The official website of MotoEuro - Riding the finest roads and trails in Europe. Kinda.

Oddly, I’ve never been to Ireland nor had a pint of Guinness in my life.

Time to make amends – Welcome to MotoSolo 2016.

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As I stare at my Swiss maps, notes, checklist and travel size shampoo, I still can’t believe our ride to the Alps is cancelled. After a couple ‘cheer-up-mate’ pints at my local, Les recommends I go it alone on a mini-adventure. “But unless it involves a ferry and some Euros, it’s not really an adventure” I say.  He bursts out “Ireland! “. Oooo, now there’s a good idea….

Ferry booked, I need to leave at 8am on Wednesday, so naturally I spend the night before departure in the pub with my brother rather than booking accommodation or packing. Dum-de-dum….

Unsurprisingly, I leave late and ride the 170 miles to Cairnryan for the ferry to Larne. The sun is out and I’m giddy as a schoolboy off on my mini-adventure. I line up for the ferry and meet a German Africa Twin XRV750  rider, his wife on a Transalp and a Swiss couple on 1200 GS’s.  They all ask about my new Africa Twin (Toto), we chat for 15 minutes until we’re called for first boarding, I take my coffee on deck and sit in the sun for 2 hours until we dock at Larne.

The A2 from Belfast to Derry is described as one of Europe’s finest bike roads, so I blast straight for the Coastal Route and wave goodbye to my new friends. Within 10 minutes, I can see why this road has such a reputation, at times you’re only yards from the cliff edge, spectacular views, pretty towns and twisty tarmac is just what I wished for. Get in!  Attention is required to navigate the tree-line road and at times, it dips and rises alarmingly. While the scenic beauty of this road is beyond question, much of the route is lined with unforgiving stone walls too – A classic and a seriously exciting road to ride.

Toto and I ride up to the Giants Causeway via Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It’s stunning how rocks can form in this hexagonal shape – thousands of them! In fact, 40,000 interlocking columns is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Apparently. I take a few snaps and notice the time…. Yikes! Must get to my B&B it’s after 6.30pm and I’m not too sure where I am staying. I thought I’d booked in Portrush, turns out I’m nearer Coleraine. Top tip; don’t go to the pub with your brother the night before you leave.

I ride more of the A2, get lost and fire-up my phone to take me the last few miles. I’m riding up some farm dirt track by 7.30pm wondering where the hell I am! Middle of bloody no-where.  It’s almost funny.

I eventually arrive at Hills Farm B&B after 8pm. Toto and I have done 260 miles today and I need a beer.  I meet my host, drop my luggage and ride to Coleraine centre for some pub grub. Thanks to the crazy one-way road system, I’m completely, totally and utterly lost in no time! I can’t find a damn pub so sit outside a take away eating my sausage and chips alfresco.  I grab a cold bottle of wine from the ‘offy’ next door and thank the God’s of Google for remembering my last destination. After a shower, I lay on my bed wondering if this farm would be a good defence from the zombie apocalypse. I work out tomorrow’s route to the Republic, slurp two glasses of wine and fall asleep….

At 7.30am, I start packing and take breccy with impressive views from the dining room over the fields. I go mad and eat more than most people would in a single day. I mention I’m off to Gweedore, my host has never heard of it. Bugger.

Despite an ‘iffy’ forecast, the weather is good to me as I ride the last section of the A2 to Derry and over the bridge in to the Irish Republic. Welcome to Ireland! I’m now in Europe and it’s KPH and Euros, gone are MPH and Sterling.

I’m ignorant about Irish politics but recall the conflicts of the 1970’s and 80’s, I ride towards Letterkenny with a little anxiety, especially as my whopping GB sticker is obvious even to the International Space Station.  I’ve no idea if there is still bad-blood between the counties of NI and the Republic.

First stop is for fuel from a Texaco garage near Newtown Cunningham. I walk in to pay and the cashier says “How are you?.....where you going?......where you from?......How is the bike doing?” Bloody hell! Wasn’t expecting this. “I’m going to ride the N56” I say, “to Gweedore”.  He encourages me to one side and starts to draw directions on a long piece of receipt paper.  Straight on, 3rd exit, right, 1st exit, straight over the roundabout, next left and right by the hospital…...  to Kilmacrenan.  There are people waiting to pay for fuel, but he’s excited about the route.  “Get yer knee down, there’s plenty of lean after this roundabout, no Garda”.  I cannot believe his friendliness. I pay for fuel, we shake hands and I ride away with the directions in my phone holder.

Ireland is bike mad. The thumbs up from lorry drivers, nods from the odd car and bike puts me well at ease.  I get to Kilmacrenan where the fun starts for real.  The N56 is excellent and as I go further in to Glenveagh  National park, this reminds me of the Highlands of Scotland.  I take the R255 by complete accident as I follow a bunch of bikers that seem to know what they are doing.  We turn for Glenveagh Castle and park up, these German bikers tell me they are running the Atlantic Coast Highway for 3 weeks.  I like the sound of that.  Glenveagh Castle is a hike from the car park, I finish my smoke and Toto and I ride off; I’m not walking with all my kit in this heat.

I ride the quiet roads through the National Park. The scenery is beautiful and I wonder why I haven’t done this before. I stop often for photos and a bit of video footage. I pass the Poison Glen - one of the most renowned areas in County Donegal for its sweeping valleys, imposing mountains and shimmering lakes...

I spot a cool looking church high-up (Sacred Heart Church Dunlewey) and decide it’s worth a look. The views over the Glen are fabulous; my phone photos do this no justice. I meet 3 women looking at the church, they smile …. “How are you?.....where you going?......where you from?... good grief,  Irish people are so friendly and helpful, I’m embarrassed at my anxious feelings of the Republic. Shame on me.

Motoeuro 2016 part 2 - It's a long ride home...

The National Park to Gweedore, let's hope it's not raining for the ride back home...

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MotoSolo 2016 to ireland

New and classic Africa Twins sharing the ferry.

MotoSolo 2016 to ireland

There's a rope bridge to that island. Honest.

MotoSolo 2016 to ireland

A marvel of nature. Giants Causeway is too.

MotoSolo 2016 to ireland

2016 Routemaster to Kilmacrenan.

MotoSolo 2016 to ireland

This isn't Kansas anymore, Toto.

MotoSolo 2016 to ireland

On route to Gweedore and it's dry! For now....