10 cycle routes that embrace Ireland’s beauty


10 cycle routes that embrace Ireland's beauty

Ireland, often referred to as the ‘Emerald Isle’, is a paradise for cyclists. With its rugged coastline, lush green landscapes, and historic landmarks, the country offers an array of scenic cycle routes that perfectly capture its beauty. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a casual rider, these ten routes will provide a captivating journey through the heart of Ireland.

  1. The Great Western Greenway
    Spanning 42 kilometers, the Great Western Greenway is the longest off-road cycling path in Ireland. The trail runs from Westport to Achill, following the path of the old Westport to Achill railway. It boasts panoramic views of Clew Bay and its many islands, taking riders through picturesque towns and offering glimpses of the majestic Nephin Beg mountain range.
  2. The Waterford Greenway
    Meandering through Ireland’s oldest city, the Waterford Greenway stretches for 46 kilometers from Waterford to Dungarvan. The trail encompasses a rich tapestry of landscapes, from the Copper Coast Geopark’s rugged beauty to the tranquil River Suir. Historic viaducts, old railway tunnels, and the Comeragh Mountains’ backdrop make this route a visual treat.
  3. The Ring of Kerry
    This iconic 179-kilometer loop around the Iveragh Peninsula is perhaps one of Ireland’s most famous cycle routes. Starting and ending in Killarney, it takes riders on a journey through coastal landscapes, mountain ranges, and ancient sites. Highlights include the Gap of Dunloe, Moll’s Gap, and the captivating views of Skellig Michael.
  4. The Boyne Valley Loop
    History enthusiasts will adore this 35-kilometer loop, which navigates the Boyne Valley’s ancient sites. It includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne, home to the prehistoric Newgrange and Knowth monuments. The route also offers breathtaking views of the River Boyne and the lush surrounding countryside.
  5. The Burren Loop
    Situated in County Clare, this 14-kilometer cycle route showcases the unique karst landscape of the Burren. The rocky terrain is juxtaposed with the Atlantic’s azure blues, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. Points of interest include the Poulnabrone Dolmen, Aillwee Cave, and the Cliffs of Moher.
  6. The Shannon Blueway
    For those seeking tranquility, the Shannon Blueway, which stretches from Drumshanbo to Leitrim Village, is a must. This 14-kilometer route follows the Shannon-Erne waterway, with serene views of lakes, rivers, and peaceful countryside. Wildlife enthusiasts might spot otters, kingfishers, and herons along the way.
  7. The Wild Atlantic Way
    A daring endeavor for avid cyclists, the Wild Atlantic Way spans over 2,500 kilometers, tracing Ireland’s west coast from Malin Head in the north to Kinsale in the south. It’s a journey through untouched landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and charming coastal towns. Segments like the Slea Head Drive or the Sky Road in Clifden can be tackled individually for shorter rides.
  8. The Mourne Mountains Loop
    Nestled in County Down, this 35-kilometer route offers an invigorating ride through the Mourne Mountains’ rugged terrain. The route provides sweeping views of the Irish Sea, Silent Valley Reservoir, and the ancient Mourne Wall. It’s a challenging route but rewards cyclists with unparalleled vistas.
  9. The Lough Gill Cycle Loop
    Starting from the vibrant town of Sligo, this 40-kilometer route circles the pristine Lough Gill. Cyclists will encounter dense woodlands, serene lakeside stretches, and the iconic WB Yeats’ “Isle of Innisfree.” The trail also includes the majestic Parkes Castle.
  10. The Lough Neagh Circuit
    Encircling the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles, this 128-kilometer route is a haven for nature lovers. The trail skirts the lough, passing through wetlands, bird sanctuaries, and offering views of the distant Sperrin Mountains. Historic sites, like the Shane’s Castle, add a touch of antiquity to the route.

Cycling through Ireland is akin to leafing through a rich, illustrated storybook. Every turn reveals a new chapter, whether it’s an ancient legend, a natural marvel, or the heartwarming hospitality of a quaint town. These ten routes, each distinct in its offerings, provide a canvas for cyclists to paint their own Irish adventure, one pedal at a time.

Before embarking on any of these mesmerizing routes, it’s essential to be adequately prepared, ensuring that your journey through Ireland’s diverse terrains is both safe and enjoyable.

  1. Gear Up:
    Depending on the route, cyclists might encounter different terrains ranging from flat paths to challenging mountainous trails. Ensure that your bike is suitable for the chosen path. For rough terrains, a mountain bike is more appropriate, while road bikes are perfect for smoother routes. Don’t forget to carry essential tools for quick repairs, like fixing a flat tire.
  2. Stay Updated on Weather:
    Ireland’s weather can be unpredictable. Check the forecast for the duration of your trip, and pack accordingly. Waterproof gear is a must, given the occasional rain showers. Layering is a wise choice, allowing adjustment to varying temperatures.
  3. Accommodations & Stops:
    While some may complete shorter routes in a day, longer paths like the Wild Atlantic Way require multiple days. Plan your stops, booking accommodations in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. Many towns along the routes offer charming bed-and-breakfast options, providing a genuine taste of Irish hospitality.
  4. Stay Hydrated and Nourished:
    Always carry water and energy-rich snacks. Given the physical exertion, it’s crucial to stay hydrated and have enough fuel to keep pedaling. Ireland offers plenty of local eateries along the way, making it easy to sample authentic Irish cuisine.
  5. Respect the Environment:
    One of the joys of cycling in Ireland is the pristine natural beauty. Ensure you leave no trace behind. Carry reusable water bottles, avoid littering, and respect the local flora and fauna.
  6. Engage with Locals:
    Irish locals are known for their warmth and friendliness. Engage in conversations, seek recommendations, or listen to a local legend or two. It adds depth to the journey, making it more than just a visual treat.

Beyond the Routes – The Soul of Ireland

While the cycle routes offer an intimate experience of Ireland’s landscapes, the true essence of the country lies in its vibrant culture, folklore, music, and dance. After a day of cycling, it’s highly recommended to explore the local pubs, where live traditional music sessions are a common treat. The lilting notes of a fiddle, the rhythmic beat of the bodhrán, and the soft hum of Gaelic melodies encapsulate the soul of Ireland.

For those keen on diving deeper into history, many towns boast museums, ancient ruins, and guided tours narrating tales from the Celtic era, Viking invasions, and Ireland’s journey to independence.

Ireland, with its intricate blend of nature, history, and culture, offers a holistic experience to travelers. Cycling through its routes is not just a physical journey but a voyage through time, legends, and the very soul of the Emerald Isle. So, mount your bicycle, breathe in the fresh Irish air, and let the paths lead you to countless stories, vistas, and memories.