Round Ireland with a Brompton in the Boot
Dream jobs don’t come along that often but earlier this year, I was offered the gig as a ‘travel-writing-hotel-inspector’ for Sawday’s across their Irish portfolio. How could I refuse? I booked some cheap flights and began to piece together a route.
Doing the mileage maths – in nine working days (with St Patrick’s Day off in the middle), I was to visit 22 B&Bs and self-catering places on a route that encompassed 20 counties an covered 2,600km…but zipping between them all in a rental car with little except the tarmac for company didn’t seem right.
I’ve done a few weird bike trips but this one didn’t quite compute. Under two weeks to cover the entire coast of Ireland, with a laptop, assorted administrative gumpf and Storm Gareth for company? This was never going to work. But what if I had a bike in the boot? Something packable, portable for opportune moments, morning spins, lazy coastal loops and pub runs. Yes. A bike in the boot: ‘Eire B-in-B’ as my brother quickly dubbed it.
Hiring a Brompton in Ireland
Folding hire-bike isn’t on most people’s holiday packing lists. Within minutes, however, Google had offered an answer. Seemed Bromptons were quite a la mode in Dublin. You can collect and drop off boxed bikes from DPD points all over. A few companies do it including Bikehire24 and FoldingBikes.ie. Marty Mannering from High Nelly Bikes made it all too easy as I collected my bike from a point near Dublin airport. My surprise mounted when he responded to my almost joke of a question, “Don’t suppose you have a green, white and gold one, do you?” with an “Of course – a Brompton exclusive.”
Box – bike – boot – Belfast
Trip logistics done; time to go. I flew from Bristol to Dublin, collected the hire car then my Brompton. I had to hit the road immediately to get the day’s three Sawday’s inspections ticked off in Westmeath, Hillsborough and Donaghadeeand. It wasn’t until I arrived at my evening stop, gone 9pm that I unboxed the bike and what a sight to behold. Tricky the tricolour Brompton as it became known.
I reverted to ‘How To’ videos online to master the fold and in no time at all, I could have the bike up and down and in and out of the boot, no problem. The next morning, I headed north on my anticlockwise adventure around the island, with Fanad and Dunfanaghy next up.
The truly Wild Atlantic Way
An old Irish blessing says, ‘May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and may rains fall soft upon your fields.’ As I blurred through the counties via Louisburgh, Clifden, Lisdoonvarna and Lough Derg, the only thing rising up were the flood waters. The full force of Storm Gareth in my face, not at my back.
I had to keep on trucking through Limerick, Kerry, Cork and more, but just knowing that Tricky the tricolour Brompton was in the boot made me feel less claustrophobic all the way.
West Coast highlights
Ireland’s coastline is epic with biking highlights around every corner.
Donegal is the most northerly county. It’s got surf-loving villages and towns like Dunfanaghy, Downings and Bundoran; mountain chains (Mount Errigal is my favourite of the Seven Sisters’ peaks); and the impressive sea cliffs at Slieve League. Great sections to cycle include the implausibly pretty Killybegs to Slieve League coastal road; a loop from Ramelton up to Fanad Head Lighthouse via Portsalon beach; and from Errigal into Glenveagh National Park. Raining? Drive to Ardara for lunch at Nancy’s.
The stretch of Wild Atlantic Way from Westport in Mayo down to Clifden in Galway is worth the trip on its own. Heading south from Westport you’re on quiet country lanes as mountains rise all around, including sacred Croagh Patrick. Island-spot from the Sky Road Loop as you cruise into Clifden. Stormy out there? Scratch it all and head straight to the town harbour’s Quay House B&B and get Paddy’s trad tips for the night instead.
Heading south, loop out across the Burren’s stony glacio-karst landscape in Clare; ride the Dingle Peninsula’s Slea Head circuit to spot Star Wars filming locations or cycle the famed Rings of Kerry or wilder Beara.
With a Brompton on board, the road keeps rising up to meet you.
If you're feeling inspired to start travelling with your Brompton, take a look at our travel bag or the full bags range.
(c) Kerry O'Neill, howtobeanadventurer.com