Northern Ireland Tour 2003
Report by A Dingle

The tour started the day before with a phone call from Josh - "6:00am at Bristol, I thought we were flying at 6:00pm from London. Where is Bristol?". At this point, I knew the tour was going to be eventful. Thankfully, after a slight change of travel plans by the previously mentioned Josh (I picked him up from Swindon train station late that night), we all arrived safe and sound as planned at 'Bristol' airport. Unfortunately, one of our party (well he is from Exeter) couldn't find the terminal building and spent twenty minutes exploring the grounds of a nearby security building before being guided towards the rest of the group by use of a mobile phone. Whatever did we do before we had them?

Check-in was easy, everyone had remembered their passports (a miracle) allowing time for breakfast and the first pint of the day.

Arriving in Northern Ireland bright and early, the cars were collected without too much trouble - well not once Rachel got on the case anyway - and off we set for Bangor. This meant we had to drive through Belfast during rush hour which led to our first surprise of the tour, N.I. has decent roads with no traffic snarl ups. We saw more traffic on the M4/M5 during the early morning drive to Bristol than at any time during our visit over there.

Arriving in Bangor around 10:30am meant we had a few hours to kill. We couldn't book into the hotel until 2:00, so knowing we weren't shooting until Friday evening, we booked into the nearest pub instead. Yes, the Guinness really is better in Ireland. The first half dozen were sunk in a very quick two hours. When we eventually did book into the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised. The hotel was probably the best we have stayed in as a club. (Which has included several trips to the Isle of Man and a five country tour of Europe).

The evening went much the same way as the afternoon - far too many Guinness's, except we tried to visit as many of the local bars as we dared. Nightlife only comes alive after midnight, so it was the least we could do.

Roy, our host, had the courtsey to phone me at eight that next morning to discuss the evening's shoot. Unfortunately, I was incapable of speech - probably had something to do with all the lemonades I had the night before.

That day was spent exploring the Northern Irish countryside. This included such delights as the Giant's Causeway, the rope bridge and the Bush Mill's Distillery. All too soon the day departed as we raced back to Bangor to get to the range. In fact Tim, Lyndsey, Rachel and myself had to go straight to the range.

After Roy's safety talk, Tim, Paul and I were first up to prove that we knew what we were doing. Thankfully, we have all continued to shoot pistols over the last few years, so it was only a matter of getting the eye in. With Roy stood behind, we started shooting at the first card. Thankfully - pure fluke of course - the first shot went straight through the middle of the target with the rest following to group at the first attempt. Paul and Tim were proving they hadn't lost the knack either, with both grouping by the end of the second magazine. These first cards were shot using club CZs. Semi autos were never my first choice, having always preferred revolvers, it was therefore very pleasing to shoot as well as I did.

Having proved we could shoot, the three of us were given free range on the range so to speak. Roy then proceeded to supervise the lesser experienced shooters and also taught both girls to shoot - neither of which had shot before.

A bit about the range - It is situated in Carrowdore, a small town outside of Bangor. It has two indoor ranges, 10yds and 25yds. There is a down the line clay range and a 50m outdoor range with running boar targets. There are a range of club guns available, ranging from the previously mentioned CZs to single action .357 and .22 semi Rugers, several .357 Taurus' and a Colt .45. Also available for use was Roy's 9mm Sig and a 9mm Glock belonging to Rosemarie (Roy's wife). (There was also a couple of club under-levers as well, something Tim seemed to enjoy). When we weren't shooting, there were two full sized snooker tables and a couple of pool tables available for use in the club room.

After the shooting came the beer - now that makes a change. Not too many this time though, because we were shooting early the next morning.

This set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Shoot, beer then shoot some more. Other sites we managed to see included the Crown in Belfast - a pub that looks exactly as it did 150 years ago. Complete with gas lighting. Unfortunately for Josh, none of us felt up to going clubbing, opting instead to stay in the hotel bar. Overall, we found the people to be friendly, some of the towns displaying flags and bunting promoting various terrorist factions were a little surreal but had to be seen and the Guinness may be nicer, but it still gives you a hangover.

More importantly, we found a range in the UK that could be reached in just a few short hours (about the time it takes to drive a minibus from Plymouth to Bisley) that still allowed pistol shooting.

The club has already been invited back and I for one am looking forward to our return. Roy is even going to take us out on his boat for a days fishing - weather permitting. His only request is that we bring more of us across.

Many thanks to Keith and Tim for driving, Rachel for booking everything and a special thanks to Roy and Rosemary for being such fantastic hosts. See you next year.

More photos of the weekend here.