Apologies for the belated blog update but Saturday marked the end of our first week/first night in Ireland and I am sure you will understand that the Guinness was calling.
Friday night saw the X Factor competition hit new heights with the judges both awarding maximum marks to Paul and Julian for their impressive impersonations of a ‘Scottish Highland Cow’. With it going to deadlock we would like to grant you, the audience, the power to decide the winner. Watch the video below and vote in the poll. Nanna, please note that multiple votes are not allowed!
The ferry from Troon (Scotland) to Larne (Northern Ireland) called for an earlier than normal breakfast. With it being the last morning in Scotland we once again took full advantage of the Scottish fry up on offer and got on our way. With the wind whipping up the waves it was fortunate that the breakfast didn’t resurface as it did for many others on the boat.
Arriving in Larne we met up with the newest member of our team, Johnnie Graham. His fresh legs and youth were drafted in to spur us on through our Irish pursuit. With Scotland behind us we assumed that hills were a thing of the past, sadly not.
The first hill was more of a bobsleigh track made even more of a struggle with the sun beaming down on us (not that we haven’t enjoyed the sun, it’s been so much nicer than the Scottish rain!). With our delayed start (the ferry didn’t get in til 12) we covered ground quickly and stopped rather conveniently at a town with a classic car exhibition. With a Sainsburys in sight we grabbed some munch, sat on the grass and basked in the sun.
Off on our way to Downpatrick we rather quickly cycled through Belfast with Caroline and Paul particularly anxious about wearing their orange cycling jackets! With Geoff in charge of directions we somehow managed to turn a supposedly straightforward cycle into a country detour, with the mileage signs only changing by 2 miles despite a 14 mile ride.
Eventually arriving at our destination- a hotel come pub- we decided to jump straight into the Irish spirit with a round of Guinness. This marked the beginning of the end.
The X Factor competition resumed over dinner and with the winner from Friday tied it was up to both Paul and Julian to decide upon the nights animal. They rather bizarrely agreed upon a ‘Frog-Pig’, with it open to interpretation it was Jess who prevailed as she wowed everyone with both aspects ; the ‘Ribbit’ and the ‘Oink’.
The night also hosted the first session of ‘Kangaroo Court’ held by Judge Hole to punish tour members who had offended in some way. Each person had to put forward a charge, which was in turn read out by the judge. The offender was given the opportunity to defend his or her position and then was punished accordingly. Sentencing varied between ‘2 fingers of Guinness’ to ‘downing’ the entire thing. Such offences included:
Geoff - Charge: Questionable Map Reading Skills- Punishment: Whole pint
Esther -Charge: Breaking Caroline’s Bike by Sitting on the Wheel- Punishment: Whole glass of wine
Caroline – Charge: Damaging the atmosphere by applying her brake pads too often- Punishment: Two fingers of wine.
Bear with me on the photos, Geoff has got them on his camera and he is in the shower.
After court was convened we moved into the bar to join in with the local craic. Is and Esther (who were spurred on by the effects of their recent court punishments) decided to take charge and pull out the Velindre donation box to pass around the locals who were equally inebriated! After many generous contributions, the ladies decided to award the contributors with a boogie in the middle of bar, with Is wining the impromptu ‘Rocker of the Night’ award with some particularly enthusiastic moves. Meanwhile, Geoff was overheard slurring on his pint that it was impossible to get drunk from Guinness, a quote proven to be completely unfounded given his hangover the following morning.
With sleep kept to a minimum, it wasn’t surprising that breakfast was pushed back from its originally scheduled time. The question on everyone’s mind was of course whether an Irish breakfast could live up to its Scottish predecessor. Thankfully potato scones and sodabread were welcome additions at the expense of porridge.
Hangovers all round the first couple of miles weren’t as easy going as we’d hoped. With Guinness and wine sweating from the pours it was a welcome break when Esther’s bike gear bracket falling off. With maintenance man Julian out of his depth and unable to fix the bike, the SOS call to the fun bus was needed so that Esther could jump on the spare bike. A coffee break in order and with Geoff feeling the effects of the Guinness it seemed only fair to walk out of the cafe while he was having a nap. After waking up to the giggling locals, he rapidly made his way outside while we found the time to laugh at him some more.
Stopping off for a carvery lunch at for what could only be described as a village hall we made the most of the generous portions, with Jess in particular eating a plate that would have fed a small island.
Setting off rather lethargically we had to cycle through Newry; a place we were told not to stop off at as the locals in Downpatrick retold the story of how 10 years ago a group of cyclists where shot down, an event they said could happen again anytime soon. With the pace picking up and passports to hand up we reached Dundalk around 7, where we retired to a takeaway pizza and the hope of watching Sherlock Holmes (it had been advertised all week). Sadly, after some channel hopping on the archaic TV we soon realised that BBC didn’t exist in the Republic of Ireland, a big blow.
With effort levels being so high throughout the week in the X Factor competition, a welcome rest was also needed to restore our delicate voices.
A good night’s sleep under our belt got ready for our last cycling day in Ireland, Dundalk to Dublin. While loading up the van, Julian and Geoff managed to let the dog out and sprinted after him; Esther received a phone call from a panting Julian saying that they had cornered the dog (a Jack Russell), only to be told that the owner said its ok, he goes on a morning wander every day! Getting on our way in the Irish rain we were boosted by the thought that tomorrow (Tuesday) a rest day and the thought of a lie in was extremely comforting.
With Geoff in charge of directions (you would have thought we would have learnt our lesson) we managed to link up with some cycle paths. In Scotland the cycle paths were short, but at least you could hop back onto the main road. The Irish cycle paths were all together a different matter. One cycle path into Dublin was particularly impressive while it lasted, crossed a bridge and then just led into a hedge!
After nearly getting killed on a number of roundabouts we found our way into Dublin. Having to navigate around some oncoming trams and buses we were relieved to finally find our hotel.
I am sitting in the bar, Guinness in hand while everyone else has gone for a relaxing shower. I shall inform you tomorrow of tonight's tales, but I am positive that Guinness, temple bar and dancing shall be involved!
P.s. We have passed the 500 mile mark! Joints and limbs are most definitely feeling it!
P.p.s. The B&B in Dundalk had a weighing scales and I have been told to inform you all not to expect any skinnier versions! Reported weight increases were as much as 8lb (Muscle weighs more than fat!)