Our Grand Tour of the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland by Mike Parris
Embarking on a lengthy drive fills me with excitement but also trepidation that our 1990 928S4 will behave. It didn't help that the belt service light came on a few days before the trip but that was just the wire came off at the spade connector on the tensioner for some reason.
Oil, water and tyres checked we fail at the first hurdle and curse the sat nav. for not finding the ferry port in Holyhead until we work out the country needs to be set to Wales!
Day 1 - To Wales.
On our way from Kent and on the M25 I'm listening for odd noises and feel of the drive when it seems the car starts to wander in slow traffic. We stop at Cobham services, check tyres and shake the wheels as it felt like a puncture but all seems good so we joined the queue again. I think it was just the wonky road surface. The rest of the journey is uneventful except for huge hailstones and rain during a rest stop at Warwick and we wonder how we will get back to the car without getting soaked. Luckily it waned and off we went again. I'm so glad I fixed the cruise control and AC system. People say it makes it more comfortable and I strongly agree, the car is so much better with correctly running climate control and as for behaving? I needn't have worried as the engine purred nicely all the way to Holyhead 350 miles later. Incidentally we started with a full tank of super and would have made our destination but due to my fuel anxiety we filled up with 55 litres when the range said 130km and about 30 miles left to go which is about 29.4mpg! We stopped overnight to catch the early ferry and then just 145 miles from Dublin to Sligo to start the West Coast proper.
Day 2 – Mostly raining.
After the very long tunnel and first section of motorway out from Dublin we used N roads to get to Sligo. We had the first (and hopefully only) unfortunate casualty when cruising at 80km. Crows usually get out of the way, I gave it room but the silly bird flew into my passenger mirror. I'm afraid the crow didn't make it and that upset me as obviously I wouldn't intentionally hurt an animal. The mirror itself was only knocked out of alignment but that's not important. Petrol is more expensive here and there’s no super, 95 is €1.34 a litre or thereabouts. The tail lights have thrown a slight wobbly with a tail lamp fail on the digidash and indeed one is not lit until I thump the cluster. Looking at the plan for tomorrow I may have under estimated the time it's going to take to get to Galway which will be about 250 miles on mainly twisties. We've got all day but probably can't stop much for photo ops. It's still light at 10.30pm even under the misty rain which feels a bit strange.
Day 3 – Mostly bumpy.
I thought it was about 200 miles from Sligo to Galway but following the Wild Atlantic way was much, much further. We stopped at Glencar Waterfall as it was a few K from the B&B which is a very nice falls about 10 metres high. I had a full tank when we left and filled up with 40 litres when it was showing about a quarter tank at Clifden. Overall (and having to skip some sections to keep time) we arrived 273 miles later in Galway at 18:45. The 928 behaved but has had a really good work out on the bumpy roads. I'm glad the ride height is good and with new shocks it never grounded out. I now have a mouse in the footwell or a squeaky throttle pedal, one or the other and the alarm had a moment when I tried to start it after a coffee break. We had sat in the car with the coffee but when I tried to start the engine it turned over without catching and then the alarm went off. I had to get out, lock it and unlock it again to reset. Odd. I'm getting a sweet smell now and again when we stop, I'd guess at anti-freeze but with no coolant loss I'm not sure?
Day 4 – Mostly walking.
A break from driving we spent the day in Galway City and Salthill. My fitness app tracked us walking 9.91 miles in all. It was very nice to meet up with Darragh who kindly bought his 928 around 25 minutes from where he lives to the guesthouse. Seemed like a great opportunity to get a photo.
Darragh also gave me a gift of a cap with Wild Atlantic Way on the front and Porsche Club Ireland on the back. Thanks very much!
Day 5 – Mostly nice roads and a short ferry crossing.
Initially I thought it was going to be a long day to cover the distance but it turned out to be just right. The Burren is a limestone landscape and quite interesting to look at and drive through.
We stopped off at Doolin, famous for music but it was too early for that. We heard more music from buskers at the Cliffs of Moher and many, many coach loads of people. It was almost too windy to stand but apart from that and the people it was nice to see the sea birds. Later on my wife picked up a screw from her footwell and said "what's this for?" Turns out from all the rough roads a screw from the centre console fell out. We followed the WAW until a diversion and couldn't find it again until Tralee and after that we bombed it down to Killarney for a late afternoon snack and walk around.
Day 6 – mostly raining (there’s a pattern forming here).
From our base a little bit North of Killarney we travelled to Tralee and onto the Dingle Peninsula. Out of all the coast we have seen so far this has to be the most spectacular and not only the coast, Conner Pass on the R560 is pretty cool too. Rain made distance viewing a challenge, almost invisible mountains that were gone one second only to reappear a few moments later.
A slight detour took us out to Brandon Point to a very high cliff but not so high that we couldn't see Dolphins in the sea and Gannets whirling in the sky below us. At this point the Irish rain was kissing my ear like a cold wet lick so we moved on. A rattle has developed in the driver’s door but it goes if I lower the window slightly, that'll need investigation but I was concerned it was the door mechanism and I'd be locked out or couldn't lock it. At the other end of Conner Pass is Dingle, it didn't look very interesting so we carried onto Slea Head which is nearly the most Western point in Europe. There is a waterfall that crosses the road on a corner around a narrow wall lined road with a drop to the sea on one side. Part of the road is cobbled and on the exit back to tarmac The front made contact with a scrape but I don't think any damage was done. Through more great coastline views of ancient and angular extinct volcanos, stopping to see an 8th century Oratory the road eventually takes us back to Dingle. It still didn't look exciting so on we went past Red Cliff to Inch Beach. I followed signs to parking which was on the actual beach and I paused with thoughts of getting stuck but then thought it would be cool to get some pictures here.
How thrilling to drive onto the beach, but needed to get on the road again. I pulled a donut and my wife said "did you mean to do that?" Of course! There's a narrow road up and over Slieve Mish Mountains and by the time we stopped all I could smell was brakes but the views and roller coaster ride was worth it.
Day 7 – Mostly raining but also mainly sunny.
Sun and showers make for dramatic skies but it also meant I missed some opportunities at points I would have taken a photo as the rain wanted to invade every orifice let alone what it would do to my camera. The Ring of Kerry was the plan today and just as well because twelve thousand cyclists will arrive tomorrow to ride it. Rather them than me ride 180km and about 70k in have to ride up a mountain pass. Spectacular from the car as the coast is we diverted off to the Gap of Dunloe which was not much wider than the car in places, over tiny bridges made for a jaunting car (horse drawn two wheel cart), sharp switch backs and one section that was so steep my oil level warning light came on. We also rescued a Sheep that had got its head stuck in the fence, maybe that'll help balance the Crow I hit by accident.
We went past Purple Mountain into Black Valley and from there west and then north to Glencar alongside Lough Caragh to join the ring and go west all the way along the coast to the Skellig ring. We'd arrived at Kenmare late afternoon and we know it's staying light until gone 10pm so we carried on and drove the Beara Peninsula.
More amazing scenery and small islands off the coast being battered by the Atlantic creating huge white water explosions. More narrow roads and steep cliffs to jagged rocks jarring out of the ocean. We stopped off in Castletownbere for some eats before heading back along the south edge to Glengarriff. From there we followed the N71 north to Killarney. If you stick to the Wild Atlantic Way you miss out on the spectacular mountain passes and the N71 was no exception and included a few tunnels and rock arches. On that road and for 16 miles no one caught up nor did we catch anyone else, it was brilliant. I reckon we did 268 miles today, setting out around 9.30 and getting back about 9pm. We wasn't going to do the Beara Peninsula but I'm glad we did in the end and made the most of the light. We have too far to go tomorrow, my error, but will follow the main roads down to Bantry and Skibbereen which is basically the N71 to Cork. It'll be a shame to miss the Sheeps head and Mizen Peninsulas but my patient passenger want to do Blarney Castle and we have to get to Waterford by the end of the day so about another 230 miles in all to look forward to which includes a slight detour to Galley head.
Day 8 – mostly kissing the Blarney Stone.
It feels a bit like an anti-climax because we went the wrong way at some point but also not really completing the Wild Atlantic Way in favour of spending 3 hours at Blarney Castle. I mean we ended up in Cork where the route ends and we visited Galley Head but apart from that it was all about covering ground. We all know the 928 is great for that and particularly overtaking. Actually there was a sole driver with his MX5 down at Galley Head who was also going south on the same route.
After the castle (we didn’t fancy kissing a stone that loads of people had already done) and dodging various downpours we covered more ground to Waterford for our overnight stop. We made a poor choice of venue for dinner and our room is frozen in the 70s but we have the Wicklow mountains to look forward to tomorrow so it's not all bad. I had planned to visit the Waterford Factory tour in the morning but I'm not sure I want to pay over 25 euros for both of us to see some people making crystal glass stuff, nice though I'm sure it is. We are on the home stretch now but there's still a lot of distance between Waterford and Kent. I have no doubt our 928 will get us there even after the constant battering it's had on the bumpy roads around here. We had a momentary worry however when I'd taken a wrong turn and backed up then put it in drive and the engine stopped. It didn't restart but then I realised it was still in D. Not sure why it died but in P it started fine.
Day 9 – Today was mostly sunny and feeling a bit ripped off.
Our B&B out of the 70s moved into the 80s at breakfast with plastic table covers and Paul Young singing 'wherever you go take a piece of meat with you' on the radio in the kitchen. We were glad to leave that one behind. We walked around Waterford for a bit and joined a service in the cathedral, we're not religious, it was just for the experience and everyone was very welcoming. We didn't do the Waterford Crystal tour but we bought a nice piece in the shop and cheaper than they normally sell it for as the price was wrong on the description. Result.
Off to Passage East and the short ferry over the river Barrow and along the South East coast drive but not before stopping off at a wildfowl reserve to see what birds we could see. Nice to see a Reed Warbler as they have limited distribution in Ireland. We pretty much stuck to the coast until Arklow and diverted off to drive through the Wicklow Mountains. The roads were rough and the scenery wasn't all that great after all. We saw Powerscourt waterfall on the map so drove there and then discovered it was 6 Euros each to get in. Oh well, we were there and it's the tallest waterfall in Ireland. That's all it was, except for midges. I think that was at least double what it should cost in my opinion. After that we found our room for the next two nights in the Donnybrook area of Dublin and had a lovely Indian meal at the Khan Balti house with a bonus rare 928 going by! I’m glad it wasn’t mine.
Day 10 - Today was mostly about trying to be cultural.
Except we found that although we could do a Jameson whiskey or Guinness tour the Museum of Modern Art is closed on Mondays. We did, however see the National Gallery or part of it as some was closed for re-decoration. The Leonardo De Vinci exhibit was worth seeing especially. It consisted of some of his sketches and drawings, one of them was designs to cast a 7m tall bronze horse commissioned by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro in 1482. Only the clay model made it to completion and that was destroyed by French soldiers in 1499 and the bronze was used for cannons. We took one of the hop on and off buses as it stopped pretty much outside the B&B. It's a tourist thing I know but also maybe the best way to see stuff from the top deck. Speaking of the tourist thing, we fell into the trap of getting a drink in one of the bars off Temple Bar and paid for the privilege. It was nearly 15 Euros for a pint and whiskey and coke! Actually everything apart from the national gallery charge for entry. We would have liked to visit St. Patrick's cathedral as I like to photograph the interiors but there was too many people and it was also 6 Euro to get in. That makes me sound cheap but that's not it, I've often paid to take photographs in cathedrals, I don't mind but with all the people I wouldn't be able to get anything decent to work with so that put me off. Maybe if we visit again we will get there when they open or just before closing when it'll be a lot quieter. We'll be heading home in the morning, our 928 has been excellent, it’s got filthy and then cleaned again with heavy rain, well mostly as it still has a dirty bum. Almost wherever we have stopped someone has asked about or commented on the car. People say it's nice to sleep in your own bed, I'm in total agreement, especially the one I have to sleep in tonight as it's squashed on one side so last night when I turned over it felt like I was rolling downhill.
Day 11 – the Long way home.
The early ferry and smooth crossing saw us back in Wales. We had planned to see daughter number 2 near Gloucester so we used the A5 mostly and followed lorries for a lot of it. I wasn’t used to that as in Ireland there was plenty of space to overtake or drivers that will ‘get there when they get there’ just move over and let you by. We stopped at Swallow falls as we had last been there 14 years ago with the children.
The rest of the trip was uneventful apart from the ODO reaching 100,000km. After dinner we drove the rest of the way home. Approximate figures door to door as my ODO is in KM and there has been some conversion and maths involved. We covered 2063 miles and used about 83 gallons which cost £425 for about 25mpg overall. Oil usage was minimal as it is still just under the full mark. We will go back and do some of the south western roads and peninsulas that we missed and to spend more time in some of the towns we passed through. I guess like any long road trip there are boring sections offset by some of the best scenery you can imagine.
As I said at the beginning, I was worried how the 928 would perform but I needn’t have as I soon forgot about reliability and just drove. It was always comfortable, always able to overtake when needed and always, always looked stunning in the vistas that surrounded us.