Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Ireland Tour 2008 (Part 1)

Monday 28th July 2008



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In The Beginning:

The bags were still being packed 10mins before we hit the road. I had got a set of Buell inner bags for the side cases & top case. Since we were planning to B&B it we took a side case each and used the top case for access to daily bits & bobs. This worked out to be a good plan as we only ever opened the side cases to walk into were we were staying for the night.

The plan was straight forward, leave home, head up to the Giant's Causeway then back home via Galway! The Buell Ulysses was going to be the perfect bike for the trip but I was missing one thing for the trip, a disc lock. My old one does not fit so our first destination was to be Hein Gericke in Newry before the push to the Giant's Causeway.

So with the bike finally loaded, we mounted Uly and hit the road. We decided to take direct routes, so the N4 into Dublin, joined the M50 North bound passing through the toll bridge and finally letting the M1 take us to Northern Ireland. This went without a hitch and was all quickly put behind us. There were some delays in Newry as they were blasting rocks so detours were in place. Even loaded, being on a bike gives you a greater degree on freedom to filter. Soon we where in Hein Gericke, disc-lock bought and then back on the road. We even got experience the great British institution that is the 'speed camera' as we were soon traveling between a few sets of 'average speed' cameras...for some reason I kept thinking the year was 1984!?



The Lost World:

My navigation skills are usually spot-on, with routes pre-planned and maps covering the trip. I only ever wished I had a GPS when lost in city centers. That all changed with the leg along the M2 after Belfast. It should have been a straight forward blast to 'Junction 1' and turning North for Ballymena/Coleraine/Bushmills. Now the fun began...

The fuel light came on after Belfast so I decided to look for services, but nothing was obvious until I finally decided to pull off at 'Junction 6' for Antrim town. The first place we found was little more then a shop front with 2 pumps either side of the door way, which looked more like a little house on a street. Before I was off the bike a very pleasant shop assistant was standing behind us with nozzle in hand ready to fill us up. She looked a bit puzzled and I offered to do the 'work' then come in to pay. She was very cheery, asked if I was sure then returned inside. Once fueled up and paid we were back on the road.

This was my first mistake, in hindsight if I was paying more attention I could have just stayed on the road instead of heading back to Junction 6. Further once rejoining I got it into my head that I was looking for Junction 2 to come off! I realized my mistake very quickly and went back to Junction 1 and was finally back on the road to Ballymena. This was very straight forward all the way up to Coleraine when I made my next mistake. I took the 'giants causeway coastal route (n)' signs...which did take us along some stunning roads with brilliant scenery along the coast road, especially just past the aptly named Downhill. I finally pulled in to stop at Ballyscullion. My partner was not very impressed, she had seen the sign for Bushmills but I had not understood what she was saying to me.

Buell Ulysses XB12XT 001
(View from Ballyscullion)

Anyway, back to Coleraine. Took the signs for 'the coastal road (s)' and soon on the way to Bushmills. Everything went to plan all the way to the Giants Causeway. Upon arrival you have to pay a small fee to use the parking facilities, then you park up and get to wander around. There are a series of walks along the Causeway and depending on your time (and inclination) you could spend all day here. It is a truly remarkable sight to see in the flesh and I highly recommend a visit. Shuttle buses are available to ferry you to the main part of the Causeway (though we elected to walk up and back).

Giants Causeway 015

No Beds at The Inn...

As I have said, I am a planner and I had a few options set up for accommodation which I had been trying to follow up throughout the day, BUT there was a conference going on in Coleraine and everything in the area seemed to be booked up. It was now 7pm and I was looking forward to pulling in for food, shower and bed. Yet our options were running out. It was looking like we would have to travel back to Ballymena just to find somewhere to stay...until we got lucky in Coleraine.

We pulled into a small commercial area with a Sainsbury's, a few restaurants and at the bottom a 'Premier Inn', while deciding on what to eat I thought we could go into the Premier Inn if not to get a room but at least to get advice on where to stay. Guess what? They had rooms! "Why" I asked? Turns out they had only been open since the first week of July and the conference attendees had booked everything up before then. So we booked ourselves in at £75 for B&B though this can be cheaper if you elect for no breakfast or just a continental breakfast. The rooms were very clean and of very good quality. We had no complaints and I recommend them for others. The parking may not be 100% secure for bikes, but there are CCTV cameras around the parking lot, it is enclosed and away from the main roads.



After refreshing ourselves we walked up to the 'Indus Valley' Indian restaurant just 2 mins away. The staff were very helpful and professional, the restaurant was clean and pleasant, while the food was also excellent. I am happy to recommend this place for anyone looking for somewhere good to eat. We walked away full and pleased. Back in the Inn I took at the road map to avoid anymore 'driving errors' and tried to decide on the next days route/plan.

To be continued...