This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 18 °C Monday 15 July, 2019

7 beautiful spots in Ireland to discover by bike (even if you don't own one)

Explore Ireland the best way – on two wheels.

Image: Facebook/Great Western Greenway Cycling & Walking Trail

FED UP WITH buses that disappear off the board and traffic that crawls along so slowly that you can feel yourself age in real-time? Ditching cars and buses for a bike means that you can glide past traffic, boost your endorphins and get some fresh air – all for free.

Irish writer Irish Murdoch once called the bike “the most civilised conveyance known to man”. She explained: “Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”

Even more enjoyable is when you remove the restrictions of the weekday clock and hop on your saddle at the weekend, when you’ve more time to explore. You’ll get to discover beautiful areas you’d never access by car, and cover so much more ground than you would on foot.

Here are a few ideas of places to break the cycle of your weekend routine.

1. Vartry Reservoir, Roundwood, Co Wicklow

10843697_643527709103826_142622180_n Source: Hannah Popham

Turning off left just before you hit Roundwood village are some 20 kilometres of trails, filled with wildlife, woodland and mountain views that are perfect to discover on bike. You’ll also get to see (from afar) the reservoir that supplies 200,000 people in north Wicklow and south Dublin with their drinking water. In fact, you can thank this reservoir for helping to reduce cholera, typhus and other diseases in Dublin city in the 1920s.

What should I keep my eyes peeled for? Blooms of bright yellow, coconut-scented gorse, grey herons, glebes, kingfishers and woodpeckers.

Can I see a route? Here’s a map.

Where can I rent a bike if I need one? Your best bet is probably in Ballinastoe who offer bikes from €20 for half a day – 15 minutes’ drive away.

2. Lough Key Forest Park, Co Roscommon

View this post on Instagram

#adventure time

A post shared by @loughkeyforestp (@loughkeyforestp) on

Winner of multiple tourism awards, wandering into Lough Key is a little like stepping back in time – it’s peppered with old buildings like this breathtaking castle on an island and is best discovered by zooming around the lake on wheels. These days, it’s where families in the area flock to for picnics, to rent boats and of course, bikes. 

What should I keep my eyes peeled for? Castle Island of course (though you won’t miss it), wild flowers like bluebells, wild garlic, summer snowflake and animals like deer, foxes, hares, red squirrels and stoats.

Can I see a route? Here’s a map.

Where can I rent a bike if I need one? Electric Bike Trails in Leitrim town (20 minutes’ drive) offer both e-bikes and hybrids from €10 an hour.

3. Glencullen Adventure Park, Co Dublin

53034557_1135222786649322_9168087741806673920_o Source: Facebook/Glencullen Adventure Park - The GAP

For the more adventurous, Glencullen Adventure Park (or The Gap), not only allows you to rent bikes on-site but offers uplifts, meaning you can save your legs and just enjoy the downhill part and the wind on your face as you freewheel. They’re located 20 minutes’ drive from the city, open five days a week (including evenings) and entry starts at €5. 

What should I keep my eyes peeled for? Along some routes, you’ll see the ancient ‘Giant’s Grave’, a 4000-year megalithic wedge tomb, along with foxes and deer that sometimes appear to watch the evening trails.

Can I see a route? Here’s a map - there are six different types of trails available, depending on your level.

Where can I rent a bike if I need one? The Gap rent two different types of bikes in a variety of sizes and all the gear you’ll need to stay safe, from €30 for the day.

4. Ballinastoe Woods, Co Wicklow

48099921_2591554547537835_8909119931325349888_o Source: Facebook/Ballinastoe Mountain Bike Trails

Located in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains about 45 minutes from Dublin city, this vast 16 kilometre trail network takes in Lough Tay (the Guinness Lake) and locations for Brave Heart and Vikings. It’s also a favourite of mountain bikers around the country (the route is custom-designed by one who has competed around the world). Best of all, it’s signposted throughout, so no frenzied map-checking needed.

What should I keep my eyes peeled for? The purple heather which is in bloom at the minute and the JB Malone Memorial (the man who set up the Wicklow Way), which has breathtaking views of the entire valley.

Can I see a route? Here’s a map.

Where can I rent a bike if I need one? Again, are on-site at Ballinastoe and offer bike rental, lessons, guided tours and repairs. 

5. Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley, Co Kerry

shutterstock_502274152 Source: Shutterstock

Another spot that’s like stepping back in time but not because of its buildings – because it’s nature in its purest form. The Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley are located in a glacial landscape that stretches out for 56 kilometres. You’ll get to see the Killarney Lakes, MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, Purple Mountain, Ladies View and Muckross park.

What should I keep my eyes peeled for? Don’t miss Moll’s Gap (named after a woman who supposedly ran a shebeen during the road’s construction), where a 500 metre-deep glacier broke through during Ireland’s last ice age. 

Can I see a route? Here’s a map.

Where can I rent a bike if I need one? Killarney Rent A Bike (20 minutes’ drive) offer a variety of bikes to rent including e-bikes, from €35 a day.   

6. Great Western Greenway, Co Mayo 

41492871_1500750186692536_2405996509775527936_n Source: Facebook/Great Western Greenway Cycling & Walking Trail

Taking in some of the most beautiful landscape along the west coast, the Western Greenway spans from Achill to Westport, and is the longest off-road cycling trail in Ireland. You can pick one of three routes but the 13-kilometre version that starts in Achill is the best way to see the island. 

What should I keep my eyes peeled for? Curious seals, who have been seen popping their heads up over the gorgeous stone bridges along the way, along with sheep who may watch you as you spin by.

Can I see a route? Here’s a map.

Where can I rent a bike if I need one? Here’s a list of the various bike rental places in Westport, Achill, Mulranny and Newport – depending on where you’re coming from.   

7. Hook Head Loop, Co Wexford

shutterstock_1364848031 Source: Shutterstock

Probably the spookiest entry on our list, this route passes an iconic lighthouse, a haunted house, a rugged coast and fields of wildflowers. Spin through the seaside village of Duncannon and creep past Loftus Hall on your way to Hook Lighthouse. At least on a bike you can move quicker if you spot anything spooky…

What should I keep my eyes peeled for? On a clear day, you can enjoy views of Waterford’s Dunmore East across the harbour. You can also stop off at ex-pirate haven Dollar Bay for a peaceful stroll.

Can I see a route? Here’s a map.

Where can I rent a bike if I need one? Hook Head Adventures in Fethard (15 minutes’ drive) will rent you a bike for €14.95 for half a day, and be able to advise you on the route.

Love to discover some of these for yourself? This week marks National Bike Week, a celebration of all that’s great about cycling. Don’t miss the brilliant bike-themed events being held across the country including a street velodrome, a dawn cycle, mountain biking for kids, family cycles, bike maintenance workshops and free bike checks.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

Sponsored by:

Bike Week

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel