Around Ireland and the Northwest 200
Trip Start May 04, 2013
21Trip End Jul 07, 2013
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The next day was dry and sunny but cold. We rode to Waterford where the famous Waterford Crystal is made and did a lap of the main before heading for Blarney which is just outside Cork. We decided to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle. They gave Chris OAP (read old age pensioner) rates! And he didn't even ask for it!
After delivering the magic kiss on the stone Greg complained of a strained neck and back! Last kiss of that bloody stone!
It was then on to the Best Western Hotel in Killarney for the next two nights. Luckily the hotel had under cover parking and was right smack in the middle of Killarney which is the tourist centre of the south. We ate in O’Leary’s restaurant, the same place Greg & Kerrie ate at in 2007.
The next day we rode the scenic Ring of Kerry
We also stopped at another small village called Sneen which was packed with about 6-8 full sized coaches of tourists. After ice cream, coffee and a warmer jumper for Kerrie, we left. We continued around the coast and hit more strong winds and rain. We stopped at a look out at the highest point of the Ring of Kerry where the wind was so strong we thought the bikes were going to be blown over.
The next day we headed for Dublin
By late afternoon we went back to our hotel for a rest before heading out to dinner. On checking our email we found a message from Les Aspery who Greg and Chris met went dropping off the bikes in Brisbane for shipment. Les is a Queensland Police Officer like Greg. Les was arriving in Dublin on the ferry that afternoon so Kerrie sent him a reply telling him we were staying at the Castle Hotel. On returning from dinner, there was Les in the foyer, waiting to check in! So it was off for another walk around town and to find something for Les to eat.
In the morning we headed off for our B & B accommodation at Clare Forest Cottage
We decided day 1 would be finding our bearings then heading to the main grand stands and the start-finish line where the paddock is located together with all the merchandise tents. The plan was to buy our goodies and post then back to Julie Ransome at Imorex in Ipswich for collection when we drop off our bikes. This done, we then went for a ride around the circuit which is 8.9 miles or 14.3 kilometers long. The course is triangular shape and starts half way between Portrush and Portstewart and then heads south to Coleraine before returning north to the start-finish. The course record is 121 mph which is about 195 kph! That’s bloody fast on an open road! It takes around four minutes per lap for the top riders.
The next day, Thursday the 16th May, was official practice from 10.00 am to 2.15 pm with the roads closing 9.30 am. We were late getting away so when we got to Portrush the roads were already closed. We parked the bikes and walked to the viewing barriers which just happened to be right outside the local police station.
John showed us a memorial plaque dedicated to the 302 police officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) he said were murdered by both the IRA (who wanted unification with the Republic of Ireland) and the Loyalists (who wanted to remain part of the OK) during The Troubles. When The Troubles ended, part of the agreement was that the RUC was renamed PSNI because the RUC was so hated by both sides. John said all officers from the old RUC of which he is one, are viewed as "the old guard" and are wanted “out” by the new breed. He introduced us to a female Sgt Sharon Taylor whose father was also a police Sgt who was beaten to death in 1989 during The Troubles by Loyalists because he had been on duty when they wanted to march through a Catholic part of Ballymoney as protest against the IRA.
He told us police are still targeted by dissidents from both the IRA and the Loyalists and all officers as a matter of routine, check under their cars before driving each and every time looking for car bombs. Later that day three police officers near Belfast were lured to a false job and attacked by a man firing a semi automatic weapon who then fled. Luckily the police were uninjured. The next day the police found a bomb planted near the attack site which had been declared a crime scene which was designed to kill more police tasked to investigate the crime scene. John said this was a common ploy to maximize police casualties.
While waiting for Greg and Les to emerge from the Police Station (Kerrie was almost ready to go and report a missing husband), Chris and Kerrie were interviewed by a reporter from the Belfast Telegraph who wanted to know all about their visit to Northern Ireland.
John later took all of us for a guided driving tour of the area and then dropped us off at the start-finish line where we watched the three afternoon races, all rain affected. There we met Ian, a friend of Janice (a friend from home),
The next day it was warm and dry with blue skies – a glorious day! John sent us an SMS saying enjoy it because it was the only summers day of the year. We rode our bikes into Bushmills, did our posting, then took a tour of the whisky distillery. After that we rode into Ballymoney and visited the Joey and Robert Dunlop memorial garden – brothers who are both famous motorcycle racers and both killed at 48 years of age while racing. We then visited Joey’s Bar, a small pub filled with memorabilia of Joey’s racing career as he was a local lad.
On race day Saturday John collected us from our B & B and drove us to the race.
When the races were finally cancelled for the day at 3pm,
We left the B&B after giving our host Jean, a box of chocolates for her excellent service. Les was off to start his tour of Ireland and to meet up with us again for the MotoGP at Assen in Holland in 6 weeks time. Greg, Kerrie and Chris planned to ride along the beautiful coastline back to Belfast where we had to catch the ferry to Cairnryan in Scotland. Thankfully, the weather was dry though still very chilly. We had only riden about 10 miles when we hit fog – a real pea-souper.
The ferry left a little late due to having to load the many bikes returning from the Northwest 200.
Our next stop was Glasgow for two nights staying with Neil and Isobel Reilly who are the cousins of our brother in law Michael Reilly. We got off the ferry about 6pm and then rode the 77 mile to our destination. We were greeted warmly by Neil and Isobel and were soon drinking red wine and munching on goodies.
After a good night's sleep, we were shown around Glasgow by our hosts. Greg and I had visited Glasgow twice before but did not have clear memories of the city.
We left Glasgow on Tuesday 21st in bright sunshine to ride to Newcastle and catch the 5pm ferry to Amsterdam to start the European leg of our journey.