Ireland: Dublin Loop (2014)

A couple of years have passed since the last Jones motorcycle trip. So what better way to celebrate Josh turning 40 than to hop a plane to Ireland, rent some bikes in Dublin, and spend the next 5 days cruising the countryside?

Josh and Kelly are on board for this adventure. Keep up-to-date or relive their experience here as they travel across the Atlantic for an adventure of a lifetime.

View the pictures here!

Pre-Trip and Travel Day

Getting there and Orientation:

With the last trip being the Alaska/Canada trip in 2008 in conjunction with Kelly’s retirement from public accounting, it’s been about 6 years since any combination of the Jones boys had a meaningful motorcycle trip.

In 2014, with Josh turning 40 (March 2014), another milestone was reached for both Josh and his parents, Kelly and Cindy. As the date approached, the family began discussing an appropriate celebration/recognition of this event. After several thoughtful suggestions, Amy (his wife) offered the following:
• Josh has always wanted to see a Garth Brooks concert (he was country before country was cool)
• Josh has had a strong interest in visiting Ireland
• Attached to her suggestion was a link to a Garth Brooks concert in Dublin in late July
• And finally, she offered that the “penultimate” would be if Kelly and Josh could arrive at the concert on motorcycles.

After working with Donald at Forest Lake travel, the concert tickets were purchased, airline flights were arranged and motorcycles were rented for the week prior to the concert such that they could “arrive on motorcycles”

These plans were given to Josh at a semi surprise dinner on his birthday in Washington DC with his siblings, his parents and Amy. The information on the trip was packaged and presented as his “birthday present”. You could see his apprehension as he began to understand the specifics of the trip as “this is something my dad has planned and now I have to sell Amy on it”. You could feel his relief as he read Amy’s email to Kelly outlining the recommendation and his realization that it was her idea all along.

As with any endeavor such at this, hurdles arise or attitudes need to change... Paul Johnson, owner of Celtic Rider Motorcycle Rentals in Dublin convinced Josh and Kelly that BMW motorcycles were a much better option for exploring Irish roads and sites than the Harleys that they normally ride. He also convinced them that their normal practice of deciding which hotel or B&B they would stay around noon of each day was not practical and more advanced reservations were needed. Paul was very helpful in addressing both.

Finally, about three weeks prior to the trip, a dispute between the concert city and Garth became much more public. Apparently, Garth received a permit for three days of concerts in a community near Dublin. The 240,000 tickets for these three concerts sold out in about 90 minutes after going on sale. The promoters, along with Garth decided on two more concerts in the following days, but didn’t get the appropriate permits. Apparently, there were some ordinances regarding these extended days and the permits for these two days were denied. Garth took the position that if he couldn’t do all five days, he wouldn’t perform any of the days. So last week the negotiations broke down and the concerts were cancelled. We decided to continue with the trip.

We arrived at the Dublin airport this morning (July 20) about 7:15 am. We had a thorough briefing by Paul and Mike on the operations of the BMW motorcycles, the operations of the GPS and some of the things to watch out for as we are riding unfamiliar motorcycles on the left side of the road. The orientation included a ride on the motorcycles led by an experienced instructor through a number of roundabouts, back roads and highways similar to those we would encounter on our trip.

When the orientation was completed, we left Dublin on our first trip through the countryside—a trip of about 140 miles to Donegal—the most northern county in Ireland.

Day 1 - Dublin to Donegal

Day 1:
The trip from Dublin (Celtic Rider) to Donegal was fairly uneventful. The first half was on multi lane roads with traffic in the 60mph range. The second half was mostly 2 lane roads and it was generally difficult to exceed 45mph. The roads followed paths made centuries ago and, as a result, were winding and hilly—no earth moving equipment was used to develop these roads—just paved over the path. Neither of us slept much on the flight over so we both struggled to stay awake and alert. We stopped for lunch after about an hour at Lakeside Manor Hotel. The hotel sits beside Lough Ramor and, even though the temperature was in the 60’s, there was a group of people reading to water ski. The food was buffet style, fairly tasty, but very heavy—turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes etc. After lunch, we continued to Donegal, about a 2 hour ride. This was really a pretty and a fun drive—much of which was along multiple natural lakes.

We checked in at the Rossmore Manor, a bed and breakfast run by Jackie and Geoff. It is their home and is very nice and very clean. About midafternoon, Jackie brought over some delicious pound cake with apples that hit the spot.

For dinner, we decided to take a cab to the Harbor restaurant in down town Donegal. I had some of the best fish chowder (plenty of fish and lobster) I have had in some time—reminded me of some I used to get at Garibaldi’s in Charleston.

Earlier in the afternoon, Donegal’s soccer team won their game resulting in them making it to the quarter finals of the Irish soccer championship. There was a big ceremony on the town square to welcome the team home from their win. Josh and I attended and enjoyed the festive atmosphere accompanying the celebration. We also visited a Pub named Reels. The pub was packed. The owner and four or five other musicians positioned themselves at tables at the back of the room and played and sung a number of tunes. Truly old Farts having a good time—they could sing and play well. We had a couple of pints and left them singing and playing.

Day 2 - Donegal to Donegal (Loop)

After some really good coffee and breakfast at the Rossmore, we spent some time getting the camera hooked up on my motorcycle handlebars. We needed a screwdriver, so Josh couldn’t hook his up at this point. We followed our route on the GPS through Barnesmore Gap which had boulders from the Blue Stack mountains strewn around the side of the road. The roads were narrow and winding—almost too narrow for two motorcycles to meet and pass. Our first stop was Gleneagh Castle and Gardens located in the Glenveagh National Park.

We spent a couple of hours at the Glenveagh Castle and gardens. The Castle has quite a history. It was built in the 1870’s from rough-hewn granite about three feet thick. The guy who assembled the land and built the first phase was infamous because he evicted 244 tenants in the cold in the winter of 1861. His wife continued the development of the castle which was occupied by the Irish Republican Army in 1922 until the Free State Army approached. In 1929 the Castle was purchased by Arthur Kingsley, a Harvard professor. He disappeared in 1933 and the Castle was then purchased by Mr. Henry McLlhenny of Philadelphia USA in 1937. Mr. McIlhenny, in 1981, presented the Castle to the Irish nation.

The Castle overlooks Lough Veagh and the gardens boast a multitude of exotic plants. Pines and Rhododendron provide the windbreaks to allow ornamental and delicate plants to survive and flourish.
After leaving the Castle, we rode some really fun roads through the Murrisk and Errial mountains through Glengesh Pass to Teelin and then to Slieve League cliffs. Imagine a 20,000 food cliff dropping into the ocean and this is what you see at Slieve. The ride up the to the cliffs was incredible—narrow roads hugging the mountain side, no guardrails, only boulders occasionally providing some border for the road. We had to hike the last 3000 feet and I had to rest a couple of times, letting Josh go on ahead. We got some good pictures-hope they turn out. There was a Terex mini excavator near the peak and we are still curious as to how they got it up there—probably a helicopter.

From Slieves, we had a great ride, again along narrow winding roads with little traffic, back to Rossmore. We rode pass the fishing port in Killybegs which is home to Ireland’s largest deep sea fishing port and has some of biggest fishing boats in Europe. We arrived back at Rossmore about 7pm—a long but very enjoyable day.

We are currently working on some of the technology, hopefully to upload some of the pictures and videos.—Jaybo—need your help.

Day 3 - Donegal to Westport

After a good breakfast at the Rossmore, (special pancake with apples, ham, onions and peppers) we got a fairly late start to Westport. We spent a good bit of time getting the Go Pro camera mounted to Josh’s helmet and learning how to work it. We passed the resting place of poet WB Yeats – well, in true Jones fashion we pulled into the church, made a circle around the parking lot, and kept on riding. Our next stop was Ceide Fields and the Minnaun Cliffs. Ceide Fields is the oldest stone walled fields and village in the world, built over 6000 years ago. During the succeeding years, the area became covered with bog (essentially mud) some 6-8 feet deep. These fields overlook the Minnaun Cliffs presenting a stunning view of the Atlantic ocean.

We continued on the Ballycroy National park, a conservation area that contains Europe’s largest expanse of Blanket bog. The visitors center at the park provided educational and easy to understand information about the history and potential causes of the bogs.

From Ballycroy, we rode narrow, twisty roads with great ocean views through Mallaranny and several other quaint towns to West Port. Josh got some really good videos from his helmet mounted go pro camera. We were able to experience some true Irish weather today, as it rained on and off during a good part of the day – making driving the twisting back roads that much more challenging. It was a blast, but we were happy to make it to Westport for the evening and settled in at the Glenderan Inn. We had a nice dinner at the Towers restaurant and for ice cream cones for dessert. A little background on the ice cream cones – it appears that the Irish must really like them as almost every small store or gas station we pass carries them – designated by a sign made to look like a giant cone. They were pretty good – a slight step up from McDonalds – as they are simple vanilla cones with a piece of chocolate jammed in the top. Tomorrow we head to what the folks at Celtic Rider call the “best ride of our lives.” Stay tuned.

Day 4 - Westport to Westport (Loop)

Day 5 - Westport to Dublin