Sunday, 31 May 2015


The sun was out as we left Londonderry this morning. We were bound for Ballycastle. "I am putting on my shades" said Dagmar. "Ah oh" I replied "This could be the kiss of death for the weather".
We peddled off to Greencastle on the west side of Lough Foyle and arrived to catch the 12 noon ferry to take us to the east bank. "This is perfect" we thought.
We saw the ferry arrive as we were having a cream tea in the nearby museum cafe. We confidently finished our cream teas and cycled over to the ferry. There were no cars on it despite a queue earlier. We went up to the ferryman. "The sailings are cancelled" he said "We took over the 11am sailing but it was a Force 8 gale and we could not land on the other side so we brought everyone back. It will be a Force 10 tomorrow, maybe Force 11. There will no sailings tomorrow either."
Our plans were now in complete disarray and there was no prospect of us cycling in Scotland as we wanted. "It must be your fault for putting on those shades" I say to Dagmar. She replies that she is often unlucky with ferries.
We cycle back to Londonderry and this time it is a headwind with lots of traffic. The scenery was stunning and I take an image of Dagmar looking longingly at the opposite bank
Our new plan is to stay another night in Londonderry and catch a train tomorrow to Ballymena as the forecast is terrible. On the following day we hope the weather is better and will cycle from Ballymena to Larne for the ferry to Scotland.
We cycled 40 miles today. The weather was sunny with a gentle tail wind when we left and we both felt confident to reach Ballycastle. However the weather here can change very quickly indeed and even caught the ferry man by surprise. We were on the sheltered leaward side for the return trip. The gale mostly went over the top of us but every now and again we caught a sideways gust and these can be dangerous, especially with heavy traffic. We could see showers coming and when they arrived we felt we were being peppered with bullets, then they vanished and the sun shone again. We did a little exploring of Londonderry by foot this evening. It has tastefully built waterfront and the city seems to be developing a vibrant air, mixing history with modern.

Saturday, 30 May 2015


We leave lovely Donegal town this morning and continue on the North West Trail
The sun was not smiling this morning but there was no rain and we had a following wind. This is good for everything except photos. Most of the guests we spoke to at our hotel were French but Dagmar told me that some Germans were there as well. We say "Au Revoir" to Donegal and the cycle route took us on a rolly polly wibbly wobbly route for the first few miles. Then it settled down into more picturesque scenery with less hills.
We found ourselves in a Donegal rain forest and came out beside Lough Eske.
The Blue Stack Mountains on our left started to disappear. Not one, but two cuckoos called. We now had no choice but to join the N15 Highway but it had a wide hard shoulder for cyclists and tractors. Here we encountered a disappointment. There was rubbish everywhere. Why do people throw rubbish out of their windows? Ireland is not a third world country and where were the council workers who should be cleaning it up? The cycle route left the N15 and we picked up views of loughs and distant forests
We had a roadside break and the only sounds we heard were trickling water and birds. We continued to follow the North West Trail to Strabane leaving it briefly for a meal stop. The image below is at the entry into Strabane
We were now in Northern Ireland, except we were not because having cycled just a few miles we were back in the Republic. We were on NCN92 which criss crossed the border and the image below looked out over the county of Strabane
NCN92 gently dropped down from the hills onto a purpose built cycle beside the River Foyle that took us into the centre of Londonderry. The image is the recently built Peace Bridge
Today we cycled 55 miles mostly on the North West Trail and NCN92

Friday, 29 May 2015


We could not leave Sligo without searching out some music last night. This was really easy as it was at a nearby pub named "Shoot The Crows" and recommended to us. We arrived at 10pm (start time for music) to find 3 large Garda outside with an even larger person who was being quizzed. Inside two guys had just starting playing and the bar was filling up. One spectator was playing annoyingly with his phone as if he was bored. A petite Chinese girl with a big black box arrived and sat down beside Dagmar. Clearly she was very nervous. She asked Dagmar to look after the box as she went to the loo. When she returned, she opened the box and inside was a bodhran, an Irish drum for Celtic folk music. She joined the two musicians. This girl was a revelation as her nervousness vanished and she played the bodhran with vigour. I found myself mesmorised watching her hands which worked at lightning speed.
The cycle route to Donegal is the North West Trail and we now enter a cycle tourist's paradise. Imagine leaving with a mountain to your right, then entering a landscape of wild flowers, trees everywhere, rocky crags and tiny rushing rivers. This is the North West Trail. But this is not all. Ahead are Blue Stack mountains of Donegal, to the right are the hills of Fermanagh while to the left is the great Atlantic Ocean. Amazingly we encounter very little traffic and only small numbers of dogs. We cycle on little lanes, some with grass in the middle, others at the water's edge and on one occasion we cycle over the beach with Atlantic breakers to our side.  We hear the wind, birdsong and the noise of our tyres. These are a few images to tempt you to bring your bikes, camera and binoculars here.
Tomorrow, we are little undecided on our destination but we think that we will follow the North West Trail to Strabane, then leave it and continue to Derry.
We cycled 46 miles today which seems low but on the other hand it is a slow bike ride

Thursday, 28 May 2015


We met Pamela who, at 78 years old, met Prince Charles last week in Sligo. Pamela tells us her children are named Charles, Ann, Andrew and Edward. She told Prince Charles this and he said he would tell his mum.
Today was a day to rest the legs. We could not completely abandon the bikes so we included a little tour to Strandhill and Sligo Airport.
What we like about this town are all the locally owned shops. It is quite unlike our country where national chains dominate our centres. Here it is the opposite and nearly everything is local. It is only Tesco who have a foothold and its store is in the town centre. These are some images old and new
Dagmar enjoyed herself at the Model Art Gallery
And we both enjoyed the Abbey
Everywhere there were celebrations of W.B. Yeats. We cycle to the coast at Strandhill in the afternoon and look out to sea knowing that the next land would be Canada

We cycle a modest 15 miles today

Wednesday, 27 May 2015


To understand Ireland is to try and immerse yourself into it. In a small way, our slow bike ride feels as if it is doing this. Cycle touring takes you away from main roads as we seek out minor roads. Our main hazards are avoiding dogs who continue to regard us as easy victims. However this should not detract anyone from cycle touring here. Minor roads always take you to the best scenery and unspoilt places.
Today it rains for most of the time and dogs, much like human beings, stay indoors.
Within our first half hour, we hear a cuckoo, see a heron in flight and have a golden view of a kingfisher. The wind has moved to the south which helps us but we have our first full day of rain. It is not heavy, more a continuous light rain, almost as if we are in the clouds. It soaks everything so cameras and clothing are well packed away.
Almost immediately on leaving Roosky, we are in a wild landscape of water meadows, trees and only a semi tamed landscape. We cross the River Shannon and break off route into Carrick on Shannon for a first coffee break. We briefly join the N4 and cycle past a ghastly American style coffee shop to find a small locally owned one in the town centre with fresh locally produced deli counter and really friendly owner. We discuss the differences between Irish and west country cream teas.
This wilder landscape improves as we cycle north west. We are now finding a rugged landscape within hills that rise up to 600m. It is shrouded in mist. At lunchtime we arrive at Ballyfarnon and pull into a garage which has the only cafe. Visually it looks nothing special but we find its heart is inside. Three locals are tucking into stews. The food looks mouth wateringly good. The lady behind the counter is younger than me but adopts us as if we are her mum. Out comes two stews and as much coffee as we can drink. These are 5* meals for two soggy wet cyclists.
We cycle on. The temperature is a miserable 11 degrees but we are warm and finish at Sligo having cycled 46 miles. What do you think of the garage?

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


Dagmar and I made the decision to cycle on to Sligo. We were not sure if we have enough time but Sligo seems to good a place not to miss. Our journey took us on more quiet lanes to Longford where reluctantly we joined the main road. These are a few more views of old Ireland that we find today.
The fields are full of cattle and horses
Peat is still being cut.
We enjoy this house at Horseleap 16km north of Tullamore
We are sad to see this old chapel and graveyard near Moydow, about 10km south of Longford
Our most engaged moment of the day was with this gentleman at Horseleap
I ask him about his bike.
Him "I bought it 2 days ago and I thought it was made in 1920. I was since told it was 1916. I have had new tyres fitted. Do you like it?"
Me "It is in original condition with saddles and baby seat"
Him "Are you from England?"
Me "I am, but my friend is from Germany"
Him "I am going to England next week. It is to Appleby Horse Fair"
Me "There are more hills in Appleby than here. Do you like horses or bicycles best?"
Him (big think) "I have a collection of old bikes, tractors and motor cycles. I like bicycles best. Have a look inside my workshop but you must come back another time to see the rest"
We met a younger man next door. "Where are you heading?" he asks. "Sligo". "I tried a bike recently" he said, "I cycled 4 miles to Mullingar really quickly but, when I arrived, my legs were like jelly".
We have coffees in the next bar. An elderly man was the only other customer and he came by bike and was also drinking coffee. "He has given up Guinness", says the barman. "We found him under a car and he blames the Guinness so only drinks coffee now".
We had more dog encounters today. One almost got me but I shouted very loud and it ran off
Today, we cycled 55 miles but this includes 5 miles to find dinner

Monday, 25 May 2015


Today we cycled up the centre of Ireland not normally visited by people on holiday.  I wanted to see what was left of old Ireland and these are a few pictures that I found.
Despite the presence of supermarkets, there are still plenty of traditional shops
Most of the old crofts have disappeared and been replaced by modern homes but a few still exist
There are still a small number with thatched roofs but these appear to be homes from the past
Farming is highly mechanised but there are still reminders of the past as with this working farm
Dagmar and I have a slow break. My milk drink is past its sell-by date and I have to throw it away. You cannot see them in this image but there are lots of ladybirds on the fence behind

We arrive at a railway crossing
No train comes for 10 minutes and Dagmar gets bored
When the train comes, it is going so fast that I almost miss the photo
The ride was almost flat, however I have never seen so many dogs. Almost all were in rural properties and regarded us as fair game, barking loudly. Most but not all were behind fences and, judging by the fierceness of barking, were angry with their owners from not allowing them to chase us.  However a few were not behind fences.  These were mostly small white terriers and they ran up to us in obvious anger for invading their territories. Dagmar and I learned how to become adept, firstly by saying "Good boy" or "Good girl", then swerving quickly and pedalling fast. None of these got us. However..........appearing ahead was an open gate with a sign saying "Beware, Guard Dogs". Now, I like dogs but this looked particularly dodgy. As we passed the opening, there came a ferocious barking and 2 large dogs came running. "Oh no", I groaned "I am not sure if we can outrun these". Fortunately these dogs were thick. They did not spot the open gate and bounded towards a fence which they could not get through. "Phew" I am writing this blog and not nursing any wound from dogs who hate bikes.
Today we cycled 56 miles and tomorrow we decide what route we must take

Sunday, 24 May 2015


Outside our motel last night was Cycle Route 3. Because the main road was wide and had no traffic, we used this to cycle to Wexford. It was flat, a little boring. and there was a headwind. As a start, it could have been better but one hour later we were tucking into our second breakfast of the day in Wexford, the first having been miniscule. Outside was another cycle route sign. Inside the restaurant, a very hairy man was trying to chat up the waitress.
Our plan for this trip is to cycle up the centre of Ireland to Ballycastle where there is a passenger ferry that takes us to Scotland. I have the map and Dagmar has her device. Between the two, route planning works well. Unfortunately nothing shows cycle routes. We decided that there should be enough time to visit Sligo on the west coast. We work out a first day and see a line of mountains ahead. One is the Blackstairs Mtns and the other the Wicklow Mtns. There seems to be a gap between and we can travel mostly on minor roads.  Our next town is Enniscorthy and our first sight is a steep hill with a castle on top. This must have been a troubled town historically because many battles are recorded. Today, however, a restaurant is full with families having Sunday lunches all at the same price of 12.50 euros. We both have salmon and the portions are so large that I have doubts about my cycling ability for the rest of the day.  Dagmar leaves the potatoes..
Our route took us up beside the River Slaney and, in the sunshine, Dagmar commented that there are a thousand shades of green to be seen in Ireland. The landscape grows on you the further upstream you are. The lower reaches are quiet farming areas, attractive but unremarkable. However it improves the further north you are and it becomes close to being spectacular.  "Why am I going faster than you?" asks Dagmar. I reply that it is a slow bike ride, but I am also mindful that I have eaten two breakfasts and a large lunch.
We stop at Clonegal to take photos.
While Dagmar took pictures of the river, my favourite was the general store in this image. Not many years ago, there were lots of places like this in Ireland where you could buy fuel, food, ironmongery and have your tractor or car serviced.  Not even Tesco offers as many services as that today.
Our distance today was 55 miles and we needed our suncream. Dagmar also has a blog but remember to use your translate key

Saturday, 23 May 2015


The good thing about arriving by ferry on a bike in Ireland is that you are allowed off first. However having peddled through passport control and starting to climb a hill up into the town centre, I realised that we were being followed by a line of articulated lorries and approx 200 cars. I peddled as fast as I could which was not fast and, at the top where the road widened, the ferry load of vehicles breathed huge sighs of relief as they overtook us.

In the morning, we cycled 25 miles to end our journey in Wales. The coastline was stunning and Tenby, while busy with holidaymakers, was bright and cheerful. We took a wrong turn in Pembroke but realised quite quickly and returned to cycle around a rather grand castle.

We both sampled our first pints of Guinness tonight and for food Dagmar had cod and chips while I had a steak, both at similar prices. Tomorrow we follow a cycle route to Wexford and towards Carlow

Friday, 22 May 2015


Dagmar and I cycled 53 miles today from Llandovery to Amroth near Tenby. Last night we stayed at the Whitehall which deserves a 5* rating as a best place to stay for a slow bike ride. Knicknamed the Drovers, Llandovery is home to one of Wales' premier rugby teams. It is a market town and used to be on a drover's trail. It started life as a Roman settlement. The Whitehall is a proper community pub that talks rugby, farming and community events.
The wind has disappeared but it drizzles gently along the A40. There is no cycle route locally so we set a fast pace for 15 miles to find NCN47 where happily a gentle pace can be resumed and we meander comfortably alongside the Afon Tywi. We now have joined a cycle route known as the Celtic Trail. The weather also improves. We stop in Camarthen for lunch and here we find two things. Firstly it has lots of locally owned shops and secondly the NCN is proudly displayed. Unexpectedly, we also need suncream as the clouds disappear.
We leave on NCN4 as a continuation of the Celtic Trail. This winds itself up into more hills but this area is tranquility itself. We find 5 dogs fast asleep. We stop and ask ourselves if this is potentially dangerous. It will not be the first time that I have been rounded up by a Welsh collie on my bike. I cycle on saying soothing words to the dogs like "Good boy" and "Good girl". It seems to work because the dogs don't move.  Meanwhile Dagmar stays behind and I wonder if she is terrified. I suggest she says the same soothing words but I am sure they won't mind if it is in German. No, Dagmar wanted her photo taken, so here it is
We meet a farmer shortly afterwards and he told us that they don't move for cars either. We peddle through a forest and past some wind turbines to find a breath taking view out to sea
Amroth is a small seaside town between Pendine and Tenby and is a good place to say for a slow bike ride. "Will we be in Ireland tomorrow?" I ask Dagmar. "Of course," she replies, "Ireland is not far if you take the ferry from Pembroke dock"