78-year-old Montrose man cycles more than 500 miles!

Kip Fraser
Kip Fraser

A bike run around the northern part of the Emerald Isle, covering 520.48 miles in total, and at the age of 78? Who else could it be but Montrose’s own Kip Fraser!

Kip and three younger companions, Brian Coull, Brian Batson and Rod Bonnar met up at Dundee on May 12 and took the train to Queen Street Glasgow - then biked to Central Station from where they travelled to Stranraer before biking the eight miles to Cairnryan and the ferry to Belfast.

The first day in the Emerald Isle involved 51 miles aided by a blissful tail wind to Armagh, then another 51 the next day to Eniskillen.

From there to Donegal was the low point, 48 miles of torrential rain, although they passed the site of the G8 summit and also saw Beleek, the site of a famous pottery, often mentioned on Antiques Roadshow.

On the Saturday they travelled only 30 mile reaching Kilcar, where they regained their breath for two night.

The rest was highly beneficial because they then climbed the Sliabh Liag cliffs, rising 1000 feet in two miles, but as Kip said: “The run down again was wonderful!”

They were intrigued to be told at Teelin that it was an important early settlement from where monks in the 5th century set sail for Iceland.

The next day they cycled to Dungloe Clochain Laith, notable for the overwhelming greyness of its stone. This was in complete contrast with what followed.

Kip apologised for apparently swearing about the next destination, the northernmost tip, Bloody Foreland! There is an exquisite effect caused by a combination of red sandstone and the sunset which makes the stone appear to be glowing blood-red.

The route then went along the top of the cliffs to Dunfainachy where another two-day recuperation was enjoyed. They stayed in a railway carriage at Hornhead, where they were more than a little surprised to find a Union Jack flag flying - in the Republic! Brendan, the swashbuckling owner of the accommodation explained that he had had a visit from some Scousers who put up the flag. He seemed not much bothered that he had complaints from Sinn Fein, and also contact from Belfast, where the press had been picking up the story.

The group saw the Harry Blainey Bridge - which goes nowhere because the scheme behind it ran out of money.

The next day they saw the dramatic scenery of Ben Inishowen Peninsula to Mallin Head, beloved of shipping forecasts through the ages, to the side of Lough Swilly. There, the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway company operated from 1853 to 2014 - since 1953 operating ramshackle buses and falling victim not to Dr Beeching but to HM Revenue & Customs.

The foursome took a ferry to Letterkenny, involving a 50-mile trip instead of the 90 it would have been.

Now, the ferry had been withdrawn when the Government withdrew its subsidy, but they were told that a local man would take them across. However, he was on holiday in Spain, but his pal was available. The timing was crucial because of a low tide at 3pm, so the brave boys were up at 5am for the 10-mile cycle to the jetty.

There, to their astonishment, they found a 14-foot rigid inflatable with an outboard motor, and an Irish Wolfhound as ‘navigator’! Because of the size of the boat, it was only possible to take across two of the party (and bikes) at a time. That part of the trip ended with 10 miles to Buncrana where the night was spent.

It was back to Mallin Head for two nights and beautiful weather.

From there they took in the Giant’s Causeway and the famous, nay notorious, rope bridge, where photographs were taken as they shoogled their way across.

Cycling at the Mull of Kintyre, they found their wrists were sore because of holding on their brakes on the way down the steep hill. A notice warned them that cycling there was only for fit and experienced cyclists. All present felt qualified!

They saw notable plaques on the way, including one at Carnlough which commemorated the Second World War carrier pigeon, Paddy, who won the Dickin Medal for his work on D-Day, the medal being the equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

The return journey ended in Montrose on Tuesday, May 26.

Kip confessed: “I was a bit tired at the finish - but I was soon out gardening!”