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Befordshire & Buckinghamshire Galleries
Spirit of Gordon Bennett Tour - Ireland - May 2024
16 May 2024
On May 16th 20 cars and 40 people set off to complete the Spirit of Gordon Bennett Tour, retracing the route taken by the 1903 race. 15 of the cars travelled over together with Irish Ferries affording us a dedicated loading lane. All 20 cars made it to the Kildare House Hotel in time for supper on Thursday. We were given a warm welcome by this family run Irish Hotel in the lovely town of Kildare. Our first duty was to raise a glass to our absent friends Andrew (RIP) and Annette who were due to be with us.
With 20 cars we had subdivided in to 4 teams of 5, Britain and Ireland, USA, France and Germany (as per the original race), each with a team leader to help guide tourers to the venues.
On Friday our first port of call was the Mondello Park Race Circuit to visit the Martin Birrane Collection of historic racing cars. Whilst being shown around by the Manager, Ian Beatty, he gave us a lovely surprise by inviting us to drive some laps of the circuits behind a safety car... We then made our way to Kilcullen to view the film titled, "How Ireland Saved Motorsport". Then off to Dowling's Bar in Ballyshannon to the start/finish line to drive the first stage of the original route. We stopped at the iconic sculpture at Timoline and the Moate of Ardscull, both featured in the original race, then back to Dowling's to complete the first lap and have teas and coffee, supplied by Ciaran, the generous bar owner. In the evening after supper we ventured to a local bar for some music.
Saturday saw us start with a guided tour of Newbridge Silver and visit their Style Icon Museum, then a drive on to the second lap of the race route stopping for lunch at Treacy's Bar, owned by Tom, the organiser of the annual "official" event who popped in to say hello. We then completed the second (and final) stage of the route finishing back at Dowling's again. In the evening at a special "Irish" dinner organised by the hotel the teams all dressed in appropriate outfits to be presented with their certificates and we had a talk by author Bob Montgomery, author of the official book of the race.
Sunday it was off to Dublin for a private, guided, open bus tour of the city followed by lunch and music at the Old Storehouse in Temple Bar. The group then had leisure time in the city.
The Chairman of the Irish Jaguar Daimler Club, Tom Hudson called in to see us and have a chat. Tom had arranged for his local garage to be on standby for us during the visit and they did a great job in helping our club secretary with a breakdown.
Monday took us to the amazing Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens. The guided tour of the stud was excellent and a lot of fun, we met their 3 living legends plus seeing Arkle's skeleton, the gardens are just stunning. In the afternoon part of the group went to the Kildare Outlet Centre and some for a drive in the Wicklow mountains, this was curtailed for some of the group due to a traffic accident that closed the one access road. The evening was a very relaxed dinner with some presentations and raffle of the 3 framed special magazine articles about the race.
Tuesday morning we departed for home and some extended their stay in the emerald isle.
The abiding memory of the tour was the amazing welcome and hospitality we received everywhere we went, the hotel was excellent and all the places we visited made us feel special.
Another memory is the interest in our cars from the public, children wanting to sit in and have pictures taken, cars stopping at the roadside to view them and talk to us. They attracted much more attention there than we experience in the UK. Overall the country of Ireland and its people did themselves proud.
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