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Cycle Tour 2015 - Part 1: UK & Ireland

Home Page > Bicycle Touring > Europe > UK & Ireland 2015 > Ireland & Northern Island

We slept in AGAIN as we only had to catch the ferry at 11:50 am. There are two ferries, a Stena Line which docks in Dublin and Irish Ferries which docks south of the city (Dun Laoghaire). It felt exciting to be going "abroad" to a new country. We had a relaxed pack up and left the campsite at 10:30 am. We bought tickets and boarded at 11:10 am. We were on the "fast ferry" so arrived at 1:40 pm and went straight to the terminal building to get dressed for our 40 km ride. Mike put his GPS on and became confused; the GPS track to follow wasn't anywhere near where we landed, so where exactly were we? Dublin?! Can that be true?! We didn't realise that at the time of purchasing the ticket so now what, change of plan. We gort the computer out, logged into booking.com and seeing as we are now in the city, we may as well stay the night! We found a hotel 3 km away from where we were (Sandymount Hotel) and booked in immediately for the night (after first calling to make sure they could store the bikes). We were there, checked in and off by train to the city by 4 pm. It is only two train stops from Sandymount to the city. We spent a few hours in Dublin, it is definitely European in style and feel. We found an outdoor store for fuel, having decided to alternate between odourless white gas and petrol. We had so far used only 2 litres of fuel on the trip; one of white gas which we bought in London, and one of petrol which we bought in Truro. White gas is very expensive and not easy to come by. I also replaced my very worn out foldable backpack (we each have a Sea to Summit backpack that folds away into a tiny bag). We looked around the city a bit and also observed a Union march (there was a bus strike on). It was fun getting back to our hotel room and the convenience of an en-suite! We had a closer look at out cycle route planned and ironed out some sections and are looking forward to Ireland!


Today, after 5 weeks away, 4 of them cycling, we rode in the rain all day. It was lovely having a toasty warm hotel room to get ready in and we made the most of it, leaving at 11am in full wet weather gear. The route took us first along the Sandymount Promenade which we quickly amended as the wind was very strong along the coast. Other than that the route was perfect. We were in luck with the bus strike on as the first 30km were through the metro area and outlying suburbs and so we had full use of the bus lane wherever there was one! We didn't have the views because of the rain but it was direct, took us through many towns and villages and it had no crazy hills. Just good cycling. We didn't stop once due to the rain, you just keep going because stopping makes you cold! By the 40 km mark our gloves were failing the waterproofness test but we tried out our new overshoes and they were very good, particularly as the first half was busy with traffic and so you couldn't avoid roadside puddles!

We were impressed with the rural properties, they were all quite grand in appearance, with long sweeping drives and big entrances. They all seemed much better maintained and presented than those we had seen on our travels through the UK. We stopped with about 10 km to go to pick up some buns and eggs at a village store and two men inside exclaimed when we walked in and laughed about the terrible weather and that you only had to look at us to see how bad it was! We all had a laugh. Irish people are very friendly. We arrived at our campsite and immediately noticed two things; there were tents which we hadn't seen many of before, and the river that the site is on was very full and gushing. We pitched our tent on a rise, just in case, overlooking the weir and spent the afternoon and evening marvelling at the determination/quiet acceptance that the Irish seem to have of the rain. It pelted down all afternoon as it had done all day without break, but the people were fishing, walking, riding bikes, etc. KIds and grown ups alike. Some in shorts! We couldn't believe it as the maximum temperature for the day was only 8 DegC! As we checked in, in fact, a lady came into reception to hire two fishing nets and she and her little kid set off in the mist and rain to play about. We stayed in our tent all afternoon, which seemed more sensible.

Well, it rained all night but when we woke at 7am it had stopped and although it was overcast all day it was dry and so were we which was great. We had plenty of wet gear attached to the outside of our bikes though! The route was once again excellent, a few small hills but otherwise quick and reasonable! Very pretty too. Early on we passed a place called "The Meeting of the Rivers" which was very picturesque. We spent a lot of time alongside the railway line which is always good. We even rode through Inch. It's just sounds funny when you say it. The day proceeded without incident which was good for me as I have a bit of a cold. We reached Wexford at 2:30 pm and lazed about before walking over the bridge to the town between rainy periods. Not much happening in Wexford today.

At first we planned to ride 60 km but changed the route at the start to take in the castle at Johnstown which added 10 km into the day. We used a cycle route for most of the day. Ireland does not have designated cycle routes like the UK (and is probably the better off for it!) but there were two routes marked today which we used. It was quite cold but no rain and quiet due to it being a public holiday. After about 50 km we crossed a river mount (Passage East) via a short ferry with a largish group of road cyclists out for a weekend ride. Due to their numbers we weren't charged for the trip as they had already paid on their outward journey. We also had good chats to some of them while waiting, and on the ferry trip. After the ferry we had some small hills to climb to Tramore and arrived at our campsite which consisted mainly of demountable cabins for hire as many of the seaside towns do. Our hosts were friendly and accomodating, even bringing us a bench to use and additional shower tokens as we had showered when the hot water had been off, so the showers were distinctly luke warm! We took a walk along the promenade (like many others as it was a good day with sun here and there). We were told to expect rain overnight so were in bed early, not wanting to take any chances.

POURED with rain all night long so at 6 am we had a chat about if it is still raining like this at wake up time we aren't going ANYWHERE. It was, but it was lessening, and by 8:30 am it had cleared. We had had a bit of a sleep in and hit the road at 9:30 am. If it's not raining, no excuses! The route was great once again. We bought some delicious yoghurt for breakfast after about 15 km and then had to put on wet weather gear as it started to rain. We eventually got to eat at the 35 km mark, in Carfrick-on-Suir. The riding had been good and along very pretty, quiet roads, but we were wet! We stopped on the main street to figure out where to sit and eat and a helpful passerby asked us where we were heading. When I asked if there was a bench where we could sit and eat he replied "Your best bet is to turn right at the Sunnyside Bakery and go to the Heritage Centre, there's a bench among the old gravestones". He was right! It is a pretty little village. After this the rain really came down and we were in wet weather gear for the rest of the day. Apart from the rain it was a good day's riding. The campsite at the end of the day was the real highlight, and it was one we had not had a chance to research, it was just on the GPS as a campsite. It is called the Apple Farm and is a most beautiful apple orchard, at this time of year all blossoms in bloom and we received a lovely warm welcome. There was a donkey (Mike was quite excited about Donk as we had not seen one yet on our travels; no cycle tour is complete without one) and a wonderful farm shop where you could buy any type of apple and all kinds of juice, jams, etc. On top of this we were given a complimentary bottle of fresh apple juice! How kind! The camping area was lovely with a few caravans and quite informal. Also, hot (free showers), indoor seating, etc. etc. Our perfect campsite!



We decided on a rest day at The Apple Farm, mainly due to the wind and rain we woke up to, but also because who could turn down a day at such a lovely spot, apple pie, apple juice and donkey included!? We had a very relaxing day, the weather was quite gruesome with lots of gale force winds, heavy rain showers, and some sunny periods.

We woke today to grey skies but were happy enough to be on our way. We arrived in Cahir with its lovely castle after a mere 7 km and stocked up at the supermarket. It started to rain soon after, and we had a moment's indecision about whether to stay on the main road or turn onto our planned route. We went with the planned route option mainly as the main road had almost no shoulder and 100 km/h speed limit so not so great for cyclists. It was a GOOD choice. Our route today was sublime, all through the backroads or farmlands but as noted previously, the farmhouses here are so well-kept that they are a pleasure to look at. It was a breeze of a day, no climbs in sight, just easy riding. It was not even a "long way to Tipperary" as we passed through and kept going. Our route took us past the Grange Stone Circle c.2000BC which was a lovely spot; the biggest stone circle in Ireland. There is even a bit of an alter where people place offerings/personal bits and pieces. The little villages we passed through today were realy pretty and you could tell that the inhabitants are proud of them! A good example of this was Croom, which we came to around the 8o km mark. With only 10 km to go to our campsite we hadn't expected that much from Croom, completing all our food shopping hours ago at the Supervalu in Cahir. However, the Croome Spar served up delicious warm meals: lasagna, bacon wrapped chicken ,black pudding, potato wedges. We wanted to buy it all! We stopped at the lasagna and chicken and then found a beautiful spot at the civic centre park to eat. There is parkland alongside the river which had been beautifully developed, benches etc. As it was only 1:30 pm, we ate there and then continued to our campsite, which was lovely. Luckily we had not had any rain after that initial drizzle in Cahir and although it was not sunny all the time at least we were dry.

The campsite had an indoor area for our use which was a treat and we had a look at tomorrow's route, through Limerick, making note of the places we wanted to see there. All of a sudden Mike wondered about the route and when we had a look at the route we had prepared in Dublin, we noted that we weren't to go through Limerick at all! What a laugh. Only another town anyway. Our planned route via ferry over the River Shannon directly up the coast towards the Cliffs of Moher should be much better!


The weather forecast was for rain from lunchtime onwards and so with this in mind we planned an early start. We were just finishing packing at about 7:30 am when the rain started. It didn't stop once all the way. We were in full wet weather gear again and it was cold. We had 50 km to the Shannon Ferry and then about 30 km to Doonbeg. We bought brekky at Adare which was very close to the campsite and ate it standing in the shletered doorway of a community hall. Cycle touring when wet! The ferries depart Tarbert every hour on the half hour and you don't want to have to stand and wait in the rain so it was important to try to be on time. The route was quite easy, mostly flat, but the rain continued. We reached the ferry port at 11:00 am and that was 30 minutes early for the ferry. As is usually the way with these things, there was no shelter at all at the ferry terminal; we were wet through (Goretex can only hold up so far) and getting colder. There was a food van and I got my flask topped up with coffee. We chatted to a couple of French motorcycle tourists on the ferry who were also battling the rain. The crossing took 20 minutes and there was a little heated lounge where foot passengers could sit so we tried to dry out.

We disembarked at Killimer and the rain seemed heavier if anything. We had about 10 km to ride before Kilrush and a sign advertising a hostel welcoming cyclists looked inviting! Seriously. We had planned to camp at Doonbeg but when we got to Kilrush, Mike said that there was a caravan site in the GPS, however when we passed the turn off to where it would be, there was no sign, so we decided to continue. We got to the centre of town and kept a look out for the hostel we saw advertised earlier. We pulled up at the tourist info board and low and behold, we saw said caravan site listed! Still raining heavily. A local man asked if we needed help and confirmed said campsite position. So off we went back down the road from where we had just come (at this point we still estimated our planned campsite was 20 km or so further on). We happily saw the sign to the campsite this time as we had turned onto the coast road and when we got there saw that it was filled with demountable holiday cabins. No signs advising that it was a caravan or camping park, and no reception or anyone around. Still raining heavily, and still only 7 degC. What to do? Back on the bike, same route back through the town. This is starting to feel like Groundhog Day! Out the other side of the town and we took the turn off to Doonbeg. 11km! We had initially planned to take the longer (of course) cycle route so did not know it was so close by. If we had of known, we would have invested the 8 km we just spent into getting there! A direct route straight to the little village and 1 km further on was our campsite. As we were still feezing cold and very wet and yes, still raining, we could not appreciate the views but later when the rain stopped (yay) and the place lightened up, there were lovely views of the bay on which the campsite is situated. The views were of the Aran Islands and even the backs of the Cliffs of Moher that we will see tomorrow. Lovely facilities: hot shower and even heaters in the bathroom. Winner.


Ireland repaid us today for the discomforts of yesterday! The day dawned a little cloudy but as they say, every cloud has a silver lining and this day, literally! We headed off at about 8:00 am and had a beautiful ride all the way to the Cliffs of Moher. We kept commenting: "We are so lucky with the weather!". The Cliffs of Moher are the most visited attraction in Ireland and on their day the views are spectacular. We were really fortunate that we did not have yesterday's weather! We had wonderful views of the coast all the way, with the sea calm and flat. The route that we cycled yesterday and today is called the Wild Atlantic Way and it lived up to it's name yesterday. County Clare though is the Ireland of the postcard, and we had picture perfect weather! We stopped for breakfast and the lady who served me warned me of a stiff climb to the Cliffs. Of course, we were at sea level and the Cliffs reach heights of 214 m. The road was quite narrow but the traffic was fine and the sweeping vista to the sea on the left stunning. We took the turn to the Cliffs and the climb was not much to report on. The Cliffs of Moher is a great place to visit. Chock full of tourists by the busload, but we imagine it is much worse in summer. Hat's off to the authorities as people are charged per head as they enter the carpark but as we arrived on bikes there was no charge. There are a few tourist shops and a visitor's centre. We stayed there for about an hour and then took a quick descent down to the lovely Doolin and our campsite. As we turned off to Doolin we passed the Clare's Jam Shop and pulled in on a whim. It is a tiny store with a HUGE variey of jam. We chose a marmalade and a sumer fruit jam. Best jam we've ever eaten! Doolin has some craft stores which sold lovely things but I wouldn't have much use for a mohair scarf in Perth!




The weather forecast predicted rain today so we donned wet weather gear even though it was not raining when we set out. You could definitely see that it would come. We did have a tailwind for most of the day which was a great help, and continued on the Wild Atlantic Way for the day. We would say that this route is the best cycle touring that we have come across on this trip so far and the ride today was amazing. The route was mostly flat again and for the first 15 km we really took it all in. Fantastic views and the other-worldly landscape of the Burren. It is a protected area and the rock formations are spectacular. The coast road just meanders as far as the eye can see, perfect cycling route! We stopped to buy milk for brekky at the small store in Fanore at about 15 km and then the rain set in and we would ride in it for the remainder of the day. Unfortunately this meant that we lost most of the views, especially when racing downhill and the rain falling like needles into our faces. We still enjoyed the route though! Then Mike got a puncture (luckily in the front wheel) at the 25 km mark so that took some time to fix in the pouring rain. The route from Doolin all the way to Ballyvaughan, about 30 km, would have to rate as the most spectacular that we've seen in Ireland. After Ballyvaughan we passed a lovely castle and took shelter to finish our flasks of coffee. Then it was mainly straight in to Galway.

We have had some difficulty with gloves on these wet days. As already mentioned, we have goretex gloves but they only keep the rain out for about 2 hours. By the time we get to our destination they are soaked through and take a long time to dry. We have not had two very wet days in a row but if we did, this would be a problem. The French motorcycle tourist we met on the Shannon Ferry had worn rubber gloves which I had had a look at; she said they were very good. Mike got thinking about where to buy such things and thought a garden centre would be a good bet as you could get heavy duty thick gardening gloves. This was better than my "idea" of picking up discarded gloves on the roadside. It amazes me how many you see on the road when touring; too much time spent staring in the gutter! So we stopped at the first garden centre we saw and the delightful lady there sold me a pair of Hulk green ones. They certainly feel waterproof! She gave me a bag for my other gloves that had made a pool on her countertop, saying "Hang them from your handlebars, dear, they will dry in the breeze". Tongue in cheek, me-thinks!

We passed quite a few road cyclists out on their Sunday ride, some more daring than others in shorts and sleeveless tops. I must say that Irish cyclists are very friendly and seem very pleased to see us. Possibly it is just nice for them to know that there are other people crazy enough to be out in this weather! We passed into Galway and it seems like a great little town and so we might have a rest day here tomorrow. We arrived at the campsite at 2 pm, which is basic, but only 5 km out of town with a bus stop right outside the gate. We didn't stop to look around Galway as it was still raining heavily. The rain continued until about 5:30pm, so it had been very wet.


We decided to have a rest day in Galway. It rained heavily overnight and was very windy, and we woke to gale force wind in the morning. Wind is a great thing if it is at your back, but this one would not have been! Galway seemed like a nice place to spend the day and we caught the bus in. My Kindle broke last night too, so I needed a replacement! Luckily this could be found in Galway. Usually when this happens on tour you are in the sticks! Also, not to be outdone by my glove purchase yesterday, Mike purchased not one, but TWO pairs of super-duper waterproof gloves, one in a garden centre and the other in a hardware store. At least he'll be safe in the event of a chemical spill! We would heartily recommend Galway, it has a lovely pedestrian shopping area and a lovely atmosphere.

We have figured out that in Ireland it seems that riding 4 days in a row is probably the best you can do with the weather, and that's throwing in some bad weather days too. It is beautiful though and we were keen to get back into riding today, although we still had a VERY strong westerly wind. The route was still the Wild Atlantic Way (what else did we expect with a name like this?) and it was a wonderful route today. Leaving Galway was a bit busy. We had full wet weather gear on as showers were expected and the head wind makes you cold. I don't know why we persist in reading the weather forecast as it usually predicts showers and the Irish meaning of showers is actually just one long shower starting at 8:00 am and lasting to 4:00 pm. Today at any rate there were actual showers; hard soaking rain as the clouds were whipped overhead. We stopped for breakfast in Spiddal when there was a break in the weather and the first 30 km were just into the wind along a very pretty stretch of coast. The route ran through the famous Commenara region. The area west of Galway is Gaelic speaking and it was interesting now to see all official signs in Gaelic only with no English translation. The route was quite flat all day. After this as the road changed its course we had a very strong side wind, the type that wants to pull your tyres out from you. We had also entered a very remote area, no farms, just heather, rocks and distant mountains. At the 56 km mark we entered a bog complex area where peat mining still takes place. This was interesting to see, the piles of peat bricks by the roadside and the channels maring the excavations. This area was really spectacular. It had that mountain top feel to it, without having to climb a mountain: Bonus! The day just continued rolling on. We had throught that we might end up camping in the bog area as it was lovely with little lakes dotted around everywhere, but we ended up making it to our planned destination. The headwind took it's toll as we had just over 6 hours riding time. We could have done the distance in 4 hours without it. Taking everything into account it was a great day's ride and highly recommended.



Super duper to wake up to clear skies and no wind! We continued through the Commenara region today and stayed on the main road which was quiet and passed through beautiful countryside. It was a shorter day today as we were to stay in Westport, which was appreciated after the long day yesterday. This gave us the afternoon to relax! We breakfasted in Letterfrack and then passed the beautiful Kylemore Abbey. This is a big tourist attraction and is an old stately home that became a school and has famous gardens to view and still operates as an abbey. At its entrance gates, you couldn't see it from the road, but shortly after passing we got a clear glimpse of the buildings over the water and it was very beautiful. It was such a joy to be riding in good weather! We stopped for coffee in Leenane. We were back to spectacular today, surrounded by high hills and even mountains. Once again parts of the day's ride felt very remote. Leenane is on the banks of the Kilarney Ford and the area is very beautiful.

Our ride into Westport took us along a lovely greenway/cycleway and the quayside. The campsite is situated within the grounds of Westport House and from that point of view was very pretty. It was the "bells and whistles" type campsite that we don't really like, with all sorts of activities available. We prefer small and authentic, like the sites on small farms. It was close to town though and there was a nice walk through the site into town. Westport is a very nice town as it's signboard advises "The most liveable town in Ireland". We had a great afternoon relaxing at the tent.



We woke to light rain on the tent and rode in wet weather gear for quite a way. We had a lovely greenway cycleroute out of Westport all the way to Newport (16km) and breakfasted there. We then skirted the foothills of the mountains to Crossmolina where we had coffee, and then lunch at Ballina. Lovely day's riding today. After Ballina we followed the coast to Enniscrone where we camped. We were pleased to have had a good meal at Ballina as Enniscorne did not have much available. In the evening we took a walk along the beach and promenade which was nice. We are aiming to reach Belfast in three days from tomorrow but it will be a tall order. We'll see how we go!


We knew that this would be a long day so we had an early start and were on the road before 7:00 am. We would take the main road until just before the halfway mark and it is always best to be on the busier roads early. However, we soon found that the road was a bit too busy for our liking with no shoulder and as there was an alternate route along the coast, we took that after our breakfast break. We had a great breakfast at a petrol station: omelette, bacon, black pudding, sausages, sausage rolls, and coffee. Good fuel! The route was good today as usual, we followed the Humbert Cycleway for quite a way. Only at the very end did the cycle route start with its annoying up's and down's. The busy road seemed so inviting and so QUICK but it had been raining (forgot to mention the rain, it's just what happens here!) for a few hours and after a fuel truck passed very closeby we abandoned it for the quieter road's ups and downs. Safer! We crossed the border into the UK but you wouldn't know except for a sign that tells you that speed limits are now displayed in miles per hour. Our campsite was just over the border and it continued to rain for the rest of the day. Due to our early start we still arrived by 2:30 pm which was nice. We also then booked into a hotel in Belfast for two nights. We have two long days ahead, tomorrow and Sunday, but it should all work out.


So, rain again today, no suprise there! We picked out the most direct route possible, avoiding the busy main road where we could. It went well and we had good roads and easy riding. The only hiccup was the first 4 km when we chose the cycle route and ended up fighting our way uphill only to bash downhill again so we quickly abandoned that plan! Not much scenery now though, all the mountains are behind us and we are drawing closer to the big city of Belfast. We were on the road at 7:30 am and reached our campsite at 2:00 pm which shows the ease of cycling in Ireland. The campsite was beautiful, situated in parklands with trout fishing and nature walks. We are looking forward to getting to Belfast tomorrow.

We had good weather today; no rain which was great. Easy ride into Belfast with excellent final 20 km along greenway cycle route, so very easy entry into the city. We had an early start before 7:00 am and arrived at the hotel at 12:00 pm. We could not check-in then as it was too early, so went off to find something to eat and then came back at about 13:30 pm. The hotel reception was great as they kept a good room for us with lovely views of the city. Had a bath which was wonderful for my aching legs! Looking forward to two days off as we will leave Belfast by ferry for Scotland on Tuesday.