Thursday, 14 August 2008

Ireland Tour 2008 (Part 2)

Tuesday 29th July


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The Good, The Bad & The People Carriers

We got up and headed for breakfast were we had good news and bad news. The good news was that they serve a full vegetarian option at the Premier Inn (though they overcooked the vegetarian sausages), the bad news was that the rain was pouring down. We finished up a very filling breakfast and packed up thinking if things stay like this we might cut our holiday sort. Yet by time we came outside to load the bike the sun was shining and skies had cleared...the tour was certainly back on.

So we had decided to head to Glenveagh National Park in County Donegal, just beyond Letterkenny. The route (which I had studied in greater detail) seemed straight forward. We would take the A37 from Coleraine to Limavady, then the A2 to Derry City, then heading for the N13 back into Ireland and to Letterkenny. Finally taking the N56 from Letterkenny, turning onto the R225 before Termon and then just follow the signs to Glenveagh National Park. Simple!

We topped up the fuel in Coleraine, got some bottles of water and hit the road. What a road it is...the natural beauty that lines either side of the route is stunning. Only ruined whenever we got stuck behind a transit van or lorry. We were constantly pointing out things to each other and just soaking up the ride and sun. The Buell's engine seems to compliment this type of touring perfectly, easy going and broad power so you are not always working and so enjoying the ride. The roads were great and very enjoyable with no surprises.

Then once through Derry City it just kept getting better with tree lined roads only to give way to fantastic views of the River Foyle along the A40, turning onto the B193/R237 and then the N13. You know straight away when you get back on Irish roads, thankfully the Buell's suspension is more then capable of soaking up all the character they have. First stop in Letterkenny would be the Irish Tourist Offices, or Discover Ireland, just before you enter the town. It had been recommended in some Irish biker forums to let these help plan your journey.

Letterkenny 001
(Letterkenny Tourist Office)

Frankly the people who work in these offices turned out to be the stars of the tour. They were extremely pleasant, chatty and did everything they could to help. Within 10mins we had our nights accommodation sorted so all we had to think about was enjoying the day and turning up at our destination when we were done. Also the offices seem to be able to get some great rates for accommodation so if you are planning any trips around Ireland make sure these offices are either your first stop each morning or at the very least make sure you get their phone numbers. I can only say a huge thank you for all their assistance.

Rolling Onwards

Back on the road...almost. My hands were getting soaked from perspiration because of the heat, up to to 25C today and 27C yesterday (in fact the whole week temp did not dip below 20C until Thursday!). So we decided to get some lunch then pop into a motorcycle shop we had seen. Nothing good came of this though, the little food court in the shopping centre was frankly a rip-off and the food was below average. While the motorcycle shop did not have any summer gloves in my size. It was my own fault not bringing a pair with me, but as said the glorious weather we had all week caught is by surprise.

Glenveagh National Park 007

The road to Glenveagh was very straight forward, though finding the N56 in Letterkenny was a little bit like hide & seek. Also our only 'close call' of the trip occurred now when a couple in a people carrier pulled right out into our path. Keep in mind I had (as always when on the bike) a florescent yellow waistcoat, bright helmet, reflectores on the the bike...I am amazed. What amazed me more is when I pulled up along side all the driver could do was laugh it off. Stupid is as stupid does and I was just happy to leave him behind me.

The N56 is pretty dull, with not too much to enjoy but once you get off it onto the R255 then the fun starts. It reminded me on the Wicklow mountains, with less rain and much grander views. The roads are average and as long as you remember anything could be around the bends/dips then they are very rewarding. Now the signs for Glenveagh become very sparse, I just kept on the road and soon you are arriving at your destination.

Glenveagh National Park 038

Once you pull into the car park you really have no idea what awaits you just a few minutes walk away, very unassuming and I just thought I was back in the Newgrange car-park. Head down to the visitor centre and there is a model of the park...now you get a better idea what lies ahead. We decided to get the shuttle buses but these are completely optional. In fact you could park up, spend all day here and not have to spend a cent. The bus was €2 each, being in biker gear and with helmets really limited us. Until we got to the castle and the reception offered to take the gear off us and store it. Very biker friendly!

Glenveagh National Park 062

With the gear out of the way we had more options, so we left the castle and started exploring the gardens. Eventually walking up to the 'viewing point' with tremendous views of the valley were the national park sits. The castle has a rich history and interesting tales, with it even being 'captured' in the not too distant past. Well worth visiting and there is something for everyone with all the facilities you would expect from a family attraction. If we had the time there are also walks to waterfalls and other sights, but we were too late in the day. So after a fulfilling afternoon soaking up nature, allot of sun and swarms of silver-fly we popped into the tea rooms at the back on the castle for a tea & coffee, then shuttlebus back to the car park.

Could I Have A Good Room With That Please?

Several times this trip I would be stopped by people to chat about the bike. The funny aspect would always be that they know all about Buell, they just have never seen one or do not know anyone who has owned one. The couple at Glenveagh who talked to us had his & hers Harley Davidson Sportser 883's at home so they knew plenty about Buell. The two of them were looking at the bike, then at each other and then at us...obviously thinking “we should have done this”. They gave us a quick wave and smile as they drove off in their Volvo estate. We mounted our trusty steed and headed back to Letterkenny towards our final destination that day, Donegal town.

The N13/N15 takes you to Donegal, another fairly standard road with the only feature of note being the 'Barnesmore Gap', basically a valley that the N15 leads you through. Donegal town itself is at best a stop-over point. There is not much there, not even for tourists. We were booked into 'The Abbey' hotel in the center of Donegal. We were very disappointed by this hotel, maybe we had been spoilt by the Premier Inn the night before but things got off badly when the 'secure parking' was a free ticket to put on our vehicle in an open car-park with no CCTV and no security. We took some comfort knowing the Garda station was facing the bike.

Buell Ulysses XB12XT 004
(Parked Up In Donegal)

Back in the hotel we went up the the room, the door of which was beside an emergency exit with a smell of stagnant water coming from it. While the bedroom smelled like a smoking room! So back downstairs we went to ask for a change, only to be informed there was one other room available and that ALL rooms were smoking rooms. This was another unpleasant surprise, though the other room did not smell as bad and had a much better view. So we finally got to get out of our gear and go looking for somewhere to eat. Again, there is not much choice and we ended up hoping that the rest of our nights would not be this disappointing.

Once again I flipped open the road map and scratched my head over the next days journey.

To be continued...