A tribute to the Vintage Austin Register, Ireland Section:
[ N.B. A truncated version of the “Head to Head Rally” Tuesday, 18th May – Saturday, 29th May 2010.
Photographs give some idea of what driving in Ireland is about, though, it must be said, we were very lucky not to have any wet days.
Last year four Austin’s from the Lincolnshire Pre War A7 Club had a wonderful time on the Vintage Austin Register “Donnegal Weekend”. When we were told about a proposed trip along the full length of Ireland for 2010 we expressed our interest in once more visiting the “Emerald Isle.”
A very photogenic road, taken on our 2009 visit.
When the details came through in autumn last year, two couples applied to join, namely Pete & Sue Rowlands in a 1933“Austin 10” and Ed & Dianne Davies in a 1937 “Ruby.” Later on in the year we were deeply saddened to hear of the ill health of some of the committee members. This ultimately led to their reluctant decision to cancel the rally, quite understandingly as the logistics of organizing such a trip must be colossal.
As we had already booked passage on the newly to run Swansea to Cork ferry we decided to continue, particularly as in the initial general information we had received about the rally, the route was sketched out for us. Such was their level of their pre-planning. We also felt it would be a tribute to the friends we had made the year before.
Wouldn’t you be tempted having read that……”starting from Skibbereen you would visit Mizen Head and finish in Buncrana from where you would visit Malin Head: During our travels we will take in the sights of the world famous Ring of Kerry, en route to Killarney (an opportunity to take a trip around the Lakes of Killarney in a jaunting car). We travel on towards Tralee (host town of the Rose of Tralee Festival), shortly after this we take a ferry crossing where the Shannon waters flow and then onward taking in the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher (A Natural Wonder), travelling on thgh The Burren (another Natural Wonder) on our way to Galway. Our route then takes us from Galway to Sligo via Connemara, which has long been regarded as the real Emerald of Ireland, up into Donegal town, Ballybofey into Buncrana”.
Armed with such information and a map we then started to organise our own adventure with amendments which meant that we could not call ours the “Head to Head Rally”. One of the main events in the Lincolnshire Pre War A7 Club is the “Sevens to the Sea” run which made me wonder if we should adapt our title to “Sevens to the Seas.” We did cross from Wales to Ireland and then Scotland as well as hugging coastal routes for much of the time. In a spirit of adventure we decided that our accommodation should be B&B and that other than pre-booking the first and last nights we would take pot luck to give us more flexibility.
On the morning of 18th May BBM (A7) arrived at our house looking immaculate as ever to join up with Godfrey (A10) with his ‘shabby-chic’ look (think of Godfrey in “Dad’s Army” after whom he is known). We then set of for Caerleon in South Wales where we spent the night with friends and went out for the first of many memorable meals. BBM had to have some work done on her starter motor, the bendix gear had worn a hole in the retaining spring and refused to engage the flywheel. After viewing the Roman Amphitheatre at Cearleon a leisurely trip the next day took us to Swansea, where in the evening, we boarded the Swansea to Cork ferry and indulged ourselves by staying in the two bedroom West Cork Suite with lounge (remember our accommodation was going to be ad hoc from then on and we got a good deal.
Anyway the girls deserve it!!). We were somewhat relieved to have comfortable surroundings as there were problems in shutting the bow doors and departure was somewhat delayed. The men kept our spirits up by regaling us with stories of ‘those in peril on the sea’ not to mention the ‘Titanic.’ Atmosphere was provided with thick fog and accompanying foghorn.
The following morning we left Cork harbour and detoured to Kinsale where we explored its narrow winding streets and harbour before visiting the old fortifications of Charles fort with its lovely views. We then made the mistake of having lunch before finding the B&B in Cork where we were sent into the garden to relax in the sunshine (which was to shine upon us for the whole trip). We were then given the most enormous afternoon tea! At breakfast the next morning we were encouraged to start with porridge that had cream and whisky or Baileys on it before tackling the four page menu. On our departure the landlady begged us to take some scones to keep our strength up! We felt that even if we had to sleep in the cars that night we wouldn’t starve.
On Friday we felt we were starting the rally proper when we reached Skibbereen for a coffee stop. This is when I admit that in our planning we had decided to omit visiting both Mizen Head and Malin Head so we could include other sights and be spontaneous should the occasion arise; Not to mention if the cars needed attention!
We then traveled on to start going round the Ring of Kerry stopping for the night on the outskirts of Cahersiveen where I saw a sunset through the fronds of a palm tree to rival any I have seen elsewhere.
Early the next day saw the men fettling under respective bonnets, Ed by changing the carburettor float and Pete by tweaking the shock absorbers. [ Some of the road surfaces in Ireland are awful.] When we reached Killorglin we were somewhat surprised by several ‘deposits’ even on the pavements in the centre but all was explained as we passed a horse fair. We then deviated from the Irish route by missing out Killarney and headed off along the Dingle peninsula where we drove the cars onto the beach at Inch so they could get a better view of the surfers!
After the town of Dingle we then headed over the Connor Pass (1444 ft high and 3miles long) and this is when “BBM” got a little hot (well actually very hot and boiled). It could have been the excitement of passing a goat sauntering along the road! That night saw us staying in Listowel described as ‘The Literary capital of Ireland.’ The only prose this inspired from the men was centered on the best place to have a pint of Guinness.
On Sunday after a twenty minute ferry ride across The Shannon we followed the coast road round to the Cliffs of Moher and the very impressively designed Visitor Centre. After a petrol stop where we picked up some food we headed off to the Burren for a picnic in its strange landscape. We didn’t have enough time to do justice to either of these Natural Wonders but will return. We traveled on and reached the very different but equally beautiful scenery in the Connemara National Park staying for the night in Clifden.
A short time after setting off the following morning we saw a sign for ‘Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled garden’. This is home to a community of Benedictine nuns who went there in 1920 and then recently began to restore the Abbey, Church and garden. We spent a very interesting couple of hours exploring especially in the extensive Victorian walled garden before cutting across to Strandhill on the coast near Sligo where we stayed for the night.
Tuesday morning and Godfrey would not start! Facing the wrong way a push start was out of the question so the battery from BBM had to come to the rescue. This naturally prompted Ed’s favourite saying about the Ruby being “the best little car that Austin ever made.” Having spoken to some fellow diners the night before, on our way to Donegal we made a slight detour to the coastal village of Mullaghmore where Earl Mountbatten loved to stay and unfortunately met his end. After a walk around Donegal and its castle we deviated once more to drive west to Killybegs, once the premier fishing port of Ireland and where we stopped for lunch.
After lunch BBM was somewhat distressed so we found a B&B and the men disappeared under the bonnet. A blown manifold gasket was diagnosed and then replaced. Dianne heard the noise and Peter diagnosed ‘blow by’. Ed had the spare gasket to hand! Luckily all the nuts came off with no trouble. At the same time Godfrey was treated to a bottle of Radweld as he was incontinent at night. Both problems fixed with minimum fuss.
Having parked more appropriately just in case, Godfrey was able to be push started the next morning (we ignored comments about the Ruby). We had been told about cliffs that could rival those of Moher so headed west of Killybegs to Teelin and the Slieve League cliffs. En route we stopped several times to admire stunning views and a turquoise sea, then came to a halt in a car park with a five barred gate. Ed having read a notice board near the gate opened it and we drove on what was possibly the most challenging drive of the holiday.
The road surface was good but narrow and steep with many bends. Dianne later admitted to closing her eyes at times but the view when we got to the top was magical. BBM got a little hot and bothered (but did not boil this time). Following this we had a far more sedate journey to Ballybofey which is where we finally left the Irish route and headed east along the Sperrin Mountain scenic route. Again this was lovely but much gentler scenery than that of earlier, arriving at Draperstown where we stayed.
For our last full day in Ireland we paid homage to last years Donnegal weekend. After Pete adopted a more sensitive approach, Godfrey coughed into life by himself saving the indignity not to mention the effort of a push start and we set off to Ballymena, Broughshane and then along one of the Glens of Antrim to Glenarm. Rather than stay in the hustle and bustle of Belfast we had booked a B&B in the rural setting of Islandmagee prior to a ferry crossing to Stranraer the next day, then a night in Gretna Green and home to near Lincoln. A journey of 877miles in Ireland and 1426 miles in total! (1491 miles in the Ruby, smaller wheels?)
Overall memories of the trip are being with and meeting lovely people whose recommendations led us to have some excellent meals (yes Ed did have his lobster!) and some truly stunning locations. The glorious scenery, shown at its best in the good weather and along with this the realization of how much more we had missed.
An abundance of wild flowers that delighted Dianne and I and brought childhood memories back. Lastly the fun of motoring in the Austin’s and did they receive some attention everywhere they went and rightly so.