Ireland on a motorbike
This time we travel through Ireland and Northern Ireland. Two countries that are often seen as one, but are completely independent of each other. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, where you pay in pounds and the speed is in miles indicated. In the independent Republic of Ireland speed is indicated in kilometers and fines are paid in euros. Luckily Bushmills whiskey is consumed everywhere.
After two beautiful ferry crossings and a beautiful drive through England we arrive in Dublin, the capital of Ireland. Since we will end our journey also in Dublin, we travel directly to the west coast, to the Connemara National Park. More than 30 km we drive on a jagged coastroad in a vast moorland, between the great Atlantic Ocean and the 12 peaks of the Twelve Bens. As we drive into the town of Clifden we are immediately treated to some nice traditional dance and music. Exactly this weekend is the Clifden Traditional Music Festival and we enjoy until late in the evening great Irish folk music with authentic Riverdance. Welcome to Ireland!
The next morning it is raining the famous Irish "cats and dogs", but the receptionist says it is not so bad; "A bad day is when the rain is falling horizontally in front of the window.". With some good rain gear we ride to the second largest city in Northern Ireland: Londonderry. The Town of Londonderry has complete intact city walls build in 1613 and with its 1.5 km length it is the largest walled city in Europe. The city also had an important role as a naval base during the Second World War, but most of us unfortunately know Londonderry only because of the riots between Catholics and Protestants. Specific the the death of 14 demonstrators on "Bloody Sunday" as sung by U2, is known all over the world.
The heavy rain has now turned into a light drizzle making the short drive to Belfast easy. We take a room at the legendary Hotel "Europe", known as the hotel with the most bombings in Europe. More than 30 times the hotel was hit by bombings of the IRA, but since the truce in 1997 (Good Friday Agreement) the hotel is again safe for all visitors. We visit the shipyard of the Titanic, who was launched (without shipping baptism!) in 1911. A year later the unsinkable ship sank with 2200 people on board, after colliding with an iceberg. The small museum in the old wharf provides an impressive exhibition of the construction in 1911 and the final ultimate disaster in 1912.
The next day we enjoy a sunny day and we drive nice and dry to Ballymoney, the birthplace of the legendary motorcycle racer Joey Dunlop. He did take 13 times the victory of the North West 200 and had 26 victories on the Isle of Man TT, an undisputed world record. In the beautiful Joey Dunlop Memorial Park on the outskirts of Ballymoney, we find a large statue of Joey Dunlop just like on the Isle of Man. A local Irishman told us proudly that Joey was also known for his charity. Joey did bring personally many busloads of supplies to the homeless and orphans in Romania. Joey Dunlop, a hero on and off the track.
A few miles further we arrive in the town of Bushmills. Here is the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. Already in 1276 soldiers came here for drinking themself courage for major battles. In 1608 Bushmills was the first one in the world getting an official license for distilling whiskey. Every hour there is an interesting guided tour through the factory, were details about the differences between Irish, Scotch, Bourbon, Single Malt and Blended whiskey are explained. At the end we are sipping on a bottom of 21 years old whiskey and taste the famous angel on the tongue. We promise ourselves to tast some more at the end of our travel in one of the many Irish pubs.
We drive along the street circuit of the North West 200 and arrive at the Giant's Causeway. This is a jagged rock formation consisting of more than 40,000 up to 12 meter high hexagonal basalt columns discharging into the sea. Since 1986 this is also part of the World Heritage List of UNESCO and according to legend there would have been a bridge between Ireland and Scotland. Science has shown that the causeway is caused by an ancient volcanic eruption more than 60 million years ago. It remains strange that almost all hexagonal basalt columns are like a honeycomb in a beehive. This could be explained by a chemical composition of the lava. Anyway, a natural wonder which is certainly worth visiting.
We continue our way back to Belfast via the "Causeway Coastal Route." This coastal road is known as the most beautiful coastal road in Europe and is a paradise for motorbikers. The road winds tightly around the Irish Sea with stunning views and numerous bends. One moment you drive at sea level along the sea and one moment later you drive on a road carved high in the rocks, the raging sea more than 200 meters further down. The total distance from Bushmills to Belfast is only 120 km, but with a few nice stops it's definitely a 3 to 4 hours drive.
When we leave Belfast we visit briefly the Shankill area where countless murals tell stories about the unrest between 1971 and 1997. Bizarre feeling gives the 5 km long wall that separates the Protestant neighborhood of the nearby Catholic neighborhood. Peace forever! After 200 km we arrive in the Wicklow Mountains. This mountain range consists mainly of peatlands just like Connemara, giving you beautiful views everywhere. Already at 400 meters altitude you see moonscape views just like in the high Alps, but without rocks. In the Wicklow Mountains is also the highest waterfall in Ireland (Powerscourt Waterfalls), but despite all the rain of the recent days, the waterfall today is not more then a quiet stream.
After many turns and the delicious "severe dips" of the Wicklow Mountains, we drive along the coast back toDublin. We pass the latest modern villa of singer Bono of U2 and a little later we enjoy teatime in the 250 years old castle Russborough. When we arrive back in Dublin there are fences everywhere and many roads are locked. The police tells us that Queen Elizabeth is visiting Dublin which explains the extra security. Luckely the entertainment district Templebar is not locked, so we drink in the evening the promised 21-year-old Bushmills whiskey. We can only conclude that Ireland is definitely worth visiting. Cheers! www.Lifeisjoy.nl
Most attractions are undoubtedly in central and northern Ireland but southern Ireland has 50% less rain....
The Irish dialect is difficult, but English is widely spoken and understood well.
The Irish are very friendly and clearly have a warm relationship with motorcyclists. Remarkable is the enormous joy despite the often gloomy weather.
Fish and chips, bacon and sausage, but also salmon and Indian food, it's all there.
The overall traffic situation is quite relaxed and even in big cities traffic keeps usually pretty quiet.
There is plenty of choice ranging from cottages to luxury hotels and reservations is usually not needed.
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