Excellent bike adventures (though perhaps not of the “Bill & Ted” variety) are all over Ireland waiting to be explored by cyclists or anybody looking to hop on a bike and see some great sites.
From the challenging mountain bike paths to the guided, leisurely cycling tours, Ireland has a route to gratify cyclists of all levels.
In fact, Ireland's cycling routes are so good,that cycling champion Lance Armstrong plans to compete in the Tour of Ireland this August. Armstrong, who last competed in Ireland in 1992 said he is looking forward to returning.
Hey, if Ireland's roads are good enough for Lance, they're good enough for any cyclist. So zip on over to the Emerald Isle, grab a bicycle, and get ready to LIVESTRONG.
If your adventurous self intends on cycling parts of Ireland on your own, you’ll need to rent a bike. Bicycle hire is easy to sort out in most towns and villages around Ireland, and some will even allow you rent in one place and drop off in another. Helmets and other gear can also be rented. And if carrying your load on the back of your bike seems like too much hard work, then no worries – lots of companies can arrange baggage transfer, too.
Bike hire is available from around $70 a week. Hire generally includes lock, pump, repair kit, mudguards and carrier; and insurance cover is given with all rented bicycles. Children's bikes are also available, but remember to book well in advance and ask about helmets, especially in high season (spring and summer).
Northern Ireland offers exceptional cycling with about 800 miles of safe and scenic routes, mostly on quiet, winding country roads. Individual cycling routes in the North bring you through beautiful parklands, peaceful forests and sandy beaches.
To choose a specific cycling route in Northern Ireland, visit www.cycleni.com.
Beautiful Irish bike routes extend to the Republic as well.
Ireland’s West Coast offers countless isolated country roads and seaside routes that are accessible to both novice and veteran cyclists. A popular cycling tour in the West is the Connemara Loop, a gorgeous region in northwest Galway. You can rent a bike and take a self-guided cycling tour (there are bike rental shops throughout Galway), or you can take a directed tour (see www.cyclewest.com).
Other great regions to cycle through are Ireland’s sunny South East and throughout the Midlands. All Irish roads lead to beautiful sights and peaceful backdrops! To find a route, visit www.cyclingireland.ie
Guided Cycling Tours
Most Irish locations have their own unique cycle routes and are generally based on folklore, literary and musical legends.
There are several specialist cycling operators who can arrange your Irish cycling holiday. Going with a guide has lots of perks, particularly because you get the benefit of someone else’s expertise and you’re almost guaranteed an interesting experience. Also, a self-guided tour doesn’t quite cut it when exploring new territory,
Cycling guides usually know every inch of their region, its culture, history, land and, most importantly, people. And if you’re worried about safety, then cycling with a guide can allay your fears.
The Guided Cycling Experience:
- An insight into the colorful and varied history of the land you’re cycling through.
- Access to Irish homes with all the modern comforts your tired self may need.
- And let’s face it, they make your vacation more leisurely and hassle-free. They can pre-book your accommodations, transfer your luggage and supply you with route notes. You simply get up each day and cycle. And if the morning after a famous Irish pub session finds you feeling a little weary, you can take a lift to your next night’s accommodation with your luggage.
For you extreme sport enthusiasts, you can enjoy Irish nature’s rugged side with off-road cycling. The mountain bike trails feature of the best cross-country terrain in the world, so you can enjoy the scenery and the fresh air as you go.
Beginners should try Murrough in Co. Wicklow. The Murrough extends for about 10 miles along the Wicklow coast from the pier at Wicklow harbor up to Newtownmountkennedy. It is classed as a coastal wetland, but is a great bike route. This is a popular spot for walkers as well.
The Irish Forestry Company Coillte has recently developed purpose-built mountain bike trails in forests around Ireland, including Ballinastoe mountain bike trail in Co. Wicklow, Ballyhoura trails in Limerick and Derroura and Portumna trails in Co. Galway.
The top trails in Northern Ireland include Castle Archdale Family Cycling Trail in Fermanagh, Castlewellan Forest Park Family Trail in the Mourne Mountains, Co. Down, Craigavon Lakes and Gosford Forest Park trails in Co. Armagh and Gortin Glen Forest Park Trail in Co. Tyrone.
For more information on mountain biking in Ireland, visit www.mountainbiking.ie
Upcoming Cycling Events
Craigavon, Co. Armagh May 9, 2009 The Craigavon Cycle Trail is a ride through the Borough of Craigavon linking inland waterways, the shores of Lough Neagh and picturesque villages. The level, traffic- free sections through City Park and the Newry to Portadown Canal are suitable for family or novice cyclists whilst the countryside of Co. Armagh offers the magnificent vistas of Slieve Croob and the distant Mourne Mountains for those wishing to explore the area.
Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo
May 16, 2009
The Mask Challenge is a recreational cycling spin around Lough Mask and Lough Na Fooey, with two routes for beginners (40 miles), and intermediate cyclists (56 miles). The route runs along the shores of two beautiful lakes. Suitable for all fitness abilities.
May 24, 2009
On May 24, 2009 Croi, the West of Ireland heart charity, will host its 17th annual Lough Corrib Cycle – the biggest annual charity cycle in the West of Ireland. The event includes 75-mile and 29-mile route options. Last year, over 500 cyclists completed the 75-mile route. There are refreshments at registration on the morning of the cycle and on route, and volunteer support throughout the tour. All proceeds from go directly to the fight against heart disease.
Rás Connachta International Cycle Race
Westport, Co. Mayo
June 13-14, 2009
Exciting cycle racing through Mayo's most scenic routes starting and finishing in Ireland's tidiest town, Westport. Two days, three events. Also, sideshows for spectators available on the day.
Co. Louth and Co. Down
June 27-28, 2009
Starting and finishing at the Institute of Technology in Dundalk, the bike ride follows a 154-mile route through the beautiful counties of Louth and Down. Into the East is a weekend cycle-fest incorporating the Cooley Mourne Challenge. The first day is a challenging 94-mile ride throughThe Cooley & Mourne Mountains and Carlingford's Lough. Sunday sees the 60-mile Oriel Recovery Spin taking in some beautiful scenery inland and coastal areas of Co. Louth.
Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo
July 19, 2009
A cycling challenge over 10 of the West of Ireland's highest roads, with three routes for beginner (50 miles), intermediate (75 miles), and elite cyclists (125 miles). The Elite spin is a unique route with 1,300 feet of climbing through Mayo and scenic Connemara - a real cycling challenge.
Ballyconneely, Co. Galway
August 6, 2009
Annual 25k fun charity cycle for all ages through the majestic beauty of Connemara, from Roundstone to Ballyconneely and back in to Roundstone via the Bog Road. There are medals for all categories, such as the most colorful dress, best hat, unusual-looking bicycle, etc.
Westport, Co. Mayo
August 22, 2009
Gael Force West takes place in August 2009 in the "outdoor capital of Ireland, Westport. Gaelforce 6 is a 40-mile run/cycle/climb/kayak for novice racers as an introduction to adventure racing. It takes athletes across tropical beaches and Killary harbor – Ireland's only fjord, and terrain voted one of the top 10 drives in the world (AA International), inhabited only by a few hundred sheep. Entries are now open for this year's event and can be booked online. People can race for their charity partner Amnesty Ireland.
Galway City, Co. Galway
September 5-6, 2009
Rat racing is set to reach the west coast of Ireland this coming September. Galway City will host the first Rat Race event in the Republic of Ireland, and it’s sure to be quite a show. The Rat Race is a team event in which participants hike, bike, abseil, climb and kayak a course that is kept secret until a few hours before the event. It is a one-day event, designed for all levels of ability. Hundreds of competitors are set to line up on Galway's Eyre Square on September 5 and 6 to compete in the internationally-acclaimed race.