Thursday 31st July
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The End of the Beginning
Did I say we liked the Wyatt Hotel in Westport? Well, we do! Not only was it a great nights rest but we were also found there was a vegetarian option on the breakfast menu. The staff were very pleasant and there were plenty on hand to look after everyone. The rooms were spotless with a neat little pull-out tea/coffee tray in the room. If there had been a better vegetarian option on the restaurant menu we would not have left the previous night. All that was left to do was load up the day for the final day on the road and hand in the room key.
We left Westport on the N59 heading South. We had hoped to stop for some good pictures of Croagh Patrick but the weather had transpired against us and all we could see was cloud. This was no issue as Kylemore Abbey was today's target. I had wanted originally to take the the long way and travel along the R335 and go through the Sheeffry Hills, but as our plans had changed we took the most direct route, the N59. This turned out to be another highlight of the trip. The views we had on the Partry Mountains were fantastic with us taking plenty of photos along the way. The roads were also of very good quality, we ended up playing a game of 'leap frog' with the coaches as we would pull in to take photos, only to pass them by again...and pull in again. Finally they started doing the same, pulling in to take photos.
(The Partry Mountains)
Now this was fine all the way up to the Galway border and the town of Leenaun, the 'Irish Pride' delivery lorry that thought it was a scooter cutting up everyone at the traffic lights was a bad sign. Basically the road quality went from rather good to rather poor. I would have expected better roads in Galway with the heavy tourist traffic but this was not the case at all. Gravel was common, this mixed with plenty of pot holes and a chaotic surface made choosing your lines through bends bit of an art, never mind trying to go in a straight line. Regardless, we made it to Kylemore Abbey in one piece, parked up and set out rambling.
Now the price of admission was some €12 each, this included the shuttle bus to the gardens. Everything else (the Abbey, mausoleum etc) were all by foot. Again this was another location with a rich history, nice walks and excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Much like Glenveagh a few days earlier, this had been built by a rich Englishman but from then on the similarities end as both were under different circumstances and obviously went in two different directions. In fact I understand that Kylemore will be changing into something else in the future and the private school on the grounds (with students from all around the globe) may all be soon gone. So enjoy it in its current state while you still can.
The Abbey is split into 4 main viewing rooms for you to walk around and the history is there for you to read. Further up there is a small church, still in use, while the mausoleum tucked away off the walking path is a strange but very peaceful sight to see. Be warned though, the walking path leads you down to nothing more then a gate to a road. So if you do not mind strolling around then have a wander, otherwise turn around and head back! We then jumped on the shuttlebus to the walled gardens. Now you must take the shuttle bus as this is a fully functioning Abbey and those that live here value their privacy.
The walled gardens are amazing, like a little glimpse of order surrounded by encroaching forest and in the shadow of the hills and mountains. In essence, the calm at the center of the storm. Again there is a little route to follow explaining the history of the gardens and even the purpose for the walls because admittedly in this spot there is no-one to keep out! In their day they would have been even more spectacular, including up to 21 greenhouses for winter walks. If you are in the Galway area then this is highly recommended. There were plenty of families wandering around with all ages enjoying the surroundings. After a fun afternoon exploring we sat down in the restaurant for a quick tea & coffee before setting off to Galway then back on the road home.
The N59 to Galway is not a good road, combine that with scores of hire cars and coach loads of tourists and you have yourself a melting pot. We were lucky in that we managed to put most of it behind us and tried to maintain a respectable pace. Originally I had wanted to take the R336, drop into Pearse's Cottage, then go to Galway along the coast via Spiddle, but it was too late in the afternoon. Though by time we got to Oughterard we found ourselves in a line of traffic stretching to Galway...wonder if those motorhomes were at the lead again? To be fair though, the Galway Races were on and the roads around Galway were packed. The Garda were at every roundabout and junction trying to keep things moving and answering peoples queries. These roads simply are not up to this sort of capacity, though it is an annual event so excuses do not hold much water.
The chaos of Galway gave way to a line of traffic stretching to the horizon. The glorious weather we had all week finally broke too, with rain pouring down on us. Those sweaty glove complaints were long forgotten and I soon set about making progress through the convoy. Eventually we even found ourselves on point with open roads ahead of us once again, the weather even started to lighten up. In fact come Athlone things just kept getting better as we joined the recently complete M6, which becomes the N6 again at Kilbeggan...then the M4 at Kinnegad...then N4 coming into Dublin. In nothing else it means that drivers with cruise control are kept busy.
Either way...the time it took us to go from Kylemore Abbey to Galway was approximately the same time it took to go from Galway to home. That is probably the best comparison of the road quality in West Galway I can provide.
Well what can I take from this trip? Firstly forget about those 'cheap' hotel websites and get in touch with local Discover Ireland offices, it saved us a fortune. I am kicking myself because a week away in hotels B&B has cost the same as for 1 night I am paying for a charity event later in August! Lesson well and truly learned.
My partners only complaint was that we could not chat, if it had not been for that then things would have been perfect and I could have had an extra set of eyes which would have meant a lot less miles on that first day. So I am planing on buying an 'Autocom Active-Duo' in the not too distant future to solve this.
The Buell was perfect and this was a great bonding experience. Any kinks I had with the big V-Twin lump are now well and truly ironed out. The Ulysses XB12XT did everything I asked of it, went were I needed it to be, reacted to every situation with predictability and stability. Overtaking requires planning in terms of how to get the most out of the engine, but this is not a bad thing as it keeps yo safer, in my opinion, as more thought is involved. Even with the two of us on board and full of gear and souvenirs the bike when unaffected, the manuals guide at setting up the suspension with the twist knob is pretty accurate, but you may prefer a little bit more or less depending on preferences. Either way the best testament is that there is nothing else I would choose over the Uly for touring.
We got into a simple but effective routine. We would load the bike, jump on and then pull in at the first petrol station for fuel and some bottled water. Much like the routine of putting my gear on before getting on the bike gives me a huge psychological boost as it 'puts me in the zone', this stop did the same. Making sure everything was comfortable and just right for those mile-munching mornings, giving the bike a little test-run, checking oil, tyre pressures and so on. I might spend 2-3 hours a day on the bike commuting but I did 6 hours on my first day and over 1,200km over the 4 days. No, this may not be a huge amount compared to those who devour continents, but for us and the new bike this was a break-in period for all involved and I think we all came out all the better for it.
The End of The End
So I have been home for 2 weeks now and we enjoyed that trip so much that we are already planning a weekend getaway in September and then a European trip next year around May/June. The provisional MotoGP dates have just been released so I will start penciling in dates and trying to work something out. While for the charity run on the 30th August I am trying my best to get the Autocom unit but dealers are light on the ground here in Ireland and waiting for them to get back to you is a whole other issue!
This was a fantastic break away and dismissed any myths that it is not fun or cost effective to spend your holidays at home. There are so many sites to see, so much history and ultimately there is something for everyone, you just have to be prepared to get out there and go around that next bend, to charge for the horizon and you just never know what you may find. If nothing else from journeys like these you learn that “a good long ride can clear your mind, restore your faith, and use up a lot of fuel” -Anon.
As always, try to keep the rubber side down.
(The End...For Now!)