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• Well we were awash with children and grandchildren yesterday which was great and I cannot believe how much our youngest grandchild Stella had grown in 6 weeks….she was 6 week old when we left and she definitely looks older than 12 weeks now..…as well as incredibly cute. All the other grandchildren have grown as well and Bayley is now taller than Norm so he is pretty impressed about that. Big change in a short time.
• Our trip home went pretty well and we slept in fits and starts but oh my God was it ever good to be in our own bed last night. Went to bed at 6pm and didn’t get out until 8am this morning. PERFECT!
• Onto the bikes this morning to go and see Norm Snr and cut his lawns then home through Noojee and Willowgrove. Nice to be back on our local roads and enjoying our own scenery.
• We are progressively unpacking and packing away what we need to so will get to a debrief of the trip eventually.

Nice to see some familiar local colour…..and the bikes look good as well. Ha ha.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Cannot believe that we are at the end of our 3 trips / 2 year plan to visit the UK and explore the transport and logistics industry / infrastructure while seeing some of the country.
• We have discovered many things are very similar to home and others vastly different to suit the population base, the terrain and history over time. So much of the land here was settled before it was surveyed where in Australia more of it was surveyed before settlement as an example so we have fewer legacy issues with lots of infrastructure placement for instance.
• It has been a wonderful experience and while we would love to continue we want the time and opportunity to do the same thing in other places (on sealed roads / tarmac of course) so will explore the possibilities for doing a similar exercise in the USA and Canada over the next year or so. So, as they say ‘watch this space!’

Bits and Bobs – some of the things I will miss:

British rural farmland scenes I remember from childhood books and china from my Grandma’s.

Beacons all over the country like this one at Chislet (up the hill from Phil and Jeans) which were used centuries ago to alert the population of impending danger.

The good old Gate Inn at Marshside………..Baked spuds to die for and really fast WIFI.

This video was shot by Norm as we headed across a field towards a farm (with a genuine Oast House behind it) on our way back to Marshside…..and this was a pretty wide one compared to a lot we travelled on and we could see what was coming here instead of the luck of the draw and who will dart out around the next corner / hedge / thicket. We SO should have had some decent video gear. (If you cannot follow the link copy and paste in yur browser)


Last nights’ Accommodation:

St Kilda, Marshside (England) UK

We’ve said it all before. This is a lovely home away from home for us and it’s a bit sad to think we may not be back. Our hosts (Phil and Jean) have managed over time to miss a good deal of us…….but we don’t have a complex about that. We don’t we don’t we don’t’ Assuming we will be back in the future some time we just won’t give them as much notice so they cannot organise a full or partial absence. Ha ha. We hope to return the favour for them or their family in Australia in the not too distant future.

St Kilda, Marshside with a couple of very clean bikes compliments of Norm.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Started the day with a glorious sleep in and woke to sunny skies.
• We continued to sift and sort the luggage we had taken on the bikes, what we plan to throw out here or in Faversham when we drop the bikes and how we organise what will be taken home.
• A leisurely breakfast followed then we got on the bikes to have one last look at some of the local sites we have enjoyed and where we started our initial exploring to become acclimatised early in our trips.
• We finished off our day by enjoying a meal with Gareth and Dawn and reminisced about this crazy expedition we have been on and the friendships which have developed along the way. How blessed are we!

Many lovely sand beaches on our ride both small and large. This is a view towards Margate from the east.

Lunch at Captain Digby, Kingsgate near Margate. Quirky old place which has survived where many haven’t. This whole area was a popular holiday destination for London’s rich and famous many years ago but with travel costs reducing and international travel becoming achievable this is more a destination spot for average folk like us. The consequence is that there are a lot of old tired places about and not a lot of substance to replace it (my opinion). Doesn’t stop the locals from having a good time.

Bleak House, Broadstairs the one time home of Charles Dickens.

Carnival time at Broadstairs and a peak to the beach way below the cliff top festivities. Many big cliffs through this area and development both up and down.

Ramsgate from the sea wall back across the marina to the town. Boats, boats and more boats as well as dry dock in operation.

An ice cream at Herne Bay was in order before we headed back to Marshside.

Dinner at the Gate Inn Marshside. L - R Gareth, Dawn, Nola and Norm.

Bits and Bobs:

Poor resolution photo of some of the wind turbines off the coast around the Margate / Broadstairs area. A group of 100 originals and 175 new ones under construction as well.

And some of the ships which look after them. The front one lays out cable from the turbines and the two behind are support vessels. A lot of infrastructure tied up when things aren’t on dry land….mind you there probably aren’t warring neighbours complaining over who gets the rental from the placement of the towers either!

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Overcast but dry all day so no wet weather gear. Yay!
• We rode around Bakewell ogling at the lovely houses and picturesque views then headed off to travel through more of the Peak National Park on our way south.

A sample of the Memorial gardens at Bakewell which were just beautiful with lots of garden beds and spots to sit and reflect on the day. Beautifully laid out in between spectacular old buildings. A great credit to them.

• We had a lot of ground to cover today so a good bit of it was on Motorways and fast and congested travel so no time for doing too much sightseeing when that was happening.
• The GPS directed us off the highway instead of putting us on the bypass road which would have been the fastest route and sent us straight through the guts of Nottingham which must have been the shorter distance. We saw a collection of quirky, beautiful and some neglected buildings as well as streets of all sizes and quality with interesting street names which reminded us of the Robin Hood story, got pretty hot in our bike gear with all the tooing and froing and got some fuel and got out of there.

A sample of some of the lovely country views with tiny settlements nestled in the valleys.

• We rode through more of the Dale country and soaked up the many views of rolling hills intersected with hedges and more substantial trees then climbed up the sandstone cliff face and moved on.
• Stamford for lunch was a treat. A pretty and quirky little town and we had an English family asking us where the Market Square was in spite of the sign on the back of the bike. Needless to say we weren’t a lot of help but could tell them that the sign on the wall behind them said the ‘Red Lion Square’ so perhaps that was it….who knows? We certainly didn’t.

Red Lion Square at Stamford. It looked like it had been recently repaved and there were no lines for traffic direction or parking on it and it was a free for all!

• We fed ‘Cambridge’ into the GPS in the hope it would find a route away from the Motorways but it was not to be convinced. Damn! Anyway we rode around Cambridge for quite some time being redirected and redirected and redirected around massive holes in the streets so not sure what work is happening there; just know it was a lot. This was a city of bicycles! They were everywhere with people of all ages on them. Obviously there was a predominance of University age people but all ages were represented and they were parked up against buildings and trees and anything vaguely vertical all through the streets. I think we saw more bicycles here than we have seen for our whole trip!

Now anyone can take photos of awesome University buildings in a University City but no....we only stopped at the station car park to try and get our bearings so here is our offereing, some of the bikes (small number) at the Cambridge Railway station.

• The later it got, the more doubtful the sky got, and the more I just wanted to get in so we had an occasional stop for coffee, hot chocolate and fuel and reached Marshside before any rain. It was nice to get the gear off the bikes dry and nice to just be in even though we are feeling a little sad that our UK odyssey is drawing to a close.

Bits and Bobs:

A sign on the wall in the American Diner we had a coffee in yesterday. Do people really do that these days?

And another….had to take it…a very good vintage that year!

Last nights’ Accommodation:

The Rutland Arms Hotel, Bakewell (England) UK

A beautiful old building well refurbished decorated and maintained. Comfortable public spaces and our room was a comfortable place to retreat to. The hotel is in the main square of the town made famous by a previous owner of the hotel who invented the ‘Bakewell Pudding’ which we shared for sweets last night. Quite yummy and the rest of the food was very nice also and the staff was helpful and cheery. The town is delightful and the area would be a treat to explore further and the hotel a good spot to use as a base to do it from. The town itself is a bustling place with major regional intersecting roads and what looks a healthy commercial community. Good to see.

The Rutland Arms Hotel, Bakewell.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Bit of a wet start to the day.
• A lot of motorway wet and fast travel this morning but balanced by warm dry and country road and less traffic later in the day.
• At the end of the day, just when we thought we had seen it all we rode from Sheffield through country roads to Bakewell and what a treat! Beautiful farmland and winding roads and SPECTACULAR countryside and views. One leafy road after another connected with shady leafy lanes and seeming mossy leafy tunnels with lovely sandstone farmhouses strewn across the hillsides. Just beautiful!

Coffee time…likely to see more of these next year in the USA.

We spotted a sign to Whitby (which we recognise from the Heartbeat show we love for the countryside and music) so had to head in and were rewarded with beautiful heather all over the moors on the way in and out of the town. Spectacular!

We can pick the days…e.g.: riding through Liverpool on Beatles Day and many places on race day so also managed to cop some traffic congestion….well today it was the Whitby Regatta and the town was awash with people. A view beyond the dock to an old Castle and the carousel and fairground to the left. Yummy fish and chips for lunch.

Another view of Whitby before we fought our way across the bridge to get our fish and chips.

Whitby Abbey over the fence. This was high above the town and the car park was full with cars as were the roads way out beyond it and people walking into town for the festivities.

Scarborough South Harbour where the locals and holiday makers were out in force.

A new College building in Sheffield ‘very Eco friendly’ according to the local we spoke to.

Bits and Bobs:

The things you find. Two ships which were in the First Fleet to Australia came from Whitby!

Some shabby parking! Should have taken some lipstick to the windscreen and said what I thought of the parking! I told Norm parking behind the car would have been more appropriate but that could have been problematic if we came back to find them on their sides.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

The Villas, Stannington (England) UK

Lovely comfortable home and not surprisingly spectacular hosts since they are related. Ha ha. Had the best sleep we have had since we have been on the road. Felt greatly welcome and were spoilt rotten and felt part of the whole extended family. Hope we get some visits in Oz.

Lovely comfortable lounge.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Had a great night last night catching up with Jenny and Dave and all their family.
• Started the day today with a sleep in then wandered off for a small walk around Morpeth which was a really pretty well laid out town with some impressive real estate around it.

A street view in Morpeth. The floral displays throughout the town were just beautiful and this doesn’t do justice to them at all.

A newly refurbished Mall, a handy spot in the rain.

The Wansbeck River in the park at Morpeth. Not many boats hired out in the rain today but the kids in them were having fun.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• We headed off with overcast skies and it was soon raining.
• We crossed two spectacular bridges the Tay Bridge at Dundee and the Firth of Forth Bridge in Edinburgh. The first one I was too slow to put my indicator on when we crossed to get Norm’s attention and the second it was pouring with rain with water sheeting across the road making it difficult to see the surface….or very far in front for the road spray and near enough to impossible to see the big red rail bridge beside it so I will rely on the internet to provide a picture of both.
• As we headed off the Forth of Firth Bridge the rain eased then we basically did a ‘U’ turn to get to the road we wanted and road straight into a hailstorm and man did that sting the old legs even though I had long johns, kevlar jeans and waterproof pants on!

The Tay Bridge, Dundee (compliments of the internet).

The Firth of Forth Bridge, Edinburgh (compliments of the internet).

Lunch at Lauder.

An impressive pink sandstone viaduct just out of Lauder.

Jedburgh Abbey…or what remains of it. Been an impressive building.

Mary Queen of Scots House in Jenburgh. A bit of a stretch this title as she only lived in it for 4 weeks apparently and became very ill and nearly died, but some tourist value anyway.

On the Scottish / English Border looking back towards Scotland. ‘Haste ye back’.

Now chilling in Stannington with Normie’s cousin Jenny. L - R Jenny, Dave, \norm, Nola.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Apex City Quay Hotel, Dundee (Scotland) UK

Beautiful building again in a newly developed area on what used to be dockland just a brief stroll to the shops. Lovely room, bathroom beautiful. Food in the restaurant delicious and the staff helpful and relaxed. Good value as they develop a reputation (similar to other areas we have found). Conference groups here so catering for big numbers but not intrusive. Leisure centre again but no swimming for me.

Apex City Quay Hotel, Dundee from the car park

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• We decided instead of taking the route through the lowlands which was suggested to head for the Highland Tourist Route from Inverness to Aberdeen so we could see more of the highlands as we have discovered this is the area which appeals most to us of the Scotland we love and we were not disappointed! We will let the pictures mainly tell the story but add some comments as well.
• It rained all day which was just as well or we wouldn’t have gotten in before dark because the vistas and photo opportunities were just screaming at us all day and the rain prevented the majority of them….the bonus was that the new waterproof pants I bought in Inverness didn’t leak, YAY!
• We saw great rolling hills and plains of harvested fields and intensive farming land in the lowlands both near Inverness and heading to Aberdeen / Dundee.

The first view when we entered the Glenlivett Estate.

• Crossed and followed galloping mountain streams and rivers.
• Miles and miles of heather clad mountainsides.
• Great sweeping water soaked moors.

For those who thought all we had was fun. This is a reasonably low lying ski resort. The artificial snow machine is to the left and the ski lifts are on the right lost in the fog.

• Rode in the densest fog we have EVER ridden in….and no the pic above is not even close. It was quite scary since the road was covered in sheeting water making it almost impossible to see the edges and it was a 14% downhill grade with switchback corners. We stopped whenever we could find a pull off spot to dry the inside and outside of the visors and our glasses. Not pleasant!

Tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere amongst the heather. It has been burnt up to the fence to the left and further over the hill behind.

• Wound through ‘Enchanted Forests’….at least that’s what they looked like with dark understories with mosses ferns and lichen strewn across the ground and up the tree trunks.

After a lot of twisting roads we rounded a corner and below in the valley we spot a castle.

A cute arch (built in 1864) in a very cute little village.

• After lunch we decided not to continue on to Aberdeen but to strike out for Dundee to stay in more high country and away from motorways and high speed traffic.

Glamis Castle and yes the clock on the front confirms we missed the last tour by about 7 minutes. Damn! Never mind we got the photo just before it rained and beat a hasty retreat.

St Pauls Cathedral spire (Dundee) in the distance as the sun is disappearing.

• Now we have booked in to the hotel it has stopped raining and the sun has come out….as of course it would.
• The day was a long one though didn’t feel like that but it felt big (there IS a difference) because the roads and conditions were challenging all day and made for a brilliant ride!

Bits and Bobs:

An interesting unit we found at a servo today. The rear axle on the trailer is a steer axle to assist getting the trailer around tight corners.

Norm spied this quirky arrangement over my shoulder when we were having dinner tonight and said ‘That looks a pretty clapped out old lighthouse’. When I looked over my shoulder I said “Isn’t that a buoy?” to which he replied “I didn’t go round to the back of it to see”. It’s all I have to work with….what can I say?

On a more serious note, Normie's Mum would have turned 90 today and he took this photo some days ago as a remembrance of her and her love of gardens and his memory of her enjoyment of that.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Craigmonie Hotel, Inverness (Scotland) UK

A lovely old building, well cared for and comfortable to be in. Room a comfortable space and the bathroom recently refurbished and comfortable. The food has been great and staff friendly helpful and keen to be involved. A nice spot to chill. It even had a pool and since I was there 2 nights I should have broken out the bathers but didn’t. Worth a stay.

Craigmonie Hotel, Inverness.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• We had a quiet day today doing a bit of exploring but not much riding and this old body appreciated that.
• I have spent a lot of time thinking about my heritage over the time of our trip. I am of English, Irish and Scottish stock and I think seeing the state of things here in time gone by my ancestors believed their descendants would be better off having a chance to make a new start as they did.
• I believe the greatest legacy they have passed on to me is that I am grateful for that new start and do not carry a legacy of hatred for what had been visited on my ancestors so they were obviously strong people and I am grateful for that. I’d like to think any other immigrants to my country would carry that same legacy rather than one of hatred and persecution because it doesn’t help them or anyone else to have a healthy life.

The Memorial on the Culloden Battlefield on Culloden Moor which is the site of defeat in 1746 of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his hastily gathered troops and the end of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. 1,500 of his men died that day compared to only 50 of the English Army (which consisted of English Army and Scottish supporters). There was no mention of how many died from injury after that but 200 of the English soldiers didn’t return to active duty (and they received medical care…..such as it was whereas the Scots didn’t so I guess you can multiply that number by many).

Part of the Culloden Battlefield from the Cairn on the left (with memorial stones for the clans) and the cottage used as the hospital for English troops on the right. I tend to think it would have been a more merciful death on the battlefield after seeing the rudimentary instruments they had. In front of the memorial are a number of cairns erected above the burial pits of the various clans who fought. These were erected in 1881 by the landholder by the name of Forbes as people were coming from all over the land to pay their respects to their ancestors and ask where they were. He may have had the last laugh after all as a Scot as he erected one to the English who died….except it has been identified by X-Ray that this is in the wrong place and it wasn’t just English but Scottish sympathisers. To quote Norm, "this was a mine field not a burial field!”

Cawdor Castle and Norm in the foreground viewing the last Castle he figures he will probably visit….and not at all distressed about that..…just when I was thinking I could incorporate a ‘Where’s Normie’ as opposed to a ‘Where’s Wally’ spot in my photos….ah well I guess you get that. Cawdor Castle is considered ‘The most romantic castle in the Highlands’ with fine paintings, tapestries, furniture, gardens, nature trails and golf courses to explore and we enjoyed the open space and particularly the massive leafy trees we walked through to get to the drawbridge entrance where tree boughs drooped to the ground and extended beyond that. Very quirky.

In the Cawdor Castle Walled garden …and yes it takes the regular garden stuff to make sure it is great to view.

A dramatic Viaduct on a railway which continues on to the great Viaduct we recorded in our 2010 trip which is the one immortalised in the Harry Potter films but this one still looks pretty impressive.

Inverness Castle which has been rebuilt many times over the time Inverness has been settled. Inverness is a very strategic place re trade routes between north and south and east and west so it was always going to be an issue with people / factions seeking supremacy / ultimate rule so over time it was apparently pretty regular for the local population to check out what banner / flag was flying from the top of the castle to know who actually held power today.

Bits and Bobs:

Yesterday we spotted a quad axle low-loader with some sort of big machine on it and as we passed it I was shocked to see an incredible bow towards the road in the drop deck table. If it didn’t bottom out when it hit a decent bump I’d be very surprised and Norm said it was an extendable unit so I wonder if it was able to be retracted when it was empty.

Saw quite a bit of truck traffic yesterday but we were on main roads for a fair while though it did seem more prevalent than in Ireland…any part of Ireland.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Spectacular riding today through the highlands of Scotland.
• Loved being back here. Felt at home again.
• We had ferocious wind for most of the day so we were well aware when we got in that we had been hanging on hard to stay pointed in the right direction all day.
• Came across the most forestry work today than all the combined time we have been here.

Morning coffee at the Blackford Hotel and a chance to don the waterproofs to combat a heavy mist and in anticipation of the computer roadside sign on the motorway saying heavy rain forecast (only needed them for about an hour as it turned out).

The House of Bruar where we had lunch. An incredible commercial enterprise by a Scottish Family / Clan. We found massive commercial spaces (really classy) with menswear, ladies wear, home goods furniture, artworks, antiques, delicatessen, butcher, textiles, massive food hall….and then for good measure a huge building for their sale and mail-order centre. There were heaps of people there and if there had been several coach loads of people there they wouldn’t have been all that noticeable. Interesting to see the sign which said ‘Coaches by appointment only’. Everything we saw was magnificent quality and heaps of beautiful lamb’s wool and cashmere in evidence locally sourced but also from Ireland and other locations.

A quirky train bridge we discovered after heading off the main road.

In the midst of a beautiful meandering road through magnificent farmland reaching up to forests Norm stopped to take this shot of beautiful waving grasses and the view to the forest and to mountains disappearing in the mist beyond.

In a patch of forest near the top of a dramatic hill climb we found a lovely little mossy wall we couldn’t pass by without recording.

We just loved winding through mountain roads surrounded by heather on all sides so had to get a shot.

And a final one before we get back onto the A9 and headed for Inverness.

Bits and Bobs:

Newspaper headline we saw yesterday: CHOCOLATE STOPS DEMENTIA! I kid you not. Didn’t get to read the article (someone else’s paper) but it confirmed what we already knew….chocolate is good for whatever ails you and that’s all we need to know.

Just loved these dear little chimneys on the Blackford Hotel.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Hilton Garden Inn, Glasgow (Scotland) UK

A quirky little hotel. Functional rooms though not large. Nicely fitted out and impressed with the iMac TV and Computer. Lots of young things here when we first got in so I felt thoroughly archaic but didn’t let that worry me and the demographic increased over dinner. The bed was comfy and the food in the restaurant very nice. They even had separate shampoo and conditioner instead of the useless ‘conditioning shampoo’ so happy all round. There were two conferences running at the time ‘Active Ageing’ (suspect we could have taught them a thing or two), and ‘Pain Management Symposium’ (would have been interested in hearing a bit of that!

The Hilton Garden Inn, Glasgow accompanied by a remaining portion of a crane and the mini Sydney Opera House in the distance.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• I appreciated the day off the bike yesterday and have enjoyed being back on it today.
• We had a nice ride from the hotel to get to the ferry shortly after 6.30am with little to no traffic and no rain.
• We berthed about 30 minutes late due to a clutch failure but once we did we enjoyed a lovely ride for the rest of the day.
• Got a bit lost getting off the Motorway in Glasgow (seeing some bits of the road several times but finally got here).
• Murphy true to form provided a quick shower of rain a few minutes before we got in but we were fortunately fuelling up at the time and didn’t get wet. Yay had a win there!
• Our hotel is in an old dock type area undergoing refurbishment. There are a number of hotels and apartments and part of a massive crane towers over the car park here and close by a stadium (I think) is being constructed as well as something which looks a bit like a mini Sydney Opera House.

Lining up to catch the ferry beside a quad axle low loader (very short to what we are used to). The truck has fluffy bobbles at the top of his windscreen would you believe!

Gearing up to get off the ferry in Glasgow. As we were getting ready to get off the other 3 riders (Scots) asked where we were headed today, Norm told them Glasgow in his best Australian then said ‘doesn’t sound the same when an Aussie says it does it!’ they all agreed and had a good laugh.

Culzean Castle literally perched on top of a cliff so magnificent sea views even from the servants quarters and kitchens. A really quite beautiful experience. It sits within huge grounds all open to the public and the property is impeccably maintained. This was the former home to the powerful Kennedy family and Scottish masterpiece of architect Robert Adam and now owned by the National Trust.

Part of the Walled Garden at Culzean Castle at the end of a leafy walk from the Castle past the Camellia House which had deliciously fragrant oranges in it.

The birthplace of Poet Robbie Burns at Alloway. We trekked through the house and Poetry walk and down to the museum and back. Beautiful setting for an amble through lovely gardens and then back to the bikes past some very expensive looking real estate.

Robbie Burns Monument in a memorial garden. Quite beautiful

Bits and Bobs:

Since we’ve been in the UK and Ireland we have found that over 90% of bikers (including the Police) all give a wave or nod of the head to other bikers. Feels good.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

The Radisson Blu, Belfast Northern Ireland (UK)

Another lovely Radisson Hotel. Comfortable public spaces and sensible practical roomy space in our room, staff is helpful and booked the Black Cab tour for us and found a hairdresser for me and the food in the restaurant is characteristically Radisson good. What more could we ask?

Well we tried the laundry service which was a challenging experience, but at the end of the day it all got sorted and finally our long johns were found….phew so the satisfaction guarantee really does work!

The Radisson Blu, Belfast.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Got our laundry down to reception last night so we could sleep in this morning Ahhhhhh!
• Booked a Black Cab tour which is a tour of both sides of the ‘wall’ which has historically separated Protestants from Catholics in Belfast since the disastrous burning of 1,500 homes in Bombay Street in the Catholic area in 1969 when 3 weeks later the army stepped in and built it to keep the warring factions apart. The tour gave a good overview of the history from both perspectives which was extremely sad I thought.
• We finished the tour feeling grateful we live where we do and wondering how families must live with the heartache they have experienced here. Our cabbie told us he doesn’t expect to see real peace within his lifetime or his children’s lifetime but hopefully within that of his grandchildren. He would be about our age……Made me want to get out of Belfast as quickly as I could.
• Had my hair done this arvo, what luxury!
• Had an informative time at the Titanic Exhibition which was only opened this year on the 100th Anniversary of the launching of the ship. Found it informative and enlightening but sad. They did it well.
• As a PS to our black cab ride….We had seen a number of gates around the hotel area with times they shut and asked about them tonight at dinner. They are shut in the evenings as it is not safe to walk along the riverside after dark. Yep…time to go in the morning on the ferry!

Part of the ‘Wall’ dividing the Catholics from Protestants in Belfast. Supposedly a memorial now but local Catholic communities don’t want it removed in 2016 when the government says it will be removed as they still don’t feel safe. Seems a reasonable thing to wait until they feel safe. Norm discussing things with our cabbie in the rain.

The Town Hall….in the rain…the sun came out after we had left of course.

The Europa Hotel. Apparently the most bombed hotel in Belfast by the IRA. 30 something successful bombings form 90 plus attempts. This is also the hotel Bill Clinton took over 3 floors in when he was attempting to broker peace between the warring sides. Pretty gutsy statement really.

The Crown Bar across the road from the Europa….which ended up pretty much wrecked after each successful bombing of the Europa and since it is Heritage Listed it is not surprising that it’s owners handed it onto the national Trust to look after it since most of its decorations came from France and cost a small fortune to replace each time it became rubble.

The Titanic Museum and the H&W’s Headquarters building beside it (they built the Titanic for the White Star Line).

The remaining cranes in the dockyard from a window in the Titanic Museum. Felt a bit like an Industrial Graveyard in the area as much of the area is being redeveloped into other things….even our hotel is on the site of the old Belfast Gasworks and there was a sign in the Museum entry encouraging tourists to come to the area ‘before it is discovered by the rest of the world’ so I guess that means we beat them all.

Bits and Bobs:

Freight traffic wise conclusion in the whole of Ireland. Nowhere near the number of large trucks (rigids with curtain sides) probably because of the roads they have to negotiate as well as a reflection of the economy BUT a heap of very fast (and sometimes very pushy) plain white vans delivering all sorts of goodies as well as lots of vans painted up in the livery of many small producers (not pushy these ones). No doubt about the anonymity factor…..universal.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Been a white out all day. Started with misty fog then moved to haze (as it was all day yesterday) and then to rain and back and forth through the day so crappy for photo taking.
• Waterproofs on nearly all day, half of the time to stay dry and the other half to stay warm.
• Having decided to have the ay off the bikes tomorrow we rode down the Ards Peninsula to a ferry across the opening from Portaferry to Strangford then returned to Belfast.
• Rode through a lot of well looked after farmland today with some obviously abandoned farms as well (some for sale) and many for sale signs in evidence on both working farms and houses.

The larger of the Glenariff Waterfalls. Glenariff is the best known of the nine Glens of the Antrim. (It is the Antrim Coast we have been following yesterday and today, sort of the Irish version of the Great Ocean Road).

Carrickfergus Castle out of the mist / drizzle.

Lighthouse and seawall in Ballyhalbert (I think).

A view back to Portaferry from the ferry as we headed for the opposite shore.

Bits and Bobs:

Waiting and enjoying a cool breeze as we crossed from Portaferry to Strangford. We were the first to leave the ferry which was good. 3 pounds 50 each for the crossing.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

The Glens Hotel, Cushendal Northern Ireland (UK)

A perfectly adequate room in a reasonable building. Clean comfortable bed, not a bad shower and food quite presentable. Parking for the bikes at the rear and a welcome sight after we overshot the mark in the midst of their Vintage tractor carnival as we drove through …. for the first time. Definitely on the budget end of our accommodation and a good reminder of why when you need a good sleep not to stay at a hotel….with revellers still making their loud way to bed at 2.15am! Must have been short of time when I made this selection.

The Glens Hotel and a tourist checking out what might be on for dinner.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Spoke to a gentleman in the car park at the hotel this morning who told us the Apprentices March was on in Derry today (they would be expecting around 15,000 people) commemorating the march of the Apprentices which closed down Derry and then they had defended the city.(At least I think that’s what he said…I was a bit surprised and didn’t really want to ask clarification). He told us we would likely encounter police barricades and diversions if we were heading for Derry as many busloads would be heading in to join in.
• Thankfully our hotel was on the fringe of town so we were quickly directed away from the activity.
• Huge numbers in buses and cars were heading in so we were definitely heading in the right direction.
• Found it chilling coming across a Police yard with what looked like riot vans peeling onto the road and heading for Derry.
• Much intensive farming evident today as well as forest areas and as far as new build houses …conspicuous by their absence. No EU money here being directed to that enterprise apparently.

The Gatehouse as we left the Beech Hill Country House Hotel this morning. Very cute.

Carnival in full swing at Portrush. There is a lovely new public space to the right of the carnival happenings and we particularly liked the reference to the bow of a ship to the right. The whole town looked well cared for and clean and fresh. Port Stewart the town before this one in comparison looked very sad and drab.

The ruins of Dunluce Castle along the cliff face as we progressed along the coastal route to the Giants Causeway.

A view of the tessellated rocks at the Giants Causeway with a giant of a man!

And then his queen sitting in another spot. Ha ha. This is something I wanted to do for some reason and we both sat and reflected on our trip and the enormity of that and the area we were in. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of people scattered along the cliff face tracks today.

On our trek to find our hotel we discovered this lovely view back along the coast to what looks like a very reclusive spot. Very nice.

Bits and Bobs:

We hadn’t been on the road for long this morning before I saw a reasonably decent building behind really high fencing (between 20 -30 feet) ready for demolition I thought. I was surprised at that. A short time later I spotted another in a similar state at an intersection and as we stopped Norm drew my attention to a big number of CCTV cameras strategically placed all around it. As I was about to ask him why he thought they were there I spotted the rear of a police car protruding from behind the building at the same time Norm said “it’s a police station!” Very unsettling. We have seen a number more of them today.

A notice we found in a shop window at Carnlough where we had an ice-cream and hot chocolate this afternoon. Makes the tensions experienced by the locals (one would hope in the past) seem very real and sad but great to know that they are striving for ongoing peace. Hope it all comes together for them.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

The Beech Hill Country House Hotel, Londonderry (Derry) Northern Ireland (UK)

A building set in 32 acres of mature trees and woodland, a beautiful genteel space no matter how you look at it. We felt the quiet ambience fold around us as we wound our way in past the gatehouse and along the driveway to the main building. Such a treat to experience the building and the space. Both were used by the US Marines in WWII and there is much memorabilia and historical commentary to that effect and the US connection since with photographs of President John F Kennedy and Bill and Hillary Clinton (on a number of occasions). All of which is significant to this site and the democratic process in Ireland we have discovered in our brief stay, but back to the hotel. Room very roomy and comfortable, the staff is an enthusiastic delight, the bed was beautifully comfortable, the shower just great and the food to die for. What more can I say…come and stay!

The Beech Hill Country House Hotel.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Persistent comfortable temperatures and blue skies were experienced throughout the day Yay!
• One magnificent vista after another was also experienced.
• Because we did extra kilometres yesterday we had a sense of being a bit more relaxed today and enjoyed many conversations with locals along the way (some recorded here and some not) but good fun all the way.

Time out for coffee in Carndonagh.

An ancient bridge on the approach to Malin, a really pretty little town.

We discovered a sign past the Church to Five Finger Strand – a beach with all sorts of warning signs against swimmers…and a lot of people swimming.

And from above. The Church is to the left of the road at the bottom. SPECTACULAR view!

On the road between Culdaff to West Town. Check out the heather, it was everywhere today and looked wonderful.

A view from Bamba Crown – the most northerly point of Ireland. Beyond Inishtrahull Island and Lighthouse we could actually see the shore of Scotland in the distance. We met a local biker up here who comes up here from time to time for a ride. It was good to talk to him and the young girl from the coffee cart…I kid you not, on top of this bluff a coffee cart…and good coffee too!

Blessing of the Fleet in Greencastle. We were talking to a local here who had a couple of fishing boats and seven refrigerated trucks and a shellfish operation exporting shellfish all over Europe. He told us about the Blessing of the fleet (as well as having a good natter about family businesses and being serious about business or getting out…sounds familiar). He said there were only a couple of boats left in the harbour as the weather had been so lousy the boats couldn’t get out and it was so good the last couple of days the majority of them had left. Business must go on! This was the guy who told us about the Blessing of the fleet and told us we were welcome to come and join in for all the food And drink we wanted. We thanked him but explained we had to make a mile and thanked him for his hospitality and conversation. We enjoyed the experience.

Bits and Bobs:

We haven’t found many thatched rooves in Ireland but here is a good example in Middletown. Check out the green pegs under the thatch. We have found the thatch is anchored with a net to these in some coastal areas to stop it blowing off.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Radisson Blu Hotel, Letterkenny, Ireland

A very comfortable hotel. Good use of space, nice open public areas and a sense of not being surrounded by people even though they are here. We have stayed at Radisson Hotels before and the feel is always good. The food is lovely as always but the bed (king) has two single doonas, what a stupid situation…mind you had a good night’s sleep.

Radisson Blu Hotel, Letterkenny.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• We set out to do 160kms today but ended up doing 321 compliments of some persistent redirection of the GPS. Spoke to some people here at the hotel tonight that had done the same thing. Perhaps this is the area that Murphy hails from. Didn’t really matter, it gave us a little time to draw breath between the spectacular sights….sometimes as we headed back over familiar territory from the opposite direction.
• Might have been a long ride today but enjoyable. More of the bucking bronco stuff close to the coast and lovely curving roads with good surfaces as well as a few incredibly small lanes. The whole shooting match!

Looking back towards Dungloe as we left. Cloudy and overcast but dry…and has remained so all day with some sun this afternoon.

We wound our way around the coast road and discovered this little backwater at Bunbeg.

We were amazed at the miles and miles of grass covered sand hummocks amongst the rocks along the coast as we moved north and more so at the numbers of houses seemingly strewn about across the surface. Big numbers of new builds. A shellfish factory in evidence and peat harvesting and small holdings with very few sheep. Blowed if I know what they all do for a living. The government has obviously spent a lot of their EU money on connecting communities with roads.

Descending from Marmore Gap. Spectacular views and yes we had to come back again as that was the only way out. Some of the corners and steep rises would give the Hardknott pass a run for its money!

Looking back to the tiny village and beach of Dooey.

A spectacular beach we discovered down a cliff on the way from Glenoory to Milford.

Bits and Bobs:

This is how diesel for truck use is differentiated from farm diesel for tractors at the pump. Might also explain why we see so many tractors carting all sorts of interesting things around instead of on trucks like a massive trailer of used tyres I saw today and towing tri-axle trailers with back-hoes on them. Check out the prices also. That’s Euro’s not Aussie dollars and there is a 50cent difference between road and farm diesel.

Some nice little overcoats for some fire extinguishers at a servo.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Rest a Wyle B&B, Dungloe, Ireland

A comfortable little B&B with adequate facilities and welcoming hosts. Use of a nice sitting room which I appreciated for the Blog instead of balancing the notebook on my lap. Reasonable distance from the street and in the rear of the building so no street noise. Must have forgotten to check if there was an evening meal so a 1.2 kilometre walk to town for dinner which worked out well as it was dry and when I got here if I closed my eyes everything was still moving from the lumpy bumpy ride so the trek to town and back served as a good wind down.

Rest a Wyle B&B, Dungloe.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

• Another gloriously sunny day so second day in a row without the waterproofs on.
• The views today needed cinemascope as they just couldn’t fit into our viewfinder, even so the minimalist views we have we will share and let them tell their own story.
• We have spent a good deal of time climbing up and down to and from the Moor country amongst peat marshes / bogs so roads have often experienced some subsidence so the day has largely been like a roller coaster / fairground / bucking bronco ride with lumps and bumps and many experiences of readjusting direction and butts leaving seats. It has been strenuous but actually good fun….and no that does not mean I am ready to get on a dirt bike…EVER!
• In spite of all the challenges I had a sense that I did really well and Norm confirmed that. Another badge for me.

A view to St Patricks Purgatory (or so it is called) on Lough Derg beyond Pettigo. This remains a place of Pilgrimage and we couldn’t get a lift to the Island as there was a 3 day pilgrimage taking place. Probably just as well, we had a big day lined up.

Street scene in Donegal.

The things you find in a seaside town…the Circus was in town in Killybegs and this is how they advertise the show is on.

A view from beyond Killibegs looking back across the ocean to the Yeats Country (around Sligo) we had left this morning.

We didn’t find the cliffs we were looking for but heaps of peat being harvested and here is a stack at Creenveen drying with a sheep providing some perspective.

A view from on the mountainside down into Glencolumbkille where we had a welcome hot chocolate and ice cream and got some fuel.

A view as we descend towards Ardara.

Bits and Bobs:

Loved the sign for a bridge, must be something to do with the GPS people, we had just decided where it had sent us was nowhere near what we wanted and pulled over to put the next destination in.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

The Glasshouse, Sligo, Ireland

This was a surprise no matter how we looked at it. The decor was out there in your face, almost reminiscent of the 60’s with the bright colours. Big open bar areas and restaurant and lovely spacious room and bathroom with balcony as well which previous smokers had been grateful of as their ashes were testimony to. Food in the restaurant was beautiful and service good. The restaurant was a hot box this morning with the big windows and no blinds so we changed places on our table half way through to toast the other side. Free parking, handy to the town. Quirky but ticked all the boxes.

The Glasshouse, a determinedly modern building in a very old traditional town.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

The view from tonight’s Hotel window.

• Last night we rode straight past Ashford Castle situated just a few hundred meters from our last night’s hotel as it was raining and we wanted to just get in. We thought we’d probably check it out this morning but the day dawned with blue skies and the prospect of riding in the sun under that was far too seductive a possibility to pass up so we headed off without the Castle tour. By the time we got to Sligo we were thinking we may have been better off to have the tour as it had gotten very very grey again but thankfully no rain, and we have had sunshine and just a bit of cloud for the rest of the day. Yay!
• Checked in at 11.30am. Didn’t expect to be able to do that so since we also found we had an electric towel rail decided to do some washing before we headed off on our circular ride in the area.

A view from Rosses Point towards Sligo.

• This is Yeats Country as signs everywhere told us and we continued to have a lovely ride as we had on the way up to Sligo.
• The majority of the country we have seen today has been more agriculturally productive and intensely farmed and the countryside as well as the towns much more densely settled.
• Empty shops / businesses as well as abandoned houses under construction in evidence still.
• Spectacular views towards the outcrops of rock with scree tumbling down to the grass level down below.

Yeats country on the way to Drumcliffe where Yeats was buried.

• We trekked around the Glencar Lough (Lake) and discovered there was also a pretty little waterfall to view.
• Have enjoyed many leafy glades on the edges of the Lough.
• Glad we took the road verge photo of flowers yesterday as there have been few today.

Glencar Waterfall on the edge of Glencar Lough.

• We found Parkes Castle, Kilmore on the shore of Lough Gill after having been sent by the GPS up a mountainside on what was barely a single lane track to find a dramatic view across the cliff faces but no castle before returning to the edge of the Lake and goodness gracious….a castle!
• From there we headed off to find Dooney Rock, Aughamore Far and after a couple of false starts did so. It was surrounded by dense forest full of moss and ferns under the trees and we found some beautiful views on the lake shore as well as from on top of the rock itself. Worth the very strenuous climb….for me anyway, the strenuous climb that is, the view was spectacular for us both!

A view from Dooney Rock towards Cottage Island on Lake Gill.

Bits and Bobs:

I like it in the UK and Ireland how you can park cars on either side of the road in either direction (where parking is allowed that is). Makes more sense than being illegal at home!

Also impressed with their roadwork’s signs. They are less intrusive and extensive than what we have at home but work well and assume we are thinking people rather than dimwits obviously!

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Lisloughrey Lodge, Cong, Ireland

This is a ‘nice soft place to fall’ and I felt like I needed such a refuge by the time I got in yesterday afternoon. The main building is bright and airy with beautiful public places and we are in a new section with a lovely room and ensuite. The staff has been very welcoming and obliging and the food just beautiful. There seems to be an air of ‘retreat from hustle and bustle’ here which has been easy to take. One of our more expensive choices but have enjoyed it at the end of a very wet day.

Lisloughrey Lodge Hotel, this is the 1920’s build. We were to the right in the newer section.

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

On the road heading for Roundstone, lucky it was raining so much or we would have been all day taking one photo after another of the incredible views of water and mountains disappearing into it and disappearing into the cloud overhead as we explored the Connemara Peninsula.

• Another grand soft day. Wet most of the day, drizzle and rain, thankfully missed the worst of it and only had to deal with the water left on the roadway. At times sheeting across or laying in pools. Thankfully we didn’t get any on the wheel track lane we encountered on the way to Claddaghuff.
• Being relieved I (we both) felt comfortably warm in spite of the weather.
• Have had a great sense of ‘feeling’ like we have travelled in a very remote area today in spite of the holiday traffic.
• Reminiscent of the countryside we encountered in remote north western Scotland in 2010.

Roundstone Harbour / sea wall while we waited for coffee.

• Winding through fields scattered with small to massive rocks separated by rock walls. Variable amounts of grass and occasionally sheep.
• Cannot believe the number of homes scattered through the stone fields and clinging to the edges of the waterways.
• Noticeable holiday accommodation around as we headed north along the cliffs from Roundstone. Must be good appeal for those wanting a remote experience.
• Spotted a number of anglers with rods out in some fast moving streams today. Hardy individuals!

Road verge flowers as a matter of principle. Not the variety of flowers we saw farther south but took this (in the rain) in case we miss out altogether. These occasional patches seemed to occasionally soften the views today.

• Kept being surprised by the occasional deep leafy glade we would ride into in small valleys and the lea of hills. Beautiful!
• Am in awe of the steepness of the largely bald hills (other than grasses and I guess heather and small shrubs) which rose up around us like great green walls into the clouds (and there were lots of those today).

Kylemore Abbey.

• Very impressed to hear one of the original owners planted over 300,000 trees which have established a substantial and beautiful forest which just shows given the chance this rugged land can still support that.
• As the day progressed there was more evidence of water rushing to the sea. The great green walls of hills seemed to have great lines scraped from top to bottom with impromptu waterfalls and rivulets tumbling down them in the distance and giving spectacular brief views close to the roadside as well.

The view from the front of today’s Hotel. Very nice.

Bits and Bobs:

Galway has had a week of horse races which finished yesterday so the city was in a party mood last night. Lots of people around in all sorts of glam wear as well as the odd tourist from Australia not.

One of the things I’m enjoying is catching glimpses of familiar looking faces. The night before last our waitress could have been a young Peggy Bell (as was one we had a few nights ago). I’ve also glimpsed my young sister Jenny’s likeness as I have my Uncle Lenny. Feels good!

As we were heading out of Dingle the day before yesterday I spotted a race track running up the side of a hill (I kid you not) and over the top of it, I cannot imagine race horses galloping in either direction!

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Park House Hotel, Galway, Ireland

Lovely hotel. The area it was set in seemed like it had fallen somewhat from grace over time and is now experiencing a revival so we were surprised that the hotel had survived over that time…that is until we came inside. The building was just beautiful with gracious public spaces and incredible attention to detail in everything. Impeccably clean throughout and the food and service was magnificent. Happy we could also park the bikes undercover near the rear entry so nice and secure. Would be happy to stay again. Norm even got a bucket of water to give the bikes a bit of a wash and they managed to stay clean overnight and for about half an hour today….mind you they still look better than they did before the wash which gives some idea of how filthy they were!

Park House Hotel

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Snippets / Memories / Photos of the day:

Bunratty Castle.

• Waking to leaden skies but no rain until late in the day and then only a little so no wet weather gear until then.
• Enjoyed our stroll around the Bunratty Folk Park and getting a snapshot view of village life from times gone by.
• Enjoyed the smell of peat burning and seeing soda bread being made and hearing snippets of ancient lives.
• Our walk through Bunratty Castle gave us an idea of how the castle shell we explored yesterday should have looked. Very impressively restored.

The Cliffs of Moher.

• Winding through farming communities and up and down hills.
• Seeing lots of new build houses still (mainly around villages).
• Also seeing a good number of abandoned projects partly built apartment buildings and houses as well as many empty shops / factory buildings. Very sad.

Street view in Doolin, enjoyed some yummy soup at O’Connor’s Pub.

• Incredibly dramatic outlook along the Cliffs of Moher. Wouldn’t have had to worry about being invaded from there!
• HUGE visitor centre at the Cliffs.
• Incredibly inhospitable farmland with large amounts of rock strewn about and yet huge numbers of little cottages and larger houses dotted all over the hilly surrounds.

The Poulnabrone Dolmen Portal Tomb (Needless to say from ancient times)

• From here on we came across more and more fields of limestone!
• Miles and miles of stony fields separated by stone walls and practically no grass within them the higher the attitude.
• Disbelief that people would claim such land! Must have been / be a tough existence.
• Surprisingly substantial homes lower down the ‘bald’ hills.
• Enjoyable walk through the Ailwee Limestone Caves.

Limestone fields looking across to a limestone hill and the contrast to farmland as we get lower.

Bits and Bobs:

Since we have been in Ireland we have been aware of a great absence of trucks on roads, and I’m not referring to little country lanes then the day before yesterday we spotted a truck yard / depot with big numbers of curtain sided trailers parked up. A reflection of the economy perhaps.

Irish communities give the appearance of being very self-sufficient. Most either have or are close to an active fishing village and all the restaurants / cafes proudly boast they serve local produce only. Some large hotel chains advertise they have their own market gardens. Possibly historically something they have had to be.

The town of Tralee we rode through yesterday was interesting. It had architecture examples from the ancient to modern and everything in between but it seemed to work.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Bunratty Castle Hotel, Bunratty, Ireland

Beautiful and spacious room in a beautifully decorated and maintained building. Gracious public spaces and grounds. Staff very obliging food delicious. A spa on site also so catering for all sorts of tastes. Would be happy to come back here again.

Bunratty Castle Hotel (well part of it – 145 rooms and conference spaces for up to 300 as well).

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