Around Ireland and the Northwest 200

Trip Start May 04, 2013
Trip End Jul 07, 2013

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Northern Ireland,
Monday, May 20, 2013

Ireland – 9th to the 21st  May - Ferry trip – we left Pembroke on the ferry two hours late with a four hour instead of three hour crossing due to rough weather. Somehow we all managed to grab a seat on a couch and sleep through much of the tossing and turning. The ferry pulled in about 9 pm and we got to our hotel River Inn at Wexford about 9.30 pm very tired.

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. Great food at a fair price. Kerrie reckons it had to be good as she was an O’Leary before she became a Lane.

The next day we rode the scenic Ring of Kerry which you have to ride anti clockwise so as not to meet a tourist coach head on due to the narrow roads! We stopped for morning tea at the small village of Caherciveen. After commenting to one of the locals about how beautiful the church was, she suggested we should go in to have a look. What a good decision. We stumbled upon children making their first communion. It was great listening to the choir and watching these youngsters so full of beans and so proud of themselves.

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 for the next two nights riding through persistent rain and occasional strong wind gusts to get there. Soon after checking in to the Castle Hotel, which is only 500 metres from downtown Dublin, we headed off for a walk around town for a few hours before bed. In the morning we took a hop on hop off guided tour bus ride around Dublin taking in the sites. We visited Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral and St Patrick’s Cathedral. We were not too happy about having to pay a 5 Euro entrance to the cathedrals – we thought entry to a church should have been free – but I guess someone has to pay for the upkeep of these beautiful buildings.

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 which is three miles out of Ballycastle where we were to be based for the next five nights while we attended the Northwest 200. The NW200 was the main purpose of our visit to Northern Ireland being one of the major street racing motorcycle events leading up to the Isle of Man TT.

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. Greg fronted one of the local coppers doing foot patrol and asked could he and Les have a tour of the station. Ten minutes later they were inside being given a royal tour by Sergeant John Andersen of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Greg and Les were stunned at the level of security for the station and for police in general due to The Troubles that occurred from 1969 until peace was declared in 1999. The station had four metre tall wire barrier around the perimeter and access was through a secured gated compound with CCTV covering all angles. John said the local coppers were not happy with the security because the building was not MORTAR proof!!!

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. The next day the article appeared as promised. Not one mention of Kerrie – just Chris and his MV Agusta!

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), that we had arranged to meet. After enjoying a beer together we watched the last of the races for the day before walking back to the Portrush police station – a 3 mile or 5 km walk – we were all buggered after that!. John picked us up and then drove us to a restaurant in Portrush Harbour,  where there was a structure representing the Titanic – happy snaps were taken of course. We had a fine dinner and then John drove us 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. It was then a wander around the local Ducati dealership over the road from Joey’s Bar which was jam packed with bikes and bikers, most up for the NW200.

On race day Saturday John collected us from our B & B and drove us to the race. Unfortunately it just poured rain all day and we only got to see two laps of the first race before it was red flagged because four riders fell off due to the heavy rain and slippery surface. We spent most of the day trying to keep dry in the one and only food tent that you could sit down in. All was not lost as we spent our time chatting with people from all over Ireland and the UK. We find that we are quite a novelty because of the way we travel. People are keen to engage in conversation about how we can travel so far and for as long as we can. Australia seems to be the only place in the world where workers have access to long service leave – most people have never heard of it and are extremely jealous of our extended holiday time. Kerrie also managed to corner Cameron Donald (Australian rider) and the elusive Guy Martin for photos. The hob-nobbing continues from her 2011 Isle of Man TT adventures!

When the races were finally cancelled for the day at 3pm, we started walking back to Portrush (the dreaded 3 miles) in the pouring rain. After walking about a mile we decided to ring John and tell him we were going in to the nearby Inn on the Coast for a drink and warm-up and asked him to pick us up there. It was five pounds just to get in but well worth it as we dried off and had a few drinks to steady the nerves. John picked us up about 5pm and drove us to a restaurant he had recommended at Bushmills. The Bushmills Inn has won many awards for its food and service – it was soon evident why! The food was delicious – especially the deserts and the service was first class. A few drinks and a Bailey’s Irish Cream after dinner compensated (somewhat) for missing most of the racing due to the weather. A taxi back to the B&B and an early night ready for the next leg of the journey. The weather had not been kind but the stay was still memorable.

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. Because of this, the coast was not even visible! Luckily the fog lifted when we got down off the high country and the ride in to Belfast only took another hour.  

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.   Thanks to Neil and Isobel we now feel we know the city a little better which will be a huge advantage when we do a house swap with them in 2015. Nothing like planning ahead! A delicious dinner was shared with Susan, Neil and Isobel's daughter, her husband Craig (who can't be all bad since he rides a Triumph Sprint like us) and their two gorgeous children Connor (7) and Leah (5).

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.

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Mike Hannan on

Gee, wet and miserable in Ireland, how unusual! I note that the weather hasn't been enough to wipe the smiles off you dials.

Sandra Karamitelios on

Well Kerrie's up to her old tricks I see - she'll be far too famous for me soon!! It seems the weather is following you, hope you get a break soon, don't like the sound of those winds and high seas. It's very cold here now - haha, honestly it has been cold. Love your photos and the blog is awesome as per usual Mr L, happy travels from Brisvegas.

Craig on

Completely envious even with the weather. Looks like a good time is being had by all whilst us minions are slaving away back here. I'm sure the sun will poke through more frequently in the near future. The photos are excellent, keep them coming. Best wishes and a safe journey

parkdel on

Brings back very recent memories of the Emerald Isle. Isn't it just the friendliest place? You are absolutely right - a lot of people on our trip were also curious (and envious) about our long service leave entltlements. We really are the 'Lucky Country '.

Rachael Gillin on

Glad to know we are not the only ones braving the horrible weather...flash floods and all, yet we are not that rugged up yet!!!
Ring of Kerry (awesome) very picturesque..

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