Travel StoriesSouthern Ireland 2015
Across Ireland To Adare
By Ren Withnell
I am woken in the early morning with a crashing sound from SM's kitchen. It seems his 6 year old is obsessed with my helmet and taken it upon himself to rise early and gain access to it. I have a firm word with the young man. I have to accept that a 6 year old may not fully understand the importance of a motorcycle helmet to a motorcyclist, never-the-less it is not a toy and I don't wish to see it damaged. Kids these days, pah! The problem is ever since the invention of the remote control and the dishwasher they've been redundant which leads them into trouble.
I certainly wasn't expecting a full English breakfast from SM. I recall our youth when we'd struggle to muster a pot noodle on toast and now here I am dining on bacon, sausages and all, sitting at a table and using cutlery. I guess one of us has improved himself and one of us is still eating pot noodle on toast, I'll leave you to guess which is which. As we dine we get all philosophical again and time starts to evaporate. Stop! Stop, I really must get on with the day. Ireland is a big place and sitting here dissecting our life experiences will not get any of it seen. As I load the bike I spy the 6 year old eyeing the helmet again. He spots me and revises his choice.
That's the bike loaded and ready to go, now, where's me skid lid?
Of course I get lost in the suburbs of Dublin again but the map app finally steers me towards the west and finally the N7. Everyone I've talked to about Ireland says I must head west to the Atlantic coast, in fact the way people speak implies that central Ireland has nothing to offer at all. I doubt that's true but being a novice here I am merely following advice and heading west.
From the point of view of someone passing through Clondalkin seems to be mostly retail and industrial parks. This is probably quite unfair but that's what I see. The N7 is a dual carriageway that leads me to the M7 motorway. It's all very standard here, 3 lanes, countryside and farmland intermingled with towns and villages, just as I'd find back in the UK. Just as I'd find in the bits of Europe I've been to as well. Come on Ireland, show me some uniqueness, show me some character.
My first brief stop takes me just off the motorway into the small town of Kildare. Aha! This is more like it, I park in what you might call the town square. There's a smart church, a collection of small shops and surprisingly an almost French feel to the place. I can't put my finger on it, maybe it's the trees among the parking spaces, maybe it's the broad spaces between the buildings, maybe it's the painted rendering or the architecture. I don't know what it is but it is there, as a feeling rather than a fact. I take a few snaps and a drag on my e-cig then load up again.
Kildare feels pleasant and comfortable, slightly reminiscent of France though I don't know why.
The motorway is proving to be hard work. There's a strong headwind from the west and with myself and my camping load the 125 is struggling to maintain 50 mph. Luckily I am not in a rush, I'm estimating about 150 miles today and I have all day to do them. I have my thoughts to pass the time as I'll certainly not be passing any other motorists. I have much to be thankful for as my belly is full, the bike is working albeit slowly, the sun is shining and I'm finally doing something I've been threatening to do for a good few years now. I'm riding through Ireland.
The countryside looks much as it does back in the UK, save for one subtle difference. It is...how do I put this...er...thicker? There's more of it? The fields are like any other but the hedgerows are broader, more lush, more dense. Woodland seems to have more trees for the same area. Even the grass seems more grassy. Ah the Emerald Isle, I can see why they call it that. Is it the extra rain? Is the soil more fertile? It seems hard to imagine this place in famine today but even a pleb like me knows of the great potato famine that killed a million and saw many more leave the country. History can explain the reasons behind the famine but to see these lush greens makes it harder to comprehend.
Adare presents itself as a pretty little town at the end of the motorways. There's a handful of thatched cottages and a shell of one that looks like it recently burnt it's roof, another smart and ancient church, stone cottages complete with climbing plants and looking rather out of place, a petrol station. This being a warm and dry summer's day Adare is also a tourist hot spot that is jammed with cars, coaches and pedestrians. Like countless attractive places Adare falls victim to it's own beauty.
The church in Adare.
These old thatched cottages are now a restaurant.
After referring to my map app again and again I find the campsite I'm looking for, about 3 miles out of town. If this campsite is representative of campsites in Ireland then I am in for a good week. A sign in the reception window guides me to a house if no-one is in attendance. As I approach a gentleman with working hands and a welcoming smile greets me. Unlike some campsite owners he seems happy to help me, to talk for a few moments, to ask of my journey and to talk a little about the bike, he rides a BMW himself. The site is clean, the grass well kept and there is a steel shed with kitchen facilities for the use of. I like this campsite.
Smart, friendly and clean. Adare Camping is a good site. The kitchen shed is on the left.
I pitch up and avail myself of the facilities. With a cup of tea, clean hands and some food warming on my stove the world is a good place to be this evening. I catch myself looking into the fields. The crops look the same as back home and there's nothing to tell me I'm in Ireland but...but...it is greener. I just can't explain, it looks the same as home just...just...oh I dunno...just...more? Grrrr! Sometimes words are so empty.
I ride back into Adare and have a glass of pop in a pub. Contrary to marketing hype there are no fiddle players and no-one is tapping out a didddle-de-dee on a bodhran in the corner. This could be any countryside food pub on a busy Sunday evening serving tourists and locals alike. I'm slightly disappointed. You see I've been a biker and therefore a rocker for years but I have a deep dark secret, promise not to tell? I've always had a thing for folk music ever since my parents introduced my ears to Steeleye Span. I'd love to listen to some bona-fide Irish locals playing some genuine Irish dittys. Alas there's no-one here to fulfill the cliche. I sit outside and drink my pop.
Back at the campsite it's getting dark, I enter the kitchen shed to make another brew. Inside I quickly work out a Dutch couple are talking to an Australian family. The Dutch are around my age, 40 something, and a little alternative in a way that I like. He's tall with greying straggly blonde hair and she's only a little shorter with wild eyes. Listening to them they've obviously travelled to some far flung places all by hitching and backpacking. They've spoiled themselves for this trip with a hire car as time is against them. The Australian family have hired a motorhome, they're a long long way from home. It seems they've seen a bit of the world too but in the common "holiday" style. I join them for a while but the tale of my trip to France 2 years ago isn't really going to impress anyone here is it. The more Dutch people I meet the more I like them.
Bedtime. The evening is getting a little nippy as there's no cloud cover tonight, my sleeping bag is plenty warm enough for this though. I just wonder if I'll ever get comfy with this rib giving me grief. I can only lie on one side and that side will go numb in the middle of the night. Lets just see what happens eh.
Ren's getting a plan together for a trip to Ireland. What can he expect and is he too tight to prepare his bike properly?
Cruising To Holyhead
It's a slow ride into the headwinds as Ren heads off to the port of Holyhead on his overloaded CBF 125.
A Ferry And A Friend - Dublin
The ferry to Ireland is fine but Dublin brings confusion. The rest of the day is spent catching up with an old friend filled with philosophy.
Across Ireland To Adare
After a great breakfast Ren starts out across Ireland in search of what makes this place unique
The Dingle Peninsula
Is the Wild Atlantic Way as wild as it's name suggests? As Ren reaches the West of Ireland will he find what makes this place special and unique?
Kerry's Ring And Skibbereen
Will the famous Ring Of Kerry live up to the hype? Has Ren spotted the real Father Jack? Will the Germans ever get their Motorrad fixed? Oooooh the excitement is killing me.
The Southern Coastline
Ireland's southern coastline provides a mix of beauty and disadvantage along with sunshine and rain. There's also a small ferry as long as he doesn't get lost again.
East Coast Session
With time to spare Ren is meandering around the South Eastern coast of Ireland and thinking too much. He also finds a Session...sort of.
Dublin And Chillin'
On his last day in Ireland Ren has time to spare and yet there's never enough time. Time is the most precious thing we have.
Holy Men To Holyhead
Upon his return to Holyhead Ren is joined by a group of fellow bikers on a mission from God. This gets Ren thinking about life, the universe and everything. 42.
Epilogue - Southern Ireland 2015
Ren sums up his thoughts on Ireland. He's also coming to terms with the fact that the way he travels may no longer be right for him. Is this the end of Bikes And Travels?!
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Travel StoriesSouthern Ireland 2015