A Weekend in Glenmalure.

Another great Touratech Ireland event organised by the team at Overlanders and AMI.

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A great opportunity to meet up with friends in stunning Glenmalure.

Glenmalure was the venue this past weekend for the annual TouIMG_0901 (2)ratech Ireland Travel Event. It’s in it’s third year I believe and Derek, Hazel, David, Craig and Gary and the extended Overlanders and AMI family did themselves proud again. Mrs Rambler and I headed there on Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure bike. The event was excellent, as we have grown to expect, set in a magnificent location in the heart of Wicklow. Glenmalure is a beautiful valley in the mountains, very popular with walkers, climbers and cyclists as well as motorcyclists. The list of events for the weekend was impressive. Ride-outs, off-road skills and presentations about exotic biking locations such as Morocco, Asia and Siberia, for example. The photographs from the trips made exciting viewing. Of course there was a fine selection of exhibitor stands too with bikes, clothing and luggage and all kinds of gear to be examined and IMG_0909 (2)discussed and plenty of bikes to try out. The selection of bikes that AMI had on display in their marquee was magnificent. We thought the numbers attending were even bigger this year with bikers from many countries having travelled to this event as well as a good number of the Hakuna Matata members too. Hakuna Matata is a motorcycling club that Derek is a founding member of. It was nice to meet up with some of the guys again and join the venerable ranks of froth blowers on the picnic benches outside the Lodge in good company.

Glenmalure Lodge had plenty of fine food and bevvies to sample. It is a cosy family run hotel, restaurant and pub. To be fair it has a captive audience in this valley but it is a distinct favourite with explorers in this part of Wicklow, the ‘Garden of Ireland’. It is close to some popular attractions such as Lugnaquilla, a favourite peak to climb in Leinster, that is just south of Dublin; Laragh and Glendalough are close-by and both are also very popular destinations for walkers and others interested in outdoor pursuits; and, The Wicklow Way is very close, as is Avondale House and Avoca. The Lodge is a firm favourite of ours and true to form, the food was top class as usual, both for evening fare and the full breakfast we had the next morning. There was great music in the bar at night and lots of people availed of it for a spot of dancing.

Mrs. Rambler and I stayed in a B&B just a few steps up the road called Coolalinga and it was a quaint little spot that was nice and comfortable. IMG_0915 (2)We received reports from those that stayed next door in The Wilderness Lodge, self catering accommodation and they were equally impressed. The camping area was well populated with probably about fifty camper vans and lots of tenting bikers. I believe there may have been one or two late night parties there, with the occasional barbecue being fired up for a sausage or burger after returning from a little socialising in the Lodge. Pat, a friend of ours, said he had been catching some ZZZs when he heard the rattle of the barbecue and shortly thereafter got the mouth-watering smell of sausages. When he ventured out of his camp he was immediately invited to sample the wares by the friendly camping neighbours and a mini party ensued.

On Sunday I was investigating one of the exhibitor stands where the Royal Enfield retro bikes were on view and fine single cylinder thumpers they are, as well as the great side-car rig on offer. Chris, from Sprocket and Hubs motorcycle shop, was telling Mrs Rambler and I that they are hiring bikes as well as selling the Royal Enfield range in their shop in Adare. I was closely examining the Benelli 502 on display, which is a relatively newcomer to the smaller adventure bike market when Chris invited me to take it for a spin. IMG_0917 (2)I hopped on and took it over the hilly terrain to Laragh and back. A distance of about 30 kilometres I would estimate. After the big Vee (V-Strom 1000) I had to learn pretty quickly not to be shy with the throttle on this 500cc twin, but it’s a fun little bike that’s well planted, with a comfortable seat and a very effective screen. It’s not going to knock any of the big name adventure bikes off their pedestals but at it’s price range it would make a good alternative as a cheap commuter or a weekend traveller. The price in question is 6900 Euros. For an additional 800 euros there is a fantastic set of GIVI luggage, big enough to fit a kitchen table and chairs. It certainly would be a great option as a hire bike for someone visiting here that wanted something to bike tour around the Wild Atlantic Way, at 100 euros a day, which includes the basic insurance deal. Thanks for the spin, Chris. And a particular word of congratulations to the team at Overlanders and AMI for a smashing motorcycling weekend.

 

In the Summertime When the Weather is Hot.

Great weather in Ireland means biking. Hot weather in Clare brings on a need to visit the picturesque village of Doolin.

High temperatures in May in Ireland definitely means bike time.

It’s getting close to my big trip in Europe but the weather has been so warm and dry in Ireland DSC05705 (2)that it would be almost impossible to resist a little motorcycling. The Wicklow hills are in my back yard so myself and Mrs. Rambler did a trip to Powerscourt Waterfall. At 400 feet or 121 metres it’s quite impressive. It’s in a mountain valley near Enniskerry about half an hour South of Dublin. It’s a very popular place to visit and particularly when the weather is warm it gets a large number of visitors. We combined it with a visit to some of the quaint villages in the area. Roundwood, Laragh and Glendalough are only a short distance on the V-Strom and we did a quick spin up to Sally gap and Lake Tay which are only a stone’s throw away as well. There’s always something to see in the Wicklow area and lots of people come out to take advantage of it when the weather is good, and why not. We enjoy hill-walking a lot and Wicklow certainly has a lot of possibilities for outdoor pursuits.

Last Monday I was checking my favourite weather app and noticed it was indicating 23 degrees in Clare so I packed the tent and a few other bits and DSC05733 (2)pieces on to the V-Strom and that’s a fairly easy task as it came with panniers and I added a top box. The trip to Doolin in County Clare is about three and a half hours but I stopped a few times for fuel for the Suzuki and fuel in the form of coffee for me. I was delighted that the app was right in relation to temperatures. The readout on the dash showed a steady increase as I went West. By the time I hit Clare it was staying steady at 23 degrees Celsius. It even showed 24 degrees briefly with a blue sky and plenty of sunshine. I rocked up to O’Connor’s Riverside Camping and Caravan site about 4 pm in the evening and set up the tent. DSC05779 (2)I hadn’t done it for a while but I got it up without too much of a problem. I have stayed at this site before and it’s really smashing. The staff are friendly and helpful and I also noticed a new addition in the form of “glamping” yurts. I had never seen these in the flesh before and they definitely made my little tent look far away from glamorous. I couldn’t believe how luxurious they looked inside and had to take a picture to show Mrs. Rambler. If we get a chance later in the summer we might just give them a go.

I spent an hour or so exploring on the V-Strom. It’s only a few minutes to Doolin Pier where you can take a ferry ride to either the island or to view DSC05756 (2)the Cliffs of Moher. I visited some of the little towns nearby too. Lahinch and Lisdoonvarna are only short distances away. When I got back to the tent I parked up the bike and walked up to O’Connor’s pub which was always a great spot for food and music. By now I had built up a good appetite. I was relying on previous experience and was not disappointed. The food was as good as I had hoped. DSC05767 (2)It’s always a good place for seafood and the service is quick and efficient but I was obviously too early for music. Not too worry though because Doolin is a great place for traditional music and after a leisurely walk taking in the beautiful red sunset I visited some of the other pubs. They were all very busy and the music and poetry renditions were great. It is hard to believe that Doolin could be so busy this early in the year. It seemed like there were twice as many visitors from outside Ireland as from within the country. As is usual in these homely places with nice music and lots of visitors, everyone talks to everyone, and it’s a nice way to meet people and have a relaxing evening.

Back to reality the next morning. I realised why I don’t chose to stay in the tent too often. I was a little stiff to say the least of it. It’s nice to do it occasionally but I don’t think I’d like to be crawlingDSC05730 (2) into a tent for a few nights in a row. I folded away the tent and sleeping bag and packed up the bike. I decided to forgo the pleasure of cooking my own breakfast even though the kitchen facilities in the Riverside site are first rate. I stopped not far from Bunratty Castle and  enjoyed a hearty full Irish and then set off for home. It was a nice trip in brilliant weather but now its time to start getting ready for a longer bike adventure, further afield.

As I mentioned earlier, I am taking the ferry to France shortly so today I visited the AMI (Adventure Motorcycles Ireland) shop in Gorey to have someone else throw an eye on the V-Strom before the big adventure. Of course there was no sign of the lads. Gary, Craig and Derek are off working hard investigating routes for future tours or actually guiding a tour at the moment. David had just headed off somewhere before I arrived. It’s amazing how these guys always find somewhere urgent to go on their bikes to somewhere interesting and exotic, like Portugal or Greece or Morocco, where the weather is good. It’s hard work but someone has to do it. Which left Joanna and Conor minding the fort. Which they were doing admirably. Conor had a quick check on the bike and we adjusted a few things, all with a view to satisfying myself that everything was in order for the anticipated high mileage in the next few weeks that I am really looking forward to.

A Little Star of a Village in Wicklow.

Mrs Rambler and I visit Grangecon, with some friends. A little village with a big heart.

Grangecon is a little village with a big heart.

Wicklow is a great county for scenery and mountain walks just south of Dublin city. It’s top notch tooSONY DSC for scenic roads and tracks for motorcycle adventures. We discovered a gem of a village, with a population of about 200 recently when Mrs. Rambler booked us and friends into Moore’s oSONY DSCf Grangecon. Grangecon (Irish: Gráinseach Choinn / meaning Granary of the Hound), is just a couple of miles from Baltinglass. Moore’s is a traditional old time pub and grocery store and also a Tapas Restaurant with accommodation. It’s a very old business that’s been in the Moore family for generations. When we arrived we inspected our accommodation and it was two perfect  little offerings in the courtyard of the restaurant. They were quaintly painted up and sign written to be a post office and a shop. Both were equally well laid out inside with a double and single bed, en-suite bathroom and all the nice little touches that make the difference.

We ventured out on the street and the street was very busy. I don’t think we have seen so many sandwiches, currant buns and large vats of tea in one place for a very long time. There was a SONY DSCtractor run taking place and there was much excitement involved in the proceedings. I don’t know if tractor runs are a uniquely Irish thing but they seem to be very popular here. Young children in particular seemed to love it, some sporting their favourite tractor manufacturers peaked hats and overalls. There were people gathered around the sandwiches and tea emporium, which was a few tables set out close to one another on the street, with the ladies of the tea and sandwich committee making sure nobody was hungry. There were also some people blowing the froth of a few cold ones in the seating area outside the front of Moore’s. SONY DSCYes, I know it’s April in Ireland but it was a warm day and it looked comfortable there. We left Grangecon and headed off into the Wicklow hills for a walk out in the fresh mountain air to work up an appetite. The choice of places to visit is endless in Wicklow. Lugnaquilla, the highest peak in Leinster is not far away, Laragh,  Sally gap and Glendalough are a bit over the hill. Stately homes such as Russborough House and Avondale House are close. There are too many attractions to list. After a walk in the hills we paid a quick visit to Baltinglass.

When we got back to Grangecon, the party was in full swing. The intrepid tractor drivers and their groupies were ensconced in position, holding up the bar in Moore’s, discussing the merits SONY DSCof tractors, vintage and new. Horses, winners and losers at recent races were also a topic being mulled over. There was a great deal of discussion relating to mysterious farm equipment and tractor diff-locks, whatever they are. One guy was giving a full blown commentary on a race he had seen. He was holding his binoculars, which were actually two empty pint glasses, to his eyes, following the action on the track and informing his audience of the progress of the runners and riders. Another guy was pretending to be one of the more successful steeds and was galloping in front of the man with the binoculars. There was a man SONY DSC“playing the spoons” and we also spied an old metal drinks tray that we were told doubled as a bodhrán, a drum to beat. The make-shift band is apparently referred to as “Christy and the Quare Ones” in jest, or so we were told. A couple of girls were telling us of their mishaps that day. One had driven a truck containing horses to an event in a neighbouring county and on the way back had been told of a complaint of her driving. “Sure the size of the thing on them country roads”. Her friend told us of her mishap with a Honda 70 or 90. She had got a spin on it and managed to wheelie it into a garden hedge, with a passenger in tow, I think. Anyway, it was all exceptionally good humoured and everyone chatted away to us as if we were long time friends. Salt of the earth people who loved any excuse to get together and have a party and a chat with old friends or new.

The food we had in the Casa Tapas Restaurant was fantastic even if my companions didn’t share my conviction that we should get one of everything on the menu. It was probablySONY DSC a good thing because there was a lot of food, of the very tasty variety, in what was brought out to us. Calamari, pulled pork, sweet potato fries, chicken wings, patatas bravas and prawn dishes, to give you an idea of what we did sample. SONY DSCThe Desserts on offer were top class too. The breakfast the next morning was very tasty and there was plenty of it. I’d advise anyone who finds their mouth watering at the food, as well as the location, to book early. Apparently they are often booked out many weekends in advance. As well as the obvious reasons that I have described, the proximity of Rathsallagh, which is a popular golf  and wedding venue, means that it is not always available. If you get a booking and go there I think that you will find that Paul and Karen  are great hosts, and like me you will definitely want to pay compliments to the Chef.