Steep ascents, winding lanes and off-road trails: Ireland is a cycling playground
For its size, the island of Ireland has some of the greatest geographical diversity of any destination in the world. For cyclists, this means a breadth of very different experiences never more than a few hours travel from each other. With spectacular cycling routes to suit any level – from casual sightseer or intrepid road racer to mountain biking enthusiast – just strap on your panniers, put on your helmet and let’s cycle.
Take a guided tour along the Wild Atlantic Way with your baggage transferred each time you change location; self-tour Ireland’s Ancient East on a bike rental picked up from its towns and villages; pedal at your leisure along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland; or make the most of the island's city bike schemes to explore at your own pace.
The incredible network of roads and boreens (small roads) means you can go out with no planned route in mind and follow your nose.Rory Wyley, president of Cycling Ireland
Greenways and trails
Across the island, you’ll find a number of Greenways, which are designed for cyclists – and it’s no coincidence that they also happen to cover some of the most memorable landscapes imaginable. Check out the Great Western Greenway, reaching from the town of Westport to Achill Island; or the Waterford Greenway, which runs between Dungarvan and Waterford city.
If you’re looking for a route that brings diversity of landscapes, the Kingfisher Trail covers 300 miles, and consists of landscape dominated by mountains and lakes. The trail straddles counties Fermanagh, Leitrim, Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, and cyclists will find plenty of punchy climbs for a tough test or gently winding lanes between villages for those in search of something more modest. As for tranquil scenery, the inky waters of Lough Erne will oblige, while the Cuilcagh Mountain is a dominant presence as you head north.
Cycling: need to know
If you don’t bring your own, there are plenty of bike hire shops around the island, and rental fees are reasonable. Most bike shops will let you rent your bike in one location and drop it off at another for a small fee.
Rental price generally includes lock, pump, puncture repair kit, mudguards and carrier; insurance cover is given with all bicycles hired. Children's bikes are also available, but remember to book well in advance and ask about helmets, especially in high season.
In Northern Ireland, all bicycles are carried free of charge on Translink Goldline Express Coaches only and Translink trains (including the 'Enterprise' service). No bikes will be carried before 0930 hours Monday to Friday. In the Republic of Ireland, bicycles are not permitted on Irish Rail Commuter trains before 9.30am and between 4pm and 7pm, Monday to Friday. Bikes are allowed on public transport free of charge at off-peak times, however there is limited space on intercity trains and a nominal fee may be charged. In Dublin, buses and trains both allow fold-up bikes, free of charge.
And don’t forget, Ireland’s weather is famously unpredictable, so pack gear for every eventuality.