Since I was young, my dad always had something interesting in the garage- so I blame him for my petrolheaded obsessions- and the fact that I own far too many cars. I still remember on Saturday mornings, we would be in the kitchen, my mother and sister still in bed and Dad would look out and ask me “Do you think that’s MG weather Lee?” I always answered in the affirmative and got the nod to start the 1953 MG TD and back it out of the garage and onto the driveway. We would then head off up the Dublin mountains, a long time before the M50 was built- almost always with the hood down- even though putting it up was a lengthy process.
Fast forward a few (ok, more than a few) years and Dad still has something interesting in the garage- his 1978 Mercedes SL 350. We recently had a hugely enjoyable time- for the second year in a row- on the Deja Vu Killarney event, and drove the classic Circuit Of Ireland stages in the company of some motorsport legends. Around this time, whilst browsing through the Classic Cars section of Donedeal, as one does, I saw an ad for a classic car run to the Aran Islands- and thought it looked great. Unfortunately when I got in touch with the organiser, he explained that numbers were limited as they had to charter a ferry (there is no commercial car ferry to the islands) and all places were taken. I asked him to give me a shout if anyone dropped out and left it at that. The week before the event, he contacted me and said someone had been unable to come and asked if we were still interested- course we were!
A week later and we are headed off to meet the rest of the participants in Athlone, before travelling to Galway in convoy. The weather was amazing and just like back in the day, we had the top down. We met up with the others and grabbed a quick coffee before heading off. After a glorious trip we arrived in Galway and kept going out to Rossaveel, which is where the Aran Island Ferries operate from. Once there, we dropped our passengers at the Passenger Ferry Terminal- seeya Dad- and headed off down to a very industrial looking part of the harbour. A ferry was waiting and one by one we reversed on and parked up. It soon became aware that this was not your normal car ferry! There was no seating area, no television and definitely no bar- luxuries which I was later to learn that Dad was enjoying on his faster crossing. We did however, have a really friendly crew, who pointed towards their quarters and living area and told us to make ourselves at home. They had tea, biscuits and crisps which we gladly tucked into- at least until it got a bit choppy! Just under an hour later we docked in Aranmore and it was every bit as picturesque as we had imagined. As we drove off the ferry, our passengers were waiting on the pier for us, having left a little later, but overtaken us en route. We then drove to the Aran Islands Hotel– all of a two minute drive. The hotel management had hooked up a power washer to rinse down our beloved machines, having been showered with salty sea water en route- a nice touch. We then retired to the bar for lunch and a glass of wine, or two. Happily, the people on the run were all like minded classic car enthusiasts so for the following few days, the conversation flowed as easily as the Sauvignon Blanc- the two possibly not entirely unconnected!
Over the next few days, we made lots of new friends and had a few runs around the island, with the scenery being perfect for some amazing photos. We visited the Airport and watched some pilots coming in to land with more than a touch of opposite lock on, went to the Goats Cheese factory and met the goats(!) and of course, visited a few of the various watering holes too. The Aran Islands Hotel was wonderful, with charming friendly staff and top quality food too. You could sense that everyone was a bit depressed over breakfast on Sunday morning, as the adventure was about to end- or was it?! We boarded the ferries again, with one of the drivers kind enough to offer to go on the passenger ferry so Dad could come with the cars- and enjoyed a smooth sunny crossing back to Rosaveel. As we drove back to the main road, we came to a sign- “Galway” Right and “The Wild Atlantic Way” Left. Now my sister has recently purchased a holiday home just outside Louisburg and it is just finished undergoing renovation (shameless plug HERE) so we pointed the SL left and decided to add another day or two onto our holiday. We headed for Maam Cross, stopping for a quick lunch before heading West until we arrived at the superbly named Recess, where we went right onto the R344. After a stunning run by Lake Inagh, we joined the towards Leenaun and Kilary Harbour. The views were truly spectacular so we stopped at the wonderfully named Misunderstood Heron for a coffee and slice of cake, before continuing on towards Louisburgh. Former Vee racer Paul Sammin is a hugely proud (aren’t they all!) Mayoman and was happy to recommend an eatery and watering hole in his native Louisburg so we enjoyed another great evening. The following day, we made the short spin to Roonagh and met the Clareisland Ferry crew who cheerfully informed us that Clareisland would not be as wild as the Aran Islands. We headed off home, stopping to take a picture outside the famous Matt Molloys pub in Westport and on towards Dublin. As ever the SL behaved itself perfectly, barely using a drop of oil on the whole journey- shame I can’t say the same about the fuel!
Two things to take from this- Firstly, time stands still for no man- take your dad for a pint and secondly, make time to drive some of the Wild Atlantic Way- it is truly stunning!
A big thanks to Brendan and his family for organising and running such a superb event to the island- we are already booked in for 2018! Next up for us and the Merc though, is the Double Twelve Meeting at Brooklands this weekend, We have entered the Driving Test and our entry has been accepted in the “Post War Long Wheelbase Sportscar” class! Read all about it here when we get back!