Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Great Grail Grab Grand Tour - Day 2

Day 2 started well with the weather looking much better than Wales. Awakening to bright sunshine was a bonus and it did give me a chance to get all my gear (sort of) dried out. I was soon on the road and although it soon clouded over most of the day remained dry and warm.

I headed off west and discovered I was making excellent progress on the very nice main roads (shame about the back roads).  A stop for fuel was a nice surprise as at  about 1 euro 60 per litre it was costing me about the same to fill the tank in euros as it normally does in pounds. Being Sunday a lot of places were closed (many permanently a sign of the Euro crisis I should think) but supermarkets were open so I stopped at a Tescos for a coffee at Clonmel.

Next stop would be Tipperary, which unlike the song wasn't a long, long way!

Actually it turned out to be a longer way to Tipperary than I thought. I was riding on the N24 towards the town when I saw a sign for the Glen of Aherlow Scenic Route. Checking the map this seemed to be the R663 which I could follow for 9km and then turn north on to the R664 which would take me up to Tipperary.

A fantastic twisty and bumpy little route along the northern edge of the Galty Mountains was great fun but after about 15km I was wondering where the turning to Tipperary was? I passed a sign on the right to Lisvarrinane, which I had expected to be on my route. Another look at the map and I twigged I wasn't on the R663 at all but a smaller "L" Road to the south, so I headed up the road and reached the R663 to the west of Lisvarrinane, doubling back through the village I found a great stop for a photo of my bike with the Galty Mountains behind.


The only downside was the ever present power cables that seem to get in the way all the time!

I never did find the turning onto the R664 so after another fun ride, spoilt a bit by stretches of over enthusiastic top dressing (just like back home then)!

reaching the N24 again, I turned left to Tipperary and was once again glad of my error as this stretch had some fantastic sweeping bends on immaculate tarmac.

A fairly uneventful ride through pleasant but not exactly great countryside took me to Limerick where I took advantage of the new bypass and toll tunnel (1 euro for a bike) under the River Shannon. I then broke my own rule and hit the brand new M18 up to Gort, on the basis that I couldn't easily work the non motorway route? this was only 35km after all.  Another short stretch of N Road took me to Galway and after a frustrating ride round the city centre a few times where i could see the dome of the cathedral but couldn't find my way to it!

I eventually worked out which way to go and grabbed a photo...


Leaving Galway, I avoided the obvious direct route north to my next stop, Ballina and instead headed north west into the mountains of Connemara. This was some fantastic riding on twisty, bumpy but very scenic and very challenging roads...


After reaching Leenane, I turned Northg East and more fantastic roads and scenery, running between the Partry Mountains to my right and the Sheefry Hills to my left. Sadly this signalled the start of some heavy rain, so after a quick stop to don waterproofs, I headed up to Westport and then along the N5 to Castlebar, as I left the town I could see blue skies to my left and dark black clouds ahead. Luckily I soon turned left onto the N58 and towards Ballina and sunshine!

I found my next location, the Cathedral of St Muredach in Ballina and grabbed the obligatory photo...


It was now six in the evening, so I needed to find somewhere to eat and a campsite. The road atlas showed two nearby caravan sites (campsites being very rare in Ireland), so I decided to head for one on the coast at Inishcrone. Sadly this turned out to be a huge static caravan park in a fairly typical seaside resort, so I stopped at a fish and chip shop for dinner, well it seemed like the right thing to do at the sea side.

I used my phone to google "campsites near Ballina" and after rejecting those near Ballina in Australia, I found the correct city, only to discover I should have headed for the other "caravan" site at a village called Belleck. After returning the 9km back down the road to the junction with N59 back into Ballina, I spotted the rain cover from my tank bag sitting in the middle of the road: I hadn't even realised I had lost it! Obviously when getting my camera out at the cathedral I had taken the cover off but can't remember what I had done with it. I must have stuck it on the back of the seat, so good luck that I was forced to return that way.

It turned out that Belleck was only five minutes out of the City and discovered a pleasant little site that allowed camping on the caravan pitches

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