Ireland is an amazing country for cycling, from picturesque winding roads through undisturbed countryside to gnarly rooty off road trails through the wilderness, we have it all. No matter your favourite discipline, road, touring, mountain biking, our little island has a myriad of trails and roads to keep even the most hardened cyclist well occupied.
For the size of Ireland it has more roads than most countries in the world with nearly 80.000km of surfaced country roads. These roads are ideal for cycling with hardly any cars and some amazing scenic views. Combine these roads with the ever expanding Greenways and you have one of the best tourist destinations in the world for cyclists.
Number 10 on this list is in my favourite part of Ireland, this is where you will often find me whenever I have time off from fixing your bikes, or teaching you how to fix them yourself… although the point is you’re not supposed to find me then! This is my place to go, to re charge, to enjoy the wild Ireland.
Here we will look at the top 10 cycle routes in Ireland, but don’t worry we haven’t forgotten about the hardened mountain bikers, with so much to cover we will have to leave that to another post. So in no particular order here are what we think are the 10 best cycle routes Ireland has to offer:
- Limerick Greenway, Co. Limerick: 40km
We have to start with our local cycle route, starting in Rathkeale and following the old Limerick to Tralee railway line, it’s a 40km spin to Abbeyfeale. The route winds its way through the West Limerick landscape, heading by some of the countries most historic sites such as Port Castle, Fergusons Viaduct and Barnagh Tunnel.
You don’t have to do the full 40km as there are several places to get on the Greenway and complete it in shorter sections. It is worth bearing in mind that it is a linear cycle route, so if you do the 40km one way, its another 40km to get back to the start. There are however several bike rental companies that rent bikes and will collect and drop you off at the Greenway too if the full 80km is a bit daunting!
To download the brochure head to: https://limerick.ie/sites/default/files/media/documents/2021-06/limerick-greenway-brochure.pdf
- Wild Atlantic Way Cycle Route, West Coast of Ireland: 2600km
The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest cycle route at 2600km, it follows the West coast of Ireland from Cork all the way to Derry. It is the longest uninterrupted coastal route in the world and takes in some of the most breath taking scenery in Ireland. You will pass through many historic places, and each turn of the road will unfold more and more hidden gems from magnificent coastal views, brightly painted cottages to castles perched on the cliff edge.
The entire route can be completed in one (very long) holiday or broken up in to several trips, it is well worth taking your time to see everything this route has to offer. Accommodation along the route can range from repurposed lighthouses, historic manors and beach yurts leading many cyclists to spend weeks and even months completing the trip.
If you want to take the hassle out of organising the whole trip yourself there are several cycle tour companies that will do all the work for you, some will even carry your luggage from stop to stop along the way.
For more information on this epic cycle head to: https://www.thewildatlanticway.com/
- Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry: 180km
The Ring of Kerry is one of the cycle routes every cyclist in Ireland will have heard of. It has gained immense popularity due to the annual Ring of Kerry cycle event held on the first Saturday of July each year which draws thousands of cyclists every year.
Obviously though the roads remain open 365 days a year and the route can be done any time, it is however a very popular route with drivers, so care must be taken especially during the high season when many tourists will be enjoying it as well. Keep an eye out for the cars and tour buses on the narrow and twisty roads, take your time and enjoy the magnificent scenery.
The route starts in Killarney and as the name suggests it is a loop bringing you back to the start. Much like the Wild Atlantic Way this could be broken down into smaller sections or you could do the full 180km in one go. However, there is much to see on the loop and we’d recommend taking your time to fully enjoy it. There are several spots not to be missed, and although some are slightly off the loop it’s well worth the extra trip. There is Staigue Fort, Valentia Island and Kells Bay House and Gardens to name just a few.
For more information head to: https://www.theringofkerry.com/
- Loop Head Peninsula Cycle Loop, Co. Clare: 65km
The Loop Head Peninsula is on the Wild Atlantic way in Co. Clare. The cycle route is a 65km loop starting in Kilkee and following the rugged northern coastline and cliffs then to the more sheltered southern coastline before returning back to Kilkee.
The route takes in a great deal of local heritage sights and points of interest along the way, from the famous Loop Head Lighthouse to the castles Dunlicka and Carigaholt. Loop Head is also designated as Ireland’s Eden, a European Destination of Excellence and is a Special Area of Conservation, so look out for plenty of animals and birds that inhabit this area.
- Great Western Greenway, Co. Mayo: 45km
The Great Western Greenway is a 45km linear route around the Eastern and Northern stretches of Clew Bay in Co. Mayo. Beginning in Westport, it follows the old railway through forestry, bogs and active farmland ending up at Achill Sound.
The route will take you past some of the most beautiful scenery such as Clew Bay, Clare Island, the mythical holy mountain Croagh Patrick and the Nephin Beg Mountains that form part of the Wild Nephin National Park. The Great Western Greenway is a multi award winning route that was voted one of the top three cycle trails in the world by the New York Times!
As this is a linear route you must bear in mind that it is 45km one way, so if you are planning to cycle all of it the return will be another 45km. However should you wish to only do the 45km there are plenty of hire companies and transport companies that can collect you and bring you back at the end.
For more information head to: https://www.greenway.ie/
- The Kingfisher Trail Cycle Loops, Co. Leitrim & Fermanagh: 480km
The Kingfisher Cycle Trail is a 480km figure of eight that follows minor country roads through the border counties of Fermanagh, Leitrim, Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan. The route also has several smaller routes that are designed for anything from 1 to 8 day tours.
The Kingfisher Cycle Trail was the first long distance cycle trail in Ireland and takes in a variety of landscapes from lake lands, mountain trails, rural countryside and the rugged Atlantic coast. There are plenty of attractions to see along the route such as the Marble Arch Caves, Castle Coole and Lough Scur Dolmen.
For more information see: https://kingfishercycletrail.com/
- Blessington Lakes, Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough Cycle Loop, Co. Dublin & Wicklow: 75km
This 75km route starts in Blessington Town and takes in the Blessington Lakes, Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough and returns to Blessington Town. You’ll be passing through the Wicklow Mountains National Park, Sally Gap, and Lough Tay where the TV series Vikings was filmed.
For the GPS route head to: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/30309841
- The Burren Cycle Loop, Co. Clare: 150km
The Burren Loop starts in Ballyvaughan and stays on mainly small country roads for the 150km, passing through some spectacular and varied scenery with view spots, coastlines, mountains, hills, caves and rivers. The loop also takes in the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Sight, one of the most dramatic and unique landscapes in the world.
This cycle tour could be extended and you could add on the Loop Head Peninsula (see number 4) too if you’d like to keep enjoying the fabulous West Coast of Ireland, or even head across to the Aran Islands and do the Inishmór Loop Cycle (see number 9).
For more information see: https://www.activeme.ie/guides/burren-cycling-route-long-loop-co-clare-ireland-top-10-cycles/
- Inishmór Loop Cycle, Aran Islands, Co. Galway: 50km
This loop takes in the whole of Inishmór, the largest of the Aran Islands. It will allow you to take in the incredible sights of Ireland at it’s wildest, including the stone fort of Dun Aonghasa and the mystical Poll na bPiest pool (which also happens to be the Irish location for Red Bull Cliff Diving), scenic viewing points, beaches, headlands and old churches.
For more information see: https://www.activeme.ie/guides/inishmor-entire-island-loop-cycle-aran-islands-galway-ireland/
- Connemara Cycle Route, Co. Galway: 150km
Connemara is my favourite part of Ireland not just for cycling, but walking, sight seeing, and generally just getting away to the wild. It is my go to place as soon as I get any time off, and I try to get here every couple of months. This 150km loop takes in the best of it all, picturesque villages, beaches, mountains and rugged coastlines, it passes by the Connemara National Park, and other sights such as Kylemore Abbey.
The loop starts in Clifden, and stays mainly on small country roads for the entire 150km. This can be broken down into shorter loops aswell if desired, or you can do the whole thing. I’d recommend taking a few days to do it and relax, enjoy the scenery and take in all the sights. This is a place that is wild and free, it is restorative and humbling taking in the mountains and scenery of this unspoilt corner of the world.
For more information see: https://www.activeme.ie/guides/connemara-loop-cycling-route-galway-wild-atlantic-way-ireland/
Now this isn’t by any means an exhaustive list and there are plenty more cycle routes across our lovely island to discover, if you have a particular favourite that we haven’t mentioned please let us know by commenting below.