Great Irish Cycling Routes to Inspire Your Irish Staycation
Cycling as a hobby has exploded in Ireland over the last decade. And state bodies have responded, funding the revival of abandoned railway routes and transforming them into dedicated Greenways for walkers and cyclists to enjoy the best of the Irish countryside.
Ireland’s Greenways are ideal for beginner cyclists and those with young families.
But if you’re a more experienced cyclist or perhaps you’ve already enjoyed the Greenways, what other road cycling routes should you add to your list?
Well, in Ireland you’ll be spoilt for choice. Here are just a few of our favourite cycle routes that you could plan an unforgettable cycle holiday around – what better way to enjoy an Irish staycation?
The Ring of Kerry Cycle Route
The Ring of Kerry presents an irresistible adventure for the experienced cyclist. The 216 km route is made up of about 74 km on main roads and 143 km on minor roads. Taking the route clockwise will bring you through all of the popular towns and villages on the Ring, including Killarney, Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Portmagee, Valentia Island, Caherciveen, and Killorglin in that order.
You’ll hit the biggest climb relatively early on in the route at Moll’s Gap, but you can be sure that your physical efforts will be greatly rewarded with arguably some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ll see in this country and beyond.
The route is ideal for a staycation. If you have 7 days or so, you can take your time and break the journey into small, but challenging chunks, covering about 30 to 40 km per day. This will leave you with plenty of time to enjoy the local hospitality.
You’ll need all of the suitable equipment, clothing, and supplies to take on the entirety of this route so make sure to read the checklist at the end of this article.
The maps below are available from our Online Shop and relate to the Ring of Kerry.
Connemara Cycling Route
This is another scenic, looped cycling route, starting from Clifden, County Galway, and taking you through the villages of Ballyconneely, Roundstone, Kilkieran, Screebe, Maam Cross, through the Maam Valley and on to Leenaun, Killary, Letterfrack and back to Clifden.
At about 150 km, it’s not quite as long as the Ring of Kerry loop but covering it in stages over four or five days is still a great approach to take. It’ll give you the opportunity to stop and enjoy picture-perfect towns like Roundstone, where Into the West was filmed, and natural beauty such as the fjord of Killary Harbour. You could even practice your ‘cúpla focal’ in Kilkieran (Cill Chiarain) which lies in the Gaeltacht region.
The latter half of the loop will throw up some challenging climbs but the spectacular waterside cycling around the likes of Killary Harbour and Kylemore Lough (where you’ll see Kylemore Abbey) not to mention the ride through Connemara National Park make it all more than worth it.
If you’d rather enjoy some cycling as a single day or half-day trip, there are lots of shorter looped options that you can tackle in isolation such as the Sky Road cycle loop (17 km) or the Ballyconneely to Roundstone loop (40 km).
The maps below are available from our Online Shop and relate to Connemara.
Copper Coast Cycle Route
The Copper Coast cycle route runs along Ireland’s south east coastline between Dungarvan, Co. Waterford and Rosslare, Co. Wexford. Taking this 166 km route on two wheels is a spectacular way to explore Ireland’s Ancient East.
If you’re a fan of hidden beaches and stunning seascapes, the Copper Coast might be the ideal spot for your Irish staycation. The unique sea stacks and towering rock formations of Ballydowane Bay are just one example of the many hidden gems you can find along this route. On the Wexford end, you’ll find Curracloe beach. This 11 km stretch of Blue Flag beach was famously the filming location of the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan.
The maps below are available from our Online Shop and relate to the Copper Coast.
Wicklow mountains cycle routes
The Wicklow mountains is packed full of stunning and enjoyable cycle loops to try, so rather than sticking to one loop, you could tackle a different one each day.
One of the most well-known is The Sally Gap. Don’t let the relatively short distance of 42 km fool you, the climbs here are not for the faint hearted. You might often have heard this area being reported as ‘impassable’ on weather reports during winter. During the warmer months though, there’s arguably no better place for a challenging spin. The climbs are rewarded by stunning views over Lough Tay, also known as The Guinness Lake, and Glenmacnass waterfall.
If you’d rather a flatter course, the Tinahely Loop might be what you’re looking for. The 70 km route runs along the quiet roads at the foot of the Wicklow mountains taking you from Shillelagh to Tinahely, then northwest to Hacketstown and Kiltegan, before looping eastwards towards Aughrim and back to Tinahely and Shillelagh. The beauty of this loop is you get to enjoy the mountain views without having to actually climb too many of them!
The maps below are available from our Online Shop and relate to the Wicklow Mountains.
Road Cycling Equipment Checklist
As you can see, these are all long, challenging routes so it’s important that you’re prepared for unexpected interruptions such as changing weather conditions or bike mishaps. With the proper equipment, you should be back on your saddle and on your way in no time.
Consider the following checklist for a comfortable and safe journey:
- Wicking top
- Windproof jacket
- Waterproof jacket
- Padded shorts
- Cycling gloves
- Spare tube and/or patch kit
- Tyre levers
- Bike tool
- Water bottle
- Compact first-aid kit
- Sun cream
- Map of your chosen area
- Mobile phone