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MG Owners' Club

Northern Ireland

Round Ireland 2010

Years ago in days of old, when magic filled the air, Moffett the Gray had a vision of how a group of intrepid travellers in trusty MGs would undertake an epic journey.  As time passed still the thoughts remained until a plan and route began to emerge.  Then last year Moffett came and presented his ideas to the MGOC committee.  Impressed by his enthusiasm the committee asked him to outline his plans at the next club meeting.  A number of members declared an interest in taking part and so Moffett the Gray swung into full operational mode.  Meetings were organised and those interested came along and deliberated over the proposed route and debated the chosen charity.  In the end we agreed that the Horizon West children’s hospice was an extremely worthwhile cause to support.

It seemed no time at all until Friday evening 4th June 2010 when little sleep was to be had by the intrepid travellers as they excitedly waited for Saturday morning and meeting at Carrickfergus for the ‘off’.  Full of anticipation as I was, I still managed to be late to arrive!! (What else would Peter have expected?).  It was good, and very encouraging for us, to see so many of the club turn out to see us on our way.  Thank you all for your support.

The five cars which set off were Moffett and Margaret (MGB), Vincent and Vanessa (MGB GT), Jimmy and Sally (Mercedes Benz), David and Jane (Lotus Elan) and myself (MGF).  Would we get lost leaving Carrick?  Would we all make it to the lunch stop?  Would we all make the full journey?  Only time would provide the answers?

We all safely made it up the coast to a short stop at Glenarm and then on to lunch in Bushmills.  Driving on up to Magilligan we took the ferry, the first of several, across to Donegal.  Following a short exploratory drive we then found the right road and headed off through County Donegal in the direction of Malin Head.  Here we stopped and had a quick cuppa and photo opportunity.  Then back in the cars down a few more twisty little roads and on towards Carrigart and our first overnight stop.  Having found the B&B house we all got ready for next favourite pastime – going out for dinner!

Sunday morning dawned a lovely bright morning and after the traditional Irish breakfast we packed our bags, dropped our hoods and headed for off for day 2.  By this stage in the adventure we had begun to adopt our roles, and positions, which would stay with us for the rest of the week – Moffett became The Gray Leader ably directed (I choose my words carefully here) by Margaret Maps, Jimmy became The Wingman, Vince turned into The Yellow Peril, David was The Red Devil and I morphed into The Rear Gunner.

Our route took us out to the west and along some fairly deserted wee roads where we came into the little village of Bangor – no not the one in North Down.  A quick recce revealed a general hardware store, a grocery shop and a café, so a quick cuppa was called for (have you noticed a recurring theme yet?).  Could I get a phone signal?  Well yes but only if I stood in one small circle next to the window!  Still it was enough to answer a few calls, ring work and send a text and email or two.  Leaving Bangor we headed out following as closely as we could the coast.  Suddenly down one of these narrow winding roads lifted straight from a 1970’s Circuit of Ireland special stage, Vince pulled up and stopped.  Had he broken down?  No he realised he’d ‘left his phone in the café’.  However it later turned out it was just a tactic to allow him the chance to ‘have a wee thrash’.  We all then made it safely to Ballisadare having taken a short break (more tea and coffee) at Drumcliffe Church where we visited Yeats’ grave.  Out to our B&B, get changed and then leave for dinner in nearby Strandhill drawn by thoughts of live traditional music.  The food was great and the live music?  Well…However back at the B&B we were ably entered by the stories being told by Murphy the man of the house.

Monday was pencilled in as a free day so after breakfast the now familiar routine started – hoods down, line up and drive off.  This time we headed out to Parkes Castle on the shores of Lough Gil.  A visit to the castle would have to wait though as we all boarded the waiting vessel and had had a Yeats inspired trip along the Lough.  Guess what?  There was even tea, coffee and warm scones available – just what we needed!  Once back on shore we did visit the Castle including a very informative interactive presentation.  We all headed back to the guest house, although I thought maybe I should follow Vince’s example – not losing my phone (how would I cope without it?) but having a wee thrash.  After all the F needed it – at least that’s my excuse!  Back to Strandhill for more dinner, but still not much improvement on the music front.  However on the way back we did stop at a little pub in Ballisadare where we were just in time for the live band to play their final number.  MGOC timing strikes again.

After yet another full Irish breakfast – how did we still fit into those little cars? – we set off on the next leg of our journey which would bring us to Clifden.  Another lovely drive taking the scenic views of the Cliffs of Moher and, strangely enough, a lunch stop – this time at Westport Quay.  On the road again we continued to make our way down to Clifden.  This was the only night during the whole trip that The Gray Leader had not been able to get us all booked into the same B&B.  He did assure us that they were in the house next door – but how far away was next door?  Well, Jimmy and I were soon to find out.  Having a choice of eating establishments recommended to we decided to ask our illustrious leader if he a preference. Having no mobile signal, by now I was getting withdrawal symptoms, we jumped in the F and headed out of our drive and down road to find Moffett’s car parked next door which turned out to be about 100 yards away!  We could have walked after all.  Off we set for our dinner at the chosen restaurant, with Moffett as the official photographer taking a few happy pics of us feeding.  After another great meal and a visit to another traditional music pub we all headed back to the guest houses to get some rest in preparation for the next day’s longer drive to Kenmare.

Morning arrived very quickly and with the temptation of another Irish breakfast.  Now I can resist most things except temptation so I tucked in again, however some fellow travellers were able to demonstrate much greater restraint and had a healthier breakfast.  The Gray Leader and Margaret Maps met us after breakfast only to reveal that Moffett had left his camera in propped up in a cubby hole in the restaurant.  Arrangements were made for its safe recovery and return and off we set again.  The road today would lead us through Galway, The Burren, Lisdoonvarna (again with MGOC timing we managed to the great matchmaking festival), another short ferry crossing, down to Tralee, across to Killarney and the inland part of the ring of Kerry down to Kenmare.  Quite some drive!  This was also the first day of the trip when we experienced some rain – yes even I had to put the hood up for a while!  The rain didn’t do anything to take away form the enjoyment and the inevitable searching out of small cafes and coffee shops.  Later in the afternoon we stopped at the beautifully scenic Ladies View viewing point where there just happened to be a coffee shop which we had to check out.  Suitably refreshed on we travelled to our guest house in Kenmare.  When we arrived there was tea, coffee and freshly baked scones waiting for us – just what we all needed.

The next day was again a free day and we all went off to do our own thing although some of us managed to meet up in Sneem at just about lunch time – strange coincidence that!  I enjoyed a drive round the complete Ring of Kerry in glorious sunshine as well as a quick blast round the Ring of Beara although I didn’t have quite enough time to take the cable car to Dursey Island.  Not so much a rest day then more a tourist opportunity.

After breakfast (full Irish naturally) the next morning we headed off south again through Glengarriff again trying where possible to stick to the coastal path.  Having visited Mallin Head it was only right that we should now visit Mizen Head.  The difference was striking – at Mallin Head there is a little van which sells tea or coffee in a paper cups but at Mizen Head there’s a snack shop which we really had to try.  Sadly the path to the lighthouse was closed because the original metal bridge is being replaced with a replica, however, the staff in the visitor centre were keen to help and allowed us into the upstairs interpretive centre.  From here we had some spectacular views before The Gray Leader rounded us all up again.  After a short journey we arrived in the picturesque village and harbour of Crookhaven where there just happens to be a little pub that does fantastic lunches in the form of seafood chowder and fresh salmon sandwiches – really well worth a visit.  Heading on again we drove until we reached Kinsale.  From here it was on round to Passage West where we took another wee ferry crossing and then out towards Youghal to find our B&B for the night.  Then, strangely enough, we went for dinner.

Saturday again already!  Quickly organised the important things for that evening.  Being in Ballykissangel what else could we do but have our last dinner together in Fitzgerald’s?  So that was easily sorted.  Next item on the agenda was to arrange for a hose and a bucket and get the cars washed in readiness for our final day – the reason will become clear.  After another excellent meal we walked back up the hill and headed off for some sleep.

Sunday morning arrived and we all packed our cars hardly believing that the week had gone so quickly.  Breakfast tucked away again and off we headed in a northerly direction.  Taking the motorway allowed us to skirt round Dublin and straight into a massive traffic jam the result of a Garda training exercise.  Once clear of this we had a straightforward run up to Mosney where The Gray Leader had arranged for us to have entries even though some of our cars were strictly too young (Hence the need to have them washed the evening before).  The show itself proved to be very good although it did start to rain quite heavily just before we left.  It was really good to see Noel and Linda who had come down to the show with meeting us in mind – thanks again for your support.  And so all we were left with was the journey home…

That’s not of course anywhere near true.  What we are really left with are many happy memories, friendships and a great sense of achievement.  Not just in our abilities to complete the trip, not even the fact that we had no major mechanical problems but in the achievement of knowing we raised a monies to support our chosen charity – Horizon West, the new children’s hospice in Enniskillen.  How much did we raise?  Well I’ll keep that until next month as some money still has to be counted and added to the total so far.  On that note if anyone would like to make a donation you’re still not too late, just give Moffett, Vincent or me a call.

I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of all my fellow travellers, to again thank Moffett and Margaret for all the work they put into organising the whole event.  We know that this took a lot of time and effort.  Would we do it again?  Well, if Moffett the Gray has any other visions of similar adventures he only has to share them and who knows? We wait to see what he has planned for 2011.

Stephen Cassells.

Round Ireland in 8 Days or Moffett and the Lost Boys on Tour

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