Brought the family to a motorcycle race lately? They might just enjoy it. Our guest blogger Barbara Cullen recalls the thrills, spills and bags of chips of her childhood spent at the sideline of the North West 200.
The smell of the grease, the roar of the engines, the sudden thunder as they whip past the spectators and round the next bend; there’s no spectacle like the , Northern Ireland’s biggest motorbike race.
Growing up County Meath, I had a friend whose Dad loved motorbikes and road racing. At weekends he would take us to watch track racing at Mondello, or the road racing in Skerries, but the North West 200 was always the Holy Grail. It was such a thrill to see the giants of motorbike racing, including the late brothers Joey and Robert Dunlop, show off in their own backyard, on roads they knew like the back of their hands.
These days the North West 200 is still attracting some of the biggest names in motorbike racing, and the countdown has begun for this year’s festival on 15 – 19 May. The route snakes through Northern Ireland in a triangular shape around the towns of , and – an area of spectacular natural beauty, if you do manage to pull your eyes off the road, that is. Attendance figures of up to 150,000 make it the biggest outdoor sporting event in Ireland.
Some advice if you plan to be one of those gasping spectators: try to arrive early to set up camp, and not some random spot, either. We would study the route with military precision to locate the perfect patch – a vantage point taking in the bikes in the distance before they suddenly emerge around the corner next to us at what seems to be 200 miles an hour! It’s deafening as the bikes speed past, but also exhilarating, and as near as I’ll ever get to riding a bike!
When we were young we’d always have a trip to the beach after, with many lovely strands to pick from the , which were never crowded. At the day’s end we’d head for to get an adrenaline rush of our own on the Big Dipper and a bag of chips laden with salt and vinegar on the way home. Time may have ticked past since I was last there, but I think it’s time I introduced my own children to the thrill of a Northwest 200.
While you’re in that neck of the woods, you should really take the time to enjoy the culinary delights of Northern Ireland.