Its been goal of mine for some time now to visit ireland, I couldn’t really say why. Perhaps because every Irish person I have met has just been a very easy to talk to, friendly individual, and because I have only really heard great things about it.
After my epic ride up through Scotland, I managed to catch a train from one of the towns up there, actually 4 different trains to get down to the west coast 20 miles away from where the ferry terminal was to get over the Belfast in northern Ireland. I managed to get there after a day and a half of traveling and touched down in Belfast on the 14th of April, my birthday as it turns out. I didn’t know much bout Belfast before I arrived, but quickly got up to speed for their most famous achievement. The Titanic, that massive old ship which just so happened to hit the iceberg on my birthday in 1912 was built in Belfast. They have a huge area in the port where they built the massive ship amongst others, it seems the area has definitely passed it’s hay day being quite desolate and a bit run down today but it was amazing just to see the place where this colossal feet of engineering was created. I saw a big sign on a wall in the Marina saying “she was alright when she left here” I guess the last thing anyone would have anticipated is the largest ship in the world getting rag dolled by mother nature on it’s first voyage.
This is a model of the Titanic if you can’t see it.
As I wandered around the city I really felt good vibes, the people were all so friendly, and if you stood for too long on the sidewalk looking perplexed about life, someone would come up to me and ask if I needed help or directions. I quickly found out that the Irish will spend 30minutes explaining how to get somewhere once you start that conversation. You will also learn about their family heritage and a little history about the town you are in. I loved having these not so brief conversations with people, they were all just so friendly.
I checked out the Belfast peace walls much like the Berlin wall although not nearly as dramatic, for those of you who don’t know, Ireland has had a weird and wonderful history of ups and Downs, a lot of fighting and troubles, a lot in the most recent times due to religion. Protestants in northern Ireland from English/British heritage and the Catholics in the republic of Ireland. There is an invisible border for these two areas and they do live in relative peace how ever in Belfast you have half Catholic and half Protestant living in the same city which has caused some conflict over the years. In the 80’s things were really kicking off with unfair imprisonment, rioting, and basically gorilla warfare as the Irish sought independence from the British. So these walls were first being erected in 1969 to stop some mad beefing between these too groups in particularly dangerous areas, they have since been colorfully painted with all types of grafitti from local students and are a tourist attraction. The tensions in the city are still evident from time to time with the odd riot particularly on the 12th of July orange day.
Can we please?
After a couple of days in Belfast I headed up the east coast towards the top of northern Ireland. It was the most amazing weather, with the sun shining like a summers day yet the temperature being around 3 degrees (in my mind not sure what it actually was) but the coast itself was spectacular and reminded me of some places in California with the ocean glistening and the wide road following up the coast. I managed to camp on a beach my first night, falling asleep to the sound of the gently crashing waves. I was flying through the country from the next day onwards like a man on a mission I made it through a few of the bigger towns like London Derry/Derry and on into the Republic of Ireland. Like I said there are no borders so the only way you know you are in Ireland is the speed signs turn to kilometers which I thoroughly enjoyed, who even uses miles anyway? And the currency changes to euros.
A beach in the north of Ireland.
I camped out on someones farm one night. Knocking on a random farmers door a boy of about 13 answered and spoke to me in an almost incomprehensible Irish accent saying it was “noh troubles at’aaal” to camp up in one of his paddocks.
My first stop was Donegal, the actual gem of Ireland, it was the most spectacular nature I was to see in the whole country. With green rolling hills, Europe’s largest sea cliffs Sleve League and some of the most amazing coast line I have ever seen, oh yes and the sun followed me there too, and actually got rather warm!
The largest sea cliffs in Europe. The pictures just don’t do it justice. And yes I had to get up there with my bike.
in a small fishing town along the coast in Donegal
A Seagull munching on some by-catch.
In Donegal and yes I’m wearing socks and jandles. My shoes got wet because I was trudging through a swamp to find a place to camp for the night.
I was sitting on the side of the road one evening in need of a bit of a rest, when a lady stopped in her car to see if I was OK, I said yes just resting. She asked if I needed anything and I asked if I could top up my water bottle, she came back with this goodie bag, I love Ireland! The people went above and beyond to help me out on my journey.
Just so I don’t loose the rest of you who have actually read down to here, basically I circumnavigated Ireland’s coast, not entirely on the coast some inland trips but I saw a lot of the magnificent coast which I would highly recommend more than most other places I’ve been to be quite honest, there is a road way called the wild Atlantic way which is about 2600km following the coast like from the top of Ireland down to the bottom and the few parts I saw were absolutely stunning!
I made it into Dublin after spending around 2 weeks cycling around the country and yes I was doing serious km every day, Dublin is definitely a city with it’s own unique feel, I felt like it was a mini Las Vegas come night time with hoards of drunkin Welsh and English tourists having their stag doo or hens night, stumbling from pub to pub in Temple bar area, the whole city did have a very dominant pub/drinking culture which meant everyone was extra friendly. I met up once again with a friend from France Heloise and we were tourists checking out the city, I didn’t make it to the famous Guinness factory as I was told it is rather expensive for what it was but I did check out the Jameson factory which was quite educational as I had no idea how whiskey was made. Now I do!
After a couple of nights in Dublin it was time to head to Wales.
To be continued…