Tony Boyd from Iron Donkey Bicycle Touring, avid Galway cyclist Pat O'Donnell, and pedal power journalist Nicola Brady put down their panniers just long enough to give you their favourite cycling routes around Ireland
Tony’s top cycle:
The Kingfisher Trail, County Fermanagh
"The Kingfisher Trail is ideal for those looking for a real ‘off the beaten track’ experience. The country lanes that it follows are largely devoid of traffic – you can expect to encounter only a handful of vehicles in an hour’s riding. The scenery is always beautiful and often spectacular, with wonderful panoramas over Upper and Lower Lough Erne and Lough Macnean, opening out from many vantage points along the way.
Other highlights include the caves at Marble Arch, the stately home at Florence Court, Belleek Pottery and the Crom Estate. The trail is over 480km in total, but can be split into shorter day trips. And it’s also perfect for cyclists with some previous experience, as it’s pretty remote in some parts and hilly in others."
Pat’s favourite bike trails:
Galway City to Spiddal, County Galway
“This route is about 40km in length, travelling from the outskirts of Galway city on the Clifden Road to Moycullen, and then taking a left in the village. There is a climb, but once you’ve conquered this, it’s plain sailing. Travelling along this road towards Spiddal, you’ll eventually see the Cliffs of Moher to the right across the bay. On a clear day, the Aran Islands will appear on the horizon just before you head down into Spiddal village. Stop here for a coffee or a bite to eat in the crafts centre, pick up a souvenir, pop it in the backpack and then it’s homeward bound back to Galway city.”
The Derroura Mountain Bike trail,County Galway
“Just west of Oughterard, the Derroura trail is 16km of Connemara landscape, which is looked after by Coillte [the organisation that manages and maintains the forest walks and trails around Ireland]. Park the car at the forest entrance next to Lough Bofin, and then it’s climbing all the way to the mast at Knocklettefore. It’s worthwhile, though, as when you get to the top, the views of the lakes are amazing. Take a breather and then it’s downhill all the way until you get to the boardwalks, where you’re directed back to the car park.”
Beara Peninsula, County Kerry/Cork
“This is a challenging route but the scenery is beautiful and it’s around 195km in full, depending on what route you take. It’s best to base yourself in Kenmare in County Kerry, and make your way back to base after each stint. Of all the trails, you have to take in the spectacular Healy Pass, with its views across Bantry Bay and the Kenmare River. Once over the top, which is 300m high, it’s about 30km back into Kenmare. En route, pop into the villages of Glengarriff and Eyeries, or take the ferry with your bike from Castletownbere to Bere Island and continue your cycle there.”
Nicola’s ideal cycles:
Mourne Mountains, County Down
"Between us cyclists, there’s a lot of buzz about the Mourne Mountains. The heather and moss-covered peaks are the epitome of Irish countryside, and inspired CS Lewis to create the magical land of Narnia [in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe]. The Mournes have plenty of cycle trails, such as the Rostrevor Route (27km), which gives wonderful views of Rostrevor Forest, the Mourne Mountains and Carlingford Lough. It begins and ends in the picturesque town of Rostrevor and can be a long cycle with some steep sections, but it will definitely be worth it.”
The North West Cycle Trail, County Fermanagh/County Tyrone
“There are amazing cycling routes in Fermanagh. As part of the North West Trail, you pass through lakelands and castles as you thread your way through the county. It's one of the best-kept secrets around here. The North West Cycle Trail is a 325km loop taking in sights such as Castle Coole, the Marble Arch Caves and the Ulster American Folk Park, depending on which segment you take. For a day trip, push off from Strabane's landmark sculpture, Let the Dance Begin, in County Tyrone, which is perched on the Donegal/Tyrone border, and pick up the distinctive North West Trail for a day trip. The route will take you along flat, fast rolling back roads, eventually ending up in the market town of Enniskillen.”
Winding country roads, tiny villages and bustling towns and cities make up many of Ireland’s cycle trails. Not to mention the surrounding scenery of mountains, lakes and coastlines. “Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia,” HG Wells said, but we’ll happily take Ireland’s on our way there.