland by motorbike. We didn’t have a lot of rain and the scenery is just great! There is a lot of wind, especially when driving near the Atlantic coast. The people are friendly, helpful. There are not many bikers, but you should try it.

We took the ferry from IJmuiden, which is near my house. We sailed to Newcastle on a very quiet sea. Strapping your bike on the ferry remains a bit of a hassle (just put it on the jiffy!) especially as the boat was loaded to its rim.

When you arrive in the UK, two things require your attention: You have to ride on the wrong side of the road (remember: they drive on the left side, we drive on the right side; but if we drive on the right side, then the opposite is the wrong side). Which is somewhat confusing the first day or two. The other thing is that they insist on keeping the Pound. You’ll get to love the Euro as soon as you enter Ireland again: you can compare prices once more.

We drove to Stanraer and had a lovely little guesthouse. The next morning it took us 5 minutes to get to the next ferry: a catamaran. It took us a couple of hours to get to Belfast and thanks to the genius of my Garmin we left it quickly behind us and dropped straight into Ireland. The only thing we noticed is that the signs on the road changed a bit.

We slept near Cavan, but quickly moved on to Clifden. The last 30 kilometers or so to Clifden were the beginning of the great Irish scenery: We thought for a moment we had driven into Norway! Such a beautiful landscape. The roads started to curl as well, and that remained for almost the rest of the holiday.

We took some coastal roads dead South and kept following the shore as much as possible. Only to be welcomed in every little village by the smell of burning peat.

We went down to Galway, where we got stuck in the afternoon traffic jam. Normally I would quickly pass it on my bike, but this time we travelled with a small group of four, of which Clementine just had her motor drivers license for a couple of weeks(!) So we waited patiently. I even spoke to another Dutchman in the jam (having a small flag on my bike pays off), as he pulled up to me and we drove slowly on for a couple of minutes.

That night we visited an amazing pub: The Quays, in the middle of the centre. There was a fine rock band, but the sheer size of the pub amazed us all. This is a thing that stays as a clear memory: on the outside Irish pubs look small, but most of the times, these pubs are huge inside. And The Quays beat them all, if only by its beautiful interior made out of an old church or so.

We visited the Burren (a very weird environment). Again: the Zumo knew a ‘shortcut’ which took us over some amazing little roads where nobody else went. Great! Then we visited the Cliffs of Moher and it was foggy! We couldn’t see the supposed edge of the cliffs. We could barely see each other! Just as we thought of moving on, the sky cleared and we appeared to have been stuck in a cloud. I made beautiful pictures and we understand why the cliffs are one of the big highlights of Ireland! Unfortunately we caught some bad luck as Hans had a flat tire when we returned. We took out our repair kit, which we had bought for our holiday in Norway two years ago. We read some instructions and sort of fixed the tire. Luckily we drove straight into a tire-repair centre in a few minutes and this friendly Irish bloke fixed it again; properly this time. A bit later than expected we finished at our hotel. This happened to be the only day with ‘real’ rain by the way.

We moved steadily on, to Killarney and drove the Ring of Kerry. Although I did not expect it after all the beautiful scenery, this Ring is awesome! Curly roads with a maximum speed sign of 100km/h (I barely managed 60!), nice climbs and amazing views. Whatever you do, go visit the Ring!

The next day was supposed to be a resting day, but Hans and I decided to go through the Gap of Dunloe, from the south side. Amazing. Buy a BMW GS and follow our trail! This is by far the best thing I have done in a long time by bike. It was so good that Olga decided to ride it (from the North side; the ‘tourist entrance’) later that afternoon. Hans and I finished the day by going to Dingle (too many tourists), through the Conner’s pass (nothing fancy, until the top; the last kilometer is a great, great road). This was a top day!

We moved on to Cork. But to get to Kenmare, you have to drive a part of the Ring once more, because it is the only road through the mountains! Can’t we just buy this piece of Ireland and ship it over?!

Well, Cork was a bit disappointing and we moved quickly onto Cashel and onto the Wicklow mountains. We dropped straight into Bray, were we slept for two nights. We took the train (Dart) into Dublin. Frankly, Dublin isn’t very special. It is busy. Overcrowded. We have seen more people in a day than in the weeks before!

We thought we would simply drive back to Newcastle, so we took the ferry to Holyhead. And just when we expected nothing, we drove straight into ‘real’ mountains in Wales. The A5 is a road you shouldn’t miss! I even think I will plan a Holiday in Wales in the future after driving there. We slept in a nice little hotel in Chester. The next day we took the Motorway to sneak between Liverpool and Manchester and we drove into the Lake district. This has been on my wish list for a while and it was marvellous. Especially the rollercoaster-road around Windermere! (skip Windermere: a million people in a small town. All by car). Our last night was in Glenridding and we had a fantastic final! Driving to Penrith and the A686 all the way to Newcastle. What a road, straight over a mountain. This day alone we saw more motorbikes than during our entire holiday. On a Monday!

The highlights of this Holiday: Clifden area, The Burren, The Cliffs of Moher, Conner’s pass, the Ring of Kerry with the gap of Dunloe as a winner. Driving the A5 in the UK and the A592 and the A686 were a lovely dessert, asking for more! And make sure you have a Garmin Zumo to get onto the smallest roads.

And then an Irish collegue at work told me that we have missed the beautiful north of Ireland. Perhaps some day when I will go back to the Lake District we can add Northern Ireland to the trip!?

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