So how did the trip go?

The RoI trip started on Wednesday for the hardy folks from Middlesborough (otherwise known as Graham & Bob) as they left for Holyhead stopping off on Leeds at Allan & Jane’s abode for a cuppa and bacon buttie. They then proceeded to the café at Glossop for an all day breakfast before cutting across the Horseshoe Pass and onto the A55 across the top of Wales and into Hollyhead for a night in a BnB. By all accounts the trip was very wet and very windy and proved that Bob’s nice new waterproof boots were far from waterproof (black marks to M&P for that one).

I left Derby at just after 4am on Thursday morning and after a steady ride I met up with Mick at our nominated meeting point, Park Hall near Oswestry at 5:50 some 15 minutes earlier than planned – only to find Mick had been there for half an hour (he’s an excitable chap at times). We opted for the direct route to Holyhead, which is a “good biker’s route” with lots of bends, twists and turns, both up and down, round the base of Snowdonia before joining the A55 about 15 – 20 miles or so from Holyhead. The mainly empty roads had seen us make good speed which was just as well given the strong winds we ran into on the A55. We’d been at the ferry terminal for just a couple of minutes when Allan & Jane turned up having had a breakfast stop just across the road. They too had set off at 4:00 and had done the M62 & A55 in winds strong enough to concern Allan on a couple of occasions (given his years of biking experience that say it all).

Computer problems at the terminal was slowing down the checking in process but we were soon through and getting a cuppa in the lounge while waiting to board when Graham & Bob arrived – just in time to be waved on-board. Bikes were carefully strapped down before we retired to the lounge, where there was plenty of space so we took up camp at the very front so we could look out of the big scenic front window and see where we were going. Perhaps that wasn’t the such a good idea as it soon became obvious after leaving port that I wasn’t going to travel well but I avoided doing a Hughie Green and contented myself with just turning white. The swell died a bit and the crossing smoothed the closer we got to Dun Loaghaire. The first surprise was on disembarking it was straight off the ferry, a couple of hundred yards and onto the road and away – except the traffic was at a standstill and as we weaved our way we ran straight into (almost literally) Richard, Jason & Damian who were waiting there to greet us – good positioning guys. Anyway, with their help we were soon away from the urban jungle and heading out of town. First stop was about 8 miles down the road for some fuel, a good chat and a group photo by Bob before Richard said his goodbyes and we set off following the two remaining locals down the way to Avoca (Ballykissangel) where we virtually brought the town to a standstill with all the bikes parked up across the road from Father Ted’s favourite pub, into which we all piled for a deservedly good feed and some liquid refreshment – well, it would have been rude not to!

After that we hit the road down to Gorey where Jason said his farewells as he had other commitments. With Damian now leading we gradually picked up the pace down into Waterford and the Portree Guest House, our base for the next three nights. Finding the car park round the back, which had an interesting (challenging?) slope to it, we were met by Steve Payne and shown round to the front and in (no back entrance). Allocated our rooms we got ourselves as unpacked as we wanted and then gathered in the lounge for a chat over a cuppa (no tea making facilities in the rooms, but a good supply in the TV lounge 24hours a day). General consensus on the rooms was basic, bijou and clean, OK for our short stay as we didn’t plan being in them other than to sleep. The day ended with us walking down O’Connell Street to T&H Doolan, for a pub meal and plenty of beverages. Mick said the Guinness was good but he had a good few just to make sure that the standard remained constant as the barrel emptied. I can vouch for the quality of the whiskey while Allan & Jane tested a good few samples of Bacardi. Folks retired as and when they wished with a few ending the day in the Portree TV lounge with another cuppa.

Friday morning dawned bright and dry, until just after breakfast when the rain started, so it was in steady rain that we set off for Waterford Crystal all of 2 miles away. We got there just as the heavens opened so took the factory tour (group discount rate €4.75 instead of the standard €9.75) and then wandered round the factory shop wondering at the prices of the stuff on offer which is clearly aimed at the American tourists (not many of them in evidence). It was still tipping it down so we decided to get a cuppa and a sarnie/bun and wait it out. Talking to Tom Murphy on the phone it appeared the weather was clearing from the west and at 12:50 we set off as soon as it let up. We were soon riding on drying roads and after a little misunderstanding (by me) we met up with Tom in Dungarvan. From there we headed down to Midleton and the Jamieson distillery museum where I tried the “motorcycle tour group” line again, without success. By now it was 3pm so we decided that an afternoon cuppa was in order so sat ourselves down in the restaurant, and the heavens opened outside. An hour later, refreshed and ready for the off we set out for Lismore and a ride over the V to Cahir with a couple of stops on the way. Most of that ride was in low cloud and steady rain so instead of stopping in Cahir we continued down through Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir to Waterford – with the day drying as we rode, so much so that we’d virtually dried out by the time we got back. T&H Doolan benefited from our business again that night, which everyone seemed to enjoy (good grub, good booze, live entertainment, what more can one ask?). The next day’s agenda was agreed before we hit the sack.

Saturday, again it started dry and after breakfast it brightened up. Off we went, heading for the local Honda shop where Bob was willing to buy some waterproof boots. Quickly left behind by Tom, and with more than a little bit of luck, we filled up at a petrol station right next to the Honda place. No such luck for Bob though as they’d a pretty poor range of boots/clothing (good range of mowers though) so he made do with some Nikwax. It was then a nice steady ride down to the coast at Dunmore East for a photo stop on the coast road overlooking the bay. On the way we rode through our one and only Garda mobile speed gun check – sorry mate but one GS and nine Deauvilles do not a race meeting make, and we all rode past right bang on the speed limit (whatever that was). Then round to the harbour, more photos before sitting outside a café overlooking the harbour for a cuppa and a bun/sarnie (or in Graham’s case – meal). Sticking to the coastal route we wound our way round to Annestown where we stopped for another photo stop at a lime kiln by the bay (big pebbles, no sand this time). Then the rain started, just enough to make us mount up and ride off but not enough to really get wet. Finally hitting the main road back at Dungarvan we then upped the pace on a ride down to Kinsale. Arriving around 2:30pm we agreed to leave around 4pm so in varying group sizes we wandered around this rather pretty little touristy port before heading back to Waterford. Some of the group got a little restless after the touring and decided to blast back but we all arrived back at Portree within 2 minutes of each other as they’d had to stop and refuel. That night we all ate in the Maxim House, Chinese restaurant before piling into Doolan’s to spend the last of our Euros on alcohol and listen to another live (rather too loud) band.

Sunday morning, up early for a 7am departure from Potree. Mick, myself, Ken, Stephen and Colin (in that order) left for Rosslare leaving Graham, Allan & Jane, Steve and Bob to depart with Damian back to Dun Loaghaire via Damian’s place at Greystones where his missus was primed to provide bacon butties. Our ride to Rosslare was on empty roads so we kept the speed up as there was no evidence of the Garda having gotten out of bed. We rode into, through and out the other side of some heavy rain and Mick, Colin and I filled up at the main filling station in Rosslare. We soon boarded, tied the bikes down and found a spot in the lounge to call our own. The three and a half hour crossing can best be described as steady (or dull) but gave us a chance for one last prolonged chat. Farewells said Mick lead us off the boat and at the first roundabout he and I headed up into Wales while the others headed for the M4. It rained! All the way! I waved goodbye to Mick on the outskirts of Shrewsbury. I arrived in Derby at 17:40 some four and a half hours and 212 miles later. Drowned rat best describes the way I felt.

Was it worth it? Too damn right it was. Good riding with a good company of like-minded folks. The Irish are just so nice – and courteous. At junctions and roundabouts they don’t just let one bike out, they let out the lot. Ride up behind then and they move over. Want to turn across their path on a right turn and they stop for you. Truckers wave and hoot the horns at you. The local bikers wave every time. Mothers with children stop and point. Old men and dad’s with kids walk up and talk to you – about anything! And Ireland is very green (all that rain) and pleasant on the eye.

So thanks to all those who joined me on my flying visit to Ireland. A special thank you to all the locals for the meet and greet and just being there. Tom Murphy, you sir are a star – slumming it with us Deauville owners on your GS. The last time I saw it, it wasn’t quite as pristine as the first time but I expect that’s all been put right by now. Many thanks for leading us out and I hope we can meet up again some time.

No, we don’t do organised tours. We do informal ride-outs. I may well find the time to put another one together, after all, this was my first attempt so the next one has got to be better. Anybody else want to tag along? Nah! Didn’t think so….

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