2019 Minis to Ireland

Report from members Laurence & Annie Gandar – Car 29

We had previously taken part in five Minis to… events, but in a BMW MINI Roadster, and having enjoyed the experience, we decided to acquire a classic Mini. We thought that this might bring us forward from around 37 in the starting lineup. But as the Mini RSP we purchased was registered in 1990 and a large number of cars entered for this year’s event were cars from the 60s, we only made it to car 29. So we were still toward the back of the pack. This year also had a large number of new participants or ‘Minis to Virgins’, but taking part in a classic for the first time we also felt that we fell into this category. So, it was with a deal of trepidation that we set off for Fishguard to start the adventure. Day 1 Arrival at the ferry port all the cars bar one made it on time.

Three cars were already there and met us at the hotel that evening. After registration, event sweatshirts were handed out in bags provided by Hagerty Insurance, one of the MCR’s sponsors. Most recipients got the size they wanted, but this did provide an opportunity for later trading between participants. The first call on the service van was before we left Fishguard – a broken throttle spring in Simon and Donella Arnett’s Mini Mayfair on route to Fishguard. Then the head gasket on John McIntosh’s 1967 Austin Cooper S was replaced in the hotel car park after dinner with support from other teams using a spare gasket from Peter Calver’s box of spares.

Although the road book warned of ‘bumps’ and ‘air’ we think this car (not one of ours) pictured in the wall required more!

At dinner that evening the first award (a bottle of champagne kindly donated by Tony & Angela Jones) was presented to Allan & Mary Bull and John Harty & Anne Harman from New Zealand. Day 2 We were rather surprised to be met in the hotel car park by the President of the Irish Mini Owners Club, who reported that their social media had been active with reports of our arrival. They were keen to know our route so that others in their membership could catch up with us as we made our way around the Country. The planned route for the first full day was to leave Enniscorthy via Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel over The Vee to Midleton. Once in Cork, we took a coastal tour taking in the Old Head of Kinsale and then following other Rally stages to take us to the Eccles Hotel at Glengarriff on Bantry Bay. The day started dry and sunny but by the lunch stop in Killbritain the weather had started to deteriorate. Parking 40 Minis in the rather narrow street outside the pub proved interesting but possible. However, starting in a controlled sequence after lunch was complicated by the passing traffic – nervous owners watching on as large tractors with trailers came through. Petra and Sean Sullivan took the opportunity to investigate the nearby ‘Magic Road’. They reported that they did indeed achieve 10mph in neutral going uphill pushed by ‘the fairies’.

The weather then progressively deteriorated, testing the windscreen wiper performance of classic Minis but with no reported failures. One failure was encountered by all the crews who duly stopped at the road book instruction for a routemaster question regarding the number of windmills. The visibility was so poor that you could not see the hill let alone any windmills! Day 3 The Eccles Hotel provided a super base to enable a circular day, taking in some of the glorious scenery of the Beara Peninsula with Cod’s Head, Ardgroom and Kilmacillogue stages. The day dawned with a promise of great weather and we were not disappointed. During the course of the morning David Brazell, who is normally to be seen at high speed was spotted reversing out of a hedge after possibly stopping to pick Blackberries. The coffee stop today was said in the road book to be at Teddy’s Bar in Lauragh which now has the sign outside declaring it to be Helen’s Bar which caused some amusement. Apparently Helen Moriarty the owner had wanted to change the name, but felt it was unlucky to do so. Good fortune intervened in one storm when part of the Teddy’s Bar sign fell down so clearing the way for a replacement. We had stopped here on a previous Minis to Ireland and it was great to be back at this idyllic location. Graham Juner and Lisa Crossley had decided to have a free day and went to Helen’s bar for lunch. After they had finished their lunch Helen realised that they were part of the Mini group and insisted on them having coffee and biscuits because it had already been paid for by the Cows are an additional hazard Car 32 in front of Helen’s Bar.

We then went on to the Ring of Kerry, via Kenmare, with glorious views of the coast and over Valencia Island. From the Skelligs and Portmagee opposite Valencia we all made it to our lunch stop before a very scenic drive around Carragh Lake, and back through the very narrow and dramatic pass of Glencar to return to the hotel. We were concerned that Simon and Donella’s car had failed to make it back to the hotel in the evening due to carburetor problems. But it was good to see them the next morning, after the carburetor problem had been fixed with phone support from Legs. Day 4 Monday saw us heading east towards Tullow with a lunch stop at the stunning location of Newtown just south of Tipperary in the Glen of Aherlow. It was a very wet start to the day and to add interest to the route there was a reported road closure, which meant a deviation instruction had to be given to each car on departure. The deviation given to us was difficult to follow because a truck had parked across the turning to the alternative route. A number of cars got lost. We grasped the chance of escape when we spotted Car 0 and followed it up a progressively narrowing road until our exhaust was running on the grass in the middle of what had turned into a farm track. So, as we were unable to keep up the pace they soon left us behind! With no phone reception and so no ability to search Google for our lunch stop hotel coordinates, we all finally regained the route using old fashioned map technology. As we got closer to Glen Aherlow the rain stopped, the sun came out and we were treated to a wonderful rainbow.  Coming through Glencar Nearly at the top. Caution sheep In Glen Aherlow hotel car park Mini RSP caught in a Rainbow The view overlooking Valencia Approaching a tunnel Tony Salter and John Littman in Car 2 were the next victims to suffer a head gasket failure. In this case a local came to their rescue and assisted with a tow to his ‘garage’ which turned out to be a barn with plenty of mud and gravel as a floor. However, it did provide Tony and John dry facilities to make the repair.

At the end of the day we were all pleased to arrive at the very comfortable Mount Wolseley Hotel – our base for three nights. Day 5 Spending three nights at the Mount Wolseley Golf & Spa Hotel gave the crews an opportunity to take a break. We took a rest day on the first loop day and explored Tullow and some local attractions including the Chocolate Factory. For those not taking a rest, the full day included the historic town of Thurles, the Slieve Felim Mountains, the Arra Mountains to Killaloe and Lough Derg (the last lake on the River Shannon), plus Roscrea, which is one of the oldest towns in Ireland. However, it was not an incident free day for two cars in particular. Both Robert and Lesley Young and Richard Smyth and Declan Grogan sustained front suspension and steering damage in two separate events. Declan arranged for both cars to be recovered on a low loader and taken to his workshop for repairs late into the evening. By the next morning both cars were seen back at the hotel and ready to go again. As well as a large selection of spares (including ball joints) carried by the crews it was amazing to discover some of the tools available. Who would have thought to bring a ball joint splitter plus spanner and socket, but Tony Salter did and they were needed that evening, even though Richard Smyth described the tools as ‘antiques’. Day 6 This day was another circular day giving crews a chance to take a more relaxed view of the local scenery. Some took a day off and drove up to Johnnie Fox’s pub in Glencullen, which is reported to be the highest pub in Ireland. The official route took in Blessington Lakes, a drive around the Poulaphouca Reservoir, then north for Dunshaughlin and the Hill of Tara. This was the seat of the high kings of Ireland and the most ancient relic in the country. Returning via Slane and Kells, the Curragh to Baltinglass and back to the Mount Wolseley. Now it was the turn of the service car to need attention. Not seeing a big pothole filled with water they popped both nearside tyres and damaged a rim. Within a short time they had been assisted and were able to resume their support duties – you need a back up to the back up! Today’s tales of navigation hazards centered around three very hump backed bridges in close succession. Lots of potential opportunity for error.

Cars leaving Mount Wolseley Car 14 Heading out for the day here, as we discovered once we ended up in the middle of a market town with the cattle market closing! Our Mini being dwarfed by very large tractors and trailers with large animals on board we had to resort to the sat nav to find ourselves back on the ‘Gordon Bennett’ route – a circuit famous in Ireland for hosting the 1903 Gordon Bennett cup. Certainly a good reason to revisit this part of Ireland to drive this route. Day 7 Our final full day leaving Tullow we enjoyed driving the Aghavanna rally stage to Laragh and then over the Wicklow Gap. It was just as well Rob and Wendy Sharman’s car had twin tanks. The fuel sender on the nearside tank started to leak filling the boot with petrol, the tank had to be emptied and isolated. As both tanks were nearly full there had to be some free fuel distribution! However, with much help and advice it was all sorted and ready in time for the start. The road book is full of useful advice about the road ahead but also the Irish take some pride in warning motorists of upcoming dangers as these photos captured by Petra and Sean Sullivan show. The rain mostly held off and we enjoyed a lovely run over the Wicklow mountains and through the Sally Gap and Glen of the Downs with lunch in a delightful hotel at Glenmalur. One amusing observation on the roads across the mountains was that the usual bumps in the road were in most cases bigger than the speed bumps placed there to slow down the traffic! No-one got ‘Brazelled’ today as David missed an instruction and took a 30 mile detour! But he and Jo still made lunch in good time. Arriving at the lunch stop two cars had serious problems. A crankshaft pulley had come loose on Simon and Eve Joslin’s car. To get at the pulley the radiator had to be removed, but even so, this was done and the car was fixed in the car park after lunch by Simon, Legs and Rod Taylor in an impressive 47mins. Unfortunately, Ian and Carole Potter were left with an idler gear problem in their Mk1 Cooper S. After some diagnosis and discussion it was decided that it should go no further for fear of further collateral damage and so arrangements were made to get the car back to the ferry port. Carole was given a lift by Martyn and Sally Shears in their JCW convertible, so Carole reported a rather comfortable ride to end the day. For the last part of the trip we drove through the Vale of Avoca to Courtown and Castlebridge then onto The Ferrycarrig Hotel, Wexford for our last night. The final instruction of the day (although not in the road book) missed by most was for the reserved parking at the hotel. Everyone was so relieved to be back they missed the sign!

Prize winners The evening saw the presentation of prizes and a vote of thanks to the organisers for yet another super event. Ian and Carole Potter won the Routemaster quiz by one point despite not completing the afternoon session having left the car to be transported to the ferry port. The Spirit of the Event award went to Declan Grogan for all his work on recovery and repairing the damaged cars and sorting out ‘local arrangements’. The prizes were kindly donated by Mini Sport. Day 8 An early start to catch the ferry meant driving in the dark and in the rain, which being our first time in a classic Mini was a stark reminder of the modern improvements in headlight technology. Ian Potter’s car which had been taken to the port by Declan was then towed on and off the ferry by Phil Dyson, to be reunited with its trailer in Fishguard ready for the return home to Derbyshire. In all, another brilliant event, with some wonderful roads and despite the typical Irish weather at times. As usual it is the spirit of camaraderie which makes these events such a success and the willingness of people to assist if there are any problems. The organisation of these events is immense and sincere thanks go to the Wylie family and Robert and Lesley Young who put this event together. Not forgetting Kevin Donovan (aka Legs) and the support crew.