Looking along a long straight road amidst lush green farmland

Home Travel StoriesSouthern Ireland 2015

East Coast Session

By Ren Withnell

I am by nature a worrier. I don't consider myself to be neurotic or paranoid, rather as cautious and careful. As such considering I absolutely have to be at the ferry terminal in Dublin at 0730 on Saturday morning and this being Thursday morning I wish to be close to Dublin this evening leaving myself a "spare" day in case of issues such as a breakdown. I hope to be back at my friend's place on Friday night so today I'll head north and back towards Dublin.

The sun breaks through the clouds at the campsite in Fethard, Ireland
Come on lad, get weaving 'cos the sun's trying to come out.

As such I have time very much on my hands today which is a good feeling. Rather than head directly north I shall have a look around. I break camp, load up and head off to my first destination, Rosslare Harbour. Why? I'm just making excuses here but you know, just in case I ever catch the ferry to or from Rosslare I'll have a starter for 10 as to what to expect and where to go. The 30 miles from Fethard to Rosslare are mostly pleasant countryside. It lacks the grandeur of the mountains yet the villages are homely and the roads are quiet. I feel relaxed and my thoughts become clearer.

I've tried to fit too much into too short a time. Again. It keeps on happening and I need to learn my lesson rather than repeating myself endlessly. When I plan these trips I try to get to as many places as I can in the short time allowed. As I ride I ask myself "Why, is it possible I'm just ticking off these places so I can say I've been there?" Lets face it I did the Ring Of Kerry and the Southern coastline but have I? Really? I've passed through, maybe I've had the odd detour and stopped for a brew but I've not really looked into the nooks and crannies, sat on the rocks and grass, talked with the locals at length or engaged with the place fully. 

An open stretch of road on route to Rosslare and the harbour
On the open road ro Rosslare my thoughts become clear. 

It's a problem - it's a problem I realise I'm going to repeat again in another few weeks with planned trips down south and up north forthcoming. Time is the issue. There's never enough time when you take a week, or two, or even three off work. There's always a deadline to be back home and ready for work on the agreed date. Perhaps I'm not helping myself though. Perhaps I could work things differently. Rather than trying to take in this place, that road and the other must-see attraction I could have just stayed a few days somewhere.

I could have just bitten the bullet and pressed on hard from Dublin to Skibbereen in a day. I could then have spent 3 or 4 days looking around at my leisure before a long blast back to Dublin. But what if Skibbereen had been ugly and dull? Stupid question, I could have just moved on. My desire to see everything is actually spoiling my travels. The first stage is realisation, now I need to decide what to do about it.

These thoughts find me approaching Rosslare and catching signs for the Harbour. When I think of major ports I think of traffic, big towns, lorries and of course getting lost but the main road leads me straight to the harbour and the town is small with a laid back sensation. The harbour itself is large enough to cope with the big ships and there are lorries and trailers about but right now all is quiet and there's not a ship in sight. I stop to take some pictures and decide I like it here, it feels good.

Overlooking Rosslare harbour. A number of truck and a big empty port
All is calm and laid back at Rosslare Harbour. 

Back on the road north as I approach Wexford I spot a McDonalds and pull in for some internet access along with a brew. After catching up with my social media and a few emails I saunter gently through the town of Wexford and across the estuary. Compared to Dublin and Cork Wexford is much calmer with less traffic and again that laid back feeling. Urgh, damn! Does it feel laid back because I'm feeling laid back today or does it really have a chilled air? I tie myself up in knots with my thinking at times. I pull off onto some random empty docking area and look across the water. Nope, it clearly looks a lot calmer in Wexford than it does in Dublin, no matter how I'm feeling.

Wexford seen from across the broad estuary. A charming town
Wexford looks chilled out in the gentle sunshine.

I follow the coast north as best I can avoiding the main road and this leads me through more miles of the Irish countryside. More little smart villages, more smart houses in smart gardens and more lush thick green countryside. This is good, easy and wholesome riding, I just wish the road would run a little closer to the sea, I like the sea. Maybe I should have been a deck hand on a pirate ship. Naaah, I'm far too polite, "Excuse me, excuse me, would you mind awfully if I pillage your ship and possibly ravish this damsel in distress? Oh...er...ahaaargh Jim lad?"

I turn off at Kilmuckridge and head towards the coast in search of the salty sea and a sandy beach in which I could bury my treasure. I find a caravan site and no entry to the private beach beyond. Instead I notice that my bike is about to achieve a mileage milestone, it's at 39,999.8 miles. I ride slowly down the quite lane and marvel as the whole clock rotates onto 40,000 miles. Imagine that, a diminutive Honda CBF 125 with 40,000 miles on the clock. I reckon because of the high revving motor that's probably equivalent to 80,000 miles on a big bike. I wonder if I'll see 50,000 miles on it too. I hope so.

Ren's speedo on his CBF 125 showing exactly 40,000 miles
Woohoo! And may there be many many more.

I pull into a car park for a pee break in the toilets and to sit and rest my backside for a while. I'm sat on the floor examining my map app, trying to remember the route when a lady approaches with a big smile and a bouncy dog. She's a biker too and she seems completely underwhelmed with my trip around Ireland on my overburdened 125. I guess she's already been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Here's me, all full of myself and my achievements, unwittingly she brings me back down to earth with a bump. There is no ill intent from her and she is as friendly as her excitable dog, I just need to keep my ego in check.

In keeping with reigning in my ego after memorising the route I promptly get lost on these peaceful country lanes again. It's hardly a hardship though and I remain unflustered. Between Gorey, Arklow and Brittas Bay I meander between small industrial parks, the main thoroughfare, single track lanes and occasionally the coast.

A quiet lane in Ireland with smart houses to the side
Quiet lanes and likeable surroundings. Certainly not remote or unoccupied though.

I eventually find the grandly titled Wolohan's Silver Strand campsite. Despite the name the campsite consists of 2 large farmer's fields with a small toilet block and a reception. This being my last night of camping I was hoping for bowling green grass, 5 star showers and maid service. I haven't the will or wherewithal to start searching so I pay my dues. There's no wifi and there's barely even a phone signal.

Wolohan's campsite. Just a field with a few campers spread out
Well at least it's not packed...I suppose.

To cap it all off I snap a bloody tent pole. Damn! Blast! That's the second one this year. Is my tent getting old? I've had it 2 years and while it's had some use it's hardly ancient. After breaking a pole on my winter trip I'd hoped it was due to the cold but the weather today is moderately warm. I must be doing something wrong or these fancy alloy poles not as durable? At least with the cheap fibreglass poles they split rather than snap, you can still put your tent up even it it's all skewed. After this winter's debacle I am at least prepared with a spare and a pipe cutter. It takes a few minutes but I replace the confounded piece and proceed with much caution. 

The broken tent pole, the replacement and the pipe cutter
I'm not sure these trick alloy poles are all they're cracked up to be right now.

After spending a couple of hours killing time by making something to eat on my stove, cursing tent poles and zips and watching a film on the tablet I decide to venture all the way to Wicklow, all of 3 miles. I consider walking but realise I'm too lazy so I kit up and head into town in search of something, anything.

And there it is before me, that which I have been searching for since I arrived, a sign stating "Session tonight 9pm". It's almost 2100 so I park the bike and enter the establishment. I am hoping to find a bar filled with characters carrying fiddles, guitars and flutes but all is quiet within save for a handful of locals chatting idly. At least there's internet access - I make a fool of myself by misunderstanding the young barman's accent as he gives me the access code. I sit and catch up online then a thought crosses my mind. The young barman never once smirked or derided my dumb tourist ignorance, he was patient and polite and very professional. It felt as though the notion of looking down on me never even entered his mind. There is something different about the Irish, I think I like them. 

The session is nothing like the advertisers would have me believe. 2 middle aged to slightly elderly chaps with guitars and mandolins gently play songs of hardship and lost loves. Unfortunately I think I've fallen on a quiet night as there's talk of where so-and-so is and holidays. Still it is a simple pleasure to sit sipping coke while they strum out floating tunes and upbeat jigs. It's not what I expected but it is beautiful. I have to excuse myself early though, I fear I may end up locked out of the campsite if I'm back after midnight, I suspect the "session" go on well into the early hours. Luckily the gates are still open as I return but when I climb into my sleeping bag I hear them clang shut. Just in time thankfully. 

Wicklow Gaol, or jail
Wicklow - strangeley famous for it Gaol (That's jail to common folk)

Prologue 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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