The Irish-Welsh weekend, May 2016.

(Click any photo to see a larger picture - then just follow the slide show.)

Thanks to Rob for some of his photos.

Rob J plus Jean and I headed to Ireland for the annual riding weekend organised by the West South Wales Section. The section is twinned with the Leinster Classic Motorcycle Club and this was the 21st running of the inter-club event, which annually alternates between Wales and Ireland.

Rob was riding his 1976 Honda 400/4 and we rode our 1974 Morini. The event was based at the Woodenbridge Hotel in Co Wicklow, with the hotel nestled in the beautiful wooded Avoca Valley. Avoca being the setting for the Ballykissangel TV series, if you remember.

However, before that, on Thursday, Rob brought his Honda down to load into our van along with our Morini. All loaded up, we set off for Fishguard on Friday the 27th and arrived there in plenty of time for the 2.30pm boat. Quite a few of the WSW members were already congregating, so we joined the queue. Pretty soon all of us were through the usual checks and loaded on to the boat. An uneventful crossing saw us land in Rosslare at 6.30pm, where a group from the Leinster Classic Motorcycle club were waiting to greet us. The plan was to ride north and to stop for fish and chips in Arklow before moving on to the hotel.

Gareth Jones was having some problems with his 250cc Honda and not soon after passing through Wexford he was on stop. We all continued and pretty soon found one of the Irish lads stopped. Val Newton in her Lomax stopped alongside for a chat and subsequently blocked the road, as those of us at the back watched those in front disappear up the road. In no time we managed to take the wrong road and lost everyone. After a quick chat we decided to head straight for the hotel and get a bar meal there, as we had no idea of the location of the Fish & Chip shop.

We arrived at the hotel and had a super bar meal and I, as someone who dislikes British beer, tried my first Guinness. I was told that it tasted better in Ireland, but it didn't impress, I'm afraid. We were all billeted in the Lodge, which was just across the road from the main hotel and it wasn't long before we turned in.

The first day of riding and after a leisurely breakfast it was a real pleasure to just sit and soak up the sunshine, as we waited for the signing on and riders briefing. The system to be used to follow the route was the drop-off, where the leader and tail-end charlie are fixed riders. When the leader makes a turn the number two rider stops at the junction and points the way. I've been on many a run using this system and it works well, but the trick is to be on one of the first couple of corners, as the field is not so strung out at that point on the run and you don't have to wait long before the tail-ender arrives and you can then continue. Anyway, seen at the start:

The start was at 12 noon and we turned right out of the car park and right into the lane next to the fuel station - from there? who knows. We roamed around South Wicklow and into Co Wexford using the back roads, ending up in Carnew before heading on to Bunclody. Jean and I had been there before as it was a lunch stop on the Slievenamon two years before. This time there was no lunch stop, but we were stopped, for over 45 minutes, whilst a cycle race came down off the Leinster mountain.

We eventually got going again and followed the single track road up to the viewing point atop of Leinster Mount. Everyone arrived ok, just before Les shouted to me to bring my camera as there was a Velo in Trouble. It was the lead Velo Thruxton, ridden by Len and a change of plug, donated by our Rob cured the problem. The views were spectacular and at one point Val Newton passed around some of her pretty good welsh cakes.

From the top of the mountain road we dropped down to Bagenalstown and on to the Lord Bagenal Inn in Leighlinbridge for a well earned coffee stop. We then turned right to pass through Tullow and on in the direction of Shillelagh, Tinahely and Aughrim before arriving back at the hotel having clocked up 102 miles.

The event dinner was scheduled for 8.30pm and we were still eating at 10.30, just a tad too late for my liking, but we'd had a real good day, for sure.

Today the run was to start at 10.30 and was estimated to be around the 120 miles. Some more of the Leinster club turned up to ride with us and one was a very nice Sunbeam S7, which I never saw again for the rest of the day.

As we had all signed on the previous day it was just a case of collecting a route sheet, as today we were not using the drop-off system.

We were soon heading out towards Avoca and turning right at Fitzgerald's pub and heading north towards Redcross. I was happily following the Guzzi engined Lomax and in Redcross we all managed to miss the left turn. Rob reckons that he spotted it - anyway, a quick U-turn and we were all back on the route. Using the back roads we eventually came to a right turn that I wouldn't have taken, I must say. The route card showed a simple right with the notation of 'Forestry Road'. It was a good thing that Len on the Thruxton was there taking photos and pointing the way. We had several miles of dirt road that had to be ridden carefully, what a relief when we got to tarmac again. On we rode into Roundwood and the morning coffee stop at the Coach House Pub. We were first to arrive and parked up in the area reserved for us.

From Roundwood it was up over the Sally Gap - a mountain road with some spectacular views. Being a stunning day, all the stops were full of cars and coaches on sight seeing tours. There were certain similarities to the Llyn Briane road in Wales I thought. At one point we lost Rob, but he had stopped to take a photo and then had to press some members of the public into giving him a hand as his bike had fallen over. No damage done, thank goodness, and just the one photo(taken when the bike was still upright):

We must have travelled some 20 miles across the top of the Wicklow mountains before dropping down to Blessington. The A road from there to Baltinglass and the lunch stop was a pleasure to ride and we managed a steady 55-60 before arriving in Baltinglass and the lunch stop at Germaines pub. Having had a good breakfast at the hotel that morning Rob, Jean and myself, were not in the mood for a Sunday lunch, but I was told, by those that had one, that they were very good. As we were looking at 120 miles for the day and Rob's 400/4 was only good for just about that on a tank full, he wisely decided to top up with fuel before we got going on the afternoon leg.

We were again first off, and heading back up into the Wicklow mountains - shades of the Abergwesyn pass in places. Through Kiltegan and Rathdangan after which we dropped down onto the valley floor and arrived at Drumgoff and the Glenmalure Hotel, which was listed as a coffee stop - so we did, as you would, of course. Rob parked his helmet first before we moved the bikes across the road into a more suitable parking place. Must say that Rob's helmet looked good on the flower stand - I was tempted to go and put a price tag on it, but he quickly retrieved it. We weren't feeling hungry but the menu with Rhubarb crumble and cream got the better of Rob and myself. It was, absolutely, one of the best crumbles that I'd ever eaten.

Having clocked up over 100 miles we only had another 18-20 to go, back to the hotel, so eventually it was on into Rathdrum and then the Avoca road back to the hotel. What a super day out, I must say. It wasn't long before we had the bikes loaded back into the van and after a quick clean-up we availed ourselves of a sandwich in the bar before turning in.

The ferry wasn't leaving until 9pm so we had the opportunity to be tourists and make the most of the day. First stop was Len's house to see his bikes and partake in a cuppa.

After saying thanks for the coffee we were directed to the white miners cross above Avoca, as we were told that the views were worth seeing. Originally erected in wood in 1952 to commemorate the Avoca mines, the cross was replaced in 2012 by a 20 foot high steel example. The Avoca mines were eventually closed in 1982. Anyway, we had to follow a dirt track for quite some distance to find the parking area but were pleased that we had made the effort, as from the cross site there were some spectacular views down into the Avoca valley.

Whilst at the Miners Cross we met a very friendly ranger who was on the lookout for Red Kites. The birds had been introduced into the valley from Wales and they were slowly becoming well established. The ranger, who also gave guided walks in the vicinity, said that we really should go and see the Mottee stone which was not very far away. Folklore of the area says that the Mottee Stone was the hurling ball of the giant Finn McCool who hit it from the top of Lugnaquilla Mountain, next to the Glenmalure valley, to top of this hill. That, of course, as the ranger told us, is utter rubbish and he volunteered to show us the way to the 150 ton stone which was actually deposited during the last ice age by a glacier.

From the Mottee stone we headed to Wicklow town to visit the Wicklow Goal. Built in 1702, and eventually closed in 1924, it was partly demolished, but the remaining part has been restored and presents a very moving exhibition of some of the inmates and cruelty that took place pver more than 200 years of use.

After a visit to the cafe we headed along the coast road down towards Arklow and on through Gorey to the small seaside town of Courtown for an Ice cream, which was good, of course.

We then followed the coast down through Wexford to Rosslare only to find that the pub that we had used two years before had closed. Backtracking, and we soon found another pub where we had a meal before heading to the dock and the 9pm ferry back to Wales. We arrived in Fishguard at around 12.30am eventually getting home at 3am.

What a super weekend and one of the best that I've taken part in. Les and Shirley organised the event from the Welsh side, whilst the Leinster club looked after us in Ireland. Next year the event will be in Wales before going to Ireland again in 2018. Don't miss the opportunity to join in.