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My wife and I are looking at a trip to Ireland for our 15th anniversary. Its actually our first trip out of the country, and will be our first without the kids :biggrin:

We are thinking about doing a self guided tour of Ireland. But then that got me thinking of doing the self guided tour on a motorcycle! Anybody ever done a motorcycle tour of Ireland? There are a couple places I found that rent bikes and do both guided and self guided tours. However, it looks like it will be a bit more pricey, potentially pushing it out of our price range.

Anybody here ever done one? what was your experience like? We are looking at the late June to mid July time frame.
 

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I went over with a small group of people, so we toured with a van.

The one thing I would say is, the roads in Ireland are really, really really rough once you get outside the towns. They're also really narrow (some are barely wide enough for one vehicle, much less two) and the oncoming lorries (trucks) love to use both their lane and yours to navigate the curves. Sometimes they use both lanes because they have to:





In addition, depending upon the time of year, it rains a lot over there. The climate is pretty close to Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts (they don't call it "New England" for nothing...), so if it's monsoon season there, it will be pretty much the same in Ireland.

Finally, they drive on the left over there. The advantage of a car is that the steering wheel is on the opposite side, which reminds you of the difference. You always remember that the driver is closer to the center of the road. The problem with a bike is you don't have that reference, so it's harder to remember to stay on the left.

It's also really easy to get lost there. They don't believe in putting up signs to tell you what the sames of roads are once you get outside of town. With a car, you can have a second person watch the map and navigate. On a bike, that's harder to do. If you ride a bike, expect to pull over a lot to find your bearings - that is, if you can find a place to do so on roads where the only thing that keeps the trees and bushes trimmed back are the passing trucks.

Here's a little video of some of what we encountered:

http://ken.bowell.net/sections/travels/videos/m1004.wmv

Now, I will say, the scenery is beautiful in nearly every area. Be prepared for a lot of this:



 

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+1 What CTRider said. I was in Ireland last May for a week. Had a fantastic time and can't wait to go back. We debated renting a car but decided not to. Either my wife and I would have been divorced or we would have been killed. :) Very easy to get lost, roads outside of cities are as pictured. So we did a couple of organized tours in a comfortable van that held about 10 people. It was very relaxing just being able to look out the window and leave the driving to someone else. At our B&B in Dublin we talked to an American who had rented a car. He said it was white knuckle driving for him.

How long do you plan on being in the country and what parts were you hoping to tour? If you're going to be in Dublin I can recommend a couple of pubs and a few sights not to be missed.
 

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I have toured all of Northern Ireland and all of the North, West and East coasts of the Republic of Ireland.

It is a great country to ride through at a laidback pace. Don't be afraid to consider Northern Ireland; two of the Wonders of The World, the Giant's Causeway and the Bushmills Distillery, are within a couple of miles of each other. You might also see some motorcycle road races. The Northwest 200 road race goes along the same stretch of road.

Counties Antrim, Down, Londonderry, Donegal, Sligo and Galway are fantastic. The Glens of Antrim are a challenging ride, but well worth the effort. The Mourne Mountains in County Down have some of the best rock climbing in the world. If you're go to County Sligo, drop by the grave of the poet W.B. Yeats and say hello for me. It's been a while since I last visited him.

You will not get a better pint of Guinness anywhere in the World than in the South of Ireland, especially Dublin. And there is an unwritten rule that you can't walk past a pub with your name on the sign. I have been legless in West Meath a few times because of that rule. There may well be quite a few McWraths or McGraths to pop in to and enjoy a drop of the Black Stuff and a bit of craic.

I'm riding back over in May to see Metallica in Belfast. Best crowd in the World... well, maddest anyway. :D
 

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I did a tour last year with my wife pillion and had a great time. There is lots to see and do, with great landscapes all over. We will be going back this year to tour again. The people are nice/friendly and helpful. A reasonable scale map is fine to navigate with and if you take a wrong turn it just means you see a little more while finding your way back on route, no sweat. We didnt book in advance, just stopping at B+B's for the night wherever we were at the end of the day. Had some real good B+B's and always a good Irish breakfast to start the day. I have toured the USA on a bike and yes the roads in Ireland take some getting used to, but no big deal. The distances can be a little confusing, in the USA it is easy to estimate the distance/time and be reasonably close. In Ireland, because of the roads, it can often take a lot longer to travel than you imagine, you want to keep of the freeways as much as possible. Its not cheap, you dont get many Euro's for a Pound/Dollar and even the B+B's are quite costly. The weather will be good at that time of the year, but you must always expect some rain in Ireland. You could do it in a car, but that somewhat defeats the fun we all get doing it on a bike.
 

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I was at D.O.D #1!
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Discussion Starter #6
Well nothing is set in stone yet, but we are going. We may just end up on a guided tour. However, to save cost we started looking at self guided tours...and that naturally led to looking at self guided tours - by motorcycle!

Im well aware of the pitfalls - rain, roads, driving on the left, etc. The bike rental places I have found all either include GPS or have that as an option. Insurance, roadside assistance, etc all included. The kicker is it costs at LEAST twice as much to rent a bike as a car. How messed up is that. It may be too cost prohibitive, but its still under consideration.

Like I said, nothing set in stone yet, but we are looking at being there at least 6 or 7 days, and touring the west, southwest, southern parts, and Dublin. And yes, I will be having a pint at any pub I find with McGrath in the name!
 

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Well nothing is set in stone yet, but we are going. We may just end up on a guided tour. However, to save cost we started looking at self guided tours...and that naturally led to looking at self guided tours - by motorcycle!

Im well aware of the pitfalls - rain, roads, driving on the left, etc. The bike rental places I have found all either include GPS or have that as an option. Insurance, roadside assistance, etc all included. The kicker is it costs at LEAST twice as much to rent a bike as a car. How messed up is that. It may be too cost prohibitive, but its still under consideration.

Like I said, nothing set in stone yet, but we are looking at being there at least 6 or 7 days, and touring the west, southwest, southern parts, and Dublin. And yes, I will be having a pint at any pub I find with McGrath in the name!
We were self-guided, too, just in a large group. My father did most of the driving since he hates being a passenger.

You have to remember, unlike in the US where you lay out a large deposit (on top of the rental) and get it back when you return the bike safely, the deposit over there is part of the cost and not returned. I'm sure the likelihood of the bikes being wrecked is far greater there. Plus, they're much stricter about displacement - cost goes way up the bigger the bike.

In regards to insurance and roadside assistance over there, it's not all it's cracked up to be. I believe, for cars, you're responsible for the first $100 or so of costs if something goes wrong - including a flat tire. Roadside assistance generally means exactly that: roadside assistance. It doesn't mean the service won't cost you anything. For example, some friends met up with us for a couple days and had a separate vehicle. They ended up having a flat tire. They had to pay for most of the tire to replace the flat one, despite having all the coverage.

One note: if you do rent a car, go with the smallest vehicle you can feel comfortable in. Trust me, you don't want to maneuver anything larger than you need to on those roads. Plus, diesel (which is likely what the vehicle will use) is going to be pricey, though even our large 9 passenger van got great fuel mileage.

Finally, unless you stick with large restaurants, be prepared to eat early. The pubs tend to stop serving food by 6:30PM or so. Be prepared to ask for the check, too. They won't bring it until you do (they consider it rude to leave it on the table before you're done eating). Tipping is really for excellent service, not expected. On your end, don't expect free refills, stay away from the coffee (it's usually instant and run through a cappuccino machine), and a "burger" is usually a meatball, unless it comes on a "bap" (roll) or with "rocket" (cheese). If you can get anything other than the Irish breakfast or cold cereal on a particular morning, take the chance while you can get it - trust me, you'll have plenty of opportunity to indulge in the Irish breakfast on the trip since it's often the only option for a cooked breakfast at smaller places. BTW: nobody but tourists actually eats the Irish breakfast other than on Sundays.

Check out my trip log from several years ago to get a little insight on some places. We went up the West coast of Ireland, into Northern Ireland and finally into Scotland. It's long (we were there for 16 days), so if you decide to skip to the summary page (the last page), feel free:

Ken Bowell's Personal Web Site.
 
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