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Jof’s World Tour: Trip miles 0 - 1065: UK and Ireland

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

By Jon Newey

I’ve only done a solo trip on the motorbike once before. It was a few days in the Western Isles, ferry-hopping between Barra, The Uists, Harris and Skye. The sun shone, I camped on the beach and I loved every minute of it. However, this new adventure feels very different right from the start. The days spent riding the bike are great, the roads and landscapes coming at me constantly over the horizon, but the evenings are less fun. The weather is cold, the air is damp and doubts start to creep into my mind. What am I doing? Is this actually fun? Afterall, I could be at home with my family, sitting on my own sofa watching my own TV…..

The trip starts in Linlithgow as I wave goodbye to friends and loved ones and teeter out onto the road, not feeling familiar yet with the extra weight of the panniers. The first stop is McDonalds in South Queensferry where I’m meeting a friend, Martin, who will ride with me for the first hour or so. I expect to see him on his Royal Enfield Himalayan but he arrives on a Honda VFR800. The Himalayan just didn’t have enough puff for him, apparently. That won’t be a problem on the VFR! We head out into the traffic on the Edinburgh bypass and turn off on the A702 towards Abington. I’m heading west which is what I intend to do for the next few weeks. It is cold. Tigger’s dash shows 3.5 degrees C. We ride carefully partly because we’re in no hurry and partly because Martin’s VFR has a brand-new rear tyre and the roads are damp and greasy. At Abington we stop for a quick coffee then Martin heads off back to Edinburgh and I press on.

My AB&B for the night is in Dalrymple, near Ayr. The A70 takes me in that direction and it is a glorious road with very little traffic. I arrive at the AB&B just after 3pm. My host, Joan, is nowhere to be seen but she has left me a message to help me find the front door key. I let myself in and make myself at home. Joan arrives quite soon after with her two Border Collie dogs. She’s been out helping the local farmer to herd some sheep and new-born lambs. The younger collie, Sky, is still a puppy and is very excited to see me.

I take a short walk into the village to find some food. There are two pubs but one is closed and the other has been converted to a high-class restaurant where there are no tables free. I have no choice but to hop back onto Tigger and ride the 6 miles into Ayr to get a take-out pizza.

Next morning there’s ice on Tigger’s seat but the sun is shining as I set off down the coast road. My first target today is the Cairnryan ferry port. The coast road is another great road to ride. There are lots of ruined castles that would be worth exploring but I don’t have time for that today. At the ferry port I meet another biker on a Tracer 700. He’s from Cork and has been exploring the Highlands of Scotland for a few days. He comments on my bulging panniers and I have to explain that my plan involves more than just a short trip to Ireland.

The ferry crossing is calm and the sun shines. I sit out on the deck and watch the waves go by. Arriving in Belfast the ferry spits us out straight into a tangle of dual carriageways and overpasses. Belfast reminds me of Glasgow for that, where road engineers in the 60’s carved their concrete structures right through the city centre. I consider stopping to see the Titanic heritage museum, but the traffic bustles me along and I’m soon heading south towards Dublin.

I cross the border into the Republic of Ireland. There’s nothing to signify the border crossing, not even a sign, but suddenly I realise that the road signs are giving distances in kilometres and place names in two languages. Stopping at a service station I switch Tigger’s speedo to read kmh and carry on.

Tonight I am staying at n AB&B in the village of Naul. My host, Evelyn, is not there when I arrive but has left instructions for me to let myself in. She soon appears, having been called away to help catch a runaway horse. After settling myself in I look for food in the village, but the pub doesn’t serve food on Sundays so I have to make do with a microwave curry from the supermarket. I’m hoping the food-supply will get better as I get further into this trip!

The next day is Monday. My plan for today is to ride across Ireland, still heading west, to reach the Atlantic coast. I consider driving though Dublin just because I’m here, but the Monday morning traffic puts me off the idea. I’ll come back another time to see Dublin properly.

The road across the centre of Ireland is a fast, smooth motorway with little traffic and I’m soon in Limerick. I stop briefly for a look around but soon press on to the small town of Adare. Here there’s one main street, thatched buildings both sides and plenty of coffee shops. The ATM gives me some Euros but the coffee shops are closed on Mondays, so lunch is a shop-bought sandwich. I press on again, now riding twisty A-roads up into the hills and mountains of County Kerry. The roads eventually lead me through Dingle, over a small pass and down into the village of Dunquin where I have a coffee at Krugers, the western-most bar in Europe. Behind Krugers is the Atlantic and away over the horizon is Canada. That’s where I’m headed next. But to get there I now have to go back eastwards to get to Heathrow Airport.

From Krugers I ride along part of Ireland’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way’. It is beautiful road but very wild. Tonight I am in an AB&B in Anascaul. My problems start when I find that Anascaul does not appear on the Garmin sat-nav. I have to go ‘old school’ and follow the road signs. Next, I realise that I don’t know where the AB&B is and there’s no mobile signal here. Eventually I find it. My host, Kathleen, is not there when I arrive but has left me a message to let myself in. I’m starting to see a pattern emerging!

It is a short stroll down hill into the village for the evening. Patcheens Bar is the only place open. The scampi is fresh out of the Dingle Bay. I treat myself to a pint of Guinness at which point the power goes off in the whole village. Thank goodness I managed to get cash from the ATM in Adare. The only light in the pub is the glow from the log-burner as I finish my Guinness and chat to the bar-man.

I sleep well and get up early. There’s a café on the main street that advertises good-looking breakfasts. It is closed when I get there. I ride on.

Today I have a long ride back across Ireland towards Rosslare ferry port. The sat-nav wants to take me back through Limerick but I force it to take me through Cork instead. I’m in no hurry today so when I see a sign to Blarney Castle, I follow it. It’s a good decision. The castle stands in some beautiful gardens and the sun is shining. There are hundreds of tourists but there’s plenty of space so it doesn’t seem crowded. I strike up a conversation with a couple from Philadelphia who take an interest in the bike.

The famous Blarney Stone is up on the castle ramparts, accessible through a metal grille. Kiss it and you’ll gain the ‘gift of the gab’ they say. I decide not to risk it and instead sit under a tree to sketch a watercolour.

Riding through the Irish countryside I have noticed a couple of things. The roads are all in good condition, far better than the roads in Scotland, and there are new motorways under construction connecting all the major towns. Everywhere I look there are new modern individual houses. Usually they are built behind a small roadside cottage in tumble-down condition. It seems that here you’re allowed to build a new house behind an existing house as long as you don’t demolish the original structure. That’s quite different to the Planning policies I’m used to in Scotland.

It is 6pm when I arrive at my AB&B in Rosslare. The website’s map places the house in the middle of an empty field but my host, Anne, is at home so she comes out to find me. She’s a gem. I get offered a cup of tea and cake and she’s happy to give me toast and tea at 6am in the morning so that I’m all set for the early ferry to Wales. Dinner is a tasty duck salad in a café on Rosslare beach. Things are looking up on the food front at last.

Anne’s house is new. Underfloor heating heated by an air-source heat-pump makes for very comfortable living. I sleep well. It’s still dark the next morning as I set off towards the ferry and for the first time in Ireland it is raining. The ferry is only 10 minutes away. There are other bikers waiting but they are all going on the ferry to Bilbao. I’m the only bike on the ferry to Wales. The weather is getting worse so I start to wish I was going to Bilbao too. The crossing is uneventful and before long I’m riding down the steel gangway into Fishguard in Wales. This is already my fourth country of the trip! The rain settles in for a good soaking. The Revit jacket and over-trousers do their job, though, and the heated handlebars do theirs too, so I stay dry enough and warm enough as I go. I cross the Severn estuary into Bristol. England brings my country-count up to five. The weather clears a bit and I start to dry out.

It will be motorway all the way now to London. Tonight I’ll be staying at my sister’s house. I hit the M25 at 5pm and crawl at a snail’s pace for an hour. The panniers prevent me from filtering though the traffic. I’ll need to get used to that. ‘Lane-splitting’ is illegal in all of Canada and in most US states….

Next morning is a big day for me and Tigger. I repack all my gear to get it ready for Tigger to be shipped to Toronto. I’m using the specialist company, James Cargo, who have a warehouse on a business park not far from Heathrow airport. They’re expecting me when I arrive and the whole operation goes smoothly. I’ve never done this before but they’ve done it a thousand times. There are a few litres of fuel in the tank which they need to drain out and I have to remove all aerosol cans from the panniers. I’ll need to get some chain lube and tyre-weld from somewhere when I get state-side. My helmet, jacket, trousers and panniers will all be packed in the crate with the bike. It feels odd to walk away and leave Tigger but I just have to trust that everything will arrive safely on the other side of the Atlantic in 10 days’ time. There’s no turning back now! Tigger is on his way and I have to follow!

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3 comentários

Membro desconhecido
06 de abr. de 2023

Nice story. I look forward to the Canada episode.

It's a shame I'm not told the name of the author.



Membro desconhecido
06 de abr. de 2023

Four countries down Jon, sounds great so far.


Membro desconhecido
06 de abr. de 2023

Your trip so far spunds absolutely fantastic, have a safe journey.

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