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Ride Date 19 September 2020

By Sharon Parker

So today I wake up with a neck niggle. It is not bad and it will probably be fine to ride myself. However tomorrow will be a long ride of which there will be no choice involved as to ride or not. So after wavering back and forth I opt for the pillion option again. 

Today we are going inland but we will still be beside the water, for we plan to ride around the UK's  largest lake, Lough Neagh. Lough Neagh has an area of 151 square miles (392 km2), approximately 20 miles (30 km) long and nine miles (15 km) wide. It is very shallow around the margins and the average depth in the main body of the lake is about 30 feet (9 m), although at its deepest the Lough is about 80 feet (25m) deep. The Lough supplies 40% of Northern Ireland's water and is ranked 31st in the list of largest lakes of Europe.

Due to the marshy shores of the Lough the road that we are travelling does not always follow the edge of the Lough. To be able to keep to the edge you would need to be on a bike without any horse power and follow The Loughshore Trail. 

Apparently the trail is a unique cycleway, not only because of its location but because it uses quiet country lanes and consists of mainly flat terrain. As well as providing breathtaking views the trail also incorporates over 30 major sites of interest including marinas, nature reserves, parks and sites of archaeological interest. If I ever come back to Northern Ireland I think I would like to hire a cycle and do this trail.
For ourselves today our road winds itself through some very pretty villages. They are on the main part very well kept, there is money here and it is easy to spot with the perfect lawns and crisp painted masonry. 

We finally come to a stop by the shores of the Lough. Other bikers are here too and I am sad I am not on my own bike today. It has been a pleasant ride, it is bright, dry day and pffffft, I think I made the wrong choice about pillion today. Sometimes I love being pillion but today I would have preferred my own bike and and and...oh  stop it Sharon. 

A decision was made by you and it is no good making yourself miserable by lamenting that choice now. We all do it, batter ourselves with choices we made, calling ourselves stupid and bemoaning our idiocy. One thing age has taught me is to be kinder to myself. Being kind is an ethos that is beneficial to the world, kindness to others but also equally important kindness to oneself. 

I try to accept my choice and be at ease with it but errrr oh why is Envy not here? Well she is't but what is here before me is a body of water so vast it feels like I am stood by the ocean itself. It is a lovely spot with shimmering waters and trees languishing by the waters edge. I can see why the money is here; it really is a lovely place to be. 

Calm waters, blue skies, sandy shoreline and trees at the side of Lough Neagh
Shining waters 

However as calm and serene as the Lough looks now it can claim lives as readily as any ocean when hit by squalls. Tuesday 23rd August 1904 was a hot day. Dorothy Green suggested a trip across the Lough to Coney Island for a picnic with her family members and some friends. Her father gave them permission to take the pride of his fleet, "The Osprey", said to be fast, slick and beautiful. Dorothy was 17, her sister  Winifred was 22,  their brother Frank 19, their cousins Hugh and Frank Green both 18 and together they all set off at 4.40pm for their fun trip joined by two school friends, John and Herbert Catchpool.  

The Lough's calm  waters became rough as any sea on their return journey home about 6pm and the boat was capsized. Although all were strong swimmers 6 of the party drowned that day. Only Winifred managed to reach shore after swimming for over 2 and a half hours.  

The youngsters today practising their sailing techniques are close to shore and wearing life jackets. As beautiful and alluring and fun as any expanse of water can be you can never be too careful and mindful of its dangers. Personally I prefer the shore's edge with maybe a little paddle up to the knees. Yes I will ride a motorbike that is probably statistically more dangerous than sailing on a Lough but each to their own weirdness. 

Small sailing dinghies on the shore as kids learn to sail in safety
Looking out over the calm shallow waters a youth gets to grips with the training sails
Never be fooled by a calm exterior 

Back on the bike and winding quiet lanes take us to a large ancient looking cross which requires closer inspection. 

Ardboe Cross is a national monument dating from the tenth century. It stands at 18.5 feet high and is 3.5 feet wide, its twenty-two carved panels depict biblical scenes from the Old and New Testament. It truly is amazing to stand in this spot and gaze at this Celtic sandstone Cross that was carved over one thousand years ago.

A tall stone cross with the celtic circle. Carved into the stone are well worn biblical scenes
Ardboe Cross has seen some changes in its time here.

Behind the cross lies the ruins of a monastery that was built in the 17th century although the history of the site goes back to the 6th century when an abbey was founded here by Saint Colman. Gravestones now reside within the decrepit walls and further graves both ancient and modern fill the small graveyard. It is an evocative and restful site, you can not help but feel that those laid to rest here are indeed resting in peace. 

The ruins of a small chapel with modern crisp gravestones where the congregation once sat
A grave faces out over the calm scenery of the large Lough Neagh
A place for reflection and rest.

We continue on our tour around the lake and stop off at Kinnego Marina. Kinnego Marina is the largest marina on the Lough offering 181 fully sheltered berths. This being a Saturday it is really quite busy with the public slipway being in constant use. This provides me with much to watch as we settle on a bench with our picnic. I am fascinated watching people take their various crafts in and out of the water.

Teenagers roll up in huge 4x4s with jet skis on trailers and with great expertise launch them into the water. It all looks like jolly good fun, it all looks jolly expensive. It is a long way from my own youth spent playing with a cast off doll I rescued from a bin. Ahh Ricky, he had no eyes and was covered in biro scribblings. I washed all the ink off him with Vim and made him eyes out of Plasticine, which I coated with clear nail varnish to make them set hard.  

I really, really loved that doll. Even when years later I finally got a new doll of my own it was Ricky who still came with me on my adventures. His pram was a discarded frame of a pull along shopping trolley which I strapped a cushion onto. 

Yes I was poor and maybe this is why excess wealth still makes me feel uncomfortable. I doubt these children here sat astride gleaming jet skis in shiny wetsuits ever went to bed hungry and cold. Different worlds, different experiences and I guess even at 50 years old I still feel that outsider feeling, even if I now sit in bike gear worth  just as much if not much more than their wetsuits. 

But the upset of being the poor kid with the cheap plastic trainers being pointed at and laughed at in the school yard still remains I guess and I am happy to leave this place. I would feel more comfortable with a salty sea dog, resplendent in his holey sweater on a quiet harbour than here at this shiny Marina. I am not traumatised or upset being here, I just have no desire to tarry too long. 

The marina complete with expensive yachts and boats
Different worlds, different lives. 

As we ride back home I ponder on myself. I am a strange one. I like nice things. I like fine dining and I would love a luxury room with a four poster bed and roll top bath. I like the trappings of wealth but I always feel vaguely uncomfortable when in such surroundings. Like Cinderella about to be discovered in her rags when the clock strikes 12, an interloper that doesn't really belong. I guess we are all still attached to our roots no matter how far we roam.

It has been a day of reflections both of the watery kind and the soul. A good day in my books. 

If you'd like Sharon to test and review your motorcycle kit 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

nab301 said :-
Interesting write up Sharon , one thing you can say about Ireland is that North and South there are plenty of historical monuments and sites to use as an excuse for a bike ride, ( weather permitting obviously!)
06/12/2020 17:00:33 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It's an ancient country nab301, with a fascinating history.
07/12/2020 09:06:02 UTC

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