Ireland, 5 day, Diversion.
My plan was simple, 5 days around Ireland on a Yamaha
xj900s Diversion. No rush. I made a rough plan to
travel from Mizen Head in County Cork to Malin Head
in County Donegal, traveling West to East and hugging
the coastline as much as possible, (I know I should
have brought a boat...). The end of month seemed like
a good time and the weather predictions were favorable.
Setting out from my home near Cork, mid morning
on Monday, the roads were dry with overcast skies
and a light breeze, perfect for day one. My route
took me through the many towns and villages of West
Cork, passing Roaring Water Bay and into the picturesque
town of Skull. Eventually reaching Mizen Head signal
station (Irelands most south-westerly point) about
2.5 hours after I left home. Time for a bite to eat.
There’s a cafe and gift shop on site. Cross
the arched bridge to the signal station and look out
onto the vast expanses of the wild Atlantic Ocean.
With time moving on, I headed back to Bantry and the
coast road on the Beara Peninsula.
is one of the largest fishing villages in the County
and a hive of activity at any time of the year. Especially
busy in the Summer. Making my way to Allihies and
around the Slieve Miskish Mountains, Kenmere in Country
Kerry to my next and final stop off for the day. The
Divvy coped very well with the demands placed on it.
I felt comfortable and relaxed when I arrived in Kenmere.
Davitts Guest house offered reasonable rates for B&B
and a secure place to park up the bike for the night.
I need time to reflect on the journey and plan for
tomorrow. A pint of plain in McCarthy’s Bar
would do nicely.
Though I had put in a good days ride It never really
felt Like I got very far from home. The plan changed
slightly. Early morning start on the N70 Ring of Kerry
route through Catherciveen to Killorglin. Heading
North for Tralee and onward to Tarbert to catch the
ferry. The miles were clocking up now. Crosswinds
outside Tralee slowed me down a bit and gave me one
or two scary moments. While on the ferry, I met a
French motorcyclist riding a BMW who told me he was
traveling up the west of Ireland to Larne in the North
and then onto Scotland & Shetland Island. Returning
home to France via Norway & Benelux countries.
The Beemer was fully loaded and he was taking a month
to complete his trip. He said he was following the
music. Maybe he was.
On the West coast of Clare the ‘Cliffs of
Moher’ is a must see for any visitor. The weather
turned for the worse and a little caution was required.
I think I got lost and took Corkscrew hill, with its
hair pin bends near Ennistymond before arriving in
Lisdoonvarna, the match making capital of Ireland.
Each year in September a match making festival is
held here and attended by young & old alike. Great
festival by all accounts. Lots of music & French
motorcycles, no doubt.
an attempt to put some distance between my starting
point, and me after traveling through the Burren on
the southern side of Galway bay, I detoured for Tuam
on the N17. Soon enough the fuel indicator light made
an appearance. The day was nearly spent and I needed
a place to stay. Fuel was now a priority. I fuelled
up and pointed the Divvy towards the North Mayo coast.
Eventually settling for Inischrone a couple of miles
into County Sligo. In all 460 kms traveled, it was
a long day with mixed weather and I was only interested
in food a quite pint. In Ireland you can always count
on finding a good pub, I did just that and was in
bed before 10pm.
Again away early and on for Sligo town, I never know
if it’s a town or a City now, (I stand corrected
if needs be). Stopped for breakfast, croissants and
coffee was the order of the day. In bright sunshine
I was confident that Malin Head was within reach.
I spent a little time in Sligo as it began to wake
up. Sligo is a prosperous place full of indigenous
industry and enterprise. As I sat in the cafe watching
shop workers jostling for car parking spaces with
Mothers on the school run, I was thankful in the knowledge
that I was riding a motorcycle. Leaving Sligo and
riding through Yeats County for Donegal. I passed
Bundoran, which was gearing up for the busy summer
season. Bundoran is ‘Blackpool’ on the
North West coast of Ireland. The roads were clear,
the weather was dry and sunny and I opened up the
bike. The town of Letterkenny was nearer that expected,
helped largely by a good flat road surface. The Yamaha
was steady and comfortable with plenty of torque to
haul my luggage & me across Barnsmore gap without
being stressed. I really like this bike a lot. Letterkenny
is a lively town and the most populated in Donegal.
Its a crossroads of sorts. Nestled below Mount Errigal
with Northern Ireland to the east and Innisowen Peninsula
to the North. I would have liked to take the ferry
from Rathmullin to Buncranna but got sidetracked and
when by road up along the Innisowen coastline. Bad
signposting or more likely rider error, I was lost
again. Too stubborn to stop and take out the map,
GPS what that? A narrow track over Slieve Snaght mountain
help me rejoin the main road to Carndonagh. Testing
but not a problem for Divvy. Reliable as ever. Malin
Head was my most Northerly destination. I could go
no further. Shoot the camera a few times and headed
back to the Diamond in Carandonagh for a late lunch.
was time to plan the remainder of the day, Should
I say or should I go on? The weather was great by
this time and the ferry at Greencastle won out. Got
directions from a follow biker who had ridden, fully
leaden, with his wife from Germany through Holland
& UK to Donegal on a Honda 500, but that was back
in the sixties. The bike is long gone, he’s
From the ferry and a refueling stop in Coleraine
Co Derry I was anxious to get further along the coast
before it got too late. Preparations were well underway
for the NW200 road race as I rode around Portstewart
& Portrush. Ideally I wanted to stay in Bushmills
but when I made enquiries the hotel was fully booked
due to a conference. I’ll come back and book
well in advance next time, it looked very nice. On
this road, The Giants Causeway should not be passed
by without stopping off. Time was running against
me and it was impossible to stay for long. The North
Antrim coast road lay ahead but I had done enough
for one day. Taking bed and board in Ballycastle,
I settled in for a good night sleep, obviously after
getting food in my system and something to wash it
Looking out from the harbour at Ballycastle towards
Fair head you can see the Mull of Kintyre in the distance.
Scotland is just a few miles off shore. I wanted to
savour the moment so I went uptown before finally
setting off on the A2. The day was dry with a light
wind and sunshine forecasted for the rest of the day.
Ideal weather for a bike ride. Of the roads I’d
been on so way this week, the north Antrim coast road
was the most anticipated. I was not disappointed.
A twisty road of good tarmac and very little traffic.
Mountain on my right and a drop in to the Irish Sea
to my left. The views were breathtaking. Carnlough
Harbour provided the opportunity to stretch the legs
and take a break. With the Sun high in the sky and
the sea breeze to cool me down, I rode towards the
port of Larne. For the next 50 miles or so it got
a bit more congested & built up as Belfast approached
but I had no trouble finding the A24 to Newcastle
where I rejoined the coast. It was time for lunch
and the town of Newcastle wasn't short on variety.
Leaving Ballycastle in my rear view mirror I felt
very satisfied with the Divvy. We had bonded, if such
a thing is possible. Spending 9 and 10 in the saddle
over the last few days, on a mixture of highways &
byways, it did not leave me the worse for wear. My
confidence was building and I gained valuable experience.
All XJ900 diversion suffer from engine vibrations
at 3000 \3500 rpm and my bike is no different. You
simply get use to it.
Running between the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford
Lough Northern Ireland, the road takes you to Newry
where I’d eventually join the M1 motorway south
through County Louth. Exiting at Drogheda to take
the old road to Dublin, I was back on the coast again.
Dublin and its surrounding hinterland is a sprawling
mass of concrete. Industrial estates, Retail centre’s
and apartment blocks, all testament to the boom years.
As in any capital City, this infrastructure is a necessary
evil of modern life. Best way around the jungle, take
the M50 and break for the Wicklow border. With the
day coming to an end, petrol, a bed, and a place to
secure the bike was required.
Newtownmountkennedy County Wicklow stepped up to
the plate and I haggled out a deal in a recently build
hotel. The room was luxurious and the bar food did
the trick. I slept well.
It’s Friday, clear blue skies, with a forecast
for change. Sad to say I’m on the last leg.
Wicklow is within the Dublin commuter belt, so I let
the rush hour traffic pass before firing up the Divvy.
Its after 9am and I venture out onto the roads. Know
as the ‘garden of Ireland’, the Wicklow
countryside is lush green and well padded. Quant,
orderly, well kept villages & towns are dotted
along the coast. Signs are Wicklow is a popular holiday
spot during the Summer months of July & August.
Rain droplets appear on my helmet visor and I’m
forced to join the N11 heading into county Wexford.
The Sun is playing a game of hide and seek between
the clouds. Parking on the main street in Gorey, I
quickly find a coffee shop and let the game above
play out. Nearby Courtown beach attracts summer visitors
by the bus load and It would be wrong of me not to
call as I’m in the area. The sun is out again,
but with terms & conditions. It won’t be
long before we have full on rain.
At Wexford I decide to go across country to Arthurstown
where I can catch a short ferry to Passage east in
Waterford. I’m the only motorcycles on this
10min crossing. Standing on the deck, it’s wind,
sea, and buckets of rain all around. Avoiding Waterford
City, I go left for the coast but get lost again on
route to the seaside town of Tramore. With a break
in the weather I make for Dungarvan and have lunch.
Given the road conditions, the AVON Roadrider tyres
fitted to the bike were surprisingly reassuring and
stuck to the wet surface without the any drama. I
rode sensibly. After lunch and a walk around the town,
I sought out the road to Cork. Diverting into Youghal
for a short time along the coast, soon I was back
on the motorway and traveling into Ireland’s
real capital, my hometown of Cork.
Though I was glad to be back home, the experience
I had this week will stay with me for quite a while.
Every day I learned something new about my riding
skills, and I’ve grown in confidence. The Yamaha
is without fault and an easy bike to live with. Every
part of this island has its merits but Kerry and Antrim
impressed me most. The people I met along the way
were genuinely interest in my mad hatter idea of running
around the coast on a motorcycle and offered encouragement
and advise when I need it. For any one thinking about
a trip in Ireland or anywhere for that matter, my
advise,........ just go and do it.