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Home Travel StoriesNorthern Ireland Under Grey Skies

A Ferry, Some Mist And Strangers

Ride Date 13 September 2021

By Ren Withnell

I mentioned this Travelodge seems older and more worn than others we've stopped in, well I suspect the mattress is worn out too. I've slept OK but not perfectly, Sharon's really struggled apparently. (Later Travelodge sent me a survey, I pointed out the staff were great as usual but the bed was blooming awful).

It's 0600. The ferry leaves at 1100, we need to be there before 1030 at the latest and we've 75 miles to ride. If we leave at 0800 we should have plenty of time. Remarkably Sharon has agreed to this and in spite of the mattress she is presenting as awake, moving, packing and at risk of being organised. She has obviously been replaced with an alien facsimile. Again.

Fortuitously this hotel has a Greggs outside and it opens at 0600. We pop across and grab a couple of bacon butties to go then return to complete our preparations. We are dressed, loaded and ready to rumble at 0755. I panic. Something's not right. This is all going far too well.

OK, yeah, we get stuck behind some slower trucks and cars on the A75 and I admit these 75 miles seem a lot further than I expected. And yet the clock appears to be on our side and the weather is grey but the rain holds off too. By 0945 we're on the final turning for the ferry terminal and still no disasters. Heck even the check in is simple and the smiling friendly security chap only wants a brief poke around inside my top box. 

A long grey building emblazoned with the P&O logo, the 2 motorcycles parked outside
We're here, we're not late and it's not raining!
The ferry appears to have metal outriggers on the front like a n odd bumper
Should I be concerned that my ferry appears to have bumpers fitted?

We take a pee brake and a quick cuppa from the flasks as we wait. We're joined by a Glaswegian on a Rebel 500 who's off to visit his father in the northern part of The Republic of Ireland. He's amiable and chatty but we're soon getting ready to board. 

Sharon is always nervous of boarding on two wheels. We've both experienced slippery wet steel ramps (damn stupid idea) and we know friends who've dropped bikes on the frictionless surface. Luckily this ferry has the sensible and obvious improvement of a thin layer of something grippy on the dodgy bits. Come on, it is evidently do-able and there's no excuse, why aren't all ramps like this?

The bikes are strapped down and we head into the passenger area, finding the cafe. There is little to do save wander around a little, but this is a mere 2 hour crossing so entertainment is unimportant. Sharon takes a nap nap on 2 chairs while I vape outside, watching the waves and noticing the rain is starting to come in. When Sharon awakes I recommend we waterproof up before disembarking.

We see a bit of Sharon behind a table, lying on 2 regular dining chairs having a nap.
Sleep on a washing line this one.

We could take the main A roads up to Portballintrae but there's no rush. We head along the Causeway Coastal Route we took last time. Admittedly it's not quite as pleasing as last time with the mizzle but it is still a fine ride. I sense Sharon is not quite at 100%, she's taking her time. This is an indication last night is catching up with her and experience tells me we ought not take the long way.

As such rather than following the coast I head west, inland. Big mistake. I honestly can't tell you where I am but I suspect I'm somewhere in the hills between Waterfoot and Magherahoney. 

The hills have raised us into the mist. I'm struggling to see anything as I'm learning to live with glasses and this is a new experience. Sharon can't see a damn thing either and she's wearing contacts. For what feels like a lifetime we slowly, carefully and blindly pick our way along a winding road, peering into the void, hoping we can see the next turn or avoid a speeding car.

I sense this is probably a lovely road, resplendent with rolling hills, fattened sheep and rural farmhouses. Right now though it is slow, unnerving and frustratingly long at this pace. Cold too. I've not felt cold for a good while now, maybe this summer malarkey has made me soft. 

It comes as a relief when we drop out of the hills, alas I've still no notion of my location. I merely follow Mrs Google's directions from the plastic bag covered mobile on my 'bars. The rain stops, great! The rain starts, urgh. A straight road where I can see, great! A soggy blind junction, urgh. I'm struggling, if Sharon's tired she'll be really struggling. This is only a 50 mile ride you know.

With some relief the road signs make more sense, the rain eases consistently and sat nav suggests we're not far away. It's a joy to recognise Bushmills and because I'd practiced with Street View finding the house is a doddle. There is merit in preparation.

Rob, Mark, Janine and Rob2 are all already here. As such we are presented with a brew and biscuits almost immediately. I could get used to this. Rob and Mark on on 2 wheels. Janine and Rob2 are from that there London Village place and have chosen to come in the car. Rob2 is still on "L" plates, Janine's been riding since she was a child but with the weather, the distance and Rob2's inexperience they've decided discretion is the better part of valour and brought the 4 wheeler. 

We've never met Rob2 and Janine. This is always a worry but apart from their southern twang they seem mentally well adjusted so that's a good start. Sharon and I have known Rob and Mark for quite a few years now so we know what to expect from them. 

As for the house? It's fine, not quite "lovely" but perfect for our needs as well as clean and comfortable and roomy. It's also upside down. The living rooms (plural), the kitchen and 1 bedroom are upstairs, the rest of the bedrooms and bathrooms below. Why? The view. You can see across the bay from downstairs but not as well as you can from upstairs. It's an odd choice but I can see the logic.

Looking from the window we see the sea behind large grassy areas and some houses
The view from upstairs. Lovely, except for the little crane.

We choose the upstairs bedroom and throw our kit in there before changing and relaxing on the big fat sofa. We talk of ferries and problems and motorcycles and places to visit. There are more pressing matters too, that of food.

We all walk into Bushmills as Portballintrae has nothing, I mean NOTHING in the way of shops. It's a 1.5 mile walk and to be honest it's what I need, a good stretch of the legs. The skies are grey yet the rain holds back although we cling to our waterproofs as this could change at any moment. In Bushmills we stock up on snacks and bread and fillings, Janine and Rob2 seem to be buying the whole shop.

Before we depart back to the house we drop into a pub. More talking ensues as we all learn a little more about our southern interlopers and they try to keep up with our northern dialects and words. 

Sharon smiles holding up the tassels of her hat and looking silly
This is why we don't allow her to drink too much alcohol. She is entirely sober here.

Back at the house we are treated. Rob2, according to Janine, likes to cook. It's his way of being involved and social, of feeling useful and of contributing. I'm not going to argue with having chilli and rice made for me. I watch and talk with him as he stirs and pours and mixes and stirs and heats and chops and stirs some more. This isn't just a bit of rice and minced meat, this is art, this is creativity.

And it is good. Very good. Far too good. There's real ingredients here put together in the right order and amounts. I can barely open a tin can so you can colour me impressed. I slacken my pants and stuff more into my trap. My scales are so going to regret this.

The evening winds down around 2200 hours, a most civilised hour indeed. I had feared there'd be drunken arguments all night but by 2230 we're all tucked in bed and heading off to the land of nod. My belly hangs heavy into the mattress as I slip into slumber. It could be alright this trip I reckon.  


Advertise here contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

The Whyfors Of Our Impending Return Ren unnecessarily tries to justify their return to Northern Ireland. Sharon takes out Ren with a fiscal left hook. Is there any hope?
Sauntering Up To Dumfries It's a slow slow start to this year's Northern Irish adventure. There's no rush and not rushing is something Ren isn't very good at. On the other hand Sharon is so laid back she's horizontal.
Of Work And Holiday Fears In between working far too hard and the fear of middle aged spread Sharon manages to squeeze into her bike gear and change into holiday mode. It's time to try and forget work and enjoy the ride.
A Ferry, Some Mist And Strangers It's time to cross the vast ocean betwixt Scotland and Northern Ireland. What will the Irish weather hold in store and there's some strangers to be met.
Of Mist And Magic With little sleep and the prospect of a ferry Sharon is doing her best to keep calm and concentrate. It's a bit of a mixed kinda day for the motorcycling hobbit.
West Of The Causeway Exploring the coast west of Giant's Causeway turns out to be more interesting than Ren expected. It's all a question of attitude apparently.
Underwhelmed In The Sperrins It's time to explore some hills, maybe mountains in Northern Ireland. Thing is Ren's not sure they're up to the task in hand.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
An ice breaker in the Irish Sea who'd have thunk it.
I'm so glad Madame Moisture is back with us. But I am concerned that you seem too content Ed........
Will it last........
Will Madame du Soleil make an appearance.......
Will Ed regret that large bowl of chilli......
Will the others regret Ed eating all the chilli......
Will we have to wait another 6 months for the next episode?
Upt'North.

03/11/2021 09:37:58 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Content!! Me!! Madam Moisture will concur I'm my usual miserable, curmudgeonly and grumpy self.

The next installment from the worshipful madam is already in the editorial suite, but before that there's more from Rev. Mick! and perhaps some mumbling from me.
04/11/2021 17:20:42 UTC

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