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Ireland, 5 day, Diversion.

My plan was simple, 5 days around Ireland on a Yamaha xj900s Diversion. No rush. I made a rough plan to travel from Mizen Head in County Cork to Malin Head in County Donegal, traveling West to East and hugging the coastline as much as possible, (I know I should have brought a boat...). The end of month seemed like a good time and the weather predictions were favorable.

Setting out from my home near Cork, mid morning on Monday, the roads were dry with overcast skies and a light breeze, perfect for day one. My route took me through the many towns and villages of West Cork, passing Roaring Water Bay and into the picturesque town of Skull. Eventually reaching Mizen Head signal station (Irelands most south-westerly point) about 2.5 hours after I left home. Time for a bite to eat. There’s a cafe and gift shop on site. Cross the arched bridge to the signal station and look out onto the vast expanses of the wild Atlantic Ocean. With time moving on, I headed back to Bantry and the coast road on the Beara Peninsula.

Touring IrelandCastletownbere is one of the largest fishing villages in the County and a hive of activity at any time of the year. Especially busy in the Summer. Making my way to Allihies and around the Slieve Miskish Mountains, Kenmere in Country Kerry to my next and final stop off for the day. The Divvy coped very well with the demands placed on it. I felt comfortable and relaxed when I arrived in Kenmere. Davitts Guest house offered reasonable rates for B&B and a secure place to park up the bike for the night. I need time to reflect on the journey and plan for tomorrow. A pint of plain in McCarthy’s Bar would do nicely.

Though I had put in a good days ride It never really felt Like I got very far from home. The plan changed slightly. Early morning start on the N70 Ring of Kerry route through Catherciveen to Killorglin. Heading North for Tralee and onward to Tarbert to catch the ferry. The miles were clocking up now. Crosswinds outside Tralee slowed me down a bit and gave me one or two scary moments. While on the ferry, I met a French motorcyclist riding a BMW who told me he was traveling up the west of Ireland to Larne in the North and then onto Scotland & Shetland Island. Returning home to France via Norway & Benelux countries. The Beemer was fully loaded and he was taking a month to complete his trip. He said he was following the music. Maybe he was.

On the West coast of Clare the ‘Cliffs of Moher’ is a must see for any visitor. The weather turned for the worse and a little caution was required. I think I got lost and took Corkscrew hill, with its hair pin bends near Ennistymond before arriving in Lisdoonvarna, the match making capital of Ireland. Each year in September a match making festival is held here and attended by young & old alike. Great festival by all accounts. Lots of music & French motorcycles, no doubt.

Ireland TouringIn an attempt to put some distance between my starting point, and me after traveling through the Burren on the southern side of Galway bay, I detoured for Tuam on the N17. Soon enough the fuel indicator light made an appearance. The day was nearly spent and I needed a place to stay. Fuel was now a priority. I fuelled up and pointed the Divvy towards the North Mayo coast. Eventually settling for Inischrone a couple of miles into County Sligo. In all 460 kms traveled, it was a long day with mixed weather and I was only interested in food a quite pint. In Ireland you can always count on finding a good pub, I did just that and was in bed before 10pm.

Again away early and on for Sligo town, I never know if it’s a town or a City now, (I stand corrected if needs be). Stopped for breakfast, croissants and coffee was the order of the day. In bright sunshine I was confident that Malin Head was within reach. I spent a little time in Sligo as it began to wake up. Sligo is a prosperous place full of indigenous industry and enterprise. As I sat in the cafe watching shop workers jostling for car parking spaces with Mothers on the school run, I was thankful in the knowledge that I was riding a motorcycle. Leaving Sligo and riding through Yeats County for Donegal. I passed Bundoran, which was gearing up for the busy summer season. Bundoran is ‘Blackpool’ on the North West coast of Ireland. The roads were clear, the weather was dry and sunny and I opened up the bike. The town of Letterkenny was nearer that expected, helped largely by a good flat road surface. The Yamaha was steady and comfortable with plenty of torque to haul my luggage & me across Barnsmore gap without being stressed. I really like this bike a lot. Letterkenny is a lively town and the most populated in Donegal. Its a crossroads of sorts. Nestled below Mount Errigal with Northern Ireland to the east and Innisowen Peninsula to the North. I would have liked to take the ferry from Rathmullin to Buncranna but got sidetracked and when by road up along the Innisowen coastline. Bad signposting or more likely rider error, I was lost again. Too stubborn to stop and take out the map, GPS what that? A narrow track over Slieve Snaght mountain help me rejoin the main road to Carndonagh. Testing but not a problem for Divvy. Reliable as ever. Malin Head was my most Northerly destination. I could go no further. Shoot the camera a few times and headed back to the Diamond in Carandonagh for a late lunch.

Motorcycle Touring in IrelandIt was time to plan the remainder of the day, Should I say or should I go on? The weather was great by this time and the ferry at Greencastle won out. Got directions from a follow biker who had ridden, fully leaden, with his wife from Germany through Holland & UK to Donegal on a Honda 500, but that was back in the sixties. The bike is long gone, he’s still here.

From the ferry and a refueling stop in Coleraine Co Derry I was anxious to get further along the coast before it got too late. Preparations were well underway for the NW200 road race as I rode around Portstewart & Portrush. Ideally I wanted to stay in Bushmills but when I made enquiries the hotel was fully booked due to a conference. I’ll come back and book well in advance next time, it looked very nice. On this road, The Giants Causeway should not be passed by without stopping off. Time was running against me and it was impossible to stay for long. The North Antrim coast road lay ahead but I had done enough for one day. Taking bed and board in Ballycastle, I settled in for a good night sleep, obviously after getting food in my system and something to wash it down with.

Looking out from the harbour at Ballycastle towards Fair head you can see the Mull of Kintyre in the distance. Scotland is just a few miles off shore. I wanted to savour the moment so I went uptown before finally setting off on the A2. The day was dry with a light wind and sunshine forecasted for the rest of the day. Ideal weather for a bike ride. Of the roads I’d been on so way this week, the north Antrim coast road was the most anticipated. I was not disappointed. A twisty road of good tarmac and very little traffic. Mountain on my right and a drop in to the Irish Sea to my left. The views were breathtaking. Carnlough Harbour provided the opportunity to stretch the legs and take a break. With the Sun high in the sky and the sea breeze to cool me down, I rode towards the port of Larne. For the next 50 miles or so it got a bit more congested & built up as Belfast approached but I had no trouble finding the A24 to Newcastle where I rejoined the coast. It was time for lunch and the town of Newcastle wasn't short on variety.

Leaving Ballycastle in my rear view mirror I felt very satisfied with the Divvy. We had bonded, if such a thing is possible. Spending 9 and 10 in the saddle over the last few days, on a mixture of highways & byways, it did not leave me the worse for wear. My confidence was building and I gained valuable experience. All XJ900 diversion suffer from engine vibrations at 3000 \3500 rpm and my bike is no different. You simply get use to it.

Running between the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough Northern Ireland, the road takes you to Newry where I’d eventually join the M1 motorway south through County Louth. Exiting at Drogheda to take the old road to Dublin, I was back on the coast again. Dublin and its surrounding hinterland is a sprawling mass of concrete. Industrial estates, Retail centre’s and apartment blocks, all testament to the boom years. As in any capital City, this infrastructure is a necessary evil of modern life. Best way around the jungle, take the M50 and break for the Wicklow border. With the day coming to an end, petrol, a bed, and a place to secure the bike was required.

Newtownmountkennedy County Wicklow stepped up to the plate and I haggled out a deal in a recently build hotel. The room was luxurious and the bar food did the trick. I slept well.

Day 5

It’s Friday, clear blue skies, with a forecast for change. Sad to say I’m on the last leg. Wicklow is within the Dublin commuter belt, so I let the rush hour traffic pass before firing up the Divvy. Its after 9am and I venture out onto the roads. Know as the ‘garden of Ireland’, the Wicklow countryside is lush green and well padded. Quant, orderly, well kept villages & towns are dotted along the coast. Signs are Wicklow is a popular holiday spot during the Summer months of July & August.

Rain droplets appear on my helmet visor and I’m forced to join the N11 heading into county Wexford. The Sun is playing a game of hide and seek between the clouds. Parking on the main street in Gorey, I quickly find a coffee shop and let the game above play out. Nearby Courtown beach attracts summer visitors by the bus load and It would be wrong of me not to call as I’m in the area. The sun is out again, but with terms & conditions. It won’t be long before we have full on rain.

At Wexford I decide to go across country to Arthurstown where I can catch a short ferry to Passage east in Waterford. I’m the only motorcycles on this 10min crossing. Standing on the deck, it’s wind, sea, and buckets of rain all around. Avoiding Waterford City, I go left for the coast but get lost again on route to the seaside town of Tramore. With a break in the weather I make for Dungarvan and have lunch. Given the road conditions, the AVON Roadrider tyres fitted to the bike were surprisingly reassuring and stuck to the wet surface without the any drama. I rode sensibly. After lunch and a walk around the town, I sought out the road to Cork. Diverting into Youghal for a short time along the coast, soon I was back on the motorway and traveling into Ireland’s real capital, my hometown of Cork.

Though I was glad to be back home, the experience I had this week will stay with me for quite a while. Every day I learned something new about my riding skills, and I’ve grown in confidence. The Yamaha is without fault and an easy bike to live with. Every part of this island has its merits but Kerry and Antrim impressed me most. The people I met along the way were genuinely interest in my mad hatter idea of running around the coast on a motorcycle and offered encouragement and advise when I need it. For any one thinking about a trip in Ireland or anywhere for that matter, my advise,........ just go and do it.