Northern Ireland

We both had a restless night and were feeling cold…when we got up we realised why…there was frost all over the tent and bike….my air hawk was frozen solid!

This meant that some of the moisture had got into our tent making our sleeping bags damp! No wonder we felt cold. We put everything out to dry and went into town for breakfast at the Old Bushmills Inn….very warming and yummy!

Back at our campsite we packed up as best we could…although some things ( like the groundsheet) were not completely dry ….but the rain was on its way …so we hit the road by 10.30am.

We had a long drive (around 270 km taking 5 hours in the saddle) and the weather literally gave us all 4 seasons in 1 day ….rain, hail, snow and shine…..but always cold…in fact it really got above 2.5 degrees – and with the wind chill factor on the bike we were freezing …even with our electric vests. Enroute to Londonderry the snowflakes came so thick and fast they completely covered our visors and as fast as I wiped it clear it filled up again. I raised my visor to see but they were hitting me so hard in the face it felt like needles! Very scary ….as there was nowhere safe for Vince to pull over so he had to soldier on…he is amazing and I trust him with my life!

We stopped at Sligo for some lunch and to warm up a bit.

We knew we were in the Republic of Ireland once road signs changed from yards and miles to meters and Km and prices were now in Euros not Pounds.

We got to Galway around 5.00pm and eventually decided to check in to the Travelodge for a little comfort after a hard day….at 59 Euro it was a bargain compared to the UK.

Today we set off to visit the Giant’s Causeway which is very impressive with is hexagonal rocks jutting up and matching the same across to the Scottish coast. Nearby we saw Dunluce Castle which sits right on the cliff edge and history says the kitchen fell into the sea. We followed the Causeway Coastal Route all the way to Londonderry, the walled city, in which my great grandmother was born and we walked the walls taking in all the sites including the Bogside Murals. Outside the Guild Hall they were trying to set a record for the most people in “onesies”. The attending paramedic for the event, Robert, came and spoke with us about our bike and ride and asked if he could take a picture. When we first arrive another punter, Phillip, came and chatted and gave us the benefits of his wisdom both about Derry and BMWs.

Back at Bushmills we visited the oldest licensed distiller in the world….but we had just missed the last tour and tasting!

We had a lovely meal followed by port by the open field at the Old Bushmill’s Inn …very decedent.

We camped a second night back at Portballintrae so we didn’t have to pack up and set up the tent all over again….we will leave Northern Ireland tomorrow on a long ride to Gallway in Ireland.

After breakfast at Derrin House in Larne we said goodbye to Ivy (our host) who suggested that we take a route many motorcyclist enjoy along Torr Rd from Cushenden past Torr Head to Ballycastle.

We set off following the Game of Thrones Location Map…Cairncastle – where Ned Stark beheaded a Knights Watch deserter and Catelyn captures Tyrion Lannister and where Bran,Osha and Hodor take a last look over Winterfell before heading North.

We didn’t go to Slemish, in the Shillanavogy Valley where Daenerys Targaryen learns what at Khaleesi is and she and the Dothraki ride the grasslands as it meant a detour from the coastal route we were on. 

We stopped at Glenarm, where we visited Steenson Jewellery Workshop that made all the pieces for the GOT such as crowns, lion pins, stag pins, roses etc.

Next we went to Cushendun but we couldn’t find the actual caves where Davos Seaworth takes Melisandre ashore to give birth to the shadow baby who kills Lord Stannis’s brother Renly.

We took the detour on Torr Road, Ivy had suggested, and Vince said it was the hardest, most challenging sealed road he’s ever ridden on. Predominantly ridden in 2nd gear, sometimes 1st, standing up on the foot pegs, his weight over the front wheel up the inclines to try to keep us steady. The road was so steep and the weight distribution with the panniers so biased to the rear, that the front wheel was lifting of the ground at times as we travelled up the steep hills. These were “rollies” with attitude. I kept quiet on the back as I was very scared.

We rode past Murlough Bay and Fairh Head… which were used as the road to Pyke where Thegn Grayjoy and his sister, Asha, ride on horseback and where Davos is shipwrecked after the battle of Blackwater Bay.

We stopped at Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge and hiked the 3km there and back ….only to discover it was a very short bridge …a bit disappointing for the 5.90 (pounds) each they charged us. After the experience on the Torr Road it was nothing! Back to our GOT locations, Larrybane, nearby, is where Brienne is given a place in Renlys Kings Guard, Renly swears to Lady Stark he will avenge Ned’s death but is killed by the shadow baby. Magawry confides to Littlefinger she wants to be Queen and Davos tells Stannis what he witnessed in the cave with Melisandre.

We went to Ballintoy Harbour …Lordsport Harbour in the Iron Islands where Theon come homes and where he is baptised into the faith of the “Drowned God” and where the pirate, Salldhor Sann met Davos and pledged support to Stannis Baratheon.

We camped at Portballintrae and again didn’t cook, but we bought some supplies in Bushmills and made a simple snack dinner at our campsite, so we christened our plates and utensils. Our campsite cost 15 pounds per night and a pound each time you want to use the shower (on a 10 minute timer).

A few photos of Torr Road from the GoPro – they just don’t convey the steepness of the road …

It rained overnight at Southerness, so we had a bit of a late start to let the tent and fly cover etc dry out before we packed it away in the panniers…we were pleased that things packed away neatly again …as this was the 1st time we had used them and you know how it can be when things never seem to go back quite as compact.

We were headed for Cairnryan, where we would eventually get the ferry over to Ireland. We were unsure if we would spend the night there and travel to Ireland tomorrow or whether we would get the ferry to Larne today.

Vince had another ride from the Great Motorcycle Tours of Europe book he wanted to do….the Galloway Forest Ride and maybe go offroad on the Raiders Road. We met some riders who had just completed it and they said there was only a bit that was tricky….we had some trouble with a hill of particularly loose gravel….but Vince made it to the top safely with both of us on board….I probably needed a double scotch at the time….I find off road much scarier than he does…but he says that’s why I’m Adventure Girl…I feel the fear and do it anyway…he’s trying to convince me I’m braver than I think…

We arrived in Cairnryan around 2.10pm and decided to check out the ferry schedule before getting some lunch and working out accommodation. I did a reccie and there was a fast ferry of 1 hour at 5.30pm or the next day a ferry at 8.00am and 1.30pm both taking 2 hours and again the fast ferry at 5.30pm.  I let Vince know and we decided on the fast ferry today. So we booked our tickets for two adults and a motorbike ….it was 69 pounds.

We went into the nearby town of Stranraer and had lunch at the Customs House …which claims to be the last house before Ireland. Then we had to be back at Cainryan to check in before 4.30 pm. We were at the head of lane 2 and were the first vehicle to be boarded….. this is the second ferry crossing the ANIMAL has done (the first being to Isle of Skye)….. we are getting good at this! Once on board we went to the bar and had a diet coke and some potatoe chips whilst we travelled over the Irish Sea to Larne. Happy to say neither of us were seasick…thank goodness.

It was raining when we left Cairnryan (Scotland) and when we arrived at Larne (Northern Ireland). We quickly managed to find a B&B at Derrin House, where Ivy made us welcome and it was only 63 pounds for a double. She also suggested a local restaurant for dinner ….which was Checker’s Winebar. Vince had a Guinness and made me try some …I didn’t like it. I had a very “Irish” chicken schnitzel – it was battered instead of crumbed and served with pepper sauce! Well, we are in Northern Ireland after all…..