Week long family tour - 4 countries

Discussion in 'Member's Travelogues' started by Sixmile, 27 Jul 2017.

  1. Sixmile

    Sixmile Über Member

    N Ireland
    I thought I'd put a little thread up about our family holiday a few weeks back. I had posted a bit on the forum whilst planning the trip but during the trip and since we've come back, people have shown an interest in our little adventure and who knows, it may be of help to another young family somewhere along the way.

    Way back in early Spring I pitched a different type of family summer holiday to my wife who hadn't cycled in about 6 months. Even at that, she had never really shown much of an interest when I took the kids out in the trailer, where we'd spend full days riding around wherever I deemed safe and interesting. I had done a few overnight trips on my own but as my girls are starting to get bigger (3 and 5 yo) I thought this may be the last summer I could haul them about together in the trailer. I had read online about the North Wales coastal path and had decided to plan around that. I've never planned so much for any trip in my life and I really enjoyed working out the logistics. Most family members and friends told me I was daft and that they couldn't think of anything worse, but anyone who cycled reckoned it sounded fun and the kids would love it. Thankfully the l latter were bang on. Here's what we did..

    Day 1 - Belfast, NI
    Parked our car in Belfast and cycled out early on a Sunday morning towards the train station. We had a 'dry run' the previous weekend with our first overnight family cycle trip of 45 miles, so we'd managed to pack everything for the 4 of us between the Croozer trailer and a back pack set on a Hamax seat on my wifes bike. The Belfast to Dublin train has a luggage compartment at the very end so I managed to store our 2 bikes and the trailer in its complete state in the luggage carriage. We'd a table for 4 and had a hassle free 2 hour journey to Dublin. (Thanks to the stranger who helped us down the stairs with the luggage as the lift was too narrow.)

    Arriving in Dublin we hooked on the trailer and set off through the city. Dublin has some great cycle friendly routes but it took us a few miles through heavy traffic to find the south canal. A bit of a pressurized start but once on the canal route we'd a pretty straightforward 8 miles to our pre-booked hotel with pool. On arrival we were asked for our car reg but after the receptionist asked to see our trailer, she arranged for all our biking gear to be stored inside the rear of the hotel. I wouldn't have liked to bank on the safety of the car park in that particular area. Swimming, dinner etc then bed.

    Day 2 - Dublin, IE
    We were up at 6am, as we figured we'd need some time to play with if we were to get across Dublin and checked in at the ferry for 7:30am. The journey back across Dublin was straightforward and definitely felt the traffic giving the trailer more room than when riding solo. We'd minor issues crossing 2 roads near the port as there were no lights and the traffic was heavy but we also found HGV drivers accommodating, waving us through at points as we weaved in and around traffic. The cycle provision around Dublin city centre is good but it seems to stop short of the ports unfortunately.

    I walked into the check in hall and the helpful advisor told me to wheel the bikes onto the bus. Then after I explained about the trailer, about 4 staff members were out looking, on walkie talkies and eventually decided they'd let us ride on to the lorry deck. Twenty minutes later, they'd stopped all the motorised traffic and motioned for us to ride onto the ferry and told us where to park. Breakfast, play areas and a few complimentary movies ensued then it was time to disembark. Due to the car drivers and passengers (the deck above ours) going down too early and blocking the stairways, we couldn't get down to the lorry deck quick enough. We were only half way along negotiating walking between the lorries and the alarm went for the ramp lowering for the lorries to start disembarking. It wasn't a place I wanted the family stuck so we ran between the last dozen or so lorries to the relative safety of where our bikes were just before the lorries were driving off. The fumes were horrendous during those few minutes.

    Before we had finished undertaking all the static traffic out of the port, the kids were asleep in the trailer. I went and collected our train tickets and seen we'd about an hour and a half before our train so we rode over the bridge into Holyhead for a bite. Some friendly eccentric locals came and talked to us for ages at the café after asking about the trailer and give us some language lessons after I attempted to explain where we were going to. Who knew that Ll words sounded like Haahn in Wales? I had to eventually request that we had our order in takeaway boxes as it was so slow and we sped back through Holyhead to make our train with no more than 2 minutes to spare. The bike carriage was midway up the train this time and only had space for 2 bikes. After cleaning out spilt baked beans from the Holyhead café dash, I had to completely collapse the trailer and store it upright.
    We got off at Llanfairfechan and cycled along a few miles enjoying the views. We'd a couple of short but significant climbs to do to make Penmean'phwoar' and my wife wasn't uttering words about the scenery but rather how this would burn her out on day one. She managed fine and after ice cream and a visit to Britians smallest house in Conwy we were good to go to Llandudno. The paths had all been relatively good to this point but between Conwy and Llandudno the path turned into a sandy track. It was impossible to pull the trailer through this so we'd stopped after struggling for a while and let the kids walk that bit. Llandudno was nice but we were starving. The chippy we found was so slow and portion sizes well.. It wouldn't survive at home charging 25p per red sauce portion!

    Upon leaving the town I decided to not attempt the climb to Colwyn Bay via the main road but by a back road instead. I think it was around a 15% climb and I had it 3/4's done when I decided to stand for the last push. Just then my back wheel dislodged from the frame, I was clipped in and hit the road at the top of the climb bending the rear rotor. I guess the total weight of the trailer pulling on the skewer along with me going full pelt up a steep climb was just too much. I knocked the door of the nearest house to get some tools to bang the rotor back to some kind of shape to help us continue. On we went.. After a wee stop in Rhos on sea to splash around, we arrived at Travelodge Colwyn Bay for our overnight stop. The receptionist was great and let us store our bikes in the staff kitchen.

    Day 3 - Wales - Colwyn Bay to Talacre
    After a tasty breakfast in a local café and a dander around the town, we set off about 11am towards Rhyl. It wasn't long before the kids were out for the count. The ride along the coast here was superb. The predicted rain never came and we'd favourable tailwinds to help us along. There was just one tough hill but I managed it seated on my second attempt. I had planned to stop at the Bike Hub Café in Rhyl for a coffee anyway, whilst there I picked up a new rotor for £10 and they gave me the torx key to take with me to fit it. Rhyl was quieter than a seaside town should be, a lot of places weren't open and I guess the school holidays hadn't started in Wales yet. We went to a few parks including the skate park where my rear wheel dislodged again after attempting some ramps with the trailer attached. No biggie.
    On we rode towards Talacre, along probably the best and nicest stretches of coastal path we'd seen so far. After Prestatyn we followed the cycle route through a golf course and a few of those mass caravan holiday resorts until we reached a little bungalow I'd booked through Airbnb. It was fantastic. I rode back to Prestatyn later in the day to do a full shop in Tesco and carried it back in a rucksack. On reflection I should've brought the trailer as I'd bought far too much for one bag.

    Day 4 - Wales - Talacre to Rhyl
    As we'd booked the bungalow for 2 nights we'd no plans to head that far. We spent a full day at the nearby beach in 23 degree heat and decided to ride to Rhyl to buy a few bits and bobs for tonights tea. We met a girl from Surrey on the way who offered to help us with our trailer at another one of those darn gates. The process always went, kids out, detach trailer, push bikes through, lift trailer over, reconnect trailer, kids back in and cycle on. The Talacre path had 2 of these gates within a mile or so. We said thank you to the Surrey girl for the offer but we were fine but after telling us that her mum was from NI we got chatting all the way to Rhyl. She was 20 and had set off from Surrey a month ago on a bike that was given to her, she was only using printed OS maps and stopping wherever 'Warm Showers' offered kip. She'd another 2 months of touring before starting uni. We were mutually impressed by each others trip. We said our goodbyes in Rhyl and we rode back to Talacre but only after meeting a fella with a face full of scars who after asking about the trailer, told us that he was chased out of Northern Ireland by the Orangemen. Strange fella, strange story.
    After missing it last night, I made my wife come with us to the dunes to watch the sunset.

    Day 5 - England - Talacre to Chester
    How many 'anti-trailer' gates can you fit in a few miles of cycleway? Quite a few. The short ride from Talacre to the next village south was peppered with them. I knew the cycle tracks we'd enjoyed were going to disappear and I was apprehensive about the road to Connahs Quay at least. I nipped through any adjoining villages when possible and found the main road to generally be ok but yea, it's a pity the cycle ways don't connect from the North East of Wales to Chester. Once at Connahs Quay the cycle route linked up well with Chester and we easily found our Premier Inn with covered cycle parking. Overnight we were allowed to store our bikes in our room which was massive. I had hunted down a great chippy on Tripadvisor before we headed up to Cheshire Oaks for some shopping. The wife bought a few things with the understanding that anything still needed to fit in the trailer. We'd acquired 2 buckets and spade sets from Talacre so space was at a premium but all very manageable. We had locked the bikes at the information point, pretty decent facilities to be fair. As the sun started to fade we flicked our lights on and headed back.

    Day 6 - Chester Zoo to Birkenhead
    We'd a short few miles to the zoo, we'd cased it out the previous day. I presented our 'we've arrived by bike' voucher at the ticket office and got 15% off entry which got us £17off somehow. Outside the main gates there are regular cycle stands and 6 pizza slice shaped storage boxes for bikes. We paid the returnable deposit at Guest services to get 2 covered boxes for the bikes and all our bags. It was great, the best public cycle storage I've ever come across.
    The zoo was great, and after 6 hours we left to head towards Birkenhead. Our ferry was checking in at 8:30pm and we'd be advised of some road closures near the port. I'd mapped out a route via Ellesmere Port but we decided to head pretty direct on the main roads to make good time. We did dip into some preplanned cycle ways on the way up but found them to be mostly in a bad state of repair to pull the trailer on and it slowed us down. It's not as easy to weave around pot holes and cracks and dog do's with the 2 extra wheels out back.

    The rain had started to come on, we were facing the only headwind we'd faced all trip, my GPS was 'reloading' loads but we eventually worked our way through Birkenhead to the port. This time we had to load the bikes onto a trailer and fit our trailer within a luggage cart to get onto the boat. After seeing the ramps onto the boat, I'm glad we weren't allowed to cycle on this time! We'd a cabin booked and turned out the lights.

    Day 7 - Belfast
    We arrived into Belfast port at 7am and rode a few miles back to our car in the city centre. No where but no where is open in Belfast at that time on a Saturday so we'd a while to wait before we got breakfast. Oh actually, Next was open at 7am, how did my wife even know that?! After a big fry we set off home to unpack our 2 bags and put on one wash of clothes (we did have a washing machine in the Talacre house!).

    Overall I fantastic trip that we all wished was longer. If you've made this point, you deserve some sort of congratulations. My wife is already talking about the 'next one' so I count her as a convert and the holiday a success!
    Last edited: 27 Jul 2017
  2. Crackle

    Crackle ...

    That's pretty impressive. Pulling a trailer with two kids, ferries, trains and some big roads. Hats off but it looks like you've triumphed if the family is talking of the next one and probably learned a lot from this one too.
    Sixmile likes this.
  3. Roadhump

    Roadhump Time you enjoyed wasting was not wasted

    Really enjoyed reading that, and have to say how impressive your planning and schedule was, and your achievement doing it in the way you did as a family.

    Yesterday, I found the previous thread you mentioned after typing "Llanfairfechan" in the forum search box. The reason being that at the end of August I am planning to ride from Bangor to Southport. Even though I know the area quite well, having visited countless times over many years, I have never cycled those parts (except in Anglesey one time) and was unsure of the route, especially between Bangor and Llanfairfechan where the only road option seems to be the A55 Expressway, which lacks a cycle path and would be rather dodgy, and unpleasant. Having read that thread, I feel more confident knowing there is a coastal cycle pathway, which will help me plan.

    I tried the same search this morning and found your very interesting and enjoyable family cycling holiday journal, so thanks on both counts.
    Sixmile likes this.
  4. OP

    Sixmile Über Member

    N Ireland
    I learned I could've done with another usb plug and noticed we'd over packed on snacks, some ended up coming home with us!

    We started at Llanfairfechan as I figured that's roughly where the path starts and heads east. I trawled through the Anglesey and Bangor roads one by one on google maps and figured it wouldn't have been that pleasant a start for us. Plus I couldn't find much accommodation wise for us in Bangor. But from Llanfairfechan to a little south of Talacre, you have cycle path the whole way. I'm glad you enjoyed the read!
  5. Pat "5mph"

    Pat "5mph" A kilogrammicaly challenged woman Moderator

    I enjoyed this very much, thanks for posting @Sixmile.
    You made it sound so easy, a trailer fully loaded on cycle paths.
    Sixmile likes this.
  6. LeetleGreyCells

    LeetleGreyCells Reinvented for 2019 - Formerly RealLeeHimself

    Just read this thanks to your link on another thread. A great accomplishment.

    I just have to persuade my wife now... :whistle:
    Sixmile likes this.
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