There might not be any TT this year (2020) due to the plague, but I still thought it might be a great time to revisit my epic trip to the TT two years ago, 2018, and re-live a motorcycle journey that took in a fair bit of Great Britain, Wales, Ireland and of course, the Isle of Man itself. I hope you enjoy the ride…
Trev’s TT Trip 2018 Part Six
After bidding a fond farewell to Matt and Keith after the Triumph Adventure Experience, we pointed the Triumph Explorer’s north towards the Welsh coastal port of Holyhead.
Trying to find accommodation somewhere near the port at late notice proved impossible. Every motel/hotel in the town on the approach to both the Isle of Anglesey, and Holy Island were all completely booked out.
After exhausting all the on-line booking sites trying to find a room, then stopping in at more than a dozen to try our luck at anything last minute, we were just about to give up and try and find somewhere to just park up and kip on a park bench.
Then, at the end of a long back road we found Hotel Cymyran. This too was completely booked out, but the elderly hotelier took pity on us when we asked if they had anything of last resort where we could rough it. A friend of hers was storing some demountable cabins out the back that were in need of repair, they were growing a dank stinking mould inside them, and I was sure I was going to wake up with new types of life form growing in spores on my cilia, but it was a bed and we were grateful. She sent some of her staff to get some clean sheets while we hit the bar.
After a reasonable nights sleep we made tracks for Port of Holyhead and a 0900 ferry across to Dublin. The ferry takes a little over three hours to make the 110 km trip across the Irish Sea to the Republic of Ireland’s capital city. If you can blag one, I thoroughly recommend paying the little bit extra for a cabin with its comfortable bed and warm shower.
It was a smooth enough crossing and we were rolling along Irish motorways by 1pm. The initial parts of our journey punctuated by all too frequent toll booths that demanded payment in Euros, rather than pounds. We had no time to spend in Dublin as we had a 300 km journey in front of us before an early start the next day with Paul Mc Guigan for an Ireland Dirtbike Adventure.
We took a slightly circuitous route off the beaten track towards our stop for the night at Annagry, a postcard perfect coastal town situated on north-west coast of Ireland in the Rosses area of County Donegal.
Dirt Bike Tours Ireland
Dirt Bike Tours Ireland run tours all year round so you can see plenty of shots that include snow riding on the Dirt Bike Tours Ireland Facebook page, but for us County Donegal turned on some uncharacteristically hot conditions that made it feel like riding back home in Australia.
Paul met us on a bright and sunny Monday morning and transported us out towards the Derryveagh Mountains and the peat bogs of Muckish Mountain. The drive was comfortable and the countryside beautiful as we welcomed the chance to play passenger and just take in the sights.
Our mounts for the day were to be AJP PR3 Enduro 240 machines. These Portuguese trail bikes are somewhat similar to a CRF230F Honda or TT-R230 Yamaha. Tipping the scales at 100kg, and with pretty reasonable suspension that offers almost motocross levels of travel, but still with a modest 870 mm seat height, they proved a versatile tool for the job.
Sure, there is no real snap to the Zongshen 233cc engine but it mustered enough torque to climb the peat bogs out to some stunning peaks that opened out into panoramic vistas overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean.
Of course, a tour company has to cater for everyone and as an ex Trials and Enduro racer Paul can cater the tour to any skill level, but the little electric-start AJP machines allow him to even cater for riders with very little, or no, off-road experience. The fact that he knows them inside out due to being the official AJP distributor throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland certainly helps.
Dirt Bike Tours Ireland can also supply you with boots, helmet, knee-pads, pants, jersey, body armour and gloves. I was kitted out in my trusty DriRider adventure gear, Sidi Adventure boots and the latest Shoei Hornet Adventure helmet, the same gear I had been using all trip, but did borrow some thin dirt specific gloves and left the jacket behind in favour of a slip-on upper body armour due to the unseasonal heat.
The terrain was very different to anything I had ridden in Australia. The open landscape often lulling me into a false sense of security. The soft undergrowth just seemed to swallow your tyres and made it feel like riding on plush carpet, then there were rocky hill climbs, and also a little mud to add more diversity to the ride. At a couple of points in the ride we sent a drone up to capture some of the Donegal landscape, that footage below gives you a better idea of what we got up to.
Dirt Bike Tours Ireland Video
Paul supplied a cut lunch and kept us fed and watered throughout the day and his wife gave us a good laugh by hiding jokes in our lunches.
It was quite a workout at times but the little AJP machines just kept on keeping on with a minimum of fuss and were much less tiresome than a more hard-core machine would have been on our bodies.
We asked Paul to head down towards the coast on the way back so we could take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean, as it would seem a rare day in Ireland that a beach would beckon, thus it would be silly not to! The water was still a little brisk (we may have seen icebergs) but eminently refreshing after bouncing across the peat bogs of Donegal all day.
For those that have their own enduro bikes and want something a little more hard-core Paul can of course cater for them too, but we had a great day out on the AJP bikes and there were enough challenges to keep us entertained. The biggest influence on the day though was Paul’s passion for what he does. His energy and exuberance to share his love for enduro riding and share the thrill it brings, makes his tour unique.
A few more ales than wise with Paul and his lovely wife, followed by an overnight stop at Caisleáin Óir Hotel that left us well fed and watered for the next days trip across the upper parts of Northern Ireland.
We skirted around Glenveagh National Park before crossing the River Foyle at Londonderry then up through the home of the NorthWest 200 at Coleraine.
Our next stop was at Joey’s Bar in Ballymoney then it was on to Ballymena and Kells before stopping in to Chateau McWilliams for a few nights in Belfast ahead of the ferry trip across to the Isle of Man for TT 2018.
I have enjoyed showing Jeremy, his delightful wife Jill and young fella Zak around my backyard in the Victorian High Country, and along with their other son Jack, they returned the favour handsomely with a tour of the sights of Belfast and their favourite watering holes for a bit of a pub crawl. While Jill kept us well fed and watered at their lovely home just outside of Belfast.
Next up our epic trip on the Triumph Tigers takes us on another ferry trip, this time from Belfast across to the Isle of Man for TT 2018.
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