PART 1 – Escaping the island for an Irish Rally | Feature
I’m sure many SLUK readers have been going stir crazy this year. Our usual weekend trips to the seaside have been curtailed since March with not one single National Rally going ahead. The rest of ‘normal’ life has pretty much vanished as well and it seems like all we’re allowed to do is work, all the fun has been stopped.
This feature comes from a resident of Jersey who had been looking forward to getting off his own island to visit Ireland on his newly restored Vespa Rally. Although that trip was hanging in the balance right up until the last minute. Here’s how it panned out and it certainly made me feel like taking another scooter trip over to the Emerald Isle.
Last year I booked myself a trip to Ireland for this September to go to the Gathering of the Clans scooter rally in Portrush. Usually, there are ‘Three Amigos’ but Eamonn and Jason couldn’t make it due to work commitments. I planned to take my half-finished (at the time), 1977 Vespa Rally 200. Due to COVID-19, it looked like my planning was all in vain, but I decided I desperately wanted to go, having been stuck on Jersey for the last 16 months solid, cabin fever was setting in.
So the time came and although restrictions were still in place there was no actual lockdown in Ireland. A final check over the scooter, a few spares sorted, bags packed and the Rally was charged up with sunshine to take with me on my trip. Off I go for my first ferry, from my home in Jersey, overnight to Portsmouth. I arrived in Portsmouth at 06:30 on Friday 10th September, the sun was just about to split the skies. It was glorious weather all the way to Liverpool for my next ferry to Belfast, which was at 10:30 pm, so I had all day to get there.
I took the non-motorway routes:
- As it’s a wee bit safer
- It’s way more enjoyable riding through beautiful sleepy little towns and villages with an ear to ear smile.
As it was 250 miles, I had a few stops and popped in to see my good friends Rick and Amy in Shrewsbury, for tea and some Jersey shortbread, a nice little break. An hour later I headed on to the last stage to Liverpool, no dramas, I got to the harbour early and met up with a few Manchester scooterists who were on the same trip. A few beers and laughs on the boat then time for a well-earned sleep, it had been a long day.
After an early morning wake up call on the ferry, I woke up in Belfast… to biblical rain, it continued pretty much the whole way to Portrush, with only the odd dry spell.
Antrim Coast Road
It mattered not as I had my drysuit on that I use for paddleboarding in winter, TOP TIP, everyone should invest in one, 100% dry, unlike any wet gear you have ever purchased. It’s tried and tested. When I got to Portrush I was as dry as a bone.
I took the Antrim Coast Road, which was stunning, shame about the rain and 40 mph winds, but still an amazing experience.
Just before I arrived in Portrush I stopped off in, Ballycastle, Ballintoy Harbour, where Game of Thrones was filmed, stunning place. Then the last five miles to Portrush, finally the rain disappeared.
The rally was great, I met up with loads of old friends and made some new ones too. I have to say, the Irish scootering community are the best I’ve ever come across in my life, they couldn’t do enough for me. My next eight days touring were covered, if I had problems with the scooter I was given numbers for every stop and guaranteed a helping hand. Incredible.
With the rally over, off I went again, by the way, I won furthest travelled at the rally and received a beautiful glass trophy, and I hadn’t even started my tour yet! First port of call was Derry, for the obligatory pics.
No Muff too tough
Then off to Muff for more pics. I don’t care what anyone says, I’m 51 and I still laugh when I enter Muff. From there I headed to Donegal, for my Sunday night stay. I had a few small issues with gear and clutch cables all coming loose, very odd, but nothing serious. The first night after the rally was an early one, as you can imagine. Donegal is a beautiful town, albeit uncharacteristically quiet due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Gentle Giant
Monday morning and I’m off to Galway, which turned out to be the best part of the trip, mainly due to the fact I met up with Big Ernie, ‘The Gentle Giant.’ I’d been given details for Ernie by a contact in the Vespa Club of Ireland, just in case I had any issues along the way. As usual, the scootering family goes above and beyond, even for people they’ve never met.
Ernie has a traditional family-run organic greengrocers on Sea Road. It’s incredible, from fine foods and wines to organic cheeses and fair trade items, a must-see if you ever get to Galway. As I got there late Monday we had a few beers and another early night. Ernie offered to show me around…
On Tuesday Ernie took me to Connemara, a 222km round trip of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. We rode through the hills and lakes in perfect conditions. Galway to Clonbur/Dooray to Kilbride to Cummer to Gowlaun to Letterbrickaun to Lettergesh to Kylemore Abbey to Finnisglin to Costelleo and back to Galway.
It is, without doubt, the most amazingly beautiful place I’ve ever been to on two wheels, the weather definitely helped. If you ever come to Ireland on a scooter, this is by far the most incredible place you will ever ride. The roads also are perfect, it was like an enormous Scalextric track.
In a word, Tuesday 15th September for me was MAGICAL.
Words and photos: Michael Fitzgerald
Coming up in part 2
Michael continues south on his close to 3,000km trip, you can go straight there by clicking the link below.
Part one gallery
SLUK Shop – online scooter shopping the easy way