Cycling in Ireland

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Ireland is filled with stunningly beautiful scenery, from its quiet rolling countryside to the far more rugged areas in the south, Ireland offers some of the best cycling adventures in Europe. The locals are famous for their welcoming hospitality but, while the climate is often mild, Ireland’s geographical location makes the weather sometimes unpredictable. It can suffer the full force of incoming Atlantic weather, so prepare yourself for the possibility of rain.

Cycle paths on the roads are similar to those found in the UK. They are mainly small sections clearly marked as cycling lanes. They are about half the size of a car lane on left side of most main road. The purpose of the designated bike lane is to separate cyclists from the main traffic and to ensure all cyclists are safe.

Cycle routes in Ireland are detailed in a booklet, published by the Irish Tourist Board, called ‘Cycling in Ireland’. It lists 24 cycle routes throughout the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, although some of these are only suggested and not officially marked as cycle routes yet.

Ireland almost bristles with suppliers and tour operators to help out cyclists visiting the land, with plenty of outfits offering equipment sales and rental, as well as guided and self-led tours, in many of the smaller towns and villages, not just the major cities, especially around the more popular cycling regions. Some of the most highly regarded locations and routes include: Some of the most highly regarded locations and routes include:

Galway City to Spiddal, Co. Galway

About 40 kilometres in length with a good climb, this trail goes from the outskirts of Galway City, on the Clifden Road, to Moycullen and then takes a left. It’s challenging at first but, when you’ve beaten the climb, it becomes much easier. On the road towards Spiddal, you can see the dramatic Cliffs of Moher across the bay. On a clear day, the Aran Islands are visible on the horizon, just before you reach Spiddal village.

The Derroura Mountain Bike trail, Co. Galway

Just west of Oughterard, 30 minutes’ drive north of Galway City, the Derroura trail is 16 kilometres of the most beautiful Connemara landscape. Park at the forest entrance next to Lough Bofin, there is a good climb all the way to the mast at Knocklettefore. Hard going but worthwhile, when you reach the summit, the view of the lakes is stunning. After that, it’s downhill all the way until you reach the boardwalks, where signs direct you back to the car park.

Beara Peninsula, Co. Kerry/Co. Cork

A challenging route but with amazing scenery, it’s about 195 kilometres in total, depending on which route you take. Striking out from Kenmare in Co. Kerry, about 33 kilometres south of Killarney, you can head back to base after each daily section. Of all the trails, the most spectacular is Healy Pass, where you can see right across Bantry Bay and the Kenmare River. Once you’ve completed the 300m climb, it’s around 30 kilometres back into Kenmare. Stopping in the villages of Glengarriff and Eyeries is worthwhile, but the truly adventurous take the ferry from Castletownbere to Bere Island and just keep riding.

Sheeps Head Cycle Loop, Co. Cork

This amazing ride travels the length of the Sheep’s Head, a beautiful and rarely visited peninsula in West Cork. It’s a terrific cycling destination with no through traffic, as there’s nowhere left to go, and only a few locals in the area. This is a great spot to be alone with your thoughts and the scenery. There’s a low ridge running down the middle of the peninsula, which provides some awesome views, taking in the entire length of the Beara Peninsula to the north and the whole Mizen Peninsula, looking south.