Ireland's highways and byways are perfect for those who love to discover the world by pedal power.
Today's guest post is from cycling expert Mike McLeish who's going to take us on a bike trip around Ireland's best touring trails. And, so let me hand you over to Mike.....
Mike McLeish is the owner of the bicycle blog Pinch-Flat.
He’s currently taking full advantage of the of the warm weather in SE Asia. You can find him cycling through traffic in Kuala Lumpur, attempting to drink coffee from a plastic bag, or eating Nasi Lemak at a local corner shop.
Follow him on Twitter at @Pinch_Flat.
Cycling in Ireland
The Emerald Isle may not be the first part of the world that comes to mind when thinking about cycling; however, in recent years, Ireland has become a more and more popular choice for cyclists of all kind; from leisure enthusiast to those looking for a more serious challenge.
Before you read any further, I must warn you of something: Cycling in Ireland is a dangerous business.
It’s not because of the seemingly wild scraggy sheep that stand in the middle of the country roads, nor is it because of the irresistibly large levels of Guinness that are customarily consumed, but rather because. once you go there to cycle, you’ll get hooked by the country’s alluring charm.
You may just find yourself
never going anywhere else again!
After cycling through the wild and untamed splendor of Connemara National Park in County Galway, lodging yourself down into a cosy B & B with the fire roaring and a pint of the black stuff in your hand, you’ll have a chance to sit and wonder if perhaps somehow you have unexpectedly died and gone to heaven!
While some have said that Ireland is the best destination for a cycling holiday in Europe, I think that it’s one of the best in the world.
Whether you’re up for a short leisurely cycle around a lake, a quick urban loop or longer single and multi-day excursions along the coast, I can assure you that you’re going to be spoiled for choice.
The government recently took an initiative to develop a variety of off road greenways which bring Ireland’s total bike routes to roughly around 99,000km, so your choice of route is endless.
The best part is that a large proportion of this 99,000km consists of small country roads with very little traffic and jaw-dropping views, making them every cyclist's dream destination.
All you need to do is load up your panniers and get going.
The rather temperate climate makes Ireland a suitable destination all year round for cycling. However be prepared to have your rain gear at the ready. It rains so much in Ireland that the locals are known to differentiate between ‘dry rain’ and ‘wet rain.'
You’ll never go to any other part of the world where one minute you can be enjoying glorious rays of sunshine and then the next you’re being blasted with sideways rain so hard that your bones get damp.
Average summer temperatures range from 16-18 degrees Celsius and winter averages range from 5-7 degrees Celsius.
The Top Routes:
There are many fantastic cycle routes in Ireland, but if you had to pick one, it would have to be the Wild Atlantic Way.
The Wild Atlantic Way is the world’s longest defined coastal touring route. This 2,500m route spans the diverse and astonishingly beautiful Atlantic seaboard on the edge of Western Europe that’s home to soaring cliffs, golden beaches, and offshore islands.
The intriguing and mystifying scenery will leave you amazed at how the power of the sea has defined and shaped both Ireland and its people for centuries.
The Wild Atlantic Way travels from Donegal in the north through five separate counties to Cork in the south. Of course one needn’t complete the whole 2,500km to experience the magnificence of the journey, even a few easy stages can produce memories and inspiration to last a lifetime.
The second best cycling route in Ireland is the Beara Peninsula route. This route has no particular start and end point, but it can be up to 195km long depending on the route you take. You’ll certainly burn off enough calories for a few Irish dishes in the evening.
On this route, you can take in the beautiful scenery around Kerry and Cork, and visit some of Ireland’s best pubs. A top tip is to visit the seaside town of Dingle, a quainter and more picturesque town you won’t come across in the region.
If you’re visiting Ireland for a shorter period and don’t wish to venture far outside of the capital Dublin, the Rathdrum Wicklow Gap Route manages to fit a great variety of cycling and scenery into a 74km route that is easily accessible from the city.
The route commences with a cycle through the Wicklow countryside, often referred to as ‘the garden of Ireland‘. You’ll pass the ancient monastic site of Glendalough, and climb over the spectacular Wicklow Gap.
You’ll be blown away by the rural countryside experience that could be experienced only a stone’s throw from the bustling and busy streets of Dublin city.
Along with its idealistic coastal and off track routes Ireland is also becoming a destination for those who seek the thrill of downhill mountain biking. The Ballyhoura mountain bike trails in Kilfinane, Co Limerick, has 98km of trails that include forest climbs, tight single track descents, technical sections and boardwalks that are sure to get your heart thumping.
The trails start at 6 km in length, so there is something for every mountain bike enthusiast to enjoy.
In all, somewhere between the green rolling hills, rugged coastal cliffs, quaint fire lit pubs and friendly locals you’ll lose yourself in the majesty of exploring Ireland on two wheels.
From adrenaline filled mountain biking descents to challenging road routes and leisurely rides, Ireland is truly a wonderful place to discover by bike.
The Emerald Isle is, after all, home to famous Tour de France cyclists Steven Roche and Sean Kelly and it’s easy to see how such an environment both inspired and challenged the men to push themselves to limits of their physical beings in search of glory.
However you don’t have to be a professional cyclist to get inspired and enchanted by some of Ireland's popular routes, there are fantastic experiences for cyclists of all abilities and aspirations.
If there is one thing for sure, once you leave, it won’t be long until you find yourself back on the saddle in the land of the saints and the scholars.
Thank You To Mike:
A big thank you to Mike for sharing his insights into cycling in Ireland. Wishing everyone happy cycling trails in Ireland and around the world.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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