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I crashed early last night.

The late night with Dominic caught up with me, and I fell asleep by 10:00 pm. I awoke early, and caught breakfast as the hostel started serving, at 7:00 am. I headed out to find an additional box, tape, and ideally a hardware store. The bike shop closest to the hostel didn’t open until 11:00 am. The hardware store I found didn’t open until 9:00 am. I carried on looking for tape. Along the way,  I stopped by one of the farther away bike stores offering a box today, but they didn’t have a box to offer. Tesco didn’t open until 9:00 am, but from them I stocked up on tape. Back at the hardware store on the way back to the hostel, I managed to find all the components of my fork protector (see June 10).

I still wanted a second box, but decided to have faith in the shop near the hostel. Lacking complete faith, if they failed me I could make do with one box. I headed out. Researching what to do today, I kept finding things in Dublin I didn’t want to do, and guided tours to castles in the surrounding area. Mapped out, the castles formed an arc around Dublin. I needed only to return to Dublin before the bike shops closed, both to make a final attempt at a box, and to have a bike shop remove the pedals (avoiding the panic situation – see June 10). I planned a semi-circular route to permit a direct short return to Dublin early if time ran out.

I haven’t biked unloaded for a while – an invigorating change. Ashford Castle sat in Phoenix Park in Dublin. Only available by guided tour, I caught the tour at 11:00 am as it started. Renovations on Ashford Castle only finished recently. They discovered the castle when knocking down an estate house built around it, and reconstructed it. They did a great job – simple.

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I saw Dunsloughly Castle for the first time on my first visit to Ireland. It stands in a farmer’s field as a ruin. I wondered whether the castle might be more accessible many years later, and it sits between Ashford Castle and Swords Castle. Unfortunately, more restrictions exist on the castle than before; I could only get a few zoomed pictures at distance.

I could not remember whether I visited Swords Castle previously. The large sign out front proudly announced they opened the castle to visitors in June, 2015. Unfortunately I arrived just as the staff closed for lunch. I decided to wait until they re-opened, ate lunch, and wandered around Swords a bit. They have a long way to go on the castle renovations, so the site should continue to improve.

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The staff (who also serve as Tourist Information) strongly recommended Malahide Castle, the next in the arc. They also gave me a brochure for Malahide Castle, a brochure for the nearby Ireland coast, and a map of the city of Howth, which also includes a castle. She also proceeded to explain in detail how to get to Malahide (even after I showed her the location on the GPS). Malahide served as a residence until the 1900s, so I knew the interior would be remodeled. The tour guide came from Spain; I found the accent for an Irish tour a bit distracting.

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From Malahide, I had only a short ride to Howth Castle. Howth still serves as a private residence, so can only be viewed from the outside. Carefully checking the time, I headed to Howth, and still returned to the bike shop near the hostel by 5:45 pm. Just a good stretch of the legs.

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The bike shop loosened my pedals, and indeed had a box. I returned to the hostel, box perched on my bike as I walked back. In comparing the two boxes, the second box paled in size to the first, about the same difference as the box from yesterday to the bike I originally brought to Istanbul. I settled in to pack.

Two hours later I finished packing. The smaller box forced me to remove the front racks and the front fender, and detach the front handlebars. I juggled equipment around between the box and panniers. I arranged a taxi/van for the morning. Everything all set, I wandered the streets listening to buskers and the music drifting out from the bars on my last night in Europe.

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