West Ireland

Wild West Ireland Cycling Trip

Our route through Ireland will lead us through areas of untouched beauty and incredible history.   We will pass castles and cliffs, beaches and bogs along with quaint towns full of bustling traditional pubs and modern, well-stocked shops. After each day’s ride there will be lots of opportunity to explore further, either by searching out treasures in town or cycling to more distant destinations such as remote shorelines, majestic headlands or ancient sites.  Some extra journeys will be suggested in your detailed route description while others may be discovered as we pass by an inviting road or hear of a must-see local attraction.  The choice is yours!

Day 1 | 0 km

Board the plane for the overnight flight to Dublin.   Try to catch a few winks if possible!

Day 2 | 0 km

Arrive at Dublin Airport. Gather up our checked luggage. Load the bicycles into our rented van. Climb into our hired minibus for a scenic ride across the heart of Ireland to Achill Sound and a cozy hotel ready to welcome us.

Day 3 | 60 km

Explore Achill Island. Though this is Ireland’s biggest island, it is fairly small at 20 km long and 19 km wide.  There is much to see here with towering cliffs, lovely beaches and deserted buildings evocative of a difficult past.  Choose to cycle the whole island along the suggested figure-eight tour or concentrate on one area of interest and spend less time and energy cycling. Stay overnight again in the same hotel in Achill Sound.

Day 4 | 50 km

Our first travelling day offers up a splendid ride along the Greenway Bicycle Trail.  This dedicated bicycle trail runs for 42 km to its end in the interesting town of Westport.  From there we ride quiet roads along Clew Bay to the foot of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s most sacred mountain where we will stay in a brand new hostel. Optional activity for this evening is a hike partway up Croagh Patrick or a visit to the National Famine Memorial or the Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre.

Day 5 | 83 km (16km)

The enticing pathway through the Doo Lough Pass wends its haunting way alongside the shores of Doo Lough (Doo Lake) and between the grassy slopes of the Sheeffry Hills and the bald, ancient rocks of the Mwellrea Mountains.  We reach deep Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord and follow its rolling coast awhile before heading cross-country past Kylemore Abbey, Connemara National Park and the rugged Twelve Bens Mountains, through the small, vibrant village of Letterfrack and on to Clifden.  In Clifden we will stay in an inviting Bed and Breakfast. Optional 16 km tour around the spectacular Sky Road Loop.

Day 6 | 57 km

From Clifden our route leads us through barren lands of bogs, lakes and rock in an area from which ancient peat is still harvested to burn for winter warmth. From Rosaveel we will catch a fast ferry to the Aran Islands.  Our ferry will deposit us in the town of Kilronan on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands.  Tonight’s accommodations will be found in two quaint Bed and Breakfasts.

Day 7 | 0-40 km

This will be a day free to explore Inishmore in whatever way most pleases you. With no tourist cars arriving by ferry, these islands are relatively free of traffic and perfect to explore by bicycle.   Hundreds of miles of timeworn, almost whimsical stone walls, ancient abandoned churches and mysterious archaic forts are some of the interesting sights to be found on Inishmore.  We will stay again in the same Bed and Breakfast tonight.

Day 8 | 0-40 km

This morning is free for delving further into the delights of Kilronan such as perusing the wares in the original Aran Sweater Market.  In the afternoon we will catch a different ferry that will take us to Doolin, back on mainland Ireland. Our home away from home in Doolin will be a pleasant and modern hostel.

Day 9/10 | 56/62/71 km and 2 to 16 km hike

Plans for the next two days centre around the Burren, a magnificent rocky plateau.  Here there are many choices of activities available.  One day could be spent hiking to the majestic Cliffs of Moher and back on a spectacular coastal cliff trail.  The other day could include a circle cycle route along the coast and through ancestral lands covered with reminders of stone-age civilizations.  Doolin is a town famous for pubs and there will be lots of opportunity to enjoy some energetic local music. For our three nights in Doolin we will enjoy our hostel facilities.

Day 11 | 61 km

Time to get back on our bicycles and travel on!   First order of the day is a cycle past the Cliffs of Moher and then onto the coastal route once again.  Clare County’s shoreline is one of dark, folded rock cliffs and sea stacks.  Our destination for tonight is the designated Heritage Town of Kilrush and a comfortable Bed and Breakfast in which to rest.

Day 12

From Kilrush we traverse the lowlands along the Shannon River shore and then a ferry will carry us over the Shannon River Estuary.  The large population of bottlenose dolphins resident here are the only dolphins to be found around Ireland.  As we travel further south we’ll become aware of the almost subtropical microclimate created by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and numerous wide, sweeping beaches add to this tropical feel.  Our overnight will be spent in a hostel/B&B in the entre of the historic part of the bustling town of Tralee.

Day 13

From Tralee our fairly flat and pleasant ride overlooks the scenic shore of Tralee Bay. The road then rises into the Conor Pass through the Brandon Mountains, a sizeable but manageable climb with awe-inspiring views with an invigorating  ownward run into the appealing, seaside town of Dingle where our reward will be a two night stay in a seaside Bed and Breakfast.

Day 14

Today is free to explore the Dingle Peninsula at your own fancy.  There is a suggested circle tour of the area that can be enjoyed by riding in either direction.  The Dingle Peninsula holds many fascinating and archaic remnants of past civilizations as well as pristine beaches and amazing scenery.

Day 15

Sadly today will be the day to pack up our bicycles and load them into the support van while we ourselves climb back aboard our hired minibus to enjoy the cross-country ride back to Dublin.  Tonight we will stay in a hotel near the airport.

Day 16

Take the hotel shuttle to Dublin Airport.  Board our plane for the flight back to Canada.


DAY 12  | 82 km

Today’s ride carries us across the Shannon River into the Kerry landscape of mountains, forests, beaches and lakes to Tralee.

Need maps 19, 20, 21 and 22

Meal Options:  There is some opportunity to find food today in small stores and the odd pub but it is probably a good idea to carry lunch along with you as well as lots of snacks.

ATM: Kilrush, Tarbert, Ballylongford, Ballybunnion, Tralee

From Kilrush we will enjoy a pleasant ride alongside the Shannon River, between drumlins and past boglands, to the Shannon Ferry crossing.  During the crossing be sure to watch for dolphins in the estuary.  After disembarking from the ferry we’ll continue along the coast following the North Kerry Cycle Route.  As the landscape becomes wilder, the microclimate created by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream starts to become evident.  

Start our journey by riding into the town of Kilrush.  

  • 1 km - Join the N67 heading to Killimer
  • 2.2 km – Pass Vandeleur Walled Garden
  • 10.1 km – In town of Killimer; turn right to reach the Shannon Ferry
  • 10.4 km – Shannon Ferry – waiting area has a gift shop and café.

Shannon Ferry crosses the Shannon River Estuary from Killimer to Tarbert.  The trip lasts 20 minutes and runs every half hour in both directions with service from 7:00 am to 9:30 pm. The cost of this short ferry is included in your trip package.  Drinks & snacks are available on the ferry.

Debark from the ferry and follow the ferry access road into the town of Tarbert.   

  • 11.4 km - Tarbert Bridewell served as a courthouse and jail from 1831 to the 1940s.  A tour of this building reveals a full and evocative picture of the social and political conditions prevailing in 19th century Ireland.

Head right, in the direction of R551.  Watch for three creatively carved trees and signs for the North Kerry Cycleway (L1010 or L1020).  Turn right and follow the route of this quiet, coastal road.

  • 17.7 km – Turn right to visit Lislaughtin Abbey – 0.4 km detour return

Lislaughtin Abbey is a Franciscan Friary founded in 1475 on the site of an earlier church dating from around 600 AD.  After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII it is evident that there were still monks at Lislaughtin.  In 1580 the abbey was besieged by Elizabethan forces and three friars who had not fled were clubbed to death in front of the high alter.    

  • 19 km  – In Ballylongford, turn right to stay on the North Kerry Cycleway (R551) toward Ballybunion.
  • 24 km – Shortly after the town of Asdee bear right at a fork to follow the North Kerry Cycle Route out to the coast.
  • 38 km – Reach town of Ballybunion, internationally renowned for its safe, sandy beaches. Continue on R551.
  • 48 km –  Reach town of Ballyduff.  Continue south on R551.

About 1.1 km south of Ballyduff there will be a small road to the left signed “Rattoo Round Tower”.  It is worthwhile to travel the 500 meters to the end of this road to see this very well preserved round tower.  The tower is just over 27 meters tall and built of various colours of sandstone.  It stands on the grounds of an ancient monastery and dates from about 1100.  It features unique curved door mouldings.  There is also a fascinating sheela-na-gig, a carving of a naked female displaying an exaggerated vulva, on the top left-hand corner of the interior face of the north window.  This sort of carving was meant to protect against evil spirits; this is the only example of such a carving in Irish round towers.  The top two-thirds of the tower’s cap were replaced in an 1881 restoration.  A few hundred yards east of the tower are the ruins of a fine 15th century priory church and Augustinian Abbey.

Continue on R551 (North Kerry Cycle Route).  As you near Ballyheige there is a good view down the wide sweep of Banna Strand and over to the mountain wall of the Dingle Peninsula.

Banna Strand is an extraordinary beach that extends south of Ballyheige for almost ten kilometers. It features fabulous sand dunes along its entire length, some of which rise to forty feet in height.  Banna Strand is a Blue Flag Beach, reflecting the very highest standards of cleanliness and water quality.  It was here that Roger Casement, an Irish nationalist and humanitarian, was captured on April 21st, 1916 while in the process of landing arms from a German U-boat.  He had obtained German support and weapons for an armed rebellion in Ireland against British rule during World War I.  He was subsequently arrested, convicted by a British court and executed for treason.  A memorial to this audacious Irish Republican plot can be seen on the beach.  

  • 64 km – Ballyheige.  Continue south on R551.
  • 72 km Ardfert. Turn left at Ardfert Cathedral then turn right just past the cathedral.  Continue on R551.

Ardfert Cathedral was founded by locally born St. Brendan as a monastery during the 6th century although the present ruins date from the 12th century.  These ruins contain some of the finest examples of Irish stone craftsmanship as well as interesting architecture.The cathedral was destroyed in 1641 during the Irish uprising.

  • 79.5 km – Now coming into Tralee; at roundabout, keep going straight.  Grocery store on the corner.
  • 81.2 km – At lights keep going straight (Signed ‘Town Centre’)
  • 81.4 km – At lights turn right onto Rock Street
  • 81.5 km – Turn left onto Russell Street– one way – Kirby’s Brouge Inn opposite
  • 81.6 km – Turn left onto the Mall/ Lower Castle Street
  • 81.8 km – Turn right onto Denny Street
  • 82 km – Arrive at [Trip Depending].

There are many restaurants and bars within walking distance of our lodgings.  If you like Indian food try Indian Castle Restaurant at 21 Upper Castle Street.  There is a Tesco grocery store nearby on Dominick Street.

Tralee is a busy market town founded in the 13th century by the Earls of Desmond.  

Tralee Canal:  Large ships could not navigate all the way to Tralee town.  A quay was built at Blennerville sometime during the 17th century from which ships could unload their cargo and transfer it to smaller boats which would continue on into Tralee.   Over the years a large amount of silt reduced the depth of the water at the quay.  It was decided to build a canal which would allow the larger ships to make their way to the port of Prince’s Quay which was on the edge of Tralee town.  The Tralee Canal was opened in 1846 and for 100 years was the supply line to Tralee.  Freighters brought grain, timber and other heavy cargo to the merchants of Tralee.  When those ships departed they were laden with agricultural produce from the locality.  Inevitably more modern means of transportation began to take over.  The canal became increasingly encumbered with build-up of silt, resulting in the same problems that had originally led to its building. The canal gradually fell into disuse and was closed in 1951.  It is now being restored as a marina and leisure amenity.