Looking along a long straight road amidst lush green farmland

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Lough Neagh And Money

Ride Date 19 September 2020

By Ren Withnell

This is our third morning here and we've already established a ritual. After grumbling into life and feeding ourselves Sharon makes our lunch and I throw more tea down the sink rather than the flasks. You'd think I'd learn wouldn't you. Sharon's tortillas are a success at least.

Sharon is preparing tortillas with pepperoni and salad and coleslaw
Scrumptious snacks for dinner.

What to do today? I planned to see the east coast of Northern Ireland and we have, at least a good section of it anyhow. The nearest hilly region is the Sperrin Mountains, only about 50 miles away. That sounds easy enough until you throw in a good day's looking around then maybe not. There's Lough Neagh which is watery and we've enjoyed the watery stuff so far. And it's a bit closer. Meh, we'll go and have a gander around there, see what's what.

Sharon has decided she's coming on the back of my bike again, I think she wants a rest today as tomorrow will be a reasonable ride. Fair enough. So with snacks, tortillas and tea we set out on the 500. 

As before the motorway is as motorways are. With the weather and time on our side I come off the motorway before we need to, we are here to explore aren't we? Templepatrick offers a place to stop while I sort out my mobile phone sat-nav solution. The battery is draining, the 12v to 5v USB adaptor under the seat has wobbled loose.

Antrim is another one of those places who's name brings back childhood memories of "the troubles" and here I am riding through the town. We're only on the main roads, I don't detour to look around but from what I can see it is as ordinary, regular, normal a town as any I've seen. Billboards, supermarkets, housing estates, pubs, roundabouts and so on. It's so ordinary I barely notice it.

When we get west of Toome we find ourselves in the countryside and this area feels different once more. Unlike the Causeway Coastal Route's twee beauty. Unlike the Ards Peninsula's homely charms. This is rural arable farmland, populated but not packed and I can smell, oh what is it I can smell? Money. 

I'm sure not everyone here is loaded but there are some grand houses with huge gardens between the smart steel barns and endless green fields. Some have colonnades and large porches. Some are the kind of place you'd find on "Grand Designs". Then there'll be odd humble bungalows and semi-detached properties then another mini mansion and then a smart farmyard. 

Ballyronan is tiny with a petrol station and a shop, and a marina? I know they exist but marinas that aren't beside the sea still seem odd, except the residential canal boat marinas we have back home. But sailing boats and yachts belong in the sea don't they? No, no no no, no I know, but logic and how things really are don't always correlate correctly in my head. Big floaty things belong in the big sea not on an inland pond. 

As we park by the shore it makes more sense. We have done our research, we already know Lough Neagh is the largest lake in the UK. It's only when we stand by the water's edge do we realise just how big it is. When you stand by a Scottish loch or a Cumbrian lake you can see the other side quite easily. As we stand here the other side seems like another country in the distance.

Looking out over the shimmering waters of the lake we can barely make out the far shore
Out there, somewhere, is the far shoreline.

Ardboe it another tiny village comprising mostly it seems of crisply painted houses and bungalows with manicured gardens and orderly driveways. Very tidy, very organised and perhaps a little OCD for my taste. We pass peacefully through, hoping not to disturb the resident's pristine perfection. Outside of the village we stop at Ardboe Cross.

An ancient tall stone cross in the countryside with 2 scooters in the foreground
The scooterists have beaten us to the prime parking spot.

The Cross is evidently ancient, the ruins of the church equally so. This is contrasted by the sharp bright clean modern gravestones with polished pebbles of various colours. I like contrasts but this feels, well, I'm struggling here. I respect people's unique way of interring their loved one's remains and to each their own. I'm sorry but I have to say it. Money. This being said I can see why one might choose to be laid to rest here. Looking out over the calm waters of this inland freshwater sea on such a lovely day is indeed restful.

The ancient church is in ruins but recent graves and headstones abound between
Once a small village church, now a graveyard.
In the close foreground are to modern graves overlooking the vast waters of Lough Neagh
A beautiful place to rest a while, or permanently.

As we ride on through more of this countryside I receive a tap on the shoulder "I could do with a pee". There's one thing Northern Ireland does differently to the mainland, there are still public toilets. Remember them? You know, a place where you could use the loo while out and about? Most of the ones in England at least have been shut due to crippled council's cutbacks. 

We don't find a public loo per se out here in the countryside but Derrylaughan's Gaelic Athletic Club looks like a likely option. Back home the gates would be locked, the car park declared off limits except to members and the loos would be barred and bolted. Here we roll into the empty car park, pop in to the open toilets and relieve ourselves. There's even Covid compliant hand sanitiser. 

A smart white building with the doors to the toilets open at Derrylaughan
Relief comes in the form of open doors.

Feeling much relieved I program the sat-nav for Kinnego Marina. When I'd been looking at campsites this had come up and as we're in the area, we'll have a look. More countryside and short stretch of the M1 and soon we're riding into, ah, right, yes, we're riding into a popular marina on a Saturday afternoon.

It's busy. Not quite chaos yet it still comes as a shock after several hours of quiet country lanes and polite, posh, quiet villages. Vans and 4x4s wait impatiently to unload or collect jetskis and sailing dinghies from the slipway. Kids and parents zip into and out of wetsuits. 30-something blokes try to impress their wife and kids by blipping the throttle of their wave-runner, jumping forwards in the water. I smell money again.

Yachts and sailing boats pack the marina at Kinnego
"Shall we get a yacht dear?" "You've already asked that"
A small motorcycle shop on the marina
There's a bike shop here too.

We sit on a bench-table we've grabbed for ourselves and finish off our snacks and drinks, watching a middle aged couple disagreeing about the best way to get their sailing boat onto their trailer without flooding the shiny van. Then, from out of nowhere, Sharon declares she'd like an ice cream, but not from here.

A sailing boat on a trailer behind a grey van
Getting the boat onto the trailer behind the can. What a faff.

Google maps suggests there's a place about 3 or 4 miles away. We leave the bustling throng of vans and trucks and trailers and dog walkers and head out. I dream of a small shop with refrigerators filled with endless flavours of sweet cold creamy delights. Maybe a bench outside to sit on that overlooks a field filled with ripening wheat. We find ourselves on a perfectly pleasant but very ordinary housing estate with not even a local off licence in sight. (What I didn't know then is this is where the local ice cream van's business is registered.)

Somewhat disheartened Sharon assures me I'm not a failure, that she'll still be my friend and that, one day in the distant future, she may forgive me. We make for the chalet.

As we get closer to the motorway I notice a familiar looking petrol station. Ah! Templepatrick where we stopped before. There's a Spar shop here, maybe we could find a tasty cold treat here? Would you Adam and Eve it... there is... DA-DAH! An ice cream parlour here too. Sitting on the kerb by the bike on a busy car park and petrol station was not exactly what Sharon and I had in mind, but it will have to do.

Back at the chalet it's tea-time. After tea I demand that Sharon packs what she can so we can have an easier go of it in the morning. As she does this I check the bikes over and make sure we're good to go. For tonight is our last night here in the chalet, tomorrow takes us back to the ferry, Scotland and then England. But not home, not just quite yet.


If you'd like to advertise here contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Northern Ireland - A Covid Prologue The lead-up to this journey seems to have been a bewildered shambles. So how did The Dynamic Muppets manage to rescue their trip from the tangled mess of 2020?
It's A Bumpy Lumpy Ride Sharon's life is never simple. While getting ready for maybe, possibly, perhaps going to Northern Ireland she takes a moment to explain why she's been so quiet on here.
An Easy Ride To Carlisle It's an easy, lazy and relaxed start to this holiday with a handful of miles to cover and the weather behaving itself for once.
Space Sharon's luggage situation has improved but it's going to take a while for her to unwind, chill out and settle into today's journey. Aaaaaaand relax.
A Ferry And Hint Of Northern Ireland Ren is doing what Ren does best - flapping.
A Dip Into Irish Waters Today's lesson - don't place yourself behind angry small mythical critters.
Causeway And Coast Getting into The Giant's Causeway poses a challenge for a miser like Ren, can he avoid his wallet seeing the light of day? The Causeway Coastal Route and Torr Head Scenic Route may ease the shock for him.
Giants And Hobbits Sharon enjoys a rather wonderful day exploring more of the Causeway Coastal Route. Languishing in luxury on the back of Ren's bike while he does all the hard work. Sort of.
Ards Peninsula, Wonderfully Modest Today it's the turn of Ards Peninsula to be explored. Throw in the regular dose of disorganised nonsense and some fair weather, it might be a good day!
A Bit Of Irish History A history lesson and tomfoolery by The Queen Of Rain. Thing is, it's not raining. Something is wrong here, very wrong.
Lough Neagh And Money The Dynamic Muppets circumnavigate the largest lake in the British Isles. Is this the sort of place where a prudent miser like Ren would fit in?
Reflections Another watery day in Northern Ireland and still no rain on the horizon. Sharon contemplates the many and varied lives we get to live.
Ferry, Friends And Mostly Scotland In a remarkable twist Ren is not flapping! Nor is he ready to go home. But alas and alack 'tis time for this all-too-brief inspection of Northern Ireland to end. Take comfort in Scotland Ren.
North Pennines And Epilogue It's the end of the journey for the dynamic muppets yet there's still time for a little detour, or two. What did Ren make of Northern Ireland?

Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
I've never heard of Lough Neagh. Pronunciation clarification would be good.
BLUE SKIES, SUNSHINE, ICE CREAM?
Upt'North.
02/11/2020 04:12:54 UTC
Upt'North said :-
I'm guessing, Lock Neek.
Upt'North.
02/11/2020 06:35:00 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I most definitely certainly assuredly do not know how to pronounce Lough Neagh. We did ask google that evening and it came up with something akin to "lock nay" and we've been using that since. If any bona-fide Irish folks wish to correct me on this I'm all ears.
02/11/2020 07:46:09 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , Lock nay is the way I pronounce it (Dublin based)
Nigel
03/11/2020 09:08:01 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Thanks nab301, seems Google was on point for once.
03/11/2020 11:34:35 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Thank you Nigel, I feel all edumicated.
Upt'North.
03/11/2020 01:31:59 UTC

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