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124 m
3 m
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23
46
92.96 km

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邻近 Stranmillis, N Ireland (United Kingdom)

The day started off utterly miserable, overcast with periods of heavy rain; not exactly ideal for an enjoyable biking run. But the forecast said it would improve over the course of the day, although in Ireland, the weather is a fickle thing! Around midday, I duly made my way up to the bikes' garage location to collect her, the plan was to head to BMC Bikes to meet Billy and Dee. Driving through the urban sprawl was trying at best and downright infuriating at worst! I arrived first, with Billy there to greet me, his inquisitive eyes pouring over his recent and exceptional handywork, quickly grabbing coolant to top up the header tank. We chatted for a while before the unmistakable sound of Dee's air-cooled R100 engine parked up. The craic was, as they say, 'ninety' with a plethora of bike chat, potential modifications and trip routes into the Kingdom of Mourne.

As soon as we pulled out, Dee asked me to show him some of the south Down roads, wherever I wanted to go, we'd go. A route immediately formed in my head. We took the main road towards Downpatrick, cutting off at Saintfield towards Killyleagh / Killinchy. The back roads were, in the main, agreeably empty although the occasional lorry foiled the best laid plans. On the stretches that were empty, the sheer torque from the Tiger gave an adrenaline rush, I had forgotten the joys of twisting the throttle, flicking her into sixth gear and watching the speedo climb and the hedgerows blur past your peripheral vision in a continuous line of brown[y] green. Your gaze is transfixed on the road ahead, and nothing else enters your head space, just you and the road. There were, though, several spots where tractors had pulled mud and stones onto the road and more than once, the back end slid out alarmingly, but I managed to regain control and plough on (no pun intended!).

We went off-road at St. Mary's [Styles] near Killyleagh....there are the ruins of an old church which during my research for my book, Valhalla and the Fjord, I discovered probably relates to the early medieval motte built on the site of the current somewhat Disney-fied castle. The bike snaked as the tyres struggled for purchase in the mud. But once there, we started to discuss the Templars and other such things, conversations you just don't seem to have at any other time.....alas. Suddenly, a friendly Jack Russel came up to us, with his owner, a small woman, peering curiously at the site gates; who were these two guys standing chatting against Medieval wall remains? She entered and immediately we said hello, that was that last word we were able to get in edgeways. She did, however, make some good points....there were broken bottles strewn about the place alongside the remnants of fires and attempted fires, something I only noticed once I had bothered to look at the ground around me. She informed us that particularly during the summer the place was a magnet for anti-social behaviour, hidden as it is from the roadside by thick trees. The conversation then turned to how when she was a girl, she got a clip round the ear for much less! As did we all, but something she felt was lacking in today's youth.

As we left, I could feel a lack of grip from the rear end, Dee pulling up alongside me to let me know my rear tyre was caked in mud, before he was covered in it as it flicked off the tyre!

We took the back roads towards Quoile Castle and the Audleystown Road....I know this area quite well, there is lots to see and the B Roads are simply glorious. The bike seemed to lean into the corners well, and I know that I could have taken more speed both into and out of the corners, but I am a little rusty! We stopped at Castle Ward for a breather....the views (even though at this stage is was quite dull) were spectacular. We were the only ones there, which for me sums up a flaw in modern society....why don't more people explore these places??

As we took in the view at Strangford, Dee made an interesting observation; the quiet. Sure enough, there was not a sound other than the bird song, which was plentiful. It was quite something and once you stopped and listened, I found that it instantly relaxed me even more. No sounds of traffic, car horns, bustle. I think it was good for my soul.

I have cut through the grounds of Castle Ward before, I think it is something you're not supposed to do, but we weren't stopping in the grounds, and certainly weren't taking advantage. So we did....the grounds are spectacular with mature trees as far as the eye can see. You pass the main estate house, its front face in neo-classical splendor. We 'pootled' rather than gunning it to take in our surroundings. We were soon on the road to Strangford town itself, passing over a causeway over the Lough before the sweeping bends allow you to flow and be at one with the road. Strangford town is quaint and picturesque, although it's safe to say has fallen on tough times with the wider economic downturn. Restaurants such as the Lobster Pot are now closed, their signs disheveled with individual letters hanging down acting as a metaphor for what has happened. The Cuan is the only place I am aware of still open in the town's square where you can go for a drink and bite to eat. Having not stopped since meeting in BMC Bikes, this seemed like the thing to do.

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