Gone Bike About

Ireland – Wales – England – Channel Islands – France 

(1,335 km)


Shannon – Tralee – Lismore – Tramore – Enniscorthy – Rosslare 

(524 km)

Our friends Joan and Peter decided to tie the auld knot and we were summonsed to their shindig in Tralee. A summons we gladly accepted. In true gone-bike-about spirit, we decided to bring the bikes and see how far we’d get in a few weeks.

Ryan Air saw us to Shannon and two days along the scenic north shore of the Shannon estuary followed by a stunt on the wild Atlantic coast brought us to the beautiful Banna beach campground, 10 km from the wedding venue.

Assembling bikes at Shannon airport
Dromoland castle
A jig and a reel along the way...

Placenames in Ireland tell a whole story, and Co. Clare is no exception.

Best pizza for miles around - Kildysart

We passed through Kildysart (Cill Diseart = The church of the desert) aptly named because of the barren location of the church founded there many centuries ago. Labashida (leaba shíoda = bed of silk) earned its name from a sea captain who was hosted by the locals during a rough storm on the estuary.

Mural in Labasheeda

Unfortunately, emigration has hit all of these small towns badly, resulting in a lot of vacant houses. Labasheeda residents have put in a lot of effort to cheer up these dreary homes with murals depicting local scenes (painted by the primary school children) and window boxes galore bounding with colour.

Labasheeda, Co. Clare
Prevailing westerly winds
Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
Banna Strand, Ardfert, Co. Kerry
The full Irish breakfast - yum!

After two glorious days on the coast, torrential downpours on the morning of the wedding forced us to cycle in our full rain gear to the hotel.

Operation transformation had to be employed, and we didn’t scrub up too badly, did we? Joan and Peter looked fab and we had a great catch up with former colleagues from the international school in St Gallen, Switzerland.

Darina, Peter, Joan & Kurt
A blast from the Swiss past!
Scartaglin area, Co. Kerry

From here, our route took us cross-country to the ferry port in Rosslare, Co. Wexford with tail wind and sunshine most of the way. Pastures of north Cork, the Copper coast in Co. Waterford and castles a dime a dozen made for very pleasant cycling.

Clonee Bay, Co. Waterford
Lismore castle, Co. Waterford
Between Dungarvan and Tramore, Co. Waterford

The Copper Coast, Co Waterford

The emigrant flame in New Ross, Co. Wexford was lit with fire taken from the eternal flame at the graveside of President John F. Kennedy in Virginia USA, whose ancestors hailed from this area. The flame burns permanently within a globe monument to commemorate emigrants throughout the world.

The emigrant flame, New Ross

Our friends Sheila and Michael wined and dined us outside Enniscorthy, while Kathleen, Marty and Muireann treated us on our last night in Rosslare.

Kurt, Sheila & Michael
With Kathleen, Muireann & Marty
The Sean Kelly cycle route

Our alternative route did not follow any official bike route until we hit the Sean Kelly route 4, named after the Waterford tour de France hopeful from the 1980s.

We managed to find loads of quiet country roads and when we were on the main drags, generous hard shoulders made it quite pleasant. Thumbs up from a cyclist’s point of view!

Quiet county roads


Pembroke dock  –  Tenby –  Kidwelly  –  Gower Peninsula  –  Swansea (179 km)



A tranquil 4-hour crossing brought us across the Irish Sea to Pembroke Dock, from where we cycled the scenic south coast taking in Victorian towns, medieval castles and amazing nature reserves with friendly, helpful, entertaining locals all the way.

Rosslare - Pembroke Dock ferry
Camping in Tenby
Manorbier Castle
Dramway, Wiseman's Bridge
Coastal cycle routes
Kidwelly castle

Our stove pump gave up the ghost in Kidwelly. Ian, our campground host, went way beyond his call of duty by investing a few hours in his workshop and then driving us back to Camarthen for a replacement. Much appreciated, Ian.

On the upside, with a broken stove you don’t feel bad about having Indian takeaway delivered right to the tent!

Gourmet campground dinner
Boletus mushrooms en route
Mobile blacksmith blocking the road!

The Gower peninsula, renowned for its scenic unspoilt beauty is certainly designed for hikers and not bikers.

Paradise on earth

At least on weekends, with the volume of traffic, you don’t really want to be on those narrow roads. We checked into the first campground we saw and took to the hiking trails, which were the business with magnificent views.

On the Gower Peninsula

The Gower is also renowned for its weather, which we realised when we woke up in a puddle the next morning.

A good two hours in driving rain and head wind was a hard slog to the comfort of a warm and dry hotel room in Swansea. The hair-dryer was employed to dry soaked shoes and trousers, before Kurt invested in some serious new rain gear. The forecast for the next day wasn’t any better, so we saved two days on the bike by taking the train to Bristol.

The wonders of a hairdryer!
The reality on the ground

Wales is definitely a hikers’ paradise with trails following most of its marvellous coastline for 100s of miles. It’s a different story for cyclists, however, who have to choose between steep narrow 16% inclines on quiet roads or busy main drags with no hard shoulder. Pity.


Bristol – Cheddar – Wells – Glastonbury – Dorcheste – Poole

(225 km)

Our afternoon in Bristol was spent chasing Banksy street art all over town. This local elusive artist’s works are now bought for hundreds of thousands of pounds. Surprisingly, he has managed to maintain his anonymity until today.

The Hanging Lover
The Girl with the "alarm box" earring!
The Mild Mild West

Stokes Croft, Bristol’s cultural quarter, has graffitti and street art to beat the band and in broad daylight, wanabe Banksys can be seen busy with their spray cans on every street corner.

Disgruntled artists

However, the area has become so trendy, the local artists are being priced out of the housing market. The chances are these artists will be forced to pick another suburb to initiate more gentrification!

For those interested in less thought-provoking art, Shaun in the city consisted of 70 Shaun the Sheep sculptures dotted around the city throughout the summer, before being auctioned off to raise money for children in UK hospitals.

Shaun on the cob

When Darina feels like a taste of home, she always goes in search of good mature red cheddar cheese. So, not stopping at cheddar village was not an option.

Cheddar in Cheddar!

Little did we know that the half of England were intent on having a tasty cheddar cheese sandwich in the village of Cheddar. What we also discovered was that it has an absolutely fabulous gorge and that cheddar jacket potatoes aren’t bad either!

The Cheddar Gorge

Renowned for having one of England’s most beautiful cathedrals, Wells was next on our agenda. Rocking up late afternoon, we headed straight for the church spire and were somewhat non-plussed with what we encountered. That was until Darina scrutinised a map on display outside to discover we were on the wrong side of town!

Wells cathedral? Really?
The real thing was well worth a gawk!

A Calorie breakdown of each dish was outlined on our pub grub menu in Wells. Darina ordered the full rack of pork ribs with all the extras, clocking up 2,131 Calories. Now, the recommended daily intake, according to the National Health Service in the UK, is 2,000 Calories for women. Hmmm! Should she skip on the coleslaw? What does the cycling calculator say? Weighing about 60kg and cycling for 4 hours at about 15kmph, she burns up 1,440 Calories. Considering that the brain is responsible for about 20% of our daily Calories burnt, that leaves her with a mere 291 Calories to entertain Kurt. Just as well she had breakfast too!

Menus with calorie counts really do put you thinking!

Glastonbury tower

Glastonbury, famous for its open air music festival, is a hive of activity including witchcraft, tarot readings and other alternative awareness programmes. We arrived just in time to witness glittering goddesses in flowing gowns participating in the Goddess conference and woman spirit exhibition.

Too true!
Been there!
The Cerne Giant engraving

Eight years after our beach wedding in Costa Rica, we were delighted to meet up with our bride’s maid and best man, Liam and Claire. It was a lively full house with their two boys, Ruan and Ty and Claire’s Mum, Elaine. Needless to say we had lots to talk about!

With Ruan, Ty, Claire & Liam
All hands on deck
Kurt & Claire on Dorchester coast

Our idea of casually rocking up to the port and jumping on a ferry to the Channel Islands was innocent to say the least. With school holidays staring on Aug 1st, we had to make do with the last two seats on the 3am ferry from Poole to Guernsey. But, it was well worth the wait – Guernsey was like heaven on earth!

You have to hand it to the English for their sense of humour!

The Channel Islands

Guernsey – Sark – Jersey (156 km)

The Channel Islands are special in that they are neither part of the UK nor the EU, but considered the British Isles and residents have a European passport. Most people associate Guernsey and Jersey with offshore bank accounts and money laundering. Because we happen to live in another offshore bank haven, and spend our hard-earned cash on travel and bicycles rather than filling bank accounts, those services were of little interest to us! However, we were mega impressed with the scenery, especially in Guernsey and Sark.

White sand beaches, steep cliffs, colourful gardens, quiet country roads and very friendly people make Guernsey a beautiful stop over.

Port Soif
Great hiking on the south coast
Sunsets are amazing!
The beautiful north east
Traffic on Sark

Car-free Sark, is quaint with its dirt roads, hiking trails, horses and traps. It also happens to be the world’s first Dark Sky Island, ideal for star gazing. We managed to walk it in a day, taking in the Sarkhenge, erected some three years ago!

Hole blasted as a tourist attraction
Great hiking
La Coupée
Walled garden

Jersey is that bit more commercial from a tourist perspective but also boasts pretty corners.

What made our visit all the more interesting was the German underground military hospital with has been converted into an impressive museum depicting the plight of the islanders and imported slave labourers under German occupation during World War 2.

Kite surfing on 5-mile beach
North coast
La Greve de Lecq
German underground hospital


St.Malo – Le Mont St Michel – Saint Lo – Omaha Beach – Bayeux (251 km)

Another ferry later and we were in St Malo, Brittany. There we enjoyed moules frites local style with apple, bacon and cider. Très très bon! And we cycled past France’s second most visited tourist attraction: Mont St Michel.

Moules Frites
Le Mont St Michel
Creative use of tidal flats on the Bay of Mont St Michel
Constant ups & downs in Normandy
Calorie boost with thé gourmand

Our trip came to a close near Omaha Beach, where allied forces landed on D-Day in 1944 to bring World War 2 to an end. Visiting the American cemetery complex was a very moving experience, in which we learned how 9,000 brave young hopefuls lost their lives so we could all live happily every after.

Omaha Beach
The US military cemetary, Omaha Beach

Charming Bayeux – the first French town liberated from Nazi Germany

From there, St Gallen was just a 12-hour train ride away… with a half-hour cycle across Paris to change train stations on the way!

Le Pont Neuf, Paris

This trip was not only a geographical cross-section, but also a culinary eye-opener. Kurt finally came to the conclusion that mushy peas are actually not all that bad and do happen to add a je ne sais quoi to the humble staple fish ‘n chips.