Pictures from May 15-18, 2008 trip to Ireland. The trip took us from Naas, through the Wicklow Gap, to Arklow. From Arklow, we headed south to Hook Head Lighthouse, Slade Castle, Fort Duncannon, past Dunbroddy Abbey, Lismore Castle and pulling in for the night at Blackwater Castle. From there it was off to Blarney Castle and back to Naas.
Day 2 behind us I had made reservations at www.blackwatercastle.com. It's featured in "Motorcycle Tours in the South of Ireland" by Patrick Nordstrom & Barth Buckley. Patrick is the... Innkeeper . It should be a destination in itself, even if you don't stay there. But you should stay there. We did.
First, Patrick gave us the run of the place, and allowed us to pick what room we wanted. There's 9 rooms in the place you can stay in and all of them are excellent. Patrick is very humble & understated. His quote was that he still had finish work to do and it's not a "spit and polish" place. Bah. It probably took us 20 minutes to choose our room! It's a castle and well it's quite large... Patrick and Sheila - soon to be wed at this writing - were truly superlative hosts. Rates are very, very competitive with other hotels & B&B's.
TOWMBO and I arrived at 0730 Dublin time, a net 6.75 hours boarding to luggage in hand.We had to wait for Dublin tourism to open in the airport at 0800.We picked up the Dublin pass, and bus tickets (not the short bus).We dropped off our bags at the hotel, caught the (late) DublinBus 16a into the city Center…or is it Centre?
The weather was stunningly beautiful, in the 70’s.
Here’s a couple shots from downtown Dublin
Dublin Castle. Remaining pictures in the block are also Dublin Castle.
Like a pilgrimage for the beer drinking faithful… Dublin has The Gunness Storehouse.This place is H U G E, spanning several city blocks.Finding it was a major pain because apparently Dubliners eschew street signage.Some have them, some don’t.Streets are tightly packed together as well, rendering even WAAS enabled GPS difficult to use at best.By the time we got therethe line to get in was … several city blocks, so we bailed, caught the wrong ( and late ) bus to Ballyfermot.We did an about face and caught the correct ( and late) bus back to City center … or is it Centre? Whatever. This brought our first day to a close as we ate and prepared for bike pickup the next day...
Determined to slip the surly bonds of the atrocious ( and always late ) Dublin public transportation “system”, we had made arrangements with http://www.motorental.ie. They're located in Naas (pronounced "nace"), county Kildare on Ladytown. GPS coordinates of the shop: N53 12.276 W6 42.530. They are the next left turn past "Ray O'Brien's" garage - on the current Garmin Europe City Select...
Motorental is run by Paul & Grace (and Sammy, shown below). Very patient, helpful, and definitely bike people. They have 16 bikes to rent in current inventory (as of 09/07), all in excellent condition, full gear setup and except for my GPS cradle, it was ready to roll when we got there. Prior to our arrival, they'd purchased a ram mount for a GPS and their bikes have powerlet sockets already. They were all too happy to help us get geared up, mount & hook power to the GPS and ready to ride - on a Sunday. I confess I'd known of Motorental for several months but had just figured it would be one of those things I would get to do before I died... Then I stumbled across a Dublin city package deal that was better than just airfare to well... anywhere in Europe. I'm not Irish, neither is TOWMBO. To my knowledge, there's no Irish in any of our ancestry. Not to worry, we found the Irish people to be a very courteous lot, friendly & sometimes talkative. Paul and Grace are no exception. I had never rented a bike prior and they were both extremely helpful. Sammy just kind of provided moral support. They had some great suggestions, especially Kilkea Castle pictured below and the pictures just don't do it justice.
Time to ride:
We took off with some trepidation because Irish folks drive on the wrong side of the road.Complicating matters, the German engineers at Bavarian Motor Works somehow feel that their different layouts are correct and the prevalent Japanese motorcycle controls are not…Turn signals & horn are different…It doesn’t sound like much but for me, it is. It just took some getting used to, but is something to consider ...It’s no longer as intuitive to change lanes & cancel the signal.I was surprised how much this machine shook at idle.Worse than any Harley I’ve seen, but what was interesting was that it smoothed out significantly at speed so they must be doing something right. This was my 1st go on a BMW Boxer and I can understand how these bikes get ridden a LOT. Paul guided us out to the Naas N7 roundabout where I promptly took the wrong exit off the roundabout thanks to “Fran”, my not so trusty Garmin Quest GPS.It wouldn’t be the last time Fran did this to me.I call her “Fran” because the unit has voice prompts which remind me of Fran Drescher.Anyway, Paul set us right and we were off to explore.Weather was great, in the 60’s.
There was an immediate feeling of freedom, even while being on the wrong side of the road . The countryside, towns and even major routes were a very nice. No big box stores, no huge warehouses of stuff, but some towns had a really "established" feel as if they'd been there hundreds of years... Then again, maybe they had... First we headed to Malahide Castle.
A Gate to the Guinness Storehouse.
This is part of the Malahide Castle complex, not part of the Castle proper.
2nd Rathfarman pic.
Departing Malahide Castle we headed over to Swords Castle, not too far north of Dublin. We ate in Swords then decided to let Fran route us to Rathfarnam Castle - Through Dublin. Eh. As Paul said, 'ya seen one city, ya seen the awl'... Pretty much right on. On the way to Rathfarnam I realize that on the M motorways in particular, nobody will go the speed limit - 120 kmh. At first I figured 'these guys know something, I'll hang back'. Nope. Not sure what the law says, but the custom is that splitting is culturally accepted. I did this very infrequently and not in any kind of heavy traffic as it's illegal where I'm from and I'm not accustomed to it. Once I got the rhythm of things we dispatched the slow moving cagers. After getting some pictures of Rathfarnam, we headed for the hotel and dinner just a few KM north of the Dublin City Center (or is it Centre?).
Grace, Sammy & the BMW R850 we rented. Paul was busy when we took this pic.
Post ride pic.
Picture of a Garmin map showing Motorental's location.
This was big trip day.Still holding on to a little jet lag, exaggerated by the local pub’s incredibly loud music until WEE hours Monday morning, we bagged the early start for some extra sleep.It was raining when we took off, but nothing like the Rain from God™ that was to come.After a few frustrating minutes escaping Dublin traffic on one of the M routes I came to the realization that despite their much touted graduated licensing, their driving skill and prowess is average, tops.AND, no matter what, most of them just refuse to even GO the speed limit.So, we passed them... to the right, left, break down lanes, between lanes (see above).After about an hour on the road it was raining in what felt like a Hurricane.Actually, considering the 20+ mph (ok, that would be ~33kph right?) headwind + our 130 kph speed it kind of was a hurricane.
We were headed north into Northern Ireland, which is separate from the Republic of Ireland, to Ballymoney. As you cross into Northern Ireland they make a big deal about telling you by sign that there's Photo radar, blah,blah,blah... But they don't tell you the speed limit! Ballymoney is way up north, close to the Island top and is the home of the Dunlop family and was the home of the late, great Joey Dunlop.
If you don’t know who Joey Dunlop was, somebody should “Red Flag” you for a 3 game suspension.
We travelled through Belfast and it would've been interesting to stop but we didn't have time. And there was that pesky pipe bombing in Carrickfergus the previous day. So we pressed on. The Rain from God(tm) subsided for short periods, only to pick up again harder than before. By the time we reached Ballymoney it was a driving, gusty rain that was literally pushing the 2 up laden 500+ pound bike around like a toy.
It still beats waiting for and riding any of the Dublin buses.
We found the Joey Dunlop Memorial garden straight away. After taking some pictures, TOWMBO decided to deviate from the plan. No munching on granola bars for lunch, she wanted food at a restaurant. Ok. We found a place called "The Peppercorn" and then had to go procure some Poundage from the ATM. The food was great and the waitress was kind enough to point us towards Joey's Bar. We went to Joey's had a couple of cokes, I bought a mug and contributed to his foundation. An Aussie patron who was also visiting was kind enough to snap the picture of me & TOWMBO outside Joeys. Again, everyone we ran into was extremely nice. I didn't see a lot of motos out and about, but more than a few commuting into Dublin. - Polite as they are, Irish riders don't wave. This *might* have something to do with the side of the road thing mentioned above since all the imperical evidence suggests a very tourist friendly people... After leaving leaving Joey's we headed for Trim Castle back in the Republic of Ireland. This was the long leg of the trip. TOWMBO indicated on more than one communication that she wanted WARMTH. The weather was not cooperating with that. At best it was 50-51F with a driving, off and on Rain from God(tm). After a couple hours the rain subsided and revealed some of the brightest Sunlight ever witnessed. Everything was refracting rays of sunlight and a bunch of rainbows. Once off the main roads to Trim, the road spray forced me to pull over 3 times to clean. We finally made it to Trim Castle.
The Joey Dunlop Memorial Garden in Ballymoney Northern Ireland.
TOWMBO & me outside Joey's bar in Ballymoney.
Us in front of Trim Castle
Front gate to Trim
A neat cannon at Trim
Trim Castle at dusk.
Another shot of Trim at dusk
This is another building on the Trim Castle grounds.
Kilkea Castle, a very nice hotel.
Kilkea is huge and you can't fit everything into one picture.
Another Kilkea shot showing only a portion of the castle
Us in front of Kilkea castle
Our last day with the bike, we planned on 2 castles but traffic and a late wakeup conspired against us.The weather was a mix of sun and rain and periodically the rain would even come from clouds in the sky. That's the best way I can describe it. Sometimes it would just rain for no apparent reason and then stop.Fortunately it was warm enough to be ok with it.At the recommendation of Paul from motorental we checked out Kilkea castle.It’s actually a functioning hotel that is quite picturesque. 230 Euros / night if you're interested.
It was here, at Kilkea Castle that I cursed Fran and her LCD display for not owning up to having the Motorental waypoint I saved to her via the Euro Mapsource upload. By back tracking to Naas we were able to get very close & fill up, then Grace clued me in on the "Ray O'Brien's Garage" landmark - which *IS* on the Garmin Mapsource City Select Europe map. That was not to be the only wrong turn though, because yard workers blocked Motorental's drive way... Missed it by one house. Paul was out and I didn't get a chance to thank him, but I did thank Grace & Sammy. Geared up, the weather wasn't so bad at all. Grace got us to a bus back to Dublin. From there we headed to the Guinness Storehouse. That place is massive.
After the Storehouse we went to Hard Rock Dublin, then walked around the Temple Bar...
Fortunately for our bank account, most places that sold goods were closed.TOWMBO can find a gift shop in a 900 year old castle or a posh European city.It’s as if she migrates there.So after we discover every open gift and souvenir place, we head back to the bus stop for the now infamous 16a or 16 line back to the hotel.45 minutes pass, no bus. 3 scheduled stops, but no bus.
PT is good for you… but not necessarily your marriage.
After 45 minutes, I figure the bus has broken down and declare ‘to H*ll with this, it’s only 3k, we’ll walk’.After much ballyhooing, whining and complaining, and a more than 1 hour walk because she was sand bagging, I finally get us to the hotel.Both of us watched the northbound traffic and not a single bus 16 or 16a passed in the time we walked.At first it was “wah, wah… bus would’ve come”…By now it’s “yeah, ok no buses came…”She’d still be waiting for that bus. You can damn well bet that if a northbound 16 or 16A Dublin Bus had passed us on the walk back I'd be in a very old Irish dungeon right now while TOWMBO and her evil henchmen performed some dentistry and cuticle therapy with a pair of pliers and a blow torch instead of writing this.
Needless to say, not one Dublin Bus 16 or 16A headed north from the City Center(or Centre) from about 20:00 Dublin time on... Oh well. It was still a great trip.
The exchange rate for the US Dollar is abyssmal. Complicating things is that Ireland has a BOOMING economy right now. Stuff is not cheap. A burger - just a regular burger - I saw prices from 13 Euros up to 18.95 Euros - It was equivalent to $21.69 US for a burger at Hard Rock and they were only a Euro more expensive than outside the Temple Bar!
Obviously a city package isn't as conducive to moto-touring since you're kind of anchored to your lodging, but it was hugely fun anyway.
Reasons to like Ireland for moto touring:
Motorental Non-extreme climate, no sub arctic conditions, no super Sahara like conditions. Friendly inhabitants. Cool things to see. Guinness at every pub. 6 hour non stop flight from Dulles to Dublin. Maybe 6.75 tops seat buckle to baggage collection at Dublin. Since the climate isn't extreme you could possibly tour in the warmer winter months with electrics. Motorental bikes have BMW/Powerlet style plugs.
When we moto-tour Ireland again, we'll pick a multi destination itinerary so we could visit more places and see more of the country. There are B&B's everywhere and plenty of hotels.
I disagree with the overwhelming majority of travel and info sites about Dublin's public transportation. We thought it sucked. They were always way late, when they showed. No maps in the buses for the routes - even DC Metro has that guys. There are a lot of routes, and a lot of buses running but we were on several different routes and it was all the same. Of course, it's not like you can't pick up a taxi too, they're also plentiful. Obviously, the superior way to see Ireland is by motorcycle. Having been back for a couple days and had a chance to catch up on the yard work, I can now understand why Ireland is often called "The Emerald Isle".
by the Guinness gate...
The original Guinness 9000 year lease.
a view from the Guinness "Gravity Bar"
One of the Guinness ads.
Us outside Dublin Hard Rock. By this time, you can see that TOWMBO has raided so many gift shoppes that she can no longer carry the booty herself and needs my help...