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Home Travel StoriesNorthern Ireland Under Grey Skies

Underwhelmed In The Sperrins

Ride Date 15 September 2021

By Ren Withnell

I'm wishing the weather would make it's mind up. Looking at BBC's weather thingy informs me it might be wet but then it could be dry or maybe not, or both. Helpful I'm sure. Did you know statistically the best forecast in the UK is "pretty much the same as yesterday"? Of course the weather changes otherwise if we had one sunny day in the UK it would ALWAYS be sunny and that is certainly not the case. It is fair to say we get stuck in weather patterns so "pretty much the same as yesterday" is likely to be right. 

So, errr, what to do today? Hills and mountains, we like them. Google maps suggests there's them hilly things inland from Cushendun but we went over them in the rain on the day of our arrival. The next potential elevationary area is The Sperrins near - ahem - Sperrin. That'll do, we shall go and explore there.

I report the weather to Sharon as she stirs from the bed. It doesn't take long for her to decide she's coming on the back of my bike again. We make our sandwiches, fill the flasks and kit up. Rob and Mark are off to some motorcycle type places and Janine and Rob2 are pedal cycling westwards. Off we go again, no huffs, no tantrums just a friendly "enjoy your day!"

Sharon posing in her helmet and waterproof riding gear
Shexy Sharon modelling the latest in waterproof motorcycle fashion.

It's grey, wet at times with mizzle then rain then dry then mizzle. The roads are fine and the traffic is flowing well yet it all feels somewhat like killing time pleasantly rather than fabulous exploration. A part of the problem is we were in this area last year and it feels familiar. The other part of the problem are these straight roads. There's a lot of straight roads, I wonder if the Romans were busy here?

Like an idiot I'm heading for a road called "Five Mile Straight". I'm clever like that see. Of course this being Ireland, Five Mile Straight is only kinda, sorta straight. It's only a side road and it undulates up and down with the countryside and just slightly kinks around geographical hazards. It is straight, just not like those endlessly long straight roads as seen in American road trip movies. 

The road sign simply reads five mile straight
I reckon this road will be 5 miles long and pretty straight.

A tap on the shoulder - "What the hell!" Orange sheep. I concur with madam, what the hell? As soon as we stop and get the cameras out they move away. By the power of digital zoom I bring you Tangerine Sheeps.

In the distance we can see a herd of sheep dyed a dark and dirty orange
Trust me, orange sheep. 

Is it a political thing, part of the Orange Order? Maybe they've just been dipped in some anti-infection treatment and it'll fade soon? Perhaps it's so the shepherds can find them amidst all this grey weather? A later Google search implies it's an anti-theft measure yet hints at the risk of political undertones. I'll keep my nose out of this one and ride on.

We do find hills. We find roads with corners and bends and twists and turns. I get us both lost down back lanes heavy in arboriculture and foliage. Farms and cows and white sheep pass us by, some arable crops here and there. Much as I found with The Republic Of Ireland in 2015 there is a lot of countryside but it is far from empty or remote. There's plenty of houses and bungalows between the fields and many small hamlets and villages. Rural, yes, remote, no.

Purely by chance when we reach Feeny I have a hankering for a sit down inside brew, not just a sip from the flask. We pass what was once a church but is advertising tea and cakes. I U-turn in a side road then park outside. Within we purchase tea for two and a portion of chilli chips. Oh my! Chilli chips! I wasn't sure what to expect but they're deliciously tasty and leave a pleasant rather than painful burning sensation in the mouth. 

Sharon smiles and in front of her we see a teapot and the empty bowl of chilli chips
Someone else also enjoyed the chilli chips.

I'm afraid to say the ride back is more of the same. Straight roads, countryside interspersed with houses, pleasant villages and the odd junction. It's a bit like northern France, not visually, it just suffers the same repetitiveness. When you've experience a thousand lovely scenes all the same, well you've seen them all. I'm told Australia has the same issue. The outback may be wild, remote, exciting and even dangerous, but there's an awful lot of it and it's all the same.

We stop at Tesco in Ballymoney for supplies and to finish our snacks and then return back to the shared house. Rob and Mark had a successful ride, as did Janine and Rob2 on their bicycles. Tonight Rob2 is, once more, chef extraordinaire, this time conjuring up Spaghetti Bolognese. All 3 of his meals may be considered simple, basic, common or garden staples but he creates them with such passion and flair, he imbues them with such texture and taste. You know it's saying something if I can admit I'd pay MONEY for them.

Chat and then bed once more at a sensible hour. 

I will not say today's ride was fabulous. Sharon and I talk and we concur, the inner area of Northern Ireland has yet to truly impress either of us. I imagine it's a very nice place to live. The towns are small, the countryside verdant and peaceful, the roads flow well and there is space to breath here. Maybe it lacks drama? Drama is great when you're exploring but it's probably a pain in the ass having to live with it.

Maybe I've just not stumbled upon the best bits yet.

Trees, fields, rolling hills Northern Ireland
It's perfectly lovely, yet not achieving impressive.


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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.
Captivating Coastlines And Countryside Culture Sharon and Ren are joined by Rob as they take on familiar ground, an easy day's ride in alluring surroundings. There's a little culture shock to round off the last evening.
A Challenging Day In Northern Ireland It's time to leave Northern Ireland but logistics, health and electricity are conspiring against The Dynamic Muppets.
Time To Go Home It's the final day and all that's left to do is ride home. It's also time for Ren to reflect on this excursion.

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