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Terrific trip to ride the Welsh roads was an unforgettable experience

MotorbikesBy Finn Gillespie
The gang take in the gorgeous scenery in the Welsh valleys
The gang take in the gorgeous scenery in the Welsh valleys

TALK about being thrown in at the deep end.

The old bike skills are a bit rusty as a result of my (relatively) new world of fatherhood.

So when an invite arrived in my inbox for a day riding beautiful roads in Wales, I replied ‘yes’ quicker than Government ministers announce spending increase plans at election time.

As anyone who has ridden in a big group will attest, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.

So, having set off from Dublin to Rosslare on a Thursday morning to catch the 9am Rosslare to Wexford Stena Line Europe ferry to Fishguard in South Wales, I was mightily relieved to count 13 riders that included ex-Garda outriders, experienced bike hacks, and a bike shop owner with hundreds of thousands of miles under his belt.

Our ‘host’ for the day was Celtic Horizon Tours, a fully-bonded Irish travel company which specialises in bike trips to the UK, the Continent and even the USA.

David Buckley is managing director of Celtic Horizon Tours, and he gave us a quick rundown on the day ahead. We had 295 miles (475km) of beautiful roads ahead of us through some of the most stunning Welsh countryside as we made our way to Holyhead for the return Stena Line Superfast X ferry back to Dublin that night. That was the good news.

The bad news (or so I thought) was that we would be riding in convoy.

Now, when I think of riding in convoy, I imagine a deathly dull ride following someone else’s back tyre in a dreaded military-like procession. How wrong I was.

As we headed west from Fishguard and Newport Bay towards the Brecon Beacons national park, the group quickly found a rhythm and the whole procession of bikes starting acting – and riding – as one. We had to do an average of something like 50kph to make the return ferry in north wales some seven hours later, so we weren’t exactly hanging around, only stopping for quick petrol stops and a couple of photo ops.

If you’ve never ridden these roads, I’d urge you to give them a try. Because we had so many miles to cover, the fact that we had a lead rider who knew the route and had the maps and waypoints plotted into his GPS, meant that we could just sit back and enjoy the ride.

And what a ride – with everything from hairpin mountain turns to fast, sweeping b-roads, and everything in between. After the Brecon Beacons, we headed for the equally picturesque Snowdonia national park, with even better roads and the rain gods thankfully showing mercy to our thirst for dry tarmac.

As we rolled into Fishguard at eight o’clock that evening, we were one happy but weary family of bikers. With more memories and talking points after the day’s ride than you could shake a stick at, my enduring memory of the experience is stunning scenery, brilliant roads and a lively bunch of bikers.

Celtic Horizons Tours offers bike trips including seven-day guided tours of the Scottish highlands and islands, 11-day guided tours of Ireland, and epic ‘Route 66’ and ‘Wild West’ fly-ride trips to the USA.

 

THE BIKE

Finn rode a BMW R1200 GS Adventure, the perfect all-rounder for a long day in the saddle and some would say the ultimate tourer. It’s an air-liquid-cooled 1,170cc beast of a flat-twin, with 125hp and 125Nm of torque, and more rider aids and bells and whistles than you’d find at a Morris dancing convention. See www.bmw-motorrad.ie

THE CROSSING

Stena Line has daily sailings from Dublin and Rosslare in and out of north and south Wales. See www.stenaline.ie

THE EXPERTS

Celtic Horizon Tours is run by bikers, offering a variety of tailored motorcycle trips across the pond and in the USA, as well as sporting trips and a whole lot more. See www.celtichorizontours.com