1999 Tour of Ireland
Saturday 17 July
Tony described the best route to Preston from his home and waved goodbye from the end of his drive as I departed.
I made good progress to begin with but after Preston I had to pedal into a strong headwind. The traffic was busy at times but not too bad. There were some cycle tracks at the side of the main road but they were so bumpy and overgrown that they slowed me down so I stuck to the road.
There were no hills to slow me down but I didnt account
for traffic lights. I must have spent about 40 minutes waiting at red lights in
traffic queues. At 1645 I was still 8 miles from the ferry terminal and my blood
sugar level was dropping. I had to stop and take glucose before the final push
through Liverpool. I just hoped I would find the ferry terminal first time.
Every traffic light was at red but I found the ferry terminal very easily (close to the Liver building). I arrived at 1725 after cycling 46.88 miles, twenty minutes before the scheduled departure time, but the ferry arrived late and it didnt sail until 1830. At least I caught it.
The ferry was a Seacat operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. and cost £78 return with the bike carried free of charge. The journey time was estimated at 3 hours 45 minutes at an average speed of around 36 knots. The ferry set off slowly until it had cleared Liverpool and then accelerated until it reached cruising speed. The sea was quite rough at times (especially at this speed) and walking around was difficult. I had a plain meal and spent the time reading.
I exchanged £200 sterling for Irish punts and received I£235 with a voucher for a free pint of Guinness from the bar.
The ferry arrived in Dublin at 2200 but I didnt get onto dry land until 2230. The bars in Dublin were packed and every hotel was full. I was told that I had little chance of finding accommodation so I decided to leave the city centre and head south. It started to rain heavily and as I was cycling out of the city I noticed a drunk lying unconscious at the roadside. A young English woman was checking his pulse as I passed and I heard her say that he was still alive.
After 20 miles of cycling I came across a hotel with lights on. When I entered, the staff were just tidying up for the night but I was welcomed and given a coffee and iced water (free of charge). There were no vacancies at the hotel but the manageress phoned around. There was nowhere in the vicinity with vacancies. She told me that The Corrs had been in Dublin resulting in all spare hotel and guesthouse rooms being taken.
After some discussion with the other staff in the next room the lady told me that she could accommodate me in the spare room of a nearby staff house. She drove her car, with me following on the bike, back a mile or so to the nearby town of Clondalkin. There were two staff members staying in the house who looked after me and made me feel at ease. After a shower, I went to bed and slept like a log.
I was told that no charge was expected but I left I£20 on the kitchen table with a note of thanks. I have never come across this level of hospitality before. It made me feel great. The hotel was the Kingswood Country House and Restaurant near Clondalkin. I was in need and they helped me.
Total distance cycled = 67.98 miles.
Sunday 18 July
I left the house in Clondalkin at 0945 and soon found a garage with a shop selling food. I bought enough for breakfast and a bit extra then had my insulin injection and looked for somewhere suitable to eat.
I cycled along a track towards the main road but I got a puncture in the rear tyre. I replaced the inner tube with a new one then repaired the puncture in the other one. After a sandwich for breakfast I set off again at around 1100.
I cycled along the busy dual carriageway to Naas (pronounced Nays). I stopped at another garage where I bought a road map of Ireland and was able to plan and monitor my route. Maps are wonderful things. I knew where I wanted to go but without a good detailed map I was at a great disadvantage, especially as there were very few road signs.
The garage was an oasis of civilisation. I could buy food, chilled water, newspapers (British) and many other essentials. If youre driving a car you perhaps dont appreciate what the shops have to offer but when youre doing a cycle tour these things are important.
The weather was good all the way to Naas. A road sign indicated that a motorway was ahead and that prohibited traffic should leave at Naas. I was keen to get on the more picturesque routes and see more of the countryside.
At this stage I felt a little apprehensive. I was in a foreign country, I had no idea where I would be sleeping that night, I had to regularly consider my diabetes and I was unsure about my ability to complete the expedition. It wasnt as bad as it sounds though because I was full of excitement about the next few days.
I cycled through the town and noticed that there were no signposts. I came across a busy shop selling fruit and vegetables. I bought apples and bananas and then stopped at a nearby park and had lunch. There were many ponds with ducks and crows interested in what I was eating. As I finished my food it started to rain.
I left the park area and headed in the direction I thought would take me where I wanted. The road was rough at times with many potholes and the rain became quite heavy with a strengthening headwind. My backside was suffering and I was tired from the recent late nights. I soon joined another road, the N81, heading south and entered County Kildare with the rain becoming heavier. I waved to another cyclist travelling in the opposite direction as I approached the small town of Hollywood.
When I reached Baltinglass at 1615 hours I decided to look around for accommodation. There was only one place with a sign offering accommodation but the door was locked and it was deserted. It was raining heavily as I went into a pub and asked if there was anywhere to stay. The barmaid directed me to a B&B near the golf course on the outskirts of the town.
I cycled back out of the town and followed a signpost towards the golf course. The road was as steep as any that I had encountered in the Pyrenees the previous year. I found the B&B and knocked on the door. The place was deserted and no one answered for around twenty minutes. When they did I was told that there were no vacancies. I was beginning to think that, because I was a cyclist, I wasnt welcome.
I returned to the town and persevered with the locked building offering accommodation. As I waited in the rain a German gentleman arrived in a car and entered the building. He told me that the guesthouse was managed from another pub close by and they definitely had vacancies. A sign would have been useful.
I went into the pub and asked the barman if there were any vacancies. He referred me to the owner who told me that he had no vacancies but his son ran a guesthouse just down the road and he had rooms available.
I went there and rang the bell but there was no response. The rain was falling heavily but I decided to wait. There was an adjoining pool hall that was deserted so I entered and waited. After one hour no one appeared so I returned to the pub and asked again. The owner said that he would contact his son by mobile phone. I bought a Guinness and waited. After they had phoned him the owner said, "He is in Dublin!" I said "****" under my breath. The proprietor then said "but I have vacancies here as long as you dont expect breakfast before 1000".
The room was perfect. I got into it at 1900 hours, almost three hours after I had arrived in the town. I had to climb four flights of stairs to the room with all of my luggage but I was able to have a shower and change clothes.
I had dinner in the pub and spent the quiet Sunday evening reading.
I went to bed at 2200 hours. The weather forecaster on the television cheerfully stated that there would be three days of rain and wind followed by sunny and warm weather. I couldnt wait.
The pub was the Inisfail House. I was charged I£20 for B&B plus I£18.95 for dinner (a total of £32.52 for D, B&B). I had my first pint of Guinness in Ireland; it was served chilled and cost I£2 per pint (£1.67).
During the day I was surprised to find that new road signs indicated the distances between towns in kilometers but the speed limits were given in miles per hour. Older road signs showed the distances in miles.
Blood sugar at 1930 = 4
Insulin dose = 8 units
Distance cycled = 41.16 miles.
Monday 19 July
When I went to breakfast at 1000 I discovered that I was the only guest, at least the only one that ate breakfast. It was still raining but at least it was warm. I looked around the hotel and noted that it had a neglected look. The furnishings were old and the décor was in a poor state, but it had character. There must have been countless wedding receptions and dances held here in the past.
I left Baltinglass at 1110 in steady rain. Its always hard to get started but there was a good uphill section to get me in the swing. Just as the rain became really heavy I saw a sign saying Welcome to the Sunny South East. Id hate to be here in wet weather.
I reached Carlow after a fairly easy 17 miles and stopped in a café in the town centre for a pot of tea and a sandwich. The lady who served me said that I should have been there the previous week as it was sunny and hot! Carlow is a nice town but the roads in the centre were atrocious. These towns were obviously not built with motor vehicles in mind.
After a 40-minute stop I left Carlow and headed towards Paulstown on the N9. The rain soon became very heavy again and lasted for about one hour with a strong headwind. The countryside was mainly arable with many small farms and towns every twelve miles or so.
Car number plates are black on a white background and consist of two or three numbers followed by one or two letters indicating the county of registration, such as D for Dublin or WW for Wicklow, followed by three or four numbers.
I found the going a lot easier. Although sore at first my rear end was getting used to the saddle and the bumps in the road and my legs had more push in spite of the demoralising conditions. At the junction with the N10 I had to decide whether to go south to Waterford or west to Kilkenny. I chose to remain on the N9 and head south. The road was good with space at the side for me to cycle without slowing the traffic.
I soon reached the small town of Gowran. It had a small Bookmakers that seemed to belong to the last century and I was to see many almost identical Bookmakers in many towns throughout Ireland. I stopped at a junction just to the south of the small town for a drink of water, an apple and a few minutes rest. The occupants of every vehicle that passed seemed interested in me. One guy stopped and asked if I was lost in a very friendly manner (I was looking at my map at the time). I was at a sign-posted junction, I had a map, how could I be lost? The Irish people I had met so far were extremely helpful. Friendliness to them comes long before logic.
There were a few heavy showers but I reached Thomastown in good spirits. It was quite a steep drop down into the attractive town and I had to try four or five places before I found anywhere with a vacancy. I stopped at a very good B&B half way back up the steep hill and was charged only I£18 (£15) for bed and breakfast with en suite facilities.
I walked into the town in search of a restaurant and entered a fish restaurant close to the bridge. I asked for Halibut but the waitress served me with Dover Sole. I didnt mind, I would have eaten the table mat if it had been on the plate. It was a delicious meal and cost I£24 (£20.04). The other guests in the restaurant were all tourists. An American couple, in their late fifties, was asked what they wanted to drink. The man had to ask his wife what he wanted and obediently ordered water.
I walked back through the town and stopped at a shop. There were a few youngsters pilfering items from the confectionery counter but they stopped when they saw me enter. The cashier was either so used to being robbed or she was frightened but she seemed to be making a point of ignoring them.
Blood sugar at 1330 = 9 Insulin dose = 6 units
Blood sugar at 1830 = 4 Insulin dose = 8 units
Distance cycled = 42.84 miles.
Tuesday 20 July
Blood sugar at 0830 = 10 Insulin dose = 8
I left Thomastown in good weather with a little light rain at times. The N9 is a good road but about 5 miles from Waterford I got a puncture in the front tube. I quickly repaired it and was on my way again in about ten minutes.
reached Waterford in good shape at 1240. It was sunny and hot but with a
freshening wind as I crossed the river to the riverside town. I bought
sandwiches, apples, and water at a shop and had lunch on the promenade in hot
sunshine. I didnt wait long and left Waterford on the N25 heading in the
direction of Cork.
I decided to head for Galway and not go to Cork and the southwest. I left the N25 near Ballyduff, taking a quiet country lane, and headed toward Carrick on Suir. A lorry driver saw me coming from a distance in the opposite direction. He sounded his horn and waved encouragement as he passed. The road was very pleasant and the conditions were ideal.
I cycled along the river to Carrick on Suir. Again, the roads in the centre of the town were in a bad state but I cycled through the town and stopped at a petrol station on the outskirts to buy food and water.
I headed towards Clonmel fighting against a strong headwind that limited my speed to around 8 mph. Just after I left Carrick on Suir I got my third puncture. I repaired it in a grassed area in front of an isolated cottage. The occupants couldnt see me because of a hedge but a nice little dog watched everything I did. It took me about ten minutes to repair the puncture.
The road to Clonmel was very difficult due to the weather conditions and as I approached the outskirts of the town I was feeling quite tired. I noticed many orchards as I approached and the town sign indicated that it was the home of Bulmers Cider.
After I entered the attractive town I stopped at the first hotel I could find but there were no vacancies. The receptionist phoned another hotel in the town and reserved me a single room at the Clonmel Arms Hotel. I could now comfortably reach Limerick tomorrow (55 miles distant).
I left my bike in a closed yard at the rear of the hotel, locking it to a fire escape. After I had a shower I had a good walk along the streets of Clonmel. The town was very busy and obviously prosperous.
I had a bar meal at the hotel and went to bed early watching British TV.
Just before this trip to Ireland I changed my tyres from a puncture-resistant variety to what was available in Sams shop in Thurso. With the old tyres I had cycled more than 2500 miles without a puncture but with the new ones I had three punctures before I had cycled 250 miles.
Blood sugar at 1330 = 8 Insulin dose = 6 units
Blood sugar at 1915 = 4 Insulin dose = 8 units
Distance cycled = 56.25 miles.
Wednesday 21 July
The bill for dinner, bed and breakfast plus one pint of Guinness was I£48 (£40.08).
man in charge of serving breakfasts at the hotel seemed to be in a mad rush. It
was either a bonus system or he was after a Guinness record for processing
guests through the breakfast room in record time. I sat at a table that was set
for breakfast but he wasnt happy and brusquely told me to sit at another
table. He quickly asked me if I wanted a cooked breakfast with tea or coffee
then ran to the kitchen. While he was gone, I got corn flakes and quickly
started to eat them. I am a fast eater but before I had eaten half of them he
sprinted across the floor, took my corn flakes and deposited the plate in front
of me. I could see him urging me to eat my breakfast faster so that he could
admit his next victim. As I left I said, "thank you Manuel".
On the outskirts of the town I stopped at a shop to buy sandwiches and apples for the journey to Limerick. Just after leaving the busy town I soon got out into open countryside.
On the early news the weather forecaster predicted 30mph winds gusting to 50mph. He wasnt wrong.
I reached the next town of Caher (Cahir on the map) and took a photograph of its picturesque castle from the nearby bridge.
As I cycled along the country lanes I passed through many Community Alert Areas, indeed throughout the country I saw many such signs. As I headed towards Tipperary I came upon a sign advertising mobile phones with an arrow pointing to a nearby field. I had passed through many arable areas with signs for fruit and vegetables but I wondered how the hell they managed to grow mobile phones.
I passed Limerick Junction (25 miles from Limerick) a small town where two railway lines meet. I then soon passed Tipperary racecourse and noted that most towns seem to have their own racecourses.
About 10 miles from Limerick I stopped for something to eat before I did the final push against the strong headwind. I was at an isolated farm and I leaned the bike against a wall and started to eat my sandwiches. I was joined by a lovely Collie dog that watched everything I did. The busy main road was near but the dog seemed to know not to get too close.
A little further on I noticed something in the middle of the road and, as I cycled past, I saw a large pile of sausages that must have fallen from a lorry. I remembered all of the dogs that I had seen so far and wondered why they were not all here eating the sausages.
The weather turned worse as I approached Limerick. The wind became much stronger as a heavy shower approached from the west. The motorists heading east showed some sympathy but I was alone and I just had to keep going.
I eventually arrived in Limerick and checked in at the Woodfield House Hotel on the Ennis Road after cycling 50.95 miles.
The hotel was very businesslike, full of guys talking to mobile phones.
The main news item was the death of a Garda sergeant in Dublin. A man had entered the police station and set himself on fire with petrol. The sergeant died later from his injuries but he managed to put the flames out and save the man.
Before I had a meal in the hotel I went for a walk. I passed a large stadium and entered a petrol station/supermarket. There were a few youngsters trying to pilfer things but they were caught and dealt with. I went across the main road to a supermarket and bought provisions for the next day.
Thursday 22 July
This was a fantastic day. I awoke at
0830 and went straight down to breakfast (after a shower and getting dressed).
The room was quite busy with men on business and all of them talking shop. It
made me feel that I was late for a meeting.
These minor roads were fantastic for cycling. The weather was sunny and warm and the scenery was wonderful. There were many small villages and farms. Everyone I saw was busy at work and most people exchanged a wave or a greeting as I cycled past.
I noticed that most of the tiny villages had four or five saloon bars.
I stopped at a small shop and bought two ham sandwiches that were made while I waited. The service was fantastic. Not long after I stopped in the delightful village of Kilkishen and ate one of the sandwiches at a stone table and bench in warm sunshine.
I noticed that there was a great deal of house building going on. Many of the houses along the route were new, large, and fancy with intricate touches and nearly all of them had flags flying, both national and local (appropriate to the county).
A few miles further on I came across a hilly region in County Clare. The road climbed into the hills and at the top there were many forest trails crossing the road that were sign-posted as the Clare Way. Two hours later I approached a junction with the N18 where I had lunch in hot sunshine before re-joining the busy road and proceeding to Galway.
After I had passed through the town of Gort I came upon a roadside shrine to a man called Danny Donovan. He was a horse trader, scrap metal merchant and popular local character who had been killed on the road some years previously. There were fresh flowers at the shrine.
The road was very busy but about two and a half miles north of Gort I left the main road and took the parallel country lanes. The lanes were fantastically peaceful in contrast with the brutal main road. I stopped at a crossroads for a drink of water and was soon joined by three vehicles from the other directions. The occupants smiled and waved at me then sat chatting with each other. When I left, each vehicle continued on its way.
After cycling six miles on the country lanes I rejoined the N18. I was now close to Galway Bay but I didnt see it until I was almost in Galway 7.5 miles later.
The N18 into Galway was not pleasant for cycling. It became a dual carriageway and climbed far into the distance. It wasnt as bad as it looked however and I enjoyed the challenge of the climb. When I reached the top there was a large roundabout and I passed a very large modern building that claimed to be a traditional Irish pub. I didnt think so.
At the roundabout I took a dual carriageway down into Galway. The road was busy as I entered the city but it became quieter as I stuck to the coast road. Some of the motor vehicle drivers behaved as if they owned the road and gave other cyclists a hard time. One of them attracted my attention so I made sure I was in front of him at a traffic light junction. I was feeling fit and powerful but he didnt take the bait.
Galway looked beautiful. I cycled to Salthill then entered the town to look for accommodation. I immediately joined a busy road full of hotels and pubs. I stopped at a hotel next to a church called the Lochlurgain Hotel and checked in.
After I settled in and had a shower, I opted to have dinner at the hotel. The food was excellent but the dining room was very quiet. Only two other tables were occupied, both of them with a nun and a female minder. There was not a word spoken throughout the meal.
After the meal I walked along the main street and entered what looked like a small pub. It was very drab as I entered but I was amazed at what I found inside. It was quite dark but when my eyes became accustomed to the dark I could see that the ceiling was full of very many agricultural implements and other ornaments. There was a raised stage with a band setting up. The place was starting to fill with excited tourists, mainly German, as I sat alone drinking a pint of Guinness. I hadnt felt lonely until this moment so I drank up and left. It is only now, several months later, that I wish I had stayed and enjoyed the evening of Irish music.
Today I had cycled 59.69 miles in great weather.
Friday 23 July
bill for dinner, bed and breakfast was £47.63.
Today the weather was perfect and the wind was behind me for a change. I headed for Roscommon along minor roads. The east coast of Ireland was 122 miles ahead (in a straight line) but I intended to take a few detours on the way.
I left Galway at 1015 and headed back the way I had come the day before. After a steep climb out of Galway I eventually found the R339 and headed east. After the junction with the N18 the road was almost empty. I could see the road ahead of me gradually descending for many miles into the interior of Ireland. With the wind behind me I averaged about 22 mph for quite a few miles.
I passed a young guy hitching a lift and when I looked round I noticed him getting into a car. About half an hour later I saw him again just getting into another car. I reckon he could make the same distance as me in a day, just by sticking his thumb in the air.
The weather improved as the day progressed. It started cloudy and cool but became warm and sunny by the time I reached Menlough, becoming quite hot by the time I reached Roscommon.
As I approached a farm I noticed two large dogs in the road. They didnt notice me approach but as soon as I passed they gave chase. My immediate reaction was to shout at them loudly. It stopped them in their tracks and it was with relief that I continued on my way. The episode reminded me of a book on Philosophy that I had recently read. It stated that one of the distinctions between humankind and the animal world is our ability to distinguish between cause and effect. If a cat is lying on the floor in a room and a ball comes rolling in the cat will give chase. Just as the dogs chased me. If a person had been sitting in the room and a ball came rolling in he or she would have looked to see where it had come from. Imagine if every person gave chase every time a cyclist went by.
As I cycled through the small village of Menlough I saw a wedding party as they were leaving the church. As I passed, I waved and the whole party waved back. I stopped on the outskirts of the village and had lunch as I enjoyed the beautiful countryside.
As I crossed the county border from Galway into Roscommon the quality of the roads deteriorated significantly. There were many potholes and all the villages seemed to have recently dug up and poorly repaired roads. Again I saw many new houses being built, for mile after mile, with many of the older style houses being left derelict.
I followed the minor roads and passed through many delightful villages such as Casleblakeney and Caltra. Just before I passed through Ballyforan I crossed the well-named River Suck and then cycled another seven miles or so and joined the N63 into the county town of Roscommon.
Roscommon is a very busy and affluent town. As I entered the town centre at 4 p.m., after cycling 55.78 miles, I kept an eye out for a hotel. I found a café/bar offering accommodation and checked in. The rooms were ideal and cost only I£25 a night for bed and breakfast. I had dinner at a nearby hotel and later in the evening a local festival was started with a firework display. The town reminded me of Arudy in France where I visited as a cyclist last year.
After a good breakfast I left Roscommon heading for Carrick on Shannon via Strokestown, Elphin, and Boyle. I noted that Carrick was a common name for towns in Ireland; I had gone through Carrick on Suir and was intending to visit Carrick on Shannon and later Carrickmacross.
I left at 1015 and headed north on the N61 in dull weather. After about 5 miles I left the main road and took the R368 into Strokestown. As I headed north the clouds became darker and persistent drizzle set in.
Strokestown was little more than a village but on the map it looked about the same size as Roscommon. Between Strokestown and Boyle there were a few villages but for most of the 23 miles I saw nothing but country lanes, green fields, trees and only occasional vehicles.
Boyle is a very picturesque town with many tourists visiting the local attractions. I stopped for lunch at the roadside and spent a pleasant half-hour watching the traffic on the N4 either heading north to Sligo or east toward Dublin.
I had had an easy cycling day, reaching Carrick on Shannon after cycling only 42.04 miles.
The River Shannon is the longest in the British Isles at 220 miles. It rises at the foot of a mountain to the east of Sligo and flows through many of the Loughs on its way through Limerick and on to the Atlantic Ocean. The river is navigable for many miles with a canal link into Dublin.
Carrick on Shannon is a small town that is dedicated to tourism. There were many small boats on the river and a helicopter was taking off from the riverside as I crossed the bridge into the town. It was only about 1430 but as the sun came out I decided to stay in the town and look for accommodation. I checked into a small guesthouse near the bridge and then explored the town.
There had been a wedding and, in one of the pubs in the evening, I saw the young priest joining the guests. He was with a group of other young men and was chewing gum, smoking, drinking and eyeing up the ladies.
Sunday 25 July
Blood sugar at 0830 = 2 Insulin dose = 8
awoke feeling the effects of low blood sugar but made up for it with a hefty
Bed and breakfast at the guesthouse cost only I£16 (£13.20). The lady asked me in which direction I was heading. I told her that I was heading east but she then asked, "which direction is that?" After I had spilled my spoonful of corn flakes into my lap I told her that I was heading toward Dublin.
I left Carrick on Shannon at 1000 and turned off the Dublin road (N4) after 5 miles to take the R201 to Mohill. As I entered the centre of the quiet town the sun appeared and the wind dropped. I cycled slowly through the empty streets to the town square where I saw a group of men packing away stalls that must have been used for a festival the previous night. There was a fat policeman leaning against his patrol car passing the time of day with them. The scene was one from a bygone time.
As I passed through the town I saw no signposts. There were many road junctions but I only saw one sign on the outskirts of the town pointing skywards. I took the most likely road and hoped for the best.
After I had climbed above the town, I approached a downhill bend and applied my front brake. The calliper had worked loose and came adrift leaving me hurtling down a hill with a car coming toward me. I managed to get the bike under control and stop. I soon tightened the calliper and got back on my way.
stayed on the back roads all the way to Killishandra passing through some more
beautiful towns. I stopped at a shop in the town to buy food for lunch. A group
of youngsters asked me where I had cycled from and seemed amazed when I told
them. I then stopped at a roadside picnic spot to eat the food I had bought.
Killishandra is in a beautiful area with many lakes but most of them are hidden from the roads. There was very little traffic and the conditions were ideal for cycling.
By the time I reached the county town of Cavan I was looking for a hotel but in the whole town I didnt see one. I left Cavan and continued eastwards. Just on the outskirts of Cavan I passed an army barracks that looked deserted. I remembered that the Irish army had a large presence in Bosnia.
I was heading in the general direction of Dundalk so I left the N3 and took the R165. At the junction there was a large roadside Inn. I entered expecting accommodation to be available but a gorgeous barmaid told me that there were no rooms at the Inn. She then told me that her mother did B&B in the next town and phoned her. Unfortunately she was booked up so I thanked her and left.
Bailieborough was about twelve miles away. As it turned out there was a good hotel with rooms available, but at this stage I didnt know what to expect. I found the twelve hilly miles quite difficult and I had to stop to eat to make sure I had enough energy to get there.
The countryside seemed to change with many short but quite steep hills. The weather was pleasant with sunshine as I entered Bailieborough at 1800 hours and checked in at the Bailieborough Hotel.
After quite a tiring day it was good to have a long shower and change into clean clothes. Just after I left the shower there was a knock on the door and a member of staff told me that water from the shower was cascading into the hall two floors below. I proved that it was no fault of mine but she still made me feel guilty. I had a good meal in the hotel bar and spent the evening reading and drinking a few pints of Guinness.
Blood sugar at 1900 = 4 Insulin dose = 8
Distance cycled = 62.60 miles.
Monday 26 July
Blood sugar at 0830 = 3 Insulin dose = 6
was charged only £25.33 for dinner, bed and breakfast.
I had two and a half cycling days to get to Dublin to catch the ferry on Wednesday at lunchtime.
The road to Shercock was fantastic with low hills, small lakes full of fish, judging by the signs, and lots of trees. I saw a large male fox silhouetted against the blue sky as it ran across a field to a stream at the side of the road in front of me. I stopped to try and get a photograph but I didnt see it again.
reached Shercock after eight miles and stopped at a shop to buy sandwiches. The
shopkeeper made me ham and cheese sandwiches and asked me about my journey. I
thanked him and went outside to place the sandwiches in my bag when he came out
and asked if I would like a cup of coffee. I replied "Yes please" and
he asked me in. He led me through the shop to a sun lounge at the back of the
building and left me to enjoy the incredible view from the rear of the building.
There were small hills, many trees and a beautiful lake. A few minutes later he
left his wife in the shop and joined me for a chat.
He told me that he had another property at a lakeside that I had cycled past earlier. He had bought the house from a Dutchman he had befriended but who had recently died. The Dutchman had asked for his ashes to be spread over the lake and my host was organising a visit from the Dutchmans family to witness the ceremony the following week. He then asked me about my journey and wanted to know about where I was from and where I worked. When I mentioned Dounreay he said that he was not happy about the radioactivity in the Irish Sea. I stressed that at Dounreay we are now focussed on decommissioning and restoring the environment. When I had finished the coffee I shook hands with the kindly gentleman and thanked him for his hospitality and after getting directions for Carrickmacross (there were no signposts) I continued on my way.
It was about 9 miles to Carrickmacross where I arrived at around midday in hot sunshine. I saw the only reference to the troubles in N Ireland at one of the few road-signs in Carrickmacross. It was graffiti on the sign to Crossmaglen that simply stated "IRA Bombs!"
I continued, taking the road to Crossmaglen just over the border in N Ireland but I turned off the road a few miles short of the border and joined the N53 to Dundalk. It was a beautiful area. I stopped at a junction and a car stopped. The driver, he was Irish, asked me for directions to Dundalk. It is important to me to know where I am and where Im going to so I was surprised that an Irishman in his own backyard should need to ask where he was.
The N53 was a good road but as I approached Dundalk the state of the road deteriorated. Speeding could not have been a problem in this town, as any car travelling over 25 mph would have been seriously damaged.
I passed through the town centre once on the lookout for a hotel then returned and checked in at the Clanbrassil Hotel. It was a delightful old hotel and again my room was about as far away from the entrance as it was possible. I had to climb a number of staircases and walk along several corridors to my room.
After a shower and changing into clean clothes I explored the centre of Dundalk and did some shopping.
That evening I dined at the hotel. The meal was good but the service was poor. I was charged £39.66 for dinner, bed and breakfast.
Today I had cycled a gentle 34.34 miles.
In most of the hotels I had stayed in on this trip I could watch the BBC Television News. BBC Northern Ireland provided local news. There were many incidents reported (punishment beatings, firearm offences) that didnt get a mention on the national BBC News. If they had happened in London they would have made the headlines.
Blood sugar at 1830 = 5 Insulin dose = 8 units.
Tuesday 27 July
After a good Irish breakfast I left Dundalk at 0930 and took the main N1 road south. After 9 miles I left the N1 and took a minor road from Castlebellingham to Annagassan. The view to the north was fantastic. I could see Dundalk Bay and the town of Dundalk in the distance with the Mourne Mountains providing a spectacular backdrop.
The back roads were a joy to cycle. There was no traffic, the weather was fantastic and the scenery was beautiful.
I passed through the outskirts of the old town of Drogheda. It wasnt built for motor cars or for the heavy lorries that passed through on their way to Dublin.
I continued on the N1 to Balbriggan then took the scenic route through Skerries and Lusk. I then rejoined the N1 and soon approached the outskirts of the town of Swords. It was ideally located for me to cycle to Dublin the next day so I entered the town looking for accommodation. The only hotel I found was full but further up the high street I found a large B&B establishment with a spare double room at £33.40 a night.
Distance cycled = 51.94 miles.
I took a shower and relaxed on the bed before going out to find a restaurant. It was still quite early, 1630, so I decided to read for a while but I fell asleep. The next thing I knew it was 2100 and my blood sugar level was very low.
I was disorientated but I knew that I had to eat some Dextrosol (glucose tablets). I could see them at the other side of the room but I couldnt get to them. It took me one hour to cross the room and eat sufficient to bring me round. By this time it was too late to get a meal so I skipped the evening insulin injection and went to a nearby shop. I could only get biscuits but it was enough to get me through the night.
Wednesday 28 July
It was another fine day with warm sunshine. I had breakfast in a strange room that was packed with antiques and hundreds of small ornaments.
left Swords at 0900 feeling good and re-joined the N1 for Dublin. I had four
hours before the ferry left. As I approached Dublin airport the road became a
motorway so I had to leave it and take minor roads. Unfortunately there were no
road-signs so I decided to find the coast and then head south. I endured some
very heavy traffic but when I eventually found the coast there were excellent
cycle paths into the town centre.
I soon found good signs to the terminal and arrived in good time to catch the ferry to Liverpool. It left Dublin at 1305 and arrived in Liverpool at 1710 at a cruising speed of 36 Knots.
The crossing was very pleasant in calm conditions and hot sunshine. I noticed quite a few sandbanks above the water many miles from the shoreline. I also noticed some of the members of the crew being cruel to passengers behind their backs. Last year when I travelled with P&O to Spain, the crew treated each passenger as if they were important. The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has a lot to learn.
After leaving the ferry in Liverpool, I left the port area looking for the Southport road. I intended to find a hotel near Liverpool and then cycle back to Tonys house near Blackpool the next day.
I passed through Royal Birkdale and noticed some very large and expensive houses all of the way into Southport.
I arrived in Southport after cycling 24 miles from the ferry port in Liverpool at just after 7 p.m. At the first Guesthouse I stopped at (although they all called themselves hotels) the guy said that they had no single rooms available. I said that I didnt mind paying for a double but he said he had none of those either. I crossed the road to the grandly named Alhambra Hotel and got a great welcome from the elderly couple who ran it. I was charged only £19 for bed and breakfast.
After a welcome shower I went to a nearby Belgian restaurant and had a terrific meal to the embarrassing accompaniment of a live four piece jazz band. After each number not one person applauded.
Blood sugar at 2000 = 8 Insulin dose = 8 units
Distance cycled = 49.99 miles.
The lady at the Guesthouse asked me many questions about my travels and my bike. When I told her how much it was worth she insisted that I took it into the kitchen overnight. Just before I left the next morning she took a photograph of the bike, her husband and me. They were nice people.
Thursday 29 July
I left Southport at 0910 and followed the coast road as far as possible. I could see the Blackpool tower in the distance across the Ribble estuary. It was a fantastic cloudless day with the temperature climbing sharply. The going was easy all of the way to Preston but I got a slow puncture just before I got there. I pumped the tyre up every four miles or so and got to Tonys in Poulton Le Fylde without having to repair it.
There were excellent cycle tracks all of the way through Lytham Saint Annes to Blackpool.
Lytham Saint Annes looked good in the
sunshine with many people sunbathing all the way along the coast. Even Blackpool
looked good in the sunshine with the trams, horse drawn carriages, and thousands
of people from all over Britain enjoying their holidays.
Tony showed me the area around his home then we had a Barbecue in the warm evening sunshine.