The Code of the Irish Road : The Return of The Magnificent Seven


Rolling off the ferry onto the concrete standing of Rosslare harbour with the sun squinting through the afternoon haze can only mean another Irish biking adventure. After an uneventful ferry trip from Fishguard, being chased by seagulls, gannets, dolphins, and porpoises, it was great to have the tyres crunch the tarmac and set out for a couple of hours riding to our first stop.


This trip I am travelling with six buddies, my cairdre. Frank, Phil, Snelly, Nick, Dave his son, James and myself have biked around France and the UK together before, but this is our first trip to Ireland together.

I had biked alone to Dublin earlier in the year, for a Springsteen show, and that had given me the taste for more Irish motorcycling. I remember well, riding by the Liffey, late on a Saturday night with lovers and hopefuls, strolling through the evening mist to dance, sway and party. It would be different ride in the morning light with the streets littered with broken, promises dreams and hearts, but until then, the night belongs to them.


My bed for the first night of this second Irish tour of the year is going to be harbour side in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire, but first I need to get there. The roads in Ireland have poetry in the tarmac, and you can hear the road whispering sweet lullabies in your ear as you roll along. This is comforting as the evening draws cold and the miles get less.

The pubs are lively and busy, with Guiness on tap and fine whisky to chase. The pipes and the lute are singing sweetly in the corner with singing and merriment making an evening to remember. Sadly all too soon, we are waving goodbye, heading to the hotel, and praying the hangover is not too lively in the morning

The morning brings the wind which whistled around us as we headed north to Belfast. We stuck to the coast to Dublin, marvelling at the cleanliness of the streets and the smooth surfaces of the roads. Over the Liffey, before we dipped into the tunnel under the city. Occasional tolls slow motorcyclists down, keep the roads sweet, and motor us on north. Our riding pals managed to travel over the mountains of Mourne, but a business call kept Phil and I back an hour, so we arranged to meet by the seaside for fish and chips at Newcastle. The skies turn dark, so we tog up with wet gear and head further north. along the North coast.

The wind has turned up a notch as we travel, with my bike sadly turning victim in a shop car park. I have to make friends quickly to set it straight again with duct tape holding my indicator in place. We are quickly seaside again on the beautiful Antrim coast. The sea is crashing on the rocks a few feet from us as the road twists and turns north in a beautiful afternoon’s riding. A few hours riding, and we take in breathtaking coastal views, coastguard ruins at Torr Head and then Dunluce Castle, before we arrive at our evening stop, another coastal sleepover, this time in Port Rush.

Whilst weaving along the border you see the relevant flags in gardens, in towns and by the roadside, proudly displaying allegiance to their place on this earth.


There was a hazy shade of autumn fizzing through the mist after breakfast this morning. The bikes were fresh, and so was the temperature as we rolled onto the Giants Causeway Trail. Pretty soon, we arrived at the attraction, got completely confused at the parking (sort it out National Trust) before we headed down to the waters edge to see this phenomenon.

Over 40,000 basalt columns, formed some 60 million years ago, are testament to a major stage in the earth’s development. Shaped like 50 pence pieces in different sized towers give this historic place a sense of awe. But of course, the legend that ancient giants built a path to Scotland from this wild part of the coastline is a far more fun story.

There are many good fortune gestures here, but this one, I am not sure about. You take a coin and jam it in a crack in the rock for the elements to slowly destroy. I didn’t do this, I am not sure I agree with it, but here’s a picture for you to make your mind up.



We stopped at Donegal for lunch, parking our bikes on a paved roundabout in town centre called The Diamond. There was a young girl with a pa system singing her heart out for the shoppers, trying to win their hearts and votes for young Eurovision. She should go far. She has a lovely voice.

We had awesome crab salads for lunch here before heading to Sligo on the Wild Atlantic Way. This road lives up to its name! We were blown all over the tarmac as we climbed high into the beautiful hills. Sadly, the rain came down like stair rods, obscuring the view completely. There was nothing to do except twist the throttle and head for the hotel.

We stop in Ballina and the rain dries up. We head to a nearby watering hole to see a cracking game of rugby on the TV – Ireland playing South Africa in the Rugby World Cup! It was interesting and refreshing to hear mostly Gaelic spoken here with the welcome being warm and friendly. Ireland won the game, and the place erupted! The Guiness flowed like water, and the locals danced and sang into the wee hours. More than once we heard “Sit down lads, I will bring your Guiness’s over when they have finished cooking.”

The mugginess of next morning made the road difficult, as if the surface was sweating its own kind of slipperiness through the tarmac. Todays final destination would be Galway, but we would see some sights on the way. As we travel through this beautiful Irish landscape, the weather gods play their tricks again, and the rain pours down on us. Through fantastic mountain roads, we travel, excusing sheep and climbing higher, all the while the rain comes down, deepening the magnificent lakes we pass and keeping the countryside green. We have lunch in Louisburgh before setting off through moors and valleys, seeing white water crashing down the hillsides and filling the rivers. The reds, browns, and greens of the moors are vivid. I just wish the rain would halt long enough for us to enjoy it more. Eventually, we trundle into Galway and settle into our digs before finding a bar to watch the Wales versus Australia game in the Rugby World Cup. We find a bar run by a Welshman called Dave! There is something charming talking to someone with a broad Irish accent who instantly turns Welsh when we both speak our mother tongue. He entertains us throughout the game and makes sure the black stuff keeps flowing before the Welsh victory turns a great night into an epic one. The band crank into overdrive, and the Irish craic envelops us well into the night.

O’Connells is the bar we met Dave in. It really has the best selection of whisky (up to £1000 a shot for some rarities), the best, most interesting beer garden I have ever seen, and made famous by Ed Sheeran making the video for his song, Galway Girl here. Go find it. You’ll have lots of fun.

The rain came down on this Galway Town as we gingerly left the coast, today and started heading inland.

The first stop today was Ahascragh distillery. The owners, Gareth and Michelle, have taken a derelict flour mill in the centre and built it sympathetically into a high-end whisky and gin distillery


The build is fantastic. The whiskies are delicious – Uais and Clan Colla, and the gin is good enough to drink without a mixer. Xin Gin, it is called, you will really enjoy. The distillery now has a shop and cafe there, so you can really make a day of it. Gareth and Michelle are passionate about their business, their environment (zero emmissions) and their locality. I really enjoyed their enthusiasm, their passion and their belief. I wish these lovely Irish people a Welsh man’s luck and all too soon, now the sun had finally broken through, so we head out for our afternoon stop in Kilkenny.

We skirt the motorway, stick to B Roads, and we arrive in Kilkenny in time for lunch. We find a lovely parking spot by the river, have a quick sandwich and a short souvenir hunt. Then we are off to Waterford for the night.

Waterford for our final night was great fun. We find the pub which gave our tour its name – An Uisce Beatha which translates to ‘Water of Life’, where we had great fun with the staff, and we left a signed dollar bill for posterity. We went upstairs in Cafe Goa for a feed and marvelled at the art and the railway lugagge carriers running above the tables! It looked like a typical Indian railway carriage! A great tandoori fills my belly and tired legs take me to bed.

Early start today. Up at 5 am for a dash for the 8 am ferry. But it is blowing a gale again, and the rain is relentless. It is a dark and dangerous journey to the coast, and I have to lean into the wind just to stay upright. An hours ride takes us to the Ferry and we roll on-board without incident. I change my damp teeshirt for a dry one and swap my wet motorcycle rain trousers for jeans next to the bike, ignoring the curious looks. My friends and I long haul our tired shells up stairs to the restaurant for a breakfast feed as the ship sets sail, hoping for better weather on the Welsh side of the water. 

The ferry crossing passes quickly and the sun rises high in the sky. All too soon we are motoring home, saying our farewells through our helmet intercoms

Another biking adventure comes to an end. The weather has made the trip entertaining, but the overall feel of the trip has been sweet. I walk through the back door of my home to a hot tea and a smile from my wife. “Are you putting your bike away now for the winter?” she asks. My smile answers “Let us not be too hasty.”

Ian ‘Ianto’ Gravell is a disabled businessman, author and adventurer.

When he is not working, or writing he is riding his motorcycle to exciting places around the world.

Keep tabs on his adventures by reading his blog, newsletter and book – Loose Gravel – Broken Bones, Broken Dreams made good on a Broken Road

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