I went in with high expectations, and somehow in 3 weeks, the Emerald Isle exceeded them.
When I rolled off the ferry, I already had 31,000 miles notched into my belt.
Per usual, I had no game plan. I was going to follow the pointed advice of locals and simply plan my route at the beginning of each day, as had been my normal travel style for months.
I got into Lairne, Northern Ireland via ferry from Scotland. With blue skies making the lush green hills along the coast look like a scene from a Disney fairy tale, I wasted no time in exploring.
I traced the shore via the “Coastal Causeway route” to the north. It’s not hard to get away from busy roads and traffic here. Every minute or two, you pass a small single lane road that veers off up into the hills. I can’t really describe the magic of riding through this land in words. There’s a feeling that this place provides, that is only experienced in real-life. My first three hours, riding my motorcycle in Ireland, had me smiling so hard inside my helmet, that my cheeks started to hurt.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I was in a land of perhaps, the friendliest people in the world. Every coffee shop and every pub were full of locals that seemed to want to invite you into their lives: Share with you their story, and in turn, hear about yours.
Still though, always itching to get my tires dirty, I found a gravel road on the north coast, near Malin Head. I told myself that I’d head down the road, which appeared to be in good shape, and if it got bad, I’d turn around. With the assistance of gravity, I made it down the gradually deteriorating road. It was at the bottom of a hill that I encountered the flooded area. There was a two foot section of dry area around a pool of water at least 3 feet deep (1m). With water on the left side and an embankment on the right, I tried my luck. I got about a foot in when I dropped the bike on the left side. Typically not a big deal (I’m pretty well-practiced at picking up this motorcycle) but this time, I was battling the suction of mud. As I picked the bike up, using the “face-away, squat and lift” technique, I slowly pushed the bike downhill… Down the embankment!
I was miles and miles from the nearest paved road. Eventually, I swallowed my pride and started hiking. I was already too far down to leave via the way I came in, so I opted to hike in the direction I was headed. It took 5 miles to get to the nearest town where I found two farmers, who hearing of the situation, grabbed a portable winch, some rope, and gave me a ride back to the bike on their ATVs. After helping to lift the bike out of the mud pit, and push it backwards, we determined the best way out was the way I came in. Without the assistance of these guys, I’d have been out of luck!
The adventure would continue to see another day! Every single mile of Ireland offers a photo opportunity.
I wrapped around the top of the island, working my way south along the jagged Atlantic coast. The west coast of Ireland is scattered with small villages and towns. Each one with their own personality. The best way to find the hidden gems is to stop in the small pubs and coffee shops asking for directions. In Donegal, I was pointed towards Sleive League, Ireland where massive cliffs meet the rough waters. It has a fraction of the tourists that the Cliffs Of Moher and the road leading to the stop is nothing short of epic.
South, from Donegal I traveled to Achill Island. I had no idea how gorgeous this rugged island would be. The mansion-turned-hostel that I stayed at, the Valley House, is centuries old and has its own bar and restaurant. The live music in the peat-heated bar made for a environment that kept me for two days and easily pushes the Valley House to the top of my “best hostels” list.
South of Achill Island and the County of Mayo, lies the Connemara Peninsula, and in my opinion, the best motorcycling the country has to offer.
I’d spend two days riding here before going to Galway, spending two days, and then coming back just to ride some more. It was that amazing.
After relunctantly telling myself that I had to move on, I traveled south towards the fishing village of Dingle. Dingle is everything you imagine small-town Ireland to be. Pubs, small shops, friendly locals, and stunning scenery with the scent of ocean tide and fresh fish. It wasn’t hard to find photo opportunities here. Heading west out of town takes you around the cliff-hugging roads with sheer drop offs to the Atlantic Ocean, below.
Next up, the Ring of Kerry, Killarney, and Cork made up the southern portion of my travels on the southern end of the island.
The real gem of the Kerry peninsula isn’t the Ring Road, which is full of tour busses, but Dunloe Gap. A tiny road that travels through the Killarney National Park. Don’t miss it.
I’d wrap up my time in Ireland by ringing in my birthday, celebrating with friends in Dublin.
After three days in the home of Guinness and Jameson, it was time to leave. 3 weeks and 2,000 miles had passed. Never have I left a country with such a strong feeling of leaving a little piece of my heart behind.
Ireland, you’re amazing!