Traffic-free, surprisingly well- maintained country roads, gourmet cuisine, great company, faultless hospitality and mostly ideal June weather conditions made the 2019 Euro Classic Irish backstop a big success writes Chris Adamson.
The contingent of Euro Classic regulars were joined by friends from the world of PR; Richard and Frances Gadeselli making their event debut in Richard’s Alfa Romeo Spider, previous participants Gordon and Marilyn Bruce in their E-Type Jaguar and Julian and Julie Leyton in a recently renovated Triumph Stag.
Award for the furthest travelled went to American Guild member Bob Kocher and his wife Connie who had flown from their home in Ohio and collected a 1980 MKI Cavalier from the Vauxhall Heritage collection at Luton, thanks to the chauffeuring services of Guy Loveridge and his MKI Jaguar.
Eighteen cars in total, spanning more than 75 years of automotive history, assembled at Fishguard on the western tip of Wales for the three-and-a-half hour crossing with Stena and, for once, the normally feared Irish Sea was almost flat calm.
Participants were given an elevated view of the journey to Rosslare with an exclusive visit to the bridge hosted by Captain Marek – a location normally off-limits to passengers.
For those who had made a long journey to start the event, the short drive from Rosslare to the Ferrycarrig Hotel just outside Wexford was welcomed as was the chance to relax in the spa or bar before dinner overlooking the River Slaney estuary.
Saturday dawned bright and the refreshed crews headed west along a picturesque route using less-travelled roads which had been previously checked by John and Peggy Griffiths – first destination was the historic port of Waterford.
Early arrivals had time to wander through the streets and enjoy coffee and cakes before a 50-minute guided tour of the world-famous Waterford Crystal factory.
Each process in the production of the hand- blown, hand-cut products was demonstrated by craftsmen who have taken a minimum five-year apprenticeship to learn their skills.
Back on the road, the route book then headed east crossing the wide expanse of Waterford Harbour using the picturesque East Passage car ferry and then on to Johnstown Castle, home of the Irish Agricultural Museum.
We were given permission to park in the museum courtyard which is normally populated only by a family of very vocal peacocks with which Stuart and Jennetta Bladon’s playful terrier Micky attempted to engage.
Museum curator Matt Wheeler provided the private tour of the castle (open to the public for the first time this year) explaining the fascinating history of the house, which was first built in the medieval period by the Esmond family, who had come to Ireland as part of the Anglo-Norman invasion in the 12th century.
Most of what is seen today is attributable to remodelling in the 18th and 19th centuries taking on a gothic revival style. Its ownership has changed hands many times, in the main due to tragic circumstances which befell its colourful occupants. It was given to the Government in 1942 for agricultural research.
Unfortunately, time wasn’t sufficient to see all of the exhibits in the adjacent agricultural museum as many decided to return to the hotel to change before dinner at the Thomas Moore Tavern in the heart of old Wexford – one of the oldest hostelries in the town.
There was a strong cultural atmosphere in the pub, in the main contributed by a live televised hurling match between Wexford and arch rivals Kilkenny – thankfully it ended in a draw so everyone was happy.
Sunday involved the longest section of the weekend, a 50-mile road run north parallel with the coast into neighbouring county Carlow. The convoy was now down to 17 cars after Chris and Gillie Mann’s recently acquired 1932 Rolls-Royce 20/15 Barker Sedanca De Ville failed to proceed – subsequent investigations traced the problem to a faulty distributor.
Gillie didn’t miss out on the day thanks to Peter and Lin Baker offering a ride in their Daimler Conquest which they had acquired only a few months earlier.
Primary destination was Huntington Castle, a privately owned manor house which is still lived in by descendants of the family who built it in the 17th century as a garrison to patrol trade routes along two neighbouring river valleys.
Current owner Alexander Durdin- Robertson swung open the gates of the castle himself to allow the cars to park on the gravel driveway that helps frame the picture-book entrance.
With Alexander as the guide everyone was taken on an entertaining and information-packed journey back through four centuries of history on the site and shown the rooms the family still use every day. The castle really is a hidden gem in the Irish countryside.
Many took up the option of a homemade lunch before departing – the forecast of rain (yes there had to be some, after all it was Ireland) encouraging many to head back to the hotel foregoing a visit to Fox Drew Brewery on route.
Some brave crews elected to make a detour to head for a classic car show at Wells House where they found Chris Mann in his now operational Rolls-Royce.
Those who chose to complete the itinerary were treated to an instructive afternoon with craft brewer Malcolm Molloy and his Texan wife Andrea (they also run a bar in Chicago) who explained the brewing process before offering samples of the four beers they produce.
Each of the beers (under the banner of Cleverman Beers), with their own distinctive taste, is named in honour of a famous Irish inventor, for example, Little Willie is named after the tank designed by Walter Gordon Wilson and 12ft Under for the first submarine created by John Phillip Holland.
Dinner back at Ferrycarrig rounded off the event in style although no one was staying up late as a 6.30am departure was required to make the return ferry crossing to Fishguard and all points east.