Monday, July 30, 2012

Obituary of my Grandfather PJ O'Loughlin, June 1965

On my visit to my Aunt Mary last week I had a chance to look through a scrap book which had an Obituary for my grandfather PJ O'Loughlin, who died on 19th June 1965. It was interesting to read about him from a scrap of paper (possibly The Wicklow People). I had not seen or read this before, so I photographed the pages.

Also in the scrap book was a photo of my grandfather I had not seen before, and I have also been sent a copy of the death notice. I know some family read this blog and reproduce the items below - enjoy:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

#100corners - To Be Continued...

Today I am back in a showery Dublin having decided to complete the rest of The 100 Corners of Ireland tour probably next summer. I feel a bit guilty having not completed the trip in one go, but it was always at the back of my mind that I would have to do this in two parts.

The weather forecast for the coming week is dreadful - especially for Donegal. See screenshot for  midday today from the MET Éireann website to left. I could face no more rain, and will complete at a later time.

I have so much to remember from all the places I have been. I will be researching for more information about where I have visited, and plan to write this all up with a view to publication.

It has been a great adventure so far, but there is still so much to see and do in the Northern half of Ireland. 

To next year...!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mayo to Sligo and Racing Showers - #100corners

UntitledEarly morning in Belmullet and is is time for breakfast next door. I had a comfortable night followed by a nice breakfast cooked by Mairin - she was also full of chat. She recommended riding to the top of the Erris peninsula, so off I went. Today was to be a very showery day, but it was fine in the early morning. I pulled into An Baile Glas an had beautiful views over Broadhaven Bay. I also stopped at Erris Head, but did not take the Loop walk that is available there. On the way back from Erris Head, I stopped at a pile of turf, and helped myself to a sod as a souvenir!
The Céide Fields
Visitor Centre.

I left the Erris Peninsula and I have to say it is a beautiful location worth riding on a bike. On-wards to the North coast of Mayo and the Céide Fields. All along the coast here are excellent views of fantastic cliffs - if this area was beside the Cliffs of Moher it would get a lot of oohs and aahs. The Céide Fields is a slightly disappointing site in that there is not that much to see outside the Visitor Centre. I watched the movie as it had started to rain heavily outside - I was fascinated, and envious, to be informed that the climate in Ireland 350 million years ago was tropical! I had a cuppa and apple strudel in the café and waited out another shower. As I left, it started to rain again, so I went back inside and chatted to the receptionists who were happy to let me shelter from the rain. Eventually it stopped and I continued east towards Sligo. Looking back to the west I could see another shower coming, so I did my best to stay ahead of it, though it caught up on me in Killala.

In Killala I stopped at the Round Tower built around the year 1200 - its purpose today was to shelter me from the rain. On the edge of Killala there is a monument to the French General Humbert of 1798 fame, and I decided to take the Tour d'Humbert between Killala and Ballina. This is a useless tour down country lanes that does not feature anything about Humbert, though there are a couple of nice Abbeys to see.

No surfers in Strandhill!
On I went into Sligo and stopped at the Black Pig of Muckdubh statue at the edge of the town - Muckdubh is a townland wher a large pig is supposed to have been buried. Enniscrone is on the Diamond Coast - I have been here before to play golf (well at least walking around a golf course hitting a few balls). InSligo I stopped off at Aughris Head where I had collected some Calliostoma zizyphinum as a student - but I did not remember it. The Sligo coast is not that interesting, but I was watching out for showers which eventually caught up on me in Strandhill. I was expecting to see a lot of surfers out, but it may have been too windy as there was nobody out on the water.

There was heavy rain in Strandhill, and I also got caught in a very heavy shower at traffic light in Sligo. This shower also revealed a hole in my over-suit in the most uncomfortable area. My destination was the Radisson Hotel in Rosse's Point where my brother Joe and family were attending his brother in law's wedding - I got a great welcome and lots of coffee and biscuits.

I had reviewed the weather forecast for the next few days in Donegal - and it was for a very wet Sunday and Monday. There was no doubt that I would have been in for two very wet days, followed by more bad weather. Looking at the calendar I judged that I would have difficulty completing the trip before the August Bank Holiday, so I headed for Dublin.

To be continued...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Northwest Mayo - #100corners

I expected rain today, so I dressed in my full length suit and new wellies, but it hardly rained at all! Another nice day in the West - despite a forecast for a very wet day, I was very lucky to avoid the showers that were around. I was in Achill for a lot of the day and I know from the past that it can have its own micro-climate, when compared with the rest of the country. So a very pleasant day - tomorrow looks good too. My thanks to Dorothy and crew for putting me up last evening in Rosmindle. I also called to my brother-in-law Bryan's house to say "hello" to Maria and her Mum Gemma.

Croagh Patrick.
My first port of call today was to O'Donnell's Pharmacy in Westport to get an extra memory card for my camera. This is the height of the holiday season in Westport, and even though it was quite early in the morning, the town was already busy. Yesterday evening on my ride into Westport I stopped at Croagh Patrick, which I have climbed before, and took the photo to the left.

Leaving Westport I headed for Newport. On the way I came up behind a slow moving jeep, but on the twisty section of road I had to wait for an opportunity to pass. Very soon we came upon some temporary traffic lights , and I moved to the front ahead of the jeep (as I do every day in Dublin). Did the driver like that? Even though I sped away, the jeep came up behind me and passed me out - a little "victory" for the driver. What do you know - within a mile or so we came upon another set of lights, and I moved to the front again. He gave up - little "victory" for me! I could write a book about the driving habits of Irish people.

Newport Church.

In Newport I called to the church where Roma and I were married on 13th September, 1986. Happy memories.

After Newport I headed towards Achill. I stopped at Burrishoole Abbey and Castle - lovely sites. In Mulraney I stopped at the hotel and looked at the back where there are the remains on an old railway station. It is now a stop off point on the very popular Greenway cycle track, which follows the old Westport to Achill Sound railway.

I took the Atlantic drive around Corraun, stopping off at a small memorial to the Spanish Armada. I was in the Gaeltacht again here and I wondered what tourists would make of all the "Go Mall" signs in Irish. I'm sure that Americans wonder who "Mall" is, and why the locals are encouraging him to "Go" all the time!

Coming into Achill Sound you go over a unique bridge after which I headed for a second Atlantic Drive. This is one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the country - even better on a windy day with the sea splashing up on the rocks. At the end of Achill is Keem Bay and Croghaun mountain - a fantastic approach road with thrilling bends and roads to get down to the beach.

Keel Beach, Achill.
After Keem I called on Roma's cousin Mark where he and his wife Antoinette treated me to tea and sandwiches - delicious! I also called on Roma's Uncle and Aunt - Aodhan and Nuala for a few minutes. After all this socialising, it was getting late, so I decided that it was time to leave Achill - the photo below was taken at Keel Beach.

The road from Mulranny to Bangor and on to Belmulllet is great to ride in that it is very straight. This region is almost uninhabited - which made a welcome change from the bungalow blitz that I have seen around the coast of Ireland so far. 

Arriving in Belmullet at around 5.30 I decided to arrange accomodation before continuing. Two weddings in town meant that everywhere was booked out, but one B&B lady arranged a room for me with her neighbour. The bathroom is not ensuite, which makes me a little uncomfortable.

Erris Peninsula.
Once organized - I headed down to Blacksod Point where there is a disused weather station. On D-Day in 1944 it transmitted the weather forecast to the British in preparation for the invasion of Normany - neutral or what? The Erris Peninsula is beautiful - very flat with wonderful views out to uninhabited islands. I could also see across to the back of Slievemore and Croghaun in Achill.

I have landed in the Talbot Hotel on main street Belmullet for a smashing fish and chips dinner and a glass of wine - plus of course free WiFi. I certainly recommend the food here - very helpful and nice staff. I chatted to some local people at the bar who sang the praises of this area - on a beautiful evening in Belmullet, I think they are right.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Connemara to Mayo - #100corners

On a glorious morning I set out west from Spiddle into deepest Connemara. The fine day made this one of the best days on the road I have had so far. The forecast was for a clear day, and for a change reality matched the forecast.

I headed for Rosaveel which was very busy with people heading to the Aran Islands. There are great views of the islands, and North Clare all along this Connemara coast.

Next up was Costelloe (Casla) - if you draw a line directly west from Blackrock in Dublin (where I live), it would pass through Costelloe. Villages and towns like Costelloe, Carraroe, Lettermore, and Lettermullan are very close to each other. The roads are quite good and I was enjoying myself riding through the rugged landscape of Connemara. There was a real treat in Lettermullan where I saw a sign for a Heritage Centre down a small lane. The Centre was a based on a collection by a local man called Conneely - lots of tools, traditional items, books, medals, and typewriters. A real treasure trove that is well worth a visit. Further down the same lane was a Lloyd Tower - the west coast equivalent of Martello Towers.

Patrick Pearse had a cottage near Ros Muc - set in a beautiful location. The curators told me that he did a lot of writing there, including his famous "The fools, the fools...." oration at the graveside of O'Donnavan Rossa. The cottage is quite simple and it does not take long to view it - but it is a must for any student of Irish history.

Moving on, I set out for Roundstone and Ballyconneely - the countryside here is very rugged, with little or no tillage. Lots of rocks and stone walls about. At Ballyconneely I turned off for Slyne Head. Great countryside, and a smashing location for the Connemara Golf Club. You can't get down to the Head as the land is private - there is even a "Beware of the Bull" sign to keep the nearby campers out.

On the road to Clifden I stopped at the Alcock and Brown monument - a simple sculpture in the shape of the tail of an airplane. Close by I saw a sign for the Alcock and Brown landing site and museum - so down a dreadful surfaced lane to nothing more than a lump of concrete in the shape of a bullet. Very boring and not worth the effort to see.

At Clifden I stopped for a coffee at Walsh's Bakery. Clifden was very busy with lots of people about. It was very crowded with cars and it was even difficult to park the bike on such a hilly street. After Clifden I headed out to Cleggan - not too much of interest out here. I rode past Letterfrack and Kylemore Abbey - a nice ride on a twisty road. Just outside Leenaun I was in for a real treat when arriving at Killary Harbour. It looked great in the evening sunshine. Killary harbour is really a fjord, and it was great to pass up and down both sides before heading to Louisburgh via the Lough Doo Pass - another treat though mountains and valleys.

The final leg of my journey today was along Clew Bay to Westport. I stopped in Murrisk to view the Famine Memorial and Croagh Patrick - the crowds had gone for the day, though there were still a few hardy people on the mountain.

I am staying with the Bourke in-laws tonight - tomorrow it is off to the rest of Mayo, though the weather forecast is for more rain tomorrow. The weekend and next week is not looking good either.

(No photos this evening as I am not in 3G for WiFI land).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

West Clare to Galway - #100corners

With yesterday's heavy rain behind me, I looked forward to a rain free day as I continued my 100 corners trip in West Clare and on into Galway. I had been given a heater last evening by the good folks in Crotty's of Kilrush and had everything nice and dry by the morning. I was sweltering as the heater was on full blast all night!

Crotty's were great - they could not have been more helpful and I'd recommend anyone to stay there. 40e per night including a monstrous breakfast was good value. I had an interessting chat about emmigration with a journalist over breakfast - apparently many parts of Clare are losing a lot of young people and that this is being especially felt by GAA clubs.

At Loop Head Lighthouse.
My first port of call today was to Loop Head. On the way I stopped at the West Clare Railway. The road to Loop Head is a nice flat ride, with flat country on each side of the road. At the end of Loop Head is the Lighthouse - I took the tour (5e) which brought me to the top of the tower. On the way up I noticed through a window that I had left the lights on and had to return quickly to the bike to switch them off before running down the battery in a location just about as far as possible from the nearest bike garage. I was allowed to rejoin the tour - very interesting how the lighthouse works, and well worth the 5e.

The next biggest attraction in Clare is of course the Cliffs of Moher. So I headed on through Kilkee, Quilty, Miltown Malbay, Lehinch, and Liscannor. A great ride with every so often a glimpse of the Cliffs in the distance to whet the appetite for the real thing. The Cliffs must also be one of the busiest spots in Clare - hundreds of people were there enjoying one of Ireland's best natural attractions. The site has changed a lot since I was there last (in 1985) - a large carpark is available (6e entry), but at least my bike was secure. There are shops and a Centre embedded into the hill near the cliffs - I think this is tastefully done and does not detract from the location. I heard a lot of French being spoken - a good thing that the French are still coming here. A young couple in their wedding outfits attracted a lot of attention - they were sure lucky with their wedding day - it could have been yesterday in the torrential rain! There were also a good few buskers - a lady with a harp was good, another with a squeeze box was dreadful. Altogether - an absolute must for any trip to this part of the world.

At the Burren, with a view
out to the Aran Islands.
Having been blown away by the Cliffs - the Burren was next. I stopped several times on the road to Ballyvaughan to marvel at the rock formations and the limestone. I remember from my College days as a science student that there are rare flowers here, and that this is one of the most unique habitats in Europe. All the way up to and around Black Head is a spectacular ride - there are views out to the Aran Islands to the left, Connemara straight ahead, and the Burren to the right. Fantastic.

I stopped in Ballyvaughan for petrol, and also to check out O'Loughlin's 's pub - sadly it was closed and not opening until 20.00. I noticed a sign over the door for "O'Loughlin's Whiskey" - I have never heard of this and must research it.

Because of the huge breakfast in Kilrush, I did not feel like lunch until about 16.00 - as I as going through North Clare I started to think about Moran's of the Weir and oysters. This famous restaurant is near Kilcolgan in Galway and I know I was there twice before. I had a dozen oysters and brown bread. I'd love to have washed them down with a pint of Guinness, but a pot of tea had to do. Delicious, and for the first time on this trip I was also able to eat outside.

A dozen of the best!
By now it was after 17.00 and I decided to head for Galway - enjoying a bit of speed for a change on the Oranmore to Galway road. I went into the city centre and parked in Eyre Square. I had hoped to make the camera shop at the top of Shop Street before 18.00 to see about an extra memory card for my camera, but just missed it by a few minutes. I headed out to a very busy Salthill where there were hundreds of people enjoying the evening sunshine.

I decided to end the day's long ride in Spiddle. I got a B&B just on the edge of the village and walked down to the harbour and beach to enjoy the remaining evening sun. There are beautiful views across to the north Clare coast.

I am writing this post in the An Cruischin Lan Hotel - they have free WiFi here, and a great pint. The weather forecast for tomorrow and Friday is for no rain - so hopefully I will have two more days of excellent riding. Tomorrow it is into deepest Connemara and I hope to make Westport in Mayo by early evening and to visit with my in-laws - the Bourkes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

West Kerry to South Clare - #100corners

It's 6 o'clock in the early evening and I am sitting in front of a pint of Guinness in Crotty's Pub in the centre of Kilrush Co Clare, after one of the toughest days I have ever had on the motorcycle. It started out OK - Waterville was misty, but it had cleared by 9.30 and the morning was reasonably pleasant. Waterville is a quiet town - I was the only guest in my hotel, but some of the other pubs last evening had some life in them. The village has statues to two famous people - Charlie Chaplin, who holidayed there, and Mick O'Dwyer. Micko's monument was recently opened and it is dedicated to his sporting achievements, including his stint as manager of Wicklow GAA 2007-2011.

The Great Micko admires my bike.
On my way out of Waterville I stopped at Daly's Hardware store to point out an error in the price I paid for the Wellingtons yesterday. This morning I discovered they were labelled at 19.50e, but I had paid 37.50e yesterday. I was refunded the difference no problem by the nice folks in Daly's.

I headed out to Ballinskelligs and into the Gaeltacht and had some excellent views of the Skellig Rocks despite rain threatening all the time. In St Finian's Bay there were some hardy souls out surfing. In Portmagee I stopped at a monument to more lost lives at sea - sadly there is room for more names along side the list of existing names. I crossed over to Valentia Island - still nice scenery and the weather was holding. At Knightstown I got the short ferry to get the short cut to Cahirsiveen where there was heavy traffic due to a traffic accident. I took a detour here out to a castle ruin near Doulus Head before heading back to Cahirsciveen. I would loved to have stopped here, but I wanted to get some miles on the road. After a brief stop at the birthplace of Daniel O'Connell I was joined on the road by Lala, the Swiss biker I had already met met a few times on this trip. We stopped in Killorglin for petrol, a coffee, and a chat. Like me she is touring the South West, and is getting fed up of the rain. We headed for Tralee where we parted ways again.

I had never been to Fenit, so this is where I was headed to next. Up until now, the weather was nothing worse than list mist or drizzle which did not cause to much discomfort - but that changed coming into Fenit. It started to rain heavily and by the time I got to the St Brendan the Navigator Heritage park at the end of Fenit Pier I was feeling quite wet. My feet were nice and dry - thanks to my new wellies, but water was getting inside my waterproof ankle to neck suit. It starts at the neck, where the water runs down from my helmet. My shirt absorbs the water and passes it on to my jeans. Eventually even my socks and new wellies were wet. This sucked, and I reached a low for the first time on this trip.

St Brendan the Navigator admiring my bike.
After Fenit I determined to get out of Kerry and make for Kilrush in Co Clare. The rain did not let up. I passed through Church Hill and Ardfert before seeing Banna Beach where I remember an FCJ Bunclody school trip in 1978 - too wet today to stop and reminisce. I passed Ballyheige and somewhere to my left was Kerry Head - my heart sank a little when I spotted a sign for Tarbert - 49 kms. I immediately converted this to 30 niles which did not seem so far. Very difficult riding conditions.

At Tarbert, while waiting for the ferry to Killimor, two Canadians from Vancouver - who were soaked through, cheered me up with their good humour in the rain. They were cycling and I felt a bit better. On the crossing I was shivering - July 24th in the middle of the Irish summer. I don't remember shivering during the Irish winter!

Drying out!
I arrived in Kilrush in Co Clare and got accommodation in Crotty's Pub in Market Square. I dragged my sodden ass into a lovely comfortable room and a hot shower - bliss! The staff here could not be more helpful and kind - they helped me with a heater to dry out, a safe place to park the bike, and a room to dry out my gear. Bangers and Mash are on the menu and I can't think of anything that would make a heartier meal right now.

I've just looked up the weather forecast on which predicts no rain at all for Clare and Galway over the next two days - I look forward to it, and I hope they are right!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Ring of Kerry and the search for wellies - #100corners

Today was about rain.

Wall of Champions.
After I dropped Roma off to the train station in Tralee, I set out for Kenmare to resume the 100 Corners of Ireland tour where I had left off last Saturday evening. In the meantime I had done the Dingle Peninsula yesterday with Roma, so I had just the small matter of the Ring of Kerry to do before heading to North Kerry and on to Clare. I had hoped to at least get to North Kerry today, but the rain soon put a stop to that. While I set out in warm sunshine, by Kenmare the rain had started and there was also a thick mist, which got thicker.

By Sneem, I was wondering was it possible that this could last all day long? I wasn't making much progress on the road and I could see very little on either side of the road. Occasionally I would get a glimpse of the sea on my left, but the conditions meant I had to concentrate hard on the road. Despite starting to feel wet all over, water was getting in to my clothes from everywhere, I was aware that it was just as wet for everybody else. I sympathised with the hikers and cyclists who were not letting the rain get the better of them. In Sneem, there were a lot of tourists wakling around in shorts and wind-cheaters - perhaps they were optimistic that the weather would get better? So we were all in it together.

I was the only guest in this hotel.
The only stop I made today was in Castlecove where I spotted a "Wall of Champions" to local sporting heroes that the village is very proud of.

By now I was prepared to abandon the 100 Corners for the day and I stopped in The Lodge Hotel in Waterville and got a room for 29 euro (including breakfast!). They are also drying out my boots and jeans. I bought a new pair of Wellingtons and hope that I won't be thrown out of the Biker's Union if seen with them on - but at least my feet should be dry from now on!

As I write this I am in the Lobster Bar in Waterville, where there are noisy kids running riot. I had a delicious afternoon tea and scones for 3.50e, and am finishing off with a small Jameson.

I am dry. I am warm. I am fed. I am happy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dingle Peninsula - #100corners

O'Donnell's Pub, An Clochán.
Today I had a guest on my 100 Corners of Ireland tour - the lovely Roma. We did 140 miles and she was a great sport to stay with me all day.

We set out from Tralee in the morning and headed for Castlegregory on a very misty morning. The brilliant sunshine of yesterday had disappeared, and so had all the views of the Kerry peninsulas. After Castlegregory, a nice town with a market today and a traffic problem to match, we went to Mount Brandon Point - but did not get to see the mountain. Some super locations but with restricted views today. We were in the Gaeltacht and we were "ag caint Gaeilge" as best we could. We stopped at O'Donnell's Pub for a "cupan tae" in the village of An Clochan.

Next was the hairiest ride I have ever had, though Andorra last year was close. We had to go over the Conor Pass on our way to Dingle, and it was covered in cloud - visibility was down to 20m in places. Going up was tougher than going down as the roads were twistier - I'd say on a fine day that this would be one of the best bike rides around. We stopped at the top of the pass, and had a good laugh as we could see nothing.

At Paidí Ó Sé's Pub in Ventry.
We stopped at the Gallarus Oratory where we had been together on holiday 27 years ago. However, when we got to Dunquin, the rain started and there was not much to see in the thick mist and rain. We stopped at the Slipper in Ventry for lunch - I had soup while Roma had prawns which arrived at our table on fire! Delicious. This was just after stopping off at Paidi O Se's pub which was so packed that we decided not to stay. Similarly, Mick Mack's in Dingle was also so packed that we could not get in - no sign of recession in Dingle.

Our final stop was to the South Pole Inn in Annascaul where a hero of mine, explorer Tom Crean, used to live. I even enjoyed a beer - "Creans" brewed in Dingle.

Overrall - a great day despite the weather. The Dingle Peninsula is a wonderful bike ride with much better roads than what I have covered so far. Tomorrow it is on to The Ring of Kerry.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

West Cork, and finally into Kerry - #100corners

A "Boat" made fro 6,500 plastic milk bottles.
Early morning in Bantry and a chance to tour around the town centre which was being prepared for the weekend's Atlantic Challenge festival. Most fascinating was a mock "boat" made out of 6,500 recycled plastic milk bottles which was placed in the harbour in front of Wolfe Tone Square. They even had a Hollywood style "Bantry 2012" banner overlooking the town.

My first ride out was to Sheep's Head as I did not have time to do it yesterday - so it was back towards Durrus and on to the end of the peninsula on a glorious morning. At the end of Sheep's Head there is a bit of a hike on foot out to the lighthouse, but it is worth the effort as the views were spectacular - especially back towards Mizen Head. The views get better and better, and I can't get enough of it. I stopped along the way to look at standing stones and ring forts, plus the memorial to the 1985 Air India disaster - a lovely memorial garden in a very peaceful place.

The road back along Bantry Bay though was attrocious and more suited to hiking than biking. However, as I got closer to Bantry the road improved, and so did my humour. I had arrived back at where I started the day and it was early afternoon!

On to the Beara Peninsula, and I stopped in Glengarriff for a coffee at Harrington's Bar. Very pleasant to sit outside this bar in the sun - I chatted to a man called Douglas from Macroom about - what else, but the weather. I was in Gengarriff on a Zoology field trip in the 1980s, but nothing was familiar except the setting in among all the trees.

Dursey Island.
At the end of the Beara peninsula is Dursey Island - it takes a long time to ride out there. There is a tiny cable car out to the island, but since it does not take bikes I did no go out. Though this is a long way out from everywhere, it is worth the trip on both the Dunmanus Bay and Kenmare Bay sides.

I stopped in the colourful village of Allihies for soup and brown bread and sat outside in the sun (and got a bit of sun burn in the few minutes I was out). Shortly after Ardgroom I crossed into Kerry - I had spent nearly three days in Cork.

I arrived in Kenmare at about 5.30 and it as time to take a break from my tour to meet Roma in Tralee. I'll be doing the Ring of Kerry on Monday and will report here on this blog.

Friday, July 20, 2012

West Cork - #100corners

Cork is the largest county in Ireland and I certainly found that out today in that I started at 9.30 in the morning from Courtmacsharry and at 7.30 arrived in Bantry - still in Co Cork. It is a county that I have discovered today that has some spectacular coast line, and with no rain today I certainly had a great ride around the ins and outs of the Cork coast.

First location was Clonakilty - a beautiful town made famous (for me) by some fantastic sausages, but it is much more than this. As with many other towns on my route, I wish I could have spent more time here.

Wow carrot cake.
After Clonakilty I headed for Galley Head via Inchydoney island. The roads in this region are very poor - there was much flooding in this area this year, and it shows. I had to take some detours around road works. Thankfully, the workmen were very helpful with directions. I stopped in Ross Carbery for a coffee and the largest slice of the most delicious carrot cake EVER at the Pilgrim's Rest - check it out, well worth a visit.

After Ross Carbery I headed for Leap and Glandore to stop at the Drombeg Stone Circle - well worth checking out to see how folks survived in times past. After this was the picturesque village of Union Hall, followed by a visit to Castletownshend. This lead me to the wonderfully named Toe Head and my first accident on this trip. Trying to turn around at the sloped entrance to a house, I could not hold the bike up and it fell over - the first time ever this happened to me. Fortunately Brian and Eileen (Dubs who moved to Cork 13 years ago they told me) helped me to get it right and I was on my way. My pride was hurt, and I was also embarressed at the dirty state of the underside of my bike (I should have taken a photo). There are some awful roads here not suitable for a Harley.

Lough Hyne Marine Nature Reserve.
A destination for me on this trip was to visit Lough Hyne - a marine nature reserve. This is a unique marine lake where I had my first SCUBA dive back in 1984 (with the lovely Angela Larkin!). This is a special location that brought back some fond memories of my diving days.

This is close to Baltimore where I stopped at Bushe's Bar for soup and sandwiches. There is a wonderful view of the harbour from here, but I also recall that my Dad's good friend Basil collapsed and died on the ferry to Sherkin Island here some years ago. Basil was a lovely man who is sadly missed by all who knew him.

Now - I was conscious that I had not actually travelled very far, so decided (with just a few short stops for photos) to head to Ballydehob, and motored on. I noticed another biker on a BMW (who was Swiss) that I had seen a couple of times earlier and we waved at one another a few times. In Ballydehob they are very proud of Steve Redmond who has just completed the 7 oceans challenge - there are congratulations posters everywhere.

Baltimore for tea.
It was now time to go to Mizen Head (the Cork one, not the Wicklow one), and I was in for a treat - spectacular views on a very pleasant evening. I did the tour to the lighthouse and Marconi radio station - brilliant! I'm loving every minute of this!

My final port of call for the day was Bantry. I stopped to checkout accommodation, and lo-and-behold- the lady Swiss biker from earlier also showed up. I got a room in the Kylemore Guest House who had only one single room (35e) and one double room (60e). Despite the fact that I was first, I offered the single room to the Swiss biker - this act of chivalry cost me 25e!

I had dinner, and intermittent WiFi, at the Wheel House Bar in the Bantry Bay Hotel - where I am writing this post. I got a super Scampi dish for 9e - great value and tasty too!
Beautiful evening at Mizen Head.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Waterford to West Cork - #100corners

Last night I stayed in the Mountain View Guesthouse in Dungarvan. It does indeed have a view of a mountain, but the owner of the guest house did not know its name. Very comfortable stay, but I have to say that the nearby main street and square were very quiet. There is a Fleadh Ceol coming up this weekend - so I'm sure it will get more lively. I stopped in John Keane's Bar (Mary Street) for a pint and free WiFi - on the way back to the Guest house I stopped in another pub at about 9.30 and I was the only person there!

First port of call today was the Ring Gaeltacht and Helvick Head. This gives a fantastic view over Dungarvan Bay. All signs are in Irish only here - I think they should have them bi-lingual like in the rest of the country.
After Helvick Head I set out on the Coastal Route to Ard More - this is a really enjoyable route with sea views to the left and the Comeragh mountains to the right. Ard More itself is a beautiful spot - I checked out the Round Tower in a graveyard before going up to a local cliff walk. Here I met a monk from America who took my photo at the Look Out Tower. The Tower was accessible and I had a look inside - pity about all the bottles and cans thrown about.

The Pat Power Puppet Band.
Next I stopped off in Youghal - a lovely town. I had a coffee in Luigi's by the Clock Tower and listened to the Pat Power Puppet Band. I then went on to Ballymacoda to see Knockadoon Head which has an Island at the end. A local fisherman told me the island was called "Capal" Island after two brothers who were drowned nearby and buried there.

The next part of the coast brought back a lot of memories for me from my time in school in Trabolgan. When my folks came to visit I was brought out to eat in the Garryvoe Hotel, and to visit Ballycotton. Arriving in Trabolgan, I knew that the old house (which was our school - Scoil na nOg) was demolished, but there was very little of anything left from 1972 when I attended the school. It took me a while to get my bearings, but I was lost in nostalgia that the loud music, games arcades, and fast food outlets could not diminish. I walked around the grounds as if I was back in 1972 and I was a 12 year old boy running around.

Outside Trabolgan Holiday Centre.
After Trabolgan I headed for Cobh - this was a quick visit, though I did ride around Great Island. Cobh is very busy, but it looks spectacular in the sun and there are flowers everywhere. Well worth a visit. Not wanting to hang around Cork city I headed for the Jack Lynch (bring him back!) Tunnel and the South Ring Road. I stopped for a late lunch in Carrigaline and enjoyed soup and sausage roll at Hassetts Cafe - delicious.

On to Kinsale.

This was so busy that I only stopped for a few minutes, preferring to keep going and avoid the crowds. Like in Tramore, I stopped beside the Fun Park and watched the hardy Irish have fun. Kinsale needs some time to itself, and not just a few minutes on a round Ireland trip. So far I ike West Cork and will be suggesting this as a holiday destination to herself sometime in the next few years.

Our Lady admires my bike.
The best (and worst) thing about Kinsale is Kinsale Head. This is a super attraction, and is easy to access, except for the last bit - non-golfers are not allowed past the imposing gates at the entrance to Old Head Golf course. Pity.

I took a short detour to Ballinspittle - the village made famous by a moving statue many years ago. The Grotto where the statue is has plenty of room for worshippers and the curious. It was very quiet there today - I was the only one there. After a decade of the Rosary, she (the Virgin Mary) did not move, but I did...on.

The last part of the day was to head for Courtmacsharry. I stayed here before back in my student days, but remember little. The approach to Courtmac is glorious - especially on a lovely evening like today. A very picturesque village - I stopped for a Murphys in the Pier Harbour bar and have just had a super fish pie in the Lifeboat Bar which is right beside my accomodation for the evening.

Tomorrow I feel is the real start of the trip as I head deeper into West Cork and on the Kerry. The coastline is very "in and out" and will take a long time to get around both counties. Hopefully the rain will hold off like it did today

Some more photos from yesterday - Wexford/Waterford #100corners

I'm working with the Blogger+ App for the iPad to make posts to my blog, but I find that some material gets lost between writing-draft-post. Yesterday's post should have had four photos, but only one made it to publication. I can't edit posts after they have been written - so here goes to add some more photos:

Above - on the ferry from Ballyhack in Wexford to Passage East in Waterford.

Above - the harbour in Dunmore East (featuring my bike!).

Finally - above, a nice shot of my bike near Bunmahon on the Copper Coast in Waterford.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wexford-Waterford - #100corners

Today I started out in Wexford town and the first port of call was the new Leisure Centre at Ferrybank to stand in out of the rain! There was quite lengthy shower and I waited it out - there were to be several showers today, but I managed to get through all OK.

At Kilmore Quay.
As I had travelled much of South Wexford last year I determined to visit only new places. I set out on the Rosslare road having looked at a map that indicated that I could go across the South Slobs to Rosslare - not so. But the Slobs are a pleasure to ride through, though the lane is not suited well to a Harley. Lots of fields of wheat and hay - very little animal life. I took lots of pictures, but none on my iPhone - they are on a camera that I cannot get the photos off until get to a PC.

After the Slobs I headed to Kilmore Quay where I stopped for lunch in Kehoe's Bar. My sister Kayo had reommended the Triple Fish combination - so I tried it and was not disappointed. Outside Kilmore Quay I stopped at the Memorial Garden which is dedicated to those who lost their lives at sea. There are a lot of names listed on the monuments - the sea has taken a heavy toll over the years here.

Next was to go to Ballyhack to get the short ferry to Passage East in Co Waterford. This ferry cuts out a long round trip though New Ross, so saved a lot of time. In Passage East I checked out the Geneva Barracks ruins just to the south of the village. Apparently this was a site for a short lived colony of disaffected Swiss people, set up in 1782, who wanted to leave Switzerland. The colony failed, and the Swiss returned home no doubt to set up a bank and become incredibly rich.

Co Wexford (Part I) - #100corners

Now that the beautiful Garden County of Wicklow is behind me it was time to head into very familiar territory for me - Wexford. I skipped past the areas around Courtown that I know very well and moved on to my first port of call in Ballygarret. This village is very close to our holiday home, so I did not stay long. However, I did discover from locals that the church has six Harry Clarke Studio stained glass windows and that the pews are made from the wreck of a ship. Such scraps of local history are what I hope to glean a lot more of as I go around Ireland.

Coastal erosion at
Coastal erosion is a constant feature in Wexford and my first stop at Knocknasillogue (near Blackwater) demonstrates this is stark detail. Here I saw a huge wall of sand left behind from an easterly storm. All along the coast there are many situations similar to this - both the Council and local groups have spent massive amounts of money on coastal protection. Evidence of this can be seen in Cahore and in Ballyconnigar beach where large boulders have been arranged as coastal defences against the sea. Residents' groups, including our own in Skuna Bay, are constantly watching out for erosion - but the sea is relentless and if nothing is done, Wexford will a shrinking county for many years to come.

Coastal protection at
Blackwater is famous for its Ballyconnigar beach, but this now suffers from the necessary but ugly coastal protection works that unfortunately detract from its former glory as a wonderful Wexford beach. In the picture to the right you can just about see the remains of a building that has largely fallen into the sea.

Curracloe Beach.
Curracloe is next as I neared Wexford town. This fantastic beach was also used for the 1998 movie -Saving Private Ryan, as it is similar to the Normandy beaches from D-Day. The beaches here seem endless, with only a few people using them. I can't help thinking that the sand dunes to the left in the photo would be full of high rise apartment blocks if this was in a sunnier climate. It is unspoilt, but lovely and quiet.
Wexford Wildfowl Reserve.

The final part of this stage of my trip was to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve which is situated just north of Wexford town. This was a first for me as I had never been here before. The North Slobs in Wexford lie three metres below sea level, so need to be pumped out on a regular basis to stop flooding. A pump house built in the early 1850's serves the purpose, with new pumps provided over the years.

While there are a lot of birds here, you really need proper binoculars to enjoy this location. I had basic ones (8x) which at least allowed me to see a bit more - but stronger ones are needed. I loved the "Geese Only Beyond This Point" sign!

That's it for today - I'm off to South Wexford and Waterford tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

And we're off - Co Wicklow and #100corners

Today I started the first section of my round trip of Ireland on my Harley-Davidson motorcycle via the coastal routes. I set out from Dún Laoghaire and headed for Wexford, with no timetable or particular destination in mind. It must have been one of the finest days this summer so far - my fingers are crossed that I get good weather over the next couple of weeks.

First port of call was to Shankill where I got a cup of coffee and stopped to say "Hi" to my cousin Anna. I got an excellent coffee at the One café and dropped into my uncle Pat's PM O'Loughlin foods. Anna is going to climb Kilimanjaro in Africa later this month for charity and I wished her luck - hopefully I will have some tales to tell from my own trip when next we meet at a fund-raising coffee morning Anna is holding on August 11th next. On the O'Loughlin side of the family, Anna is the youngest cousin and I am the oldest!

Bray water front.
Next up I headed through a very busy Bray where there were plenty of posters wishing local boxer Katie Taylor the best in the Olympics - she is hot favourite to win gold and the whole country will go into a state of depression if she does not win. Bray always seems to have a carnival atmosphere, and today was no different - with Ferris wheels and carousels galore. I stopped to take some pictures, but I discovered that my 12MB Olympus camera had a dead battery. My first lesson - charge everything! So most photos today will be with my 5MB iPhone. I then decided to keep going towards Greystones.

Greystones is a lovely sea-side town, but I have not visited it very often. The new marina looks great - I believe some people opposed its development but it really adds to this town. I stopped on the coastal road south to take some photos, and came across the large anchor to the left. A pity to see the old La Touche hotel boarded up - I do recall going there for Sunday lunch many years ago. 

Next up I headed south for Newcastle where I called on my Aunt Mary O'Loughlin and my uncle Dónal. I never fail to get a great welcome, and though I claimed I would only stay for a couple of minutes I ended up chatting for half an hour. Mary is my Dad's sister and has always been a favourite Aunt of mine. I know she reads this blog, so I better mind my manners! Love you Mary and thank you for the welcome! I also got to see some newspaper cuttings from her scrap book, and I was especially interested to see an article on the death of my Grandfather (PJ O'Loughlin) who died on June 19th 1965 - presumably from The Wicklow People. I will write more about this in a later blog post.

After Newcastle it was down along the familiar road to Rathnew, but I had seen on the OSI Road Atlas that there was an airfield nearby - so down I went to see the Newcastle Airfield. It is right by the rail road and the sea - in the photo to the right you can see the short airstrip in the middle which is being mowed with a tractor. In the distance is the Sugar Loaf - a fantastic setting to take off and land an air plane.

Wicklow Harbour.
Moving on I headed towards Wicklow town. This involved going onto the very familiar Rathnew road to the administrative capital of my native county. In many senses Wicklow is a weird county in that the main town is not on any direct route. While I have passed though the nearby Rathnew hundreds of times, I do not go to Wicklow town that often. But what a treasure I have been missing! Wicklow is a historic and beautiful town with a large harbour which is surrounded by daunting old cannons. I went down to the port (where I have never been), and the view from the new roads is brilliant over the town. Wicklow is set in an attractive hill side location, and I'd quite fancy living on the hills overlooking the town. But it was time to move on and travel a road I had not completed before.

Silver Strand.
Between Wicklow and Arklow, the coastline is dominated by wonderful beaches like Silver Strand and Brittas Bay. Lots of caravan and camping parks, plus golf courses. The biggest one around here is the European Club. I played this club just once and I remember it only for two reasons: one was that it was very difficult and the other was for a score of 13 on one hole. For a while this was my record score until I hit a 14 on a course in Scottsdale Arizona soon afterwards - this is still my record score! The road here was quite difficult and was flooded in many places. I stopped at Mizen Head, but despite hearing it mentioned every time I heard a weather forecast - it was nothing more than a bit of land sticking out into the Irish Sea. At this stage I was getting close to Arklow and I could see the well known "Arklow Rock" in the distance. 

Arklow Harbour.
I have been to Arklow many times before, but had not gone down to the harbour area. This was a much busier place in times past, especially when Arklow was renowned for its pottery works. This was also my first petrol stop - €28 to fill up. After this I headed towards Clogga Beach and for closer views of the Arklow Rock. I'm sure the boarded up and for sale Clogga Bay Hotel is indicative of former glories for this area - but it was very quiet today. The last photo below shows a view north from Clogga.

Clogga Bay.
I was near my destination for the first part of this trip - the Wicklow/Wexford border at Kilmichael Point. It had taken four hours to cover just 58 miles (93kms). At this rate it will take me forever to get around Ireland - so I'll have to be a little bit more direct in my travels. I have no more relations for a while, so that should speed things up (with apologies to Anna and Mary).

Onwards to Wexford....

Monday, July 16, 2012

The 100 Corners of Ireland #100corners

Last summer I took a trip around the coast of South Wexford on my bike, visiting many places I had never been to before. It struck me that there are many other places in Ireland that I had never been to - for example I have never seen the Giant's Causeway, nor have I ever been to Derry city. Some parts of Ireland, like Co Donegal, I have only been to once or twice. Having been on my bike to Wales, England, France, Spain, Andorra, and Portugal - I decided that my bike trip this summer would be one around Ireland. I am calling my trip the "100 Corners of Ireland"!

Image source: Wikipedia.
So - for the next two weeks (or thereabouts), I will be riding around Ireland by the coastal route. One of the first questions I have asked myself is "How long is the Irish coast line?". The recent Round Ireland Yacht Race was 1,125 km by sea, but on land - what would it be? It all depends on how you measure it. 

According to the World Factbook, Ireland's coast line is 1,448 km long, while the World Resources Institute indicates the Ireland is the country with the 38th longest coastline in the world at 6,437 km (source: Wikipedia). According to Wiki Answers Ireland's coast is 7,500 km (4,660 miles) long. The Ordinance Survey of Ireland has our coastline at 3,171 km (1,970 miles). Who is right? I will note the distance I travel, which will of course be by road. I don't intend to go down every boreen around the coast. I will be using the OSI's Official Road Atlas Ireland as my guide, so if a road is not on it I won't be travelling on it.

I do intend to both blog and tweet my way around the country - connectivity permitting. I hope to do all this with my iPhone and iPad. I have no plans for staying in any particular place - cheap hotels, B&Bs, plus the odd scrounge for a bed (all offers welcome!), should get me around. Weather permitting, Wednesday is the day of departure!