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The first view of the Rock of Cashel as we approached Cashel yesterday. They have a major restoration project underway to conserve and restore a chapel which is deteriorating rapidly from the effect of moisture. Hardly surprising without a roof after all.

The Rock of Cashel rises majestically from the encircling plain of Golden Vale. This limestone outcrop has the most complete Romanesque church in Ireland, (must be some big wrecks about then) a 13th century Gothic cathedral, a 12th century round tower and an exquisitely restored 15th century Vicars choral. It is here that the original St. Patricks cross can be seen. The Rock of Cashel is a unique heritage site and it is universally recognised as having one of the world’s greatest collections of medieval architecture and Celtic art. (From the reverse of the town map we received from the hotel….except for my comment).

A view through the gravestones at the Rock of Cashel to the fields below and yet another ruin of a church. As you can see the day is to quote our Hotelier “a grand soft day’ which in our terms means soft drizzly rain to rainy drizzle and back again….which it has been all day…or close to it.

In spite of the weather we have had a comfortably warm ride. Not as far today and the travel was not particularly fast as a good bit of it was on country roads which had a reasonable amount of mud on them. (Norm is out with the bucket and rag as I type to get some of the grime off the exhaust pipes at least).

The back of the Cashel Palace, the front is much more impressive but we were in the wrong place to get that..…and by the time we got out we were drenched so take our word for it that this is the ‘birthplace of Guinness’….or so the sign said and so far we haven’t seen anywhere else claim that title..yet anyway.

The countryside has been much more what I’ve expected to see since arriving in Ireland. We have seen lots of gently rolling hills of green well-manicured fields with harvest in varying degrees of completion. Probably more noticeable is the fact that there have been very few fields with rampant weed growth and no properties that have the appearance of being abandoned and being engulfed with weeds and encroaching scrubby tree growth which we have seen a reasonable amount of over the last couple of days.

Our first decent view of Blarney Castle. The cantilevered window was the bedroom of the Earl apparently. Bit of a show off by the look of it. As a young girl having spent many school holidays trying with my sister Maureen to put together a 1,000 + piece jig saw puzzle of the palace with much surrounding foliage and stonework (and never quite managing that)it was a satisfying view to see the thing intact!

Blarney House.

We have travelled through parts of Tipperary, Limerick and Cork Counties today and we have also noticed fewer new build houses, especially on farmland and while I don’t like sweeping generalisations I am about to make a HUGE one. Perhaps the farmers in these counties (on the roads we have travelled) have had a greater concentration on the farming side of things with their EU money than on building houses. Having said that of course, any farmer worth his salt who has a wife who says ‘if you spend your Euro money on the farm instead of giving me a decent house to live in I’m walking out the door’ would build a house. So, win, win however you look at it. What the hell do I know? I’m enjoying it all from the bike seat.

One of the medium sized trees in the gardens….I kid you not. When we say we plant trees for future generations we are not kidding! We have seen many examples of trees from all over the world which would have been gifts from important dignitaries saying they had confidence in the longevity of the Irish Family / Clan resident on sight no doubt.

We missed out on a tour of Blarney House by a small margin but it didn’t matter. We enjoyed our wander around the grounds and gardens between showers lunch and hot chocolate. What an immense area to maintain and pay for! Good luck to them.

Bits and Bobs:

As we were heading towards the gate at Blarney Castle an Irish Grandmother was explaining to her granddaughter (about 8 – 9 years old) what the difference was between ‘boloney’ and ‘blarney’ since there is the Blarney Stone to be kissed at Blarney Castle which apparently bestows the individual with great eloquence once they have kissed the stone.

Grandma said ”boloney is when you are talking rubbish but blarney is when you are being much smarter or cleverer than that” to which here granddaughter replied “it all sounds like boloney to me”….Out of the mouths of babes!

It may interest you to know that Norm didn’t quite understand what was being said until I explained to him that he is usually talking boloney and I am talking blarney..…not convinced he took that on-board.

Last nights’ Accommodation:
Baileys Hotel, Cashel Ireland

A lovely building (built in 1709) which has been lovingly looked after or restored and is a beautifully comfortable spot to have a break from travel. All the staff were welcoming and warm and friendly and we felt well taken care of. The rooms were spacious and the bathroom beautifully appointed and shower delicious with good temperature and water pressure. The bar and restaurant were beautiful spaces (food was delicious) and the library a welcome chill spot. So welcome after a few hours on the road. This would definitely be somewhere I could return to. Good value for money I thought.

Baileys Hotel, the gate to the right is where Norm pushed our bikes for a safe night.

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A rather lovely memorial to an ancient old cemetery with graves going back to the 9th and 10th century. The surviving headstones line a walk into and around the Mortuary Chapel and give the village a restful little park. This was a project of the local Council with Youth workers in 1985. We were very impressed. We had to check out the village of Athlone because we have special friends (Bill and Kerry) who lived for a time in the little settlement of Athlone near Drouin in Victoria.

The day dawned sunny with big dark cloudy patches and has remained so all day. Thankfully we travelled more in the sun than cloud and managed to miss the rain entirely so Murphy a bit under par today. We donned the long johns to keep the legs a bit more comfortable which we were grateful of as when we were in the cloud it was decidedly chilly. Tomorrow is forecast to not be as friendly but we will see.

Part of the ruins of the Abbey at Clonmacnoise on the edge of the Shannon River. This was a site where pilgrims made their way to centuries ago. Still looks very peaceful.

We have travelled through lots of rolling green fields today criss-crossed by hedgerows and stone walls / fences separating crops from fields full of sheep and cattle. Less barley and harvested wheat visible today but much evidence of hay and silage. We have also noticed a huge number of new build houses all day both on farmland and in village allotments. These were particularly noticeable around the Athlone and Clonmacnoise areas. Interesting.

The bridge at Shannonbridge looking towards the ancient fort. This was no doubt a point of defence as well as management of trade by whoever inhabited the fort in times gone by. Great volume of water flowing and the quays each side of the river were in good repair with lots of modern boats of all sizes moored.

In an attempt to identify which County Cashel was in so we could find our accommodation we headed for another name on the map the GPS would recognise and ventured into the village of Roscrea which was a delightful combination of ancient and new buildings climbing up and down hills around waterways. We enjoyed a hot chocolate and discovered the Cashel we were looking for was in Tipperary County so set the GPS and headed off. The view of the Rock of Cashel (ancient castle) as we rounded the corner (almost into town) was a WOW moment and we look forward to exploring it before we head off in the morning. By the way we rode past two absolutely beautiful golf courses on our way to Cashel this afternoon.

A street view (from under a begonia pot) down a little street beside a small waterway in Roscrea.

Bits and Bobs:

The locals here seem to consider speed limits more a suggestion than anything else, particularly in the villages and at roadwork’s. As a result we tend to hold the traffic up in these areas as we aim to keep our noses clean in a foreign country.

Last nights’ Accommodation:
Grand Canal Hotel, Dublin Ireland

A very nice hotel, spacious rooms (loved the recliner chair) and sofa as well as plenty of room to do the blog and the best functioning shower we have found so far on our trek. The food in both the restaurant and Gasworks Bar was plentiful and good, we had undercover parking under the hotel and the staff throughout were cheerful and helpful.

Grand Canal Hotel, Dublin

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Okay so the rain finally cleared and we decided ‘what the hell’ and we headed out for a very brisk walk to check out some of Dublin. A bit late for the hop on hop off tour so we just walked to St Stephens Green and past Trinity College (with a short break at an Irish Pub) back to the hotel. I am happy to report that we were away for 2 hours and walked very briskly for all that time (apart from the drink about half way through) and Norm’s back was the best it has been since before we came away. YAY!! We have been regularly applying some Deep Freeze gel with vigorous massage from yours truly and stretching from Norm. We’re trying not to get too enthusiastic…but it’s difficult not to.

A pretty street view outside St Stephens Green. Check out the size of the vine trunk on the building!

Enjoying the sights of St Stephens Green

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We had a bit of a lie in this morning and woke to beautiful blue skies …… with huge billowing white grey and very black clouds strewn about at random. Looked very impressive though somewhat daunting considering we planned a ride to check our Slane Castle and a Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange. We had a dry trip to the castle then it rained while we were inside so we donned the wet weather gear and rode on to the tunnels.

The front of Sloane Castle where we had a coffee then did the tour followed by lunch.

We arrived to view the tunnels at 1.30pm and were told we needed to return to Newgrange to purchase tickets and come back by coach for the 3.45pm tour. Hello! We planned to do the hop on and off tour in Dublin on our return so that was never going to fly. It was also some consolation that the sky behind us as we headed back to Dublin was as black as the ace of spades….especially since we had packed the wet weather gear away.

The front entry to the Megalithic Passage Tomb taken by Norm (standing on a mound of dirt over the fence).

Best laid plans and all that, shortly after we returned and before we even got changed ‘Murphy’ had realised we’d given him the slip at Newgrange and on the way back to the hotel, but he caught up and it started raining here. Not to worry, the umbrella I left behind in Marshside desperate for space was now gone and heavens above the hotel didn’t have one to borrow so the trek didn’t happen.

Bits and Bobs:

Yesterday as Norm was getting the cases off the bikes out the front of the hotel in the rain a cab pulled up behind the bikes (in view of the Australian sign) and the cabbie said to Norm "Fook the rain, why didn’t you bring the fooking sunshine?” I kid you not. Norm was so stunned he didn’t think to say “well it’s been sunny ever since we got here”. Ha, ha, you have to laugh.

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We woke to a clear cool sunny morning and headed off for Waterford. We soon wished we had put on our long johns as it was very cool with sometimes strong winds and grey skies and rain in nearly every direction we looked but we fortunately managed to be heading in different directions than the grey cloud until we got to Waterford, the ‘Oldest city in Ireland’ (or so it said on one of the signs as we headed into town). I was impressed with how clean and tidy the town looked as we made our way to what turned out to be the now derelict Waterford Crystal factory (very sad to see) and then the new factory and shop in the town where we had a coffee and checked out the showroom. I had decided if I saw something I loved I would get it shipped home but nothing took my fancy. We came out in time for our first shower of the day and donned the wet weather gear which remained on for the rest of the day.

Parked on the forecourt at the Waterford Complex.

Then we headed for Kilkenny but as we headed for ‘the picturesque Medieval village’ (another sign) we were about to be caught up by the heavy rain cloud we had just ridden through so having seen a number of Medieval villages in a number of countries we decided to push on to Dunamaise where we sought out the ‘Rock of Dunamaise’ which was the sight of a castle / battlement since the 8th century and fought over by the Irish and the Vikings and eventually the Normans and over time (a lot of time) it was handed from one family to another and fell into disrepair (hugely so). We climbed up amongst the ruins and enjoyed the views of the surrounding countryside and figured the inhabitants must have been some sort of mountain goat just to have lived on this great ‘steep’ mound in the middle of the countryside.

The Rock of Dunamaise

The countryside we have travelled through today has been very reminiscent of the areas around the Dandenong’s, the Yarra Valley and some areas of Gippsland..…I guess they all have a similar climate…on the Australian side without most of the snow of course.

A view of the countryside from the Rock of Dunamaise

Bits and Bobs:

One thing we’ve discovered that England Wales and Ireland all have in common is that you don’t have to be far out of a town or village (sometimes not even) to smell the scent of intensive farming activities…..and I’m not talking about the fragrance of new mown hay!

On a more pleasant note…apparently all the convertible cars in England and Wales (haven’t seen any yet in Ireland) come out for the summer. We have been staggered at the number of them. I guess in Australia the summer is much hotter and people are sitting in air-conditioned comfort instead of baking in the sun….not that there’s been too much baking yet this year I suspect.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Hotel Talbot, Wexford, Ireland

A large and partly refurbished hotel. The public spaces are lovely as was the food and the staff were very friendly. A nice welcome to Ireland. Our room had yet to be refurbished. We had been moved because there was to be a band in the bar for the night we were told. Would have been interested to see what the original room looked like.

Hotel Talbot, Wexford

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Mainly photos again today. We had a great ride to catch the ferry mostly via small lanes and roads around the coast and have wound down into and climbed back out of heaps of little villages and inlets and everywhere there was a decent stretch of beach there were surfers and kayakers in evidence in wetsuits. Not many bathers which was understandable as even though there was no rain the sun came and went and the breeze was pretty chilly.

The ferry ride was 3.5 hours long and then a 20km ride to our hotel for the night in comfortable sunny conditions…and long may that continue.

One of the most intact Castle buildings we have seen in Wales
We were surprised to see the number of coastal ships travelling past us so the coastal shipping industry is obviously more healthy here than in Australia.

A view out across the cliff tops to the coastal shipping lanes between Marloes and St David on the west coast of Wales.

A number of the beaches we travelled through had substantial sea walls (often incorporating the road on it or beside it) so the waters can obviously get nasty when the weather is rough.

Some context for the size of some of the lanes we have been traversing. This pic of one of the larger lanes as we descended into Broadhaven (between St Brides and St David’s).

This one as we followed a farmer’s tractor and trailer of newly mown grass. This was also a larger lane than many we have travelled on but for the short distance a four wheel drive, car and large rigid truck had to reverse to intersections to let him (and happily us) pass.

We overshot the mark heading to the ferry and this is either a little inlet on the way to Cardigan, or its Cardigan. Pretty spot anyway.

Loading onto the Stena Line Ferry looks like it is a fair bit bigger than our Tassie Ferry. The trucks and coaches loaded into the nose of the ship where the doors were open then cars and us into the side.

On our way into Wexford we saw a beautiful fine Church Spire and decided to find it after our dinner and here it is, St Brigidets.

Bits and Bobs:

A coffee stop in Broadhaven gave the locals a chance to check out the bikes. The Welsh appear less inhibited in regards to this as well as tooting and waving as they pass the bikes as well.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

The Giltar Hotel, Tenby, Wales UK

This hotel was a real treat! The public spaces were beautifully decorated and looked after and the rooms are undergoing a major refurbishment and we were fortunate to have one of the newly done rooms which was just lovely. Norm was really impressed that it was still old fashioned enough to have ‘hot’ water in the bathroom rather than just lukewarm as they often are at home these days for fear we burn ourselves….or something. Even better we had a room overlooking the Esplanade and big sandy beach from on top of quite a cliff down onto the shore. The food at the restaurant was brilliant, the entertainment good fun and the two best things of all were the terrific attitude and friendliness of the staff and the incredible care which has been taken of their garden which consists of multiple potted and hanging plants around doors, windows, down in the basement spaces in front of the building and creative topiary strategically placed in front of windows. My favourite being a child rejoicing with arms in the air. Well done all round!

The Giltar Hotel, Tenby

And another shot of the front door. The Hotel has won 1st prize in the ‘Tenby in Bloom’ show for 20009, 2010 and 2011 and should do so again this year (in our humble opinion).

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Tintern Abbey from our hotel room

We have had a lovely days riding on some beautiful roads for bikes with lots of sweeping corners and spectacular views with an occasional Motorway or Highway to redirect us to where we want to go. We headed inland to Sennybridge initially and discovered countryside which I can only describe as more ‘wild’ than what we have seen previously as well as some examples of ruins of castles and battlements. The farms have opened out and given way to rugged Moors and forests with the occasional eagle prospecting for a meal. As we rode from the Post Office to the servo (to access Wi-Fi) a Hornet Jet (I think) flashed by overhead. Norm didn’t see it and wondered what on earth had flown to bits in the car passing him at the time the sound barrier reports reached us. It looked magnificent!

We continued from Sennybridge down through Swansea where we had lunch at a pub on a town square where the locals were laying on the grass looking at some Olympic elimination games on the big screen. From there we continued on into ‘The Mumbles’ which again we heard about from Neil Oliver’s ‘Coast’ Documentary. Cannot remember what it was known for but we wanted to get into our hotel today in good time so rode through town which was just beautiful and on to Bracelet Bay where we took a photo of the Mumbles Jetty then rode back through town and headed for Tenby where we stay tonight. The Mumbles is a beautiful seaside village with lovely green spaces between the beach and the road with well-established conifers as well as other green spaces. Obviously some good planning gone into it. The houses themselves are in good condition and not shabby. Lovely views all along the Esplanade and incredibly busy.

The Mumbles Jetty

Tenby is a treat! We followed along a big length of old village wall then turned a corner to the Esplanade and found our hotel shortly after. A lovely beach but our hotel has pots and hanging gardens of all description (multi begonia and succulent displays as well as joyous topiary exhibits) and is a must see. The inside is also a treat with lovely public spaces and nicely refurbished rooms. Feel really spoilt. A must see if you are in this neck of the woods.

A welcome entry tonight.

Bits and Bobs:

I passed Norm at a roundabout today and he got stuck at some lights…apparently didn’t appreciate the experience and took my photo…poor loser if you ask me!

Nola disappearing off into the wide blue yonder

Last nights’ Accommodation:

The Abbey Hotel, Tintern, Chepstow, Wales UK

A nice Hotel all round. The public spaces are in good condition and tastefully decorated but the room at best could be described as adequate and ageing. The spectacular view across the road to the ruins of Tintern Abbey made up for it. Lovely food at the Brassiere with very attentive staff. Really needed access to Wi-Fi but the Hotel is in the midst of changing carriers so no go. Bugger! Had to find an Inte

The Abbey Hotel, Tintern.

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We took a fair amount of time over the first part of our trip today ooohing and aaahing over the spectacular scenery then had to get the lead out to get here at a reasonable hour.

We passed through Barnstaple and were in awe at the view we had as we crossed a large bridge with the Estuary out to our left some distance away and the picturesque village and port of sorts of Barnstaple to our right. Reminiscent of many old English paintings from my childhood. We enjoyed a wonderful trek down a lush and leafy Hele Valley between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe which was lovely and cool and subsequently discovered the beautiful little village of Ilfracombe nestled on the side of steep hills leading further down the valley to the beach some distance away.

Street view in Ilfracombe

The flowers on the roadside over the last day or so have been increasing in number and intensity of colour. They range from light pink through to deep purple and white to cream to deep yellow. The numbers have increased as we have headed north, don’t know if that is changing countryside or extended days of sunshine .… or both. Also many crops being harvested and hay down and being raked everywhere. Making the most of the last week’s sunshine no doubt. The locals everywhere we go are quick to tell us it is the first they have seen summer.

We have wound our way along the coastline as we headed north east to make our way into Wales. Again we were spoilt for choice with wonderful Cornwall then Somerset views across manicured farmland to the coast with increasing land holding sizes as we progressed into Wales . We also had a couple of visual highlights compliments of a local tip and also Neil Oliver’s ‘Coast’ Documentary.

On our passage through the Rock Valley Road on Castle Hill Road we found a Toll Point would you believe … right outside the Castle Gate… you have to love free enterprise…at least I think that’s what it was!

Ilfracombe mine tunnels – Compliments of Neil Oliver, Back in 1824 Miners hand dug mine tunnels through the hillside between the town of Ilfracombe and the Beach to provide 3 bathing areas (separate for men and women of course). It was a lovely cool walk through the tunnels when we visited in the morning. The first site was sandy and in full sun, the second area is now walled off and the third beach is fine black slate chips but soft underfoot and the beach itself was still in the shade so the children were having a lovely time in the water and the spectators were out of the sun. There were also a number of spots for coffee, play areas for children and some deck chairs to hire so they are having a serious go at catering for all sorts of people.

Rock Valley Road down on the coast – Compliments of a local garage attendant who supplied a bolt for Norm’s bike seat - the Woody Bay to Lynton Road. Incredible! Super narrow, barely a lane wide and thankfully only met a couple of vehicles BUT… it was all kinds of spectacular. The temperature on the lane was a comfortable cool with heavy shade overhead and the roads surrounded by lush trees and vine growth and the stone walls looked more like moss block walls interspersed with ferny / mossy blocks. Shame it was so dark and narrow, it would have made for an award winning picture opportunity….had there been room to safely stop to take it!!!. Cannot believe how fortunate we were to experience it.

The view from our lunch spot in Lynton

Our ride down a reasonably scary short cut lane into Tintern Village was spectacular although a breath holding experience…and some of the lanes we have been on today with a 25% gradient helps me to realise that our 33% gradient on the Hardknott pass in 2010 really would have earned me a big gnarly ‘Hardknott Guides Badge’ ….had I ever been a Girl Guide. Tintern itself is a tiny little Village which hugs the valley walls and welcomed us with a

Bits and Bobs:

Ever since we’ve arrived I’ve found myself ‘thinking’ about the blog …. and other things in a British accent .… I know, sounds crazy doesn’t it …but since we have been following some of the coastal towns Norm has been viewing on the ‘Coast’ Documentary, he confessed he has been thinking about it all in Neil Oliver’s Scottish accent …. so I feel a bit better about that now .... I think!

Last nights’ Accommodation:

West Country Inn, Bursdon Moor near Hartland, England UK
An original 16th Century Coaching Inn (the first when entering Devon, the last when leaving on the A39). We had a quirky but adequate room with en-suite bathroom and probably the most delicious meal we have had since arriving in the UK in their dining room last night. The road was very busy when we arrived but the windows shut the noise out ... and the traffic died away to close to nothing overnight. This was literally a Coaching Inn in the ‘middle of nowhere’ for the times it was built. Our hosts were welcoming and we were grateful for all that was offered.

A view of the West Country Inn from the A39.

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A late night shot after dinner in Penzance across the water to the Abbey Wharf.

We have had an awesome day! So many great sights so will let the pictures tell the story! One exception…some of the ‘tunnels’ of leafy green trees we rode through were up to 100 meters or more long and so dark that we could see our headlights shine on the road in front of us. Not bad on a brilliantly sunny day….yes that’s what I said ‘brilliantly sunny’and I even had my jacket lining out today.

The Longships Lighthouse at Lands’ End where two oceans meet and it is officially the western most tip of England.

A nice stop for morning coffee in St Just.

A fine example of Cornwall farmland nicely intersected by hedgerows and rock walls as it rolls down to the ocean.

The village of Zennor. There was something growing on the side of the road here which looked and smelt like cherry blossom but only a meter or so high...very peculiar.

One of the beaches at St Ives where we had lunch in the Café at the top of the Tate Gallery where we could view two beaches at the same time. This was after riding right around the waterfront amidst the foot traffic. Very quirky!

We got to visit Port Isaac where the ‘Doc Marten’ Sit Comm is filmed. It was just beautiful. We had a cool drink at the Old School Hotel and Restaurant……yes, sorry; it hasn’t been a school for a long time. SUCH a pretty spot as were many more little ports and harbours we wound our way through.

Bits and Bobs:

Considering the fact that this last week is the first week of fine and sunny weather in the UK instead of persistent torrential rain and freezing temperatures, we’ve been amazed at the incredible sunburn we have seen. Are we just overkill on the sunscreen or what!

The toilet doors in the Old Schoolhouse Hotel Restaurant. A great optical illusion as are the coat hooks and bags.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Glencree House B&B, Penzance UK

We had a tiny attic room in this lovely building but had our own bathroom and also use of the very comfortable dining / sitting room downstairs so would be a nice spot to stay for a couple of days. The hosts were very welcoming and there were lots of books and guide books which we were free to borrow. Beautiful original artwork (and some prints) with a mainly seaside theme throughout the building. Had a nice feel to it.

The sitting / dining room.

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A snapshot of a small number of the watercraft on the River Fowey..…a picturesque view from the waterfront. Truly staggering to think that all the craft moored there can actually find their way around all the moorings to sail up river or down to the ocean.

We had a lovely dinner at the Safe Harbour Inn last night. I laughed at the name as it was literally several building storeys above the harbour level so if it wasn’t safe a good part of Fowey would be washed out to sea! The terrain is steep winding and in varying degrees of narrow which adds to the charm / difficulty in negotiating. After a convoluted trek on the bikes to get to the B&B we opted to leave the bikes and walk to the seafront and weren’t disappointed with lovely gardens and a huge variety of dry stone walls and architecture to view on our way. Spoilt for choice.

The working Harbour of Mevagissey.It was a treat to see the fish being delivered into the harbour, there was something wholesome about hearing all the talking, laughing and working sounds of the harbour.

Cornwall has proven to provide one picturesque view after another from sweeping patchwork quilt fields and crops to dappled green tunnels of trees as we‘ve wound our way down to and back from the coast as we’ve mainly followed the coast heading for Penzance.

Almost across to the shore on the King Harry Ferry on our way from Saint Mawes to Falmouth. Also saw some large ships ‘parked up’ in the inlet as they have no work at present. The attendant said the most he has seen at any one time was 27 tanker ships. Apparently once they arrive there, if they don’t get more work they are eventually scrapped…bit of a graveyard really.

The sun was out in force today and people at the beaches we visited were even in the water instead of lying about on the stones fully clothed which we’ve seen so far. We also found a couple of sandy beaches which I guess also encourages bare feet.

Snapshot view of some Cornwall countryside near Gunwalloe Cove.

We have enjoyed nearly all country lane riding today…and were grateful the roads were dry as a lot of them were narrow and steep with much dry silt on the roads from the rains of the previous few weeks so wouldn’t have been very friendly if they were wet. We have wound in and out of many little fishing villages and then found what seemed a more upmarket village in Mount Saint Michael just east of Penzance. Reminded us of Mont Saint Michel we visited in France last year. We had hoped to get a photo of the bikes in front of it as we had in France but we were getting dirty looks from the parking attendant so settled for a quick shot without the bikes.

Mount Saint Michael

Bits and Bobs:

The things you can find on the other side of a stile into a field…a biker doing his stretching exercises…..not fully convinced his problem is resolved.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

River View B&B, Fowey UK

A lovely home and welcome from the hosts with very nice glimpses of the river. The house and gardens are impeccably maintained and the home beautifully decorated and appointed and the hosts made room in their garage for the bikes..…couldn’t ask for more than that! Breakfast was delicious as well.

The welcome view to the back entry at River View.

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A very stony beach (Seaton) complete with bathing boxes all closed up this morning but many were open complete with deck chairs and lots of people fishing along the shore yesterday evening.

As I headed down to the beach I discovered that what looked like a walking esplanade above the beach doubles as a sea wall complete with steel and concrete gates at intervals. Very impressive considering that the sea is many meters below this level. A local told us last night that his boat was smashed to pieces two months ago in a storm so not a tame bit of water by any stretch

Branscombe Forge, quirky building and a great example of a thatched roof.

Once on the road we headed for Branscombe since we have been addressed by this name (as well as many others) over the years. We discovered a little village / hamlet which was scattered along a lush green valley down to the beach which was just delightful and it set the tone for a series of country lanes and picturesque cottages throughout the day.

Typical of the buildings and gardens we saw as we wound in and through Branscombe. Reminded me of Normie’s Mum’s gardens over the years.

We rode through Dartmoor National Park over the Moors and were staggered at both the beauty of the rugged heath covered hills and the sweeping views down to the patchwork farmland below. In the unfenced sections there were many free roaming woolly sheep, cattle and large and small ponies. The locals (and tourists I guess) were out in force. Every lay by where there was room to park was full of cars and people off trampling, picnicking, lying about on rugs in the sun and sitting in deck chairs enjoying the views. Can’t blame them, the last couple of days have been the first real summer they have experienced after a couple of months of pouring rain and flooding. We were very grateful those weren’t the conditions on some of the roads we’ve been on today. Especially a short cut GARMIN sent us on which cut off many miles but was barely a lane wide and steep and gravelly and wet in patches. Thankfully we only met one car.

Haytor Vale

Fowey (pronounced Foy) by the locals is lovely. We have a nice view down over the river and will head off soon to find somewhere to eat.

Bits and Bobs:

We stopped for a photo opportunity looking across Widecombe in the Moor and Norm got talking to another biker who was a retired local policeman on his way to meet his brother in law (who was part of a Classic Bike club descending on the town from the opposite direction) for lunch. He recommended the local Inn as a good place for lunch and an interesting building. Would you believe as we got off our bikes in Widecombe that very same brother in law got off his bike we discovered when we started talking to him, then we ran into the retired policeman and directed him to his brother in law. Still shaking my head over that one….oh and yeah there were some great old (sorry classic bikes…since most were from the 60’s).

Looking down across Widecombe in the Moor as Norm and the local biker discuss the Classic Bike gathering. The Church tower in the distance is across the street from the Inn where we had lunch.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Blue Waters B&B, UK

A regular looking building from outside but comfortable and tastefully decorated in a seaside theme with thoughtful and quirky extras as well. Breakfast was lovely and we enjoyed the scents in the courtyard of many pots of lilies and other plants.

The Courtyard, our first view as we entered, a nice welcome.

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Norm realised by yesterday afternoon that the twitchy thing he had going on in his back was still not resolved and following the long flight it had gotten worse rather than better so he tracked down a chiropractor who was open this morning. He had a very thorough session and then we got some chemical cold packs and headed off with regular breaks for stretching and walking and although very sore tonight he is hopeful it is in fact a little easier ….watch this space.

I also have a very painful right elbow (I suspect from some excessive pruning of roses before our departure)…what a couple of old crocks! ….and to think I was concerned that the cortisone had worn off in my snookered ac joint in the shoulder…can’t feel the shoulder for the elbow…or the dodgy knee for that matter. You have to laugh!

Enough doom and gloom! At the suggestion of Norm’s Chiropractor we headed out to Hengistbury Head where we followed the path up through the heath covered dunes (beautiful) for a view out over the ocean and the inlet where the River Stour meets the ocean and back over the Village of Christchurch. Definitely worth the walk. Norm also had a lie down and stretch before we lunched at the Hiker Café and headed off for the day.

How English can you get…a garden dedicated to Queen Elizabeth on the edge of the recreation ground with a game of cricket in progress on Saturday morning!

Where yesterday we spent a lot of time on motorways, today we didn’t spend any time on them and it was an absolute treat for the eyes and the soul as we just soaked in one magnificent vista after another as well as some impressive real-estate around Sandbanks and Swanage not to mention a breathtaking view of the ruins of Corfe Castle. We spent lots of time soaking up spectacular countryside (not as many crops of wheat harvested and unharvested today) more rolling fields amongst hedges and leafy forests as well as heath covered hummocks and dramatic cliffs along the coastline. Awesome!

We wound our way down and out of many seaside villages and managed to stay out of the reach of wandering tourists (‘just’ on a couple of occasions…too quick to get a fright until after the event) and will head off for more of the same tomorrow.

On the beach at East Lulworth…note the absence of bathers / swimming costumes…I’ve packed mine in vain obviously…ah well, you get that

We’ve enjoyed seeing a patriotic display of flags and bunting in support of the Olympics and today also found an Olympic Village at Portland which was sympathetically built to fit well with the yachting theme and the ancient village. Very nice. From Portland we headed for Easton before coming back through Portland and the trip back down the cliff into the town was a magnificent view. We’re loving the coast!

Bits and Bobs:

The fire alarm went off just before midnight last night (someone broke something…I guess the glass in an alarm) next door in the Bailey Bridge.

Mental note: Since it is IMPOSSIBLE to think with the alarm screeching we need to check the ‘Fire Alarm’ routine on check-in (which we hadn’t) and have a torch (which we didn’t) in case there are no lights in just such an occurrence. Have bought the torch today and damn…forgot to check the routine here....but no drama, only one staircase to the outside so just run like hell down the stairs and out the door!

A Costa’s ‘large coffee’ this should surely be called a ‘HUGE coffee’ in anyone’s language. Struggled to lift it with one hand…okay so that was a woosy female hand, but huge anyway.

‘LARGE’ Costa coffee

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Premier Inn, Christchurch UK

Good sized room, well appointed, lovely comfortable bed. Staff very friendly and terrifically focused on customer service and did it well. Meals next door (part of the complex I think) at the Bailey Bridge which was a great space and food yummy and again very customer focused.

Premier Inn

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We enjoyed another 11 hours sleep overnight and headed off nice and early with blue skies which quickly turned largely grey however we only got a small sprinkle of rain and not enough to entice us to stop and don the waterproof gear and we soon dried off. The sun has come out this afternoon which has been nice.

We still haven’t managed to sort out our route plotting on the GARMIN so have changed our preferences on them tonight to see if we can see less Motorway and more rural roads tomorrow. We rode ‘past’ the ‘sign’ to Windsor Castle and just about every other town we had fed into the thing last night. The only reason we got to see the Cathedral was because we had added it as a via point instead of part of the route. Ah well, we will probably have it sorted by the time we get back.

Winchester Cathedral, well about half of it actually…..just typing the name starts me humming the tune!

We arrived at our hotel with plenty of time for a good walk down to the High Street and on to the Priory which was quite beautiful in rolling green grounds then headed for the quay. Lots of people about the street and also through the parklands here and the local council have made a great effort with their floral gardens which form a lovely backdrop to the recreation grounds.

Heard this afternoon that there has been another quake close to home in Gippsland (4.3) so after how rattled I was after the last one I’m happy to have missed it and staying in Christchurch tonight has made us conscious of our New Zealand neighbours in Christchurch who are still trying to come to terms with dramatically changed circumstances since their massive quake. We truly are fortunate.

A view along the River Stour to the Christchurch Sailing Club

Bits and Bobs:

Big numbers of trucks / lorries on the road today, mainly semis but some rigids as well. I was impressed to pass one car carrier with 11 cars stacked up on it. Couldn’t get a pic as I was mobile. I largely enjoy the Motorways over here. Everyone gets in and travels at or close to the maximum speed which they need to or there would be chaos and traffic volumes have been consistently heavy.

Last nights’ Accommodation:

Phil & Jean’s, Marshside UK

Lovely comfy home away from home and we look forward to catching up with Phil and Jen on our return before we head back home

St Kilda

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After a blissful 13 hours sleep we decided to visit the Canterbury Roman Museum (built around the ruins of a roman home) only to learn the Olympic Torch relay was going through the town so decided to give all that fuss and all those people a miss and instead headed down to Dover through Hoath ad then back up to Sandwich before heading home. I have to say this is a much prettier ride than we found it on our way to Folkestone last year to catch the Channel Train. It was pouring with rain then and the road was incredibly wet and lots of traffic. Today the weather was balmy and traffic light and road dry. Lovely!

We had a lovely lunch at the Farthingloe Farm Barn and Farm shop complex. The tearooms did a yummy lunch and we were joined by a large assortment of other travellers who discovered the place as well.

Dover Castle firmly planted on the chalk cliffs which dominates the skyline above the township

From there we rode back into Dover and eyed off the castle windows in the cliff face we had visited on our tour last year. It must have been a chilling experience during the war for the locals in this area who could literally see German occupied territory on the other side of the channel on a clear day. Mind you going on the weather this summer (wettest in 100years and temperatures like our Australian winter) there may not have been many of those clear days. We are thankful that there is fine weather forecast for the next week at this point. The temperature has been mild to cool since our arrival so comfortable to get acclimatised to. It also hasn’t been hard to get used to the prolific growth in gardens and along the roadside with beautiful poppies and morning glory and other flowers in abundance. Reminds me of a lot of the old farm gardens I knew as a child.

We managed to stay dry on our way to Sandwich in spite of rain having fallen before we got there. Sandwich is a beautiful whimsical village which used to be a key point along the trail from London to Canterbury and has many beautiful walled gardens as well as narrow streets of what looks like ‘tumbling’ architecture with ancient houses in varying states of bowed and leaning walls giving the appearance they are likely to tumble into the streets but which are impeccably maintained and still standing after all this time. We came across the Bell Hotel again where we had a cool drink on our last visit. No need of one of those today.

A whimsical street view in Sandwich

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Our flight over felt long which is reasonable I guess. The 9 hour leg to Hong Kong saw us getting 6 hours interrupted sleep but the 13hour leg only saw another couple of hours added so we were feeling very second-hand when we landed.

The welcome sight of our room at the Railway Hotel when we finally got there

Once we hit the airport it was clear the Olympics were in town with the sheer volume of people and there were 11 lines of people zigzagged back and forth in front of the Passport Control counters (40 plus and all working) so we had plenty of time for a chat there. Next onto the underground into London and while we first thought we were pretty clever getting a seat at the end of the carriage away from all the traffic (in increasing numbers getting on and off) that proved to be a challenge to getting ourselves and luggage extricated from our spot when we wanted to get off. Rather than having to resort to the Crocodile Dundee exercise of climbing over the shoulders of other commuter’s like a sheepdog we started edging our way towards the door a couple of stations prior to Kings Cross St Pancras so we could actually get out..…and it was still a challenge!

We grabbed a beautiful hot chocolate and a bite at the station then climbed on a South Eastern train to Faversham where we dragged our cases across the road to the Railway Hotel where we had a glorious 10 hours sleep and woke feeling remarkably refreshed this morning.

Faversham street view looking towards the Guild Hall (built 1574 – rebuilt 1814). The building looking to lean into the street really is doing that!

We headed off to the bike shop after breakfast and collected the bikes and headed for Marshside to repack some of our gear (and leave some behind….turns out I’d forgotten I left my more dressy clothes behind here last trip and collected them again before we left on our Amsterdam Budapest Cruise so have rationalised what I’ll take from here. Sadly my Amsterdam jacket will have to stay here, but the Bruges hat and scarf is coming with me.

Great to see the bikes looking so good so grateful thanks to Gareth and Tony and crew for making the impossible possible. Thanks also to Brenda this afternoon. Turns out the renewal notice didn’t arrive because most of the address had dropped off the record…...you get that with computer records apparently….no really! Anyway, all sorted now. Yay for the Bike Shop at Faversham. http://www.thebikeshopfaversham.co.uk

About to get on the bikes in the lane beside the bike shop – the smile says it all!

Last Nights’ Accommodation:

The Railway Hotel, Preston Street, Faversham UK.
Lovely old building, generous and comfortable room and friendly hosts. Was right on a busy road but nice and quiet through the night. Great cooked breakfast this morning in a really pretty room. Wouldn’t hesitate staying again.

The Railway Hotel, Faversham

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After a great get together with all the family on Sunday afternoon we headed to the train to start the trip to Tullamarine Airport. Ian collected us from Southern Cross Station telling us he wanted to be sure we left the country. That would means he thinks we need a break ….wouldn’t it?

First night officially on leave, dinner with friends (Ian and Annie) in a little Italian Restaurant on the way to the airport

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Well finally located the second UK video Clip from 2010 so here it is.

What can I say? He likes seeing me ride but we will hopefully have some more interesting ones on the next trip.

The link to find it is below:

July 15th 2010 Castle Combe UK: http://youtu.be/nH8xt0PgGQI

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