Spring Tour - Ireland

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
Posts: 36
Joined: 31 Mar 2014, 5:05pm

Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby pickerd1 » 18 Dec 2015, 8:25am

Hello all.
I have used the Techy part of the CTC forum quite a bit but never the Touring & Expedition part, so this is my first post here.
We are planning our 2016 spring tour and have chosen a short tour of Ireland. A rough route is as follows:
DAY 1 - Rosslare Harbour to Waterford City 40
DAY 2 - to Cork 65 = 115
DAY 3 - to Limerick 63 = 178
DAY 4 - to Kilkenny 68 = 246
DAY 5 - to Rosslare Harbour 60 = 306
We have limited ourselves to 5 days so that we can get in the ferry and car trips in the week, and have been conservative about daily miles as we don't want to push too hard - it is a holiday after all and we want to be able to stop and take things in.
Questions we have ...
What is Ireland like for touring?
Are there plenty of dedicated cycle routes or are the roads quiet enough?
Should be plan to make cities our stopping points or towns?
Is camping viable?
Any top tips?
Any must visit places / cafes?
Would we be better starting in Dublin?

Any help / ideas / input welcome.

Posts: 8065
Joined: 31 Jan 2007, 6:46pm
Location: Horwich Which is Lancs :-)

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby eileithyia » 18 Dec 2015, 8:46am


Lots of ideas / advise / tips here
I stand and rejoice everytime I see a woman ride by on a wheel the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood. HG Wells

Norman H
Posts: 944
Joined: 31 Jul 2011, 4:39pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby Norman H » 18 Dec 2015, 5:59pm

Ireland is a great place for touring with plenty of choices. Too much to see in five days though.

There are dedicated on road cycle routes as well as some traffic free routes but the roads are mostly quiet, if a little lumpy in places. Just avoid the more popular tourist areas at peak holiday times

Campsites can be a bit scarce in the more remote rural areas but there is a good network of hostels, both town based and more rural, and costs are very reasonable.


It's hard to make specific recommendations for a five day tour. The coastal scenery is all good, especially in the west and south west. What are your preferences? It also rains quite often in the west.

With regards to starting at Rosslare, some of the best scenery is a good two or three days ride away. It might be worth using public transport to bridge some of the larger distances.


There are good rail links from Waterford and Dublin.

Posts: 417
Joined: 31 Oct 2010, 12:06am

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby vjosullivan » 18 Dec 2015, 6:57pm

Not an awful lot to add to what Norman has said, except that your route doesn't appear to include anything interesting. Generally speaking, cities are not Ireland's best attractions. Unless you're planning on visiting something specific, I'd give them a miss. You're cycling to Cork and then turning north, skilfully missing all the best scenery it offers in the west. The rest of the route varies between 'quite nice' and 'plain dull' agricultural countryside.

Personally, if I was landing in Rosslare and heading to Cork (which I'm actually doing in two days time, albeit in a car loaded down with Christmas junk). I'd either take Norman's advice and take public transport (assuming that's even possible with a bike) to Cork or stick close to the coast on the multitude of small roads. From Cork city I'd continue west towards Kinsale and Skibereen and one or more of the peninsulas out that way (particularly Beara but I'm naturally biased towards that one), and come back via Gougane Barra and anything else the guide books throw at you. Even that might be too much in the time you have.

Five days isn't a lot of time to see a new country. Go for quality cycling rather than distance and, if you like it, come back again.

Posts: 104
Joined: 22 Mar 2015, 7:01pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby pickerd » 18 Dec 2015, 9:58pm

Some great advise. We really don't want to take a car but don't mind taking our bikes on public transport. A coastal trip and train back might work.

Posts: 12924
Joined: 2 Oct 2011, 8:55pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby pwa » 19 Dec 2015, 10:27am

Rosslare is as good a place to start as anywhere, though you will probably want to escape the main road as soon as possible. There are a few miles of cycle path alongside as you leave the village (not really a town). Irish main roads often have a wide "hard shoulder" that is used by slow moving vehicles such as tractors. Trouble is, not so slow vehicles like articulated lorries tend to move over to this strip to allow faster cars to pass. And Irish car drivers can be a bit fast. I would plan a route that uses minor roads wherever possible.

Kilkenny is quite nice, with a leaning towards tourism. Waterford is dull, just a place to pass through. I would give it a miss because getting there (even by the ferry across the Suir estuary at Passage East) involves some heavy traffic, and all for little reward. But if you happen to be in the area, New Ross has the Dunbrody, a recreation of the type of small sailing ship that took emigrants from Ireland to the USA during the famine years. The lighthouse at Hook Head is also a bit special. From the outside it is a classic lighthouse, nothing unusual. But when you step inside and see the method of construction you realise that the building is far older than you might expect. If I remember correctly, it is about 600 hundred years old!

Cork may have its attractions, but I have never found them. Ditto Limerick. Ireland is not about cities. It is the stuff between that is best. Research quiet roads, attractive villages and ancient ruins, and find nice places to stay and eat.

Not many campsites.

People in the countryside and small towns tend to be very friendly and keen to help. A visit to Ireland should involve meeting and talking to people. If you come back with no memories of the people you met, you haven't really been there at all.

Posts: 101
Joined: 4 Nov 2015, 12:25pm
Location: SW Ireland

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby wheel71 » 19 Dec 2015, 5:01pm

We are on the Mizen penninsula. If you decide to come this way and are camping you could stay in our field no problem.
I'm looking forward to seeing more of this country by bike next year. It's lovely in the south west but thats the only part I know. Exept driving over here a good few times from Rosslaire. Not a trip I'd look forward to riding on the main road.

Posts: 2
Joined: 2 Jan 2016, 4:05pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby GBCarl » 5 Jan 2016, 3:57pm

I don't know your logistical options but I would be inclined to fly into Shannon and perform a circuit down to Kilarney, ring of Kerry back up to Tarbet, get the ferry over and ride up the coast past the cliffs of Mohar and Ailwee cave before staying in Kinvarra (good times to be had there) before heading back down to Shannon.

Posts: 30
Joined: 16 Sep 2009, 10:44pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby gordonyoung » 17 Jan 2016, 8:06pm

You won't be able to take train from Wexford to Waterford anymore as it has stopped running. I think the one from Waterford to Limerick Junction is still running and then you could get a train to Cork. I quite like the cycling between Wexford and Waterford as it is good bird watching country especially if you take a trip to the Saltee Islands. But certainly the SW is great cycling touring country. You can take the ferry across the Shannon and miss out Limerick if you like (but living just outside Limerick I like it!) and cross to go through the Burren. The Shannon has 100 dolphins in it which you might see from the Ferry but a trip out from Carrigaholt on the Dolphin boat is something you shouldn't miss. Let me know if you need more info as we have lived in Limerick for 30 years and do a lot of cycling.

Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby iviehoff » 18 Jan 2016, 8:51am

Waterford and Limerick are not places worth the bother of visiting.

It's often quite chilly still in Ireland in May. I've had a couple of tours in early June, one there was a heatwave and dry, the other was quite chilly and damp. So, weather.

Riding on Irish backroads is quite slow. The large chip size of the seal slows you down for one thing. And then you just can't go very fast on windy narrow country lanes with a patchwork quilt of mends. And it's never as easy finding your way as it looks on the maps, and the signposts are frequently somewhere from unhelpful to absent. One entertaining confusion are the farm entrances which can look just like roads.

Posts: 584
Joined: 3 Oct 2007, 3:11pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby jags » 18 Jan 2016, 10:20am

you need to take up another hobby iviehoff :lol: :lol:

Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby iviehoff » 18 Jan 2016, 11:06am

All I'm saying is don't expect to get as far in the day as you would riding the back-roads in England. It's still fun, and there's just always some extra entertainments in Ireland.

Unfortunately the Irish road sign for accident black spot, comprising a round black spot on a white background, has been withdrawn from use, and there's only a few old ones still out on the roads.

Posts: 584
Joined: 3 Oct 2007, 3:11pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby jags » 18 Jan 2016, 11:12am

im riding the back roads here in ireland 50 years there every bit as good as the uk ,if u want smooth tarmac hit spain italy usa.as foe weather the climate is almost exactly the same as the uk. rain sun more rain .

Posts: 104
Joined: 22 Mar 2015, 7:01pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby pickerd » 31 May 2016, 9:17pm

Well we completed our tour of south west Ireland a few weeks ago now. I've taken time to reflect, but thought it would be worth while putting a few practical and impractical thoughts down for others to consider.
We drove to Holyhead to take the ferry to Dublin with our bikes. We parked at the Holyhead ferry terminal - the long term parking is about 1/2 a mile from the port terminal itself. This isn't a problem and can be ridden, however, at 1am in the morning it's not something we were keen on. Fortunately the shuttle bus drivers were excellent, and on both the inbound and outbound journeys were more than happy for us to put the bikes on the bus. If there had been more foot passengers this may have been different. Note: car parking can be paid for in the terminal, it's easier than trying to work out the pay and display machine in the car park!
Leaving the car behind is definitely the way to tour for me - you quickly, by necessitity, become dependent on your bike and learn to value it and appreciate distance in a different way. I find that after a couple of days the cycling becomes all consuming and all other thoughts drift to the back of my mind.
In general ferry ports don't seem to be geared up to cater for cyclists. We were given the option of travelling as foot passengers or joining the cars, vans and lorries etc. We chose the latter. I'm not quite sure how it would have turned out as a foot passenger as they take a shuttle bus from the terminal to the ferry?
Any how we joined the cars. This meant going through the standard kiosks for cars and riding from terminal to ferry which was exciting to say the least. Running the gaunlet through cars and lorries certainly makes you feel alive!
We found lorry drivers to be very aware of us and they gave us space between lorries. This gave us our own safety bubble away from the cars whose driver's seemed to treat it as a race track.
Getting on the ferry meant riding up the ramps to the car decks - watch out for the gaps in the ramps, a wheel could easily fall right through! Once on the ferry staff gestured for us to go into the corner of the boat. There we eventually found a 'bike rack', if it could be called that, more like a spoke breaker. As there was 3 of us we locked our bikes together and in turn locked them to the boat to stop them from being tossed around. On our return the steward in charge of disembarking allowed us to get a head start on the traffic which was much appreciated. This was however the only concession to cyclists that we encountered on the ferries.
We had a cabin for the overnight (4 hours) crossing. This was an excellent idea and I actually managed to get a few hours sleep. We didn't repeat this on the return crossing, however, it was quiet so not necessary.
At the Dublin port we had to disembark with the cars etc and ride through the port into Dublin. Once out of the port (2 or 3 miles) there is a cycle path pretty much all the way that follows the river Liffey. Once in the city we had breakfast and found our coach stop. Not much open in Dublin at 6:30 on a Saturday morning! We found a cafe and ate breakfast with a few stag night parties. I don't know who looked worse.
We took the coach from Dublin to Killarney. This was only 20 euros each, each way, so was very cheap. We chose this mode of transport as the train service providers had been at best non-commital regarding taking the bikes, saying that we had to reserve the two places available for bikes. The coach company (Dublin Coach) were happy as long as the bikes fitted in the luggage compartment under the coach. It worked great and we had no in transit breakages.
Once in Killarney we were now left to cycle to our hearts content. Almost anyway as we had to ride from Killarny to Kenmare where had hired a cottage for the week. We found this was a mile out of town on top of a hill. Whilst we considered the distance before our tour we didn't really notice the hill on the maps. Although the distance and hill were not really a problem it was a pain at the end of a days ride when you just wanted to chill. Going into Kenamre for groceries and evening food was made a bit of a pain.
The ride from Killarney to Kenmare over Moll's Gap is wonderful, and was a great introduction to the area, in fact over the course of the week we ascended this climb in all three directions. We found that the climbs in south west Ireland were long but not particularly steep so we were able to find a rhythm and easily climb everything on offer.
In addition to Moll's Gap we traversed the Healy Pass and the Gap of Dunloe. Both were tremendous and were largely done on very quiet roads. We spent most of our time cycling the Ring of Beara, as opposed to the more popular Ring of Kerry. Other than the Gap of Dunloe we did ride for one day on the Ring of Kerry but found it a lot busier.
Brief summary ...
Favourite ride: Gap of Dunloe and through the Blackwater Valley to Moll's Gap - two major climbs in the day but well worth it. The Blackwater Valley was wonderfully quiet.
Hardest ride: Along the south coast of the Ring of Beara to Castletown-bere into a head wind. After traversing the Healy Pass we expected an easy flat ride but the wind made it hell.
Favourite town / village: Allihies - we arrived after a leisurely paced sight seeing day in bright sunshine.
Favourite food stop: The Avoca cafe at the top of Moll's Gap - the food was excellent and ideal for cyclists.
Favourite watering hole: There were many and generally Kenmare was a great base camp, but probably 'MacArthys Bar' in Castletown-bere. Very welcoming.

For reference our riding itinery was:
Day 1 - Killarney to Kenmare over Moll's Gap.
Day 2 - Kenmare to Bonane to Kenmare - a quiet loop on back roads to get us started - it turned out to probably be our hardest day.
Day 3 - Kenmare to Castletown-bere over the Healy Pass.
Day 4 - Casteltown-bere to Allihies via Lamb's Head (almost onto Dursey Island bu the cable car was shut for a few hours when we arrived).
Day 5 - Allihies to Kenmare via the coastal road.
Day 6 - Killarney to Kenmare via the Gap of Dunloe and Moll's Gap (note: we meet a friendly taxi driver with a transit that was happy to carry us and bikes from Kenmare to Killarney).
Day 7 - Kenmare to Sneem, again via Moll's Gap and back to Kenmare.

Hope this helps someone

Norman H
Posts: 944
Joined: 31 Jul 2011, 4:39pm

Re: Spring Tour - Ireland

Postby Norman H » 1 Jun 2016, 8:36am

I'm glad you had a good time. No mention of the weather so I presume it wasn't too bad.

I shall be in Ireland in a couple of weeks time. I'm hoping to meet up with wheel 71, of this parish, for a ride or two.