A solo trip over to Norn Iron was on the cards: to see Col and Maureen and also head north to watch the NW200 motorcycle road races.
a 5am start on the bike had me heading over to Stranraer via the ‘Queens road’ which was a bit of an average idea, as the road was very wet from heavy localised rain and quite twisty, so my average speed dropped quite a bit from the earlier blast across the pennines.
Still, I arrived early for the ferry and waited patiently for boarding ……though thinking that it looked a slightly different port from the last time I sat there. The crossing was quick and easy…however it was as we approached Belfast port, hat I realised WHY the Stranraer port looked a little different: I had booked a different ferry! I thought I was booking Stranraer to LARNE, whereas in fact I had booked the Stranraer to BELFAST ferry! ..hey ho! …at least it meant my ride to Col’s house was a little shorter!
Was great to see Col and Maureen and share coffee and beers …and be hen pecked by Mrs. M
The ride up to Bushmills is a beautiful winding road along the coast – great curves and straights and sensational scenery too. I arrived at the Finn McCools hostel at the Giants Causeway to be met by a couple of south african guys running the hostel (which I thought was a bit odd, but cool) I unpacked and headed to the local bar for a couple of quiet beers. back at the hostel and there were quite a few bikers come for the racing including another SA guy, a Cumbrian and a jock. We all dined on free pie and chips supplied by the hostel that night …which was nice!
The cumbrian, jock and myself set off next morning to Portrush for the racing and settled in – in the rain – at the Juniper chicane. the rain was steady and the wind howled, so we tucked in under a shop canopy and ate irish stew and drank coffee while we waited for the racing to start. After some delays for rain, the first race (supersport) got underway….the chicane proved to be a great place to watch from as you get to see the riders hard on the brakes, ‘jink’ thru the chicane and then accelerate out again…from a fairly close vantage point too.
Sadly for us and organisers, there was further delay due to a hoax bomb scare which evacuated the paddock. then on restart – again delayed for rain – Ryan Farquhar’s bike dumped oil all over the track from Portrush up to us. The organisers were woefully unprepared for such a spill and took hourse (literally) to clear the track using what appeared to be a weed spray and a big tank of detergent.
Eventually after a prolonged, confusing and frustrating wait they admitted defeat and all further racing was cancelled!!! great! …..what a waste of time
We trudged back along the road, bought a T shirt and watched a shoplifter steal a T shirt and then get chased by local ‘heavies’
Back at the hostel and we were again offered a free meal and this time even free beer!!!! AWESOME PLACE!!!!! Next morning it was time to leave, so I headed down to Ballycastle with the Cumbrian fella and after a nice coffee we fortunately met up with Colin (GS rider from alps trip 2009) a quick chat and fuel top up and we headed down te coastal route to Carnlough for more coffee…and rain.
Back to Belfast and the Cumbrian headed straight into the ferry port while I headed on to Hannahstown to see Col and Maureen again ..and sunday dinner ..mmmmmm
Next morning and we were being battered by a storm ….so bad that that early ferries were cancelled, however I rang and confirmed my ferry was OK for that afternoon and headed down there. Eventually arrived at the port – after almost being blown off the bike a fw times – to be told that the earlier ferry hdnt left yet and boarding was on a first come/first served basis!! and I was WAY down the list as the morning people were stil there! I waited and waited in the rain and howling wind until the morning ferry left and eventually the afternoon ferry arrived, we were shepherded onto the the large CAT ferry – which was out of use, to get a free meal and drink and dry off a little (thanks very much Stena! ) but after watching the afternoon ferry STILL trying to land at the berth almost an hour later, I decided it would be a better idea to head back to Col’s for the night – pertickly as Colin was at Larne and had been told that there wouldn’t be ANY ferries out of there until the next afternoon due to damage to bikes on the earlier ferry!!!
MORE coffee and beers at chez Col and Maureen.
The wind had dropped markedly the next morning so I got the early morning ferry, enjoyed a chat with a Belfast rider and had a smooth crossing. a lovely ride home in sunshine and only slight wind was my reward for hanging about in Belfast fro an extra night!