It all began back on the web, by booking a ferry ticket to Rosslare - gateway to Guiness and perfect Irish waves. Myself, Aran and Rattz had a nice Thursday night drive down to Pembroke Dock followed by a 3am sailing - just what the doctor ordered... Rattz went home for a quick power nap and managed to set his alarm for the wrong time. A phone call managed to rise him and he narrowly avoided missing the ferry, so we were off to a good start!
Once on board it was the usual runaround to find something resembling a bed. A large noisy, vibrating wall was the best we could do - sleep is totally under rated.
Luckily daylight arrived and swiftly rescued us from a torturous nights sleep but spirits were still high as we prepared for "the craic".
We secretly hoped for the same wave quality we'd experienced on our previous trip some 6 yrs ago to Co.Donegal with waves ranging from 3ft to 12ft and offshore winds blowing for 10 days straight.
A quick breakfast stop and 27 Euros later (how much?) we were off. Yes, believe it or not, Ireland is now Europe's most expensive country.
It's amazing what you'll pay when you're hungry and tired. We chatted with the proprietor for a while as she proudly told us about her ancestry and God fearing grandchildren. The eldest at 18 yrs had just been confirmed and "had not yet stepped inside a nightclub!" Realising our obvious failings as human beings we trundled off into the early morning sunrise as our seemingly timeless driver, Aran steered the bus South.
It took a while to master the art of 'hard shoulder driving' which seems to be all the rage in Ireland but we eventually made it to Kinsale in one piece.
There's no motorway in this part of Ireland so the hard shoulder is used like a slow lane. Some drivers however need a little more encouragement than others! 'The Storm Rider Guide' mentions the slowness of life in the south over there and they're aren't kidding!
Surf capital of the South, Tramore, was our first stop and we were greeted by a pleasant seaside town, similar to Porthcawl in appearance, complete with fun fair! 'The Incredible Wave' and 'Perfect Wave' were nowhere to be seen. Clearly someone knew we were coming as we were greeted by a small 1ft dribbly wave, so we kept driving West in search of swell.
After about 4 hrs of driving and checking various spots along the coast we arrived at Garretstown, home to some decent surf spots. Unfortunately for us the dreaded sw winds were blowing a gale and the rain and wind flattened what little swell there was.
The town had a definite closed/ 'out of season' appeal and to make things more interesting, the local council had errected height bars on all car park entrances to deter overnight camping.
If it's not that then I can only assume they hold regular limbo dancing championships. The rain stopped and with blue sky and sun shining, we drove around in search of a suitable spot where van and tent could co-habit harmoniously.
As it turned out; when Rattz was plied with enough Guiness he'd actually sleep comfortably anywhere...
The local pub, 'The Speckled Door' was a short distance up the road. We had a beachside view and enough food to last a whole day so things were definitely looking up!
Aran donned his snorkel gear and went spearing fishing in the local harbour... With promises of fish for supper and free Guiness if he delivered fish; our expectations were understandably low. I can only assume that Gannets ate all the fish as there were literally hundreds flying around, continuously dive bombing fish galore...
We dined on canned tuna chunks that night. A quick surf check later revealed 1-2ft choppy surf with sw winds. Rattz and I were still nursing surfing injuries (we're not getting any younger) so stayed on terra firma and vowed to go in if it ever improved - it didn't.
A night in the pub drinking and playing 'exhibition' style pool didn't really help with our early start the following day.
A local surfer recomended Red Strand the next day for low tide but we decided to gamble and keep heading North towards the Dingle Peninsular.
The Ring Of Kerry is a spectacular spot and gets a great write up in any guide book but after checking the available set-ups and likelihood of them having surf we decided to drive on and find a more Northerly facing beach.
After 5 hrs at the wheel, it was with great relief that we finally arrived at Castle Gregory. A small town with breath taking views of the local mountain range, plenty of marram grass and sand dunes, it was perfect for camping.
With ominous looking clouds hovering over the mountains, it really added a wild, rugged touch to the place and reminded us alot of New Zealand.
This spot is better known for it's windsurfing and Jamie Knox runs a local windsurfing school and surf shop here. Having checked out the reefs - Gary Williams Point and Mossies we had already spied a few possibilites but due to the wind direction, Brandon Bay seemed to be our best bet.
Although only a couple of feet, it had definite potential. Beware of the seaweed at the North end of the bay as it smells alot like rotting fish!