Slow riding in Ireland

Three weeks, it sounds like a long time in a small country like Ireland and one can easily make the assumption that within that time we could complete the Wild Atlantic Way. However, doing things in a rush is not our style, we like living slow and there were a lot of things we wanted to do. I was happy to be out and about on my bike, camping, running and getting some good rest after a stressful year. Christopher was happy to be out and about checking out old stuff, like stones and taking photos and more photos. We also wanted to sample some ciders and eat some tasty food.

I arrived ahead of Christopher – I came over from France with an overnight ferry and arrived early morning while he ferried from Wales and arrived in the afternoon. This gave me a good opportunity to run some errands, more precisely to check out the Knox Urbane Pro riding shirt at the Overlanders in Gorey. The Knox gear is not yet available in Spain, so this was good use of time for me, and I could have coffee and scones while resting a bit after a sleepless night on the ferry. Business done, we headed up to the Wicklow Mountains for camping and riding, a highly appreciated recommendation from the guys at Overlanders.

Our aim had been the the southwest coast but the Wicklow Mountains were a pleasant surprise and we fully enjoyed riding there a couple of days taking in the diverse landscape. The contrasts in nature between overgrown thick forest and nearly tropical look, to barren fields and mountains made for great photo opportunities and we found some small roads where we were nearly alone. It was rather chilly so I layered up with my rain jacket on top to keep warm – but it did not rain, which was great.

The Guinness lake.

Over on the southwest coast we set camp for a few days and explored some very small rural roads on the Beara Peninsula and the smaller peninsulas to the south. The smaller the roads the happier Christopher is, and I must say that not all roads were easy on the BMW, although if I’d still had the Kawasaki I probably wouldn’t have even tried. We had had some very mixed weather, none of it what I would call summer weather, but especially when riding along the coast we got some sunny moments and I could occasionally pack my rain jacket away.

Cold, windy and rough, but believe it or not, this road is part of the Wild Atlantic Way. On our way to Sheep’s Head, west of Bantry.
I love the cliffs and the waves breaking against them causing the water to foam and look turquoise.
On local recommendation, we headed to Garnish Point where you can take the cable car to Dursey Island. No way would I ever get into the cable car, and although sheep are no longer permitted it did look small and claustrophobic. The view was awesome so we enjoyed a coffee stop before riding on.
There are lots of these little roads to enjoy.
On our way to Moll’s Gap and Gap of Dunloe. I found the generous colour marking of the sheep perplexing, on the other side of the hill they were purple.

While I don’t have any photos to show from our riding on the Iveragh Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, I do have some from seeing extremely old footprints on Valentia Island. One of the perks of travelling with Christopher is that he does research and finds out about cool stuff to see for free, like these footprints from a tetrapod. These footprints can only be seen in a handful of places in the world and they are 360 million years old, tetrapods were, in fact, the very first vertebrates to get out of the sea and live on both land and water. This was so so cool to see!

We moved up one peninsula and explored the area around Dingle. The town itself we tried to avoid, as it was packed full of tourists (hey, no – we’re not tourists, we’re travellers!) Our only reason to venture into Dingle was to buy camping gas and new sporks, as we kind of had run out. Foxy John’s, the only hardware store with a pub I’ve ever been to, got us sorted on gas (FYI, he stocks click, screw and pierce cannisters).

We had some amazing weather here and we enjoyed exploring the area and taking lots of photographs. We also had some clear nights where, even though we were not in the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve, we could see the stars very very clearly – like I have never seen them before. Unfortunately we had no clear skies while in Kerry, so that is still on the list to come back for.

The view from the hiking trail at Clogher Strand, near Barryferriter.

One of our quests on the Dingle peninsula was to find the Ogham stones. We circled around quite a while without finding them, the GPS and map both clearly marked the spot. Well, the farmer had also marked the spot, they were in a field with a “Beware of the bull” sign. Hmm, seems the farmer wasn’t happy having a national monument on his land. Ogham is an early medieval writing using lines used in this area.

Finally a day where I could ride with only the Knox Urbane Pro shirt and no outer layer. Irish summer is not quite what I call summer, but I think the shirt will serve me well back in Spain.

The Dingle and the Beara peninsulas were my favourites, perhaps because we had the best weather and we found some interesting stuff and tiny roads to ride. Sadly, this was as far north as we got before heading back towards Dublin. We passed by Overlanders again, my bike desperately needed a new chain kit and I was very happy to get this done before taking on the next leg in my journey.

Our last night in Ireland was booked in Dublin. However, there was a hassle to find a place to stay, the hostel we booked especially for their parking in the back had no parking at all and could not see the problem of parking in the street and later in the conversation the receptionist conveniently had trouble understanding English. I lost my patience, demanded a refund and we went to stay near the police station where we parked and securely locked our bikes.

While locking the bikes, Christopher had his five minutes of glory – a guy enthusiastically commented on his British registration plate: “Have you come all the way from England on a 125? Fair play to you!”. I must add that he is a fairly seasoned traveller by now, although for him it is never a motorbike holiday, it is a photography holiday. So while I tried to slim down the packing, he brought two cameras, but that is a whole other story, not to be told now.

The photographer in action.

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