"O Ireland, isn't it grand you look," admired philosopher John Locke in the 17th Century. Join us for 10 days of cycling on Ireland's western coast and you too will fall in love with the magic of the Emerald Isle. You'll pedal stone-lined roads to ancient ruins. Spend a day each visiting the Aran Islands and Connemara. And enjoy opportunities both on and off your bike to explore the rich Irish landscape and colorful villages steeped in history. But riding is only half the fun. By night, you'll enjoy the gracious hospitality, humor, and traditional music for which the Irish are famous.
**If this sounds great, but you would prefer a shorter tour, join us on our 8-day Cycling Ireland's West Coast tour.**
Day 1: Arrive Ennis, Ireland
Highlights: Colorful Ennis, County Clare, welcome dinnerWe meet today in Ennis, capital of County Clare. We'll fit bicycles this afternoon, then you are free to go for warm up ride or to take a stroll through colorful Ennis before we gather for wine and introductions. We'll enjoy a welcome dinner together this evening.
Lodging: Templegate Hotel
Day 2: Bicycle to Doolin
Highlights: Castle ruins, medieval monasteries, Cliffs of MoherLow stone walls enclosing miles of pasture lead us today past castle ruins, medieval monasteries, and churches destroyed in the wake of the Reformation - all standing as landmarks across the Irish landscape. Then it's on to the coast and the extraordinary Cliffs of Moher. Our destination is Doolin, the epicenter of traditional Irish folk music. Dinner together. Distance: 52 km (33 miles).
Day 3: Rest day in Doolin
Highlights: Irish music in Doolin, optional bike ride to the BurrenThere is no need to pack this morning, as we'll be in Doolin again tonight to enjoy the music in its pubs. Take the day off to enjoy a walk along the shore or take an optional bicycle ride into the Burren. This unique limestone region hosts a variety of wild flowers and plants unusual in this part of Europe. Dinner is on your own. Distance of marked route: 59 km (36 miles).
Day 4: Bicycling on Aran Islands
Highlights: Aran Islands, Inishmore, guided walk in Dun AenghusWe are taking a short bike ride today to visit Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. Once there, you can explore the main village of Kilronan before we head off to explore the rest of the island. Plan on a walk this afternoon to Dun Aenghus, one of Europe's most important prehistoric settlements. Dinner together this evening. Distance: approximately 8km on the bike, optional walking.
Lodging: Kilmurvey House
Day 5: Bicycle to Roundstone
Highlights: County Galway and ConnemaraWe're back to Kilronan this morning, where we'll catch a ferry north to County Galway and the village of Rossaveal. Just beyond lays the heart of Connemara, Ireland's "wild west." This area was devastated by the potato famine in the 1840s but has rebounded in recent decades through the tourist trade. Along with the Aran Islands, Connemara is one of the few remaining Gaeltacht regions, where Irish Gaelic is still widely spoken. Dinner on your own. Distance: 58 km (36 miles).
Lodging: Roundstone House Hotel
Day 6: Bicycling to Leenane
Highlights: Sky Road, Kylemore Abbey, scenic coastlineWe leave Roundstone this morning due west to reach the coast and wind our way north. Anybody wanting extra scenery (along with an extra climb and 13 additional kilometers!) can take the Sky Road detour and meet back up with our route. Farther north we'll also have an option to visit Kylemore Abbey or to keep bicycling through the small country lanes of County Galway. Our destination tonight is the village of Leenane, situated at the tip of Killary Fjord (Ireland's only fjord!) which extends ten miles inland with mountains rising steeply on either side. Dinner is together tonight, weather permitting, we'll enjoy a BBQ dinner cruise either today or tomorrow! Distance: 60-75 km (37-47 miles).
Lodging: Leenane Hotel
Day 7: Loop ride in Leenane
Highlights: Loop ride through Joyce CountryWe pedal into undulated Joyce Country today, so named from a Welsh family named Joyce who settled here in the 13th C (James Joyce has the name but was born in Dublin!). Varied scenery awaits us on this pleasant loop ride as we see glaciated valleys, pastoral countryside and touch upon Lough Corrib, one of Ireland's most famous lakes. Keep your eyes out for locals cutting turf (peat) for fuel and piling it to dry in mounds along the road. We'll be back in Leenane tonight. Dinner together this evening. Distance: approximately 55-75 km (34-47 miles).
Lodging: Leenane Hotel
Day 8: Bicycle to Westport
Highlights: Delphi Valley, scenic cycling, pretty town of WestportToday we explore the Delphi Valley which is surrounded by some of Connemara's tallest mountains, the Mweelrea Range. Situated between the wild Atlantic Coast and Clew Bay, Delphi is lovely, remote, and unspoiled; in other words, the perfect place to ride a bike. We are leaving Connemara and Co. Galway today as we head to Westport in Co. Mayo, known for its multi-colored shops, cheerful attitude and continental flavor. Located at an inlet of the Atlantic on Clew Bay, Westport is one of Ireland's only planned towns. The award-winning Great Western Greenway walking and cycling route begins here and the Westport House and Country Estate, one of Ireland's most recognizable tourist attractions is only 5 minute walk from town. A three-time winner of the National Tidy Towns Competition and in 2012 won 'Best Place to Live in Ireland,' a competition run by the Irish Times. Dinner is on your own tonight. Distance: 52 km (32 miles).
Lodging: Clew Bay Hotel
Day 9: Bicycle to Cong
Highlights: Lodge near Ashford Castle, leisurely cycle through lakes and countryside, Quiet ManThough we rarely encourage you to rush your ride you might want to today because tonight we will be staying very near the grounds of the legendary Ashford Castle! Stroll to this 12 century castle built by the Guinness family Ashford is surely the most dramatic castle in Ireland. We'll be just over a kilometer away from the village of Cong, perhaps most famous in the US because the Oscar winning Best Picture of 1952, the Quiet Man, was filmed here. Enjoy the Quiet Man museum and one of Cong's excellent pubs. Dinner is together tonight. Distance via Aghagower and Tourmakeady to Cong: 65 km (40 miles).
Lodging: Lisloughrey Lodge
Day 10: Galway
Highlights: Scenic rural bicycling, GalwayOur last day on the bikes takes us south to Galway, capital of County Galway and gateway to the west of Ireland. The landscape is richer here than in Connemara and peat bogs give way to dairy farming and sheep grazing. Our hotel is located in the heart of Galway, a university town alive with people and activity. Dinner together this evening. Distance: 61 km (38 miles).
Lodging: Park House Hotel
Day 11: End Galway, Ireland
Highlights: Tour ends in GalwayWe say goodbye after breakfast this morning. You may wish to stay another day in Galway or use it as a base for further explorations of western Ireland. Whatever your plans, have a great trip.
HighlightsTraditional Irish music, Doolin, Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands, Ireland's longest fjord, Connemara, Galway
IncludesUse of a quality aluminum road bike with compact gearing or hybrid; 11 days, 10 nights accommodation; 7 dinners with wine or beer, 10 breakfasts; island ferries and guided walk in Dun Aenghus
Arrive/DepartShannon International Airport (SNN) or Dublin (DUB)
Total Distance404-489 km (251-305 miles)
Daily Distance10-75km (6-47 miles) with one rest day and optional mileage most days.
What to ExpectFun, music, dancing, beer, cider, and wonderful cycling. "O Ireland, isn't it grand your look."
Rolling country rides with a few steep but short hills; mild temperatures with some winds or light rain possible; some walks during our day on one of the Aran Islands.
Click on the "pins" for details about each day's highlights.
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