I knew Steve and Pete who run Biker Spirit from before I went on the tour. They did some tours in 2009 and this year have just started running the company full time. They invited me to come on a tour to see how they ran and to have my first taste of touring. I decided to take my Honda Hornet 600 as I feel this is a much better touring bike than my Virago 535. Having attended the Virago Star Owners Club (VSOC) Centre 13 Rally and coming back on the Sunday I felt that unpacking and repacking the 535 would have been a nightmare in an evening. My aim with this article is to give you an honest and independent account of my experience. I know this can be difficult but I wouldn’t
recommend anything bad to anyone even if I knew the people who run the service.
Day 1 – Monday 31st May 2010 – Lincoln to Ross-on-Wye:
There were 7 of us going to Ireland; Barrie, Jackie, their daughter Emma, Dave, Steve, Pete and myself. 6 bikes in total with 5 being sports tourers and Barrie bringing his Harley. As we were all from around Lincolnshire Steve and Pete offered to take us down to Fishguard, Wales in a group instead of just meeting up there on the Tuesday (1st). Once we all met up and had the introductions it was time to head off. Steve headed up the small column with Pete taking ‘tail end Charlie’ and we set off. We were travelling down to Ross-on-Wye in Hereford and so as to vary the riding and scenery we avoided the motorways and dual carriageways. Long winding roads which always make brilliant riding on and thankfully the weather held out for us.Upon arriving in Ross-on-Wye we went to our rooms, showered, changed and met up in the lounge in the B&B. We all made our way into town to get some food and came across a Weatherspoons. Great food at great prices and the beer too wasn’t bad! We intended on having one or two pints as we had to be up the next morning fairly early in order to check in at 13:00. Several rounds later and more beer than we intended on drinking we made our way back to the B&B for a comfortable nights sleep.
Day 2 – Tuesday 1st June 2010 – Ross-on-Wye to Enniscorthy:
Unfortunately we woke up to rain which we knew was inevitable considering the day before had been overcast and threatening to rain all day. We had breakfast, got the gear on and the waterproofs out. Time to mount up and with Steve leading us once again we set off. We avoided the motorways and dual carriageways again and went on some brilliant roads up hills and down valleys. Having only been as far into the South of Wales as Swansea this was all pretty new to me.
We arrived at Fishguard well in time having breaks and fuel stops roughly every hour to hour and a half. We stopped to refuel and then made our way to check in. Typically by now the sun had come out just as we had finished riding! Having checked in we boarded the ferry straight away. This was a nice and simple procedure just riding into position, leaving the bike in gear and then taking any items with you. The staff tie down the bikes for you!
The ferry crossing itself was uneventful and a chance to relax and get to know one another more. Steve and Pete supplied us with water and some sandwiches free of charge as well.
About 3 ½ hours later we docked in Rosslare. Beautiful sunshine awaited us which was a nice start to the tour and my first time riding abroad. The roads are pretty much the same as in the UK where you drive/ride on the left. The only difference being that the speed is measure in KPH and not MPH.
We made our way to the hotel which was in Enniscorthy and I was very impressed upon arrival. The place we were staying at was very snazzy and comfortable. We even had secure parking round the back which was great. I did however have a slight incident involving an inclined hill and a u-turn. Upon halfway to completing the u-turn I lost my footing and hence dropped the bike. Nothing I could do in that situation but hope that I hadn’t done too much damage. Thankfully I only lost the right hand mirror and the brake lever snapped. Ok so they are pretty essential but both Pete and Steve were very comforting and made every effort to make sure I was alright. It was decided having put the bikes away, showered, changed and met in the bar to do a temporary repair job on the brake lever. Having eaten dinner we ‘borrowed’ a fork from the hotel and cable tied and taped the two pieces together. We swapped the left hand mirror over to the right hand side for preference. Steve asked round to see if there were any motorbike shops round which we could go to but in the end as it was late we decided to leave it until the morning to deal with.
We had some brilliant food in the restaurant downstairs and my first pint of Guinness. In Ireland you have to wait for the Guinness to settle before drinking so somewhat different to here then.
We lads decided it would be a good opportunity to go and see what other pubs were round town and eventually settled upon a quaint pub. This was a small room no larger than most people’s lounges however it had a lovely atmosphere. Upon finishing that pint we wandered across to another pub which was larger and had another pint. This market town did have a large selection of pubs and although it was quiet it was pleasant to be able to relax in such a traditional setting after a long day’s riding.
Day 3 – Wednesday 2nd June 2010 – Enniscorthy to Clonakilty:
As all of the hotels we were staying at on the tour included the breakfasts we had a nice full breakfast to start off the day. The discussion turned to fixing the bike as Steve had been told there was a motorbike shop in Wexford. So we made a detour off the usual route to go through Wexford. Unfortunately the shop was closed due to it being a Wednesday so we decided we would continue along the next route as there was another motorbike shop along the way. Fortunately a mile or two down the road there was one which was open. Having bought two new mirrors (the one we had left broke when taking it off to move) and the brake lever (which came off an R6) and feeling the sting of about 80 Euros we set off.
I feel that both Steve and Pete did a fantastic job in dealing with this matter and many thanks to them. It just shows how dedicated they are to customer service and the riders on the tours.With Steve leading us along some fantastic roads with amazing views of the countryside, tranquil villages and the sun shining brightly in the sky we were all in good spirits. We came to our first ferry crossing at Ballyhack which although only a short trip across to the other side meant we could stretch our legs and get some brilliant photos of the surroundings. This was also included in the cost of the tour.
After going through Tramore we continued along the coastal road which showed off some fantastic sea views and beaches. We made another stop at Annestown beach so we could take some more pictures and see the start of the Copper Coast.
We continued onto Dungarvan, a lovely market town dating back to the 12th Century. It was here we parked up and went to a café for a quick drink and then off to the supermarket to grab some lunch. I was still shocked at how nice the weather was considering it was only the day before that we were riding in heavy downpours.
Having fuelled ourselves up with food and drink and the bikes with fuel we continued on to another ferry crossing at Ballynoe and stopping on the way again for a rest and drink. This was a much shorter but busier ferry crossing than at Ballyhack but a nice crossing anyway.
Our next major stopping point was Timoleague Abbey. This dates back to the 13th Century and it still has a lot of the architecture remaining. Sitting right on the water’s edge it also had some great views looking out.
From here we rode to Clonakilty a town founded by the Great Earl of Work in 1588. The hotel we stayed at was once again top notch and run by the O’Donovan family since it was built. A warm and homely feel here and we again ate and had a couple of pints. Steve, Pete, Dave and I later on in the evening decided to go to a small bar down the road which Steve mentioned had live music on. This was a small and traditional Irish bar and we had quite a few pints in there chatting the night away. We never managed to see any music but as I said the beer was flowing! I think we got back to the hotel about 1am…
Day 4 – Thursday 3rd June 2010 – Clonakilty to Killarney:
So having spent most of the previous night drinking you would have thought most of us would be feeling it that morning. In truth I was rather excited about the day ahead so any sluggishness was gone by the excitement and the rather large cooked breakfast which again was fantastic. Having loaded up the bikes we headed off to Bantry stopping off for a few pictures and a stretch around a small bay which a town had grown round. Upon arriving in Bantry we pulled up in a car park and had some time to stretch our legs, get a drink and take a wander round. This is another lovely coastal town and the last one before you go round the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry includes spectacular scenery of the coastline which then leads up into the hills with perfect curves and corners. Once at the top there is a great stretch winding down to the bottom with some fantastic corners in. At this point I decided to have a little blast and sped off trying out my new tyres and the corners. Steve had gone on ahead to take some pictures of us riding. In all this was one of the best roads I have so far travelled upon. Not just the corners but the breathtaking scenery is amazing at every turn. Even more amazing is how underappreciated the road up the hill was, we encountered no traffic on the climb or the descent!
We stopped off in Sneem, a small village, to have lunc and all went to the café off the main area in the village and I had a great toastie.
Continuing along the coastal route around Carrauntoohill we stopped off along the road to take a look at the stunning coastal view just before Glanbeg. Barrie, Jackie and Emma had come on the same tour last year but the weather had been heavy fog so they didn’t see any of the views around the Ring of Kerry. Thankfully we had perfect weather!
Following the coastal roads around the base of Carrauntoohill we finally came to our hotel in Killarney. Again a lovely hotel and once we had settled in we headed out to find some dinner as the hotel did not have a restaurant for evening meals. There were a lot of Harley’s around as the annual Ireland Bike Fest is here. This was originally an event for Harley owners but quickly grew to include other bikes. It was a shame that we were leaving the weekend it started but we were unaware of the event until we arrived.
Having eaten we wondered into the centre and stayed in a bar for a few hours drinking. Much to our delight they had a jukebox which we poured money into and stood round enjoying ourselves. Barrie even found another Harley to sit on the bar! As it was getting quite late when we left the bar (we being the last ones to leave) Steve, Pete, Dave and I decided to continue on with our drinking. We went off to bar where live music was playing and had cheap Guinness although this tasted like it was watered down much to our dismay! So upon finishing we headed next door where a rock band was playing live. They were great and it was so nice to be able to listen to some live music in a bar for a change. Another late night as we staggered back to the hotel in the early hours after Steve’s kebab.
Day 5 – Friday 4th June 2010 – Killarney to Wexford:
Having been right across the South of Ireland it was now time to come back across to Wexford. The breakfast again was another great start to the day and having laden the bikes up we once again set off to a glorious day. The next major stopping point was Blarney Castle at Blarney. We stopped here for over an hour in order to get drinks, look around and go into the castle and grounds if we wished. It is here where the famous Blarney Stone is and the story goes that if you kiss the stone you will have the gift of the gab. I am pleased to say that I decided to take a quick look round the castle and even kissed the stone!
The route then took us North away from Cork and after a while we came to Binnia and Carrigeenamronety. The road took us between these two ranges of hills and round the North of Binnia. The views were spectacular and we stopped on a couple of occasions to take pictures and to soak up the scenery. It was amazing how different the landscapes were in Ireland.
Coming out of the other side of these fantastic hills we eventually came to the route which we had a couple of days earlier travelled along in the opposite direction. Although this may sound repetitive it is far from it as I hardly noticed the same route and it wasn’t until later on we realised we had been along that road before.
We arrived in Wexford with heavy hearts knowing that the next day we would be catching the ferry back to Fishguard. Still we decided on having dinner and a few beers before heading off to bed and getting an early night due to the tiring week!
Day 6 – Saturday 5th June 2010 – Wexford to Fishguard:
We woke up early on the last day as we had to catch the ferry in the morning and in that time have breakfast and load up the bikes. Unfortunately just as we were all set to go Jackie found out that she had a flat so Steve set to work pumping up the tyre enough to get the bike onto the ferry. Whilst this was happening Pete, Dave and myself went on ahead and waited at the port for Steve, Jackie, Barrie and Emma. Having strapped down the bikes on the ferry Steve and Pete stayed down in hold to take a look at repairing the tyre with plugs although to no avail. They believe one of the valves went on the tyre so Jackie phoned the AA to come and pick her up when we arrived in Fishguard. Apart from the tyre issue we encountered no other problems and had a pleasant crossing back and the ferry this time was much busier.
Having disembarked from the ferry we went to go and wait for the AA for Jackie. We had to wait an hour or so for them to turn up instead of them waiting at the port when we got there but it was a lovely day so we stood round talking. Jackie and Emma both got transported home on the back of the AA wagon whilst the rest of us made the long ride back home. We went up through the middle of Wales through some fantastic scenery then straight across England to Lincolnshire again avoiding motorways and trying to keep to the back roads.
In all this was a fantastic holiday and tour. For my first tour I felt comfortable with the distances covered, the comradeship from my fellow riders and the helpfulness of Steve and Pete. Their dedication to the job and to the tour astounds me in the way that they obviously want the very best for their customers. If you have any problems on your tour I know that they will do everything they can to fix these be it broken brake levers, mirrors or flat tyres. The accommodation was top class with every hotel being clean, having excellent food and facilities. The routes and roads were fantastic and the places I visited and the fun I had will never leave me. I will be booking another tour with Biker Spirit next year and I would invite you to join me on one of their many tours. Visit their website at www.bikerspirit.co.uk.