In recalling our wonderful bike tour of Ireland at first it seems like one long uphill ride in the rain, the green being the only constant. But actually every day was different with many different landscapes and varied geography throughout the over 300 kilometre route. We even had some dry and sunny days with fluffy white clouds.
So let us look at it day by day as described officially in italic with my recollections following. (Click on images to enlarge)
Pre Bike Tour Visit to Ennis
We arrived a few days early and got to know the town of Ennis which was full of stone walls, first thing we noticed, and lots of local shops and pubs - no Walmarts or big box stores. The only chain store we noticed was a large Irish department store, Dunnes. The other big attraction is the Fergus River, which undoubtedly I will post photos of when I do the day by day photo posts.
Arrival Day (Relaxing)
The tour begins in Ennis just north of the Shannon Airport. Most flights coming from North America arrive early in the day so you will have plenty of time to relax and shake out the cobwebs. We have a welcoming dinner awaiting your arrival, so you can meet new friends, peruse your tour itinerary, and have your trusty metal steed readied for the journey ahead. Tonight we'll stay at The Old Ground Hotel.
On the first day we were somewhat concerned when we never did get to meet up with the rest of the group to get our pre-ride briefing and our bikes setup. But at supper time, when me met our guide Jeff, we discovered that we were the group and the three of us had our own personal guide.
Cycling Day 1 (easy to moderate)
We will depart from Ennis today as we make our way to Doolin, the birthplace of modern Irish music. You will be spending two nights here, so there will be plenty of time to kick up your heels. Eight kilometers south of Doolin, you’ll find the towering Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most photographed natural attractions. Tonight and tomorrow night we're at The Aran View House Hotel.
Today we got setup on our bikes with our self-guiding instructions so we could ride on our own while Jeff went ahead with the van and then would mysteriously appear on his bike cycling towards us to make sure we were not lost. We rode to the Cliffs of Moher which reportedly has spectacular views, but all we saw was fog. But after the longest climb of the trip, 220 metres, we were not riding back up there again no matter how sunny the next day was.
Attractions along the way that we stopped to photograph included ruins, Ireland has lots of ruins, and a remarkable cemetery that I will post photos of in the day by day review.
Cycling Day 2 (moderate)
County Clare’s great attraction is the Burren, a rocky stretch of country with many reminders of Ireland’s long and storied past. In 1649, Oliver Cromwell dispossessed many Irish as his armies rampaged through the country, exiling them to this harsh and infertile land. We’ll cycle Burren today, enjoying the region’s stunning scenery and spectacular coastline.
Today we did a circle route through the remarkable Burren, a landscape that almost defies description, although parts of Ottawa's Lime Kiln Trail with it's underlying Limestone hints at it. Wait for the photos coming soon. And, of course it's Ireland so there were more ruins. This was the second hardest climbing day of the tour.
Cycling Day 3 (easy)
Today’s trip includes a short ferry ride to Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands. The natural beauty will quicken your heart, and you’ll be intrigued by the Irish passion for building stone walls to divide even the most inconsequential plots of dirt. We’ll cycle from the ferry up to the impressive stone fort of Dun Aengus — perched precariously on a dramatic cliff. After touring the island, we’ll ferry back to Rossaveel —a beautiful tract where Gaelic is still widely spoken — then on to Screeb, Gortmore, and Cashel. It’s a great day, ending at a lovely country inn sitting beside Bertraghboy Bay. Tonight's at The Cashel House.
A great day for photography as it was actually sunny and there was so much to photograph from a remarkable fort to literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of stone fences from millions of stones dividing up the tiny allotments that people had tend to survive from farming. Did I mention the dolphins swimming around in the harbour beside the ferry.
Cycling Day 4 (easy)
From Cashel we have a short day planned to Clifden, the main centre in Connemara. Our bike route will be along the coast of Ballyconneely Bay through Roundstone, Ballyconneely, and Ballinaboy. For the duffers among you, a beautiful golf course in Doonloughan sits along today’s route. Tonight we're staying at The Quay House.
Today was a day at the beach as we stopped at a wonderful little beach along the route, as well as made a visit to the lovely town of Clifden. More scenery and ruins, and did I mention the sheep. The sheep in Ireland seem to have priority over the roads, followed by bicycles and then cars.
Cycling Day 5 (easy to moderate)
We continue along the dramatic coast to Cleggan, Rinvyle Castle, and Kylemore Abbey before settling in on the shores of Lough Inagh, which is nestled between the Twelve Pins and Maumturk Mountains. Lough Inagh Lodge will be our home for two nights.
If you’ve ever been to a county fair or watched a movie about Australia you have seen sheep sheering, but usually with electric shears. In this part of Ireland they use hand shears and probably sheer the sheep faster and cleaner than with the electric ones. Along with photos I got some video of this special happening. This was a great day for photos, including a good number of flower close-ups. Watch for them to be posted later. There was a really great mountain behind our Lodge that I was so tempted to try to climb up.
Break Day (relaxing)
This morning you'll wake up in one of the prettiest places in the world — Connemara's Lough Inagh Valley. Your options include a visit to the Kylemore Abbey; a loop ride around the Maumturk Mountains; a hike in the mountains; or perhaps you would prefer to hire the local fishing guide and try your luck fishing, and drinking in the scenery. You decide and we make it happen.
We took today easy, managed to talk Jeff into driving us to the Abbey where we explored the grounds and the remarkable gardens. There is some real interesting history about this place.
Cycling Day 6 (moderate)
Our last day-- but oh!-- we end with a bang! We will leave the comforts of our inn and make our way to Leenane before heading north between the Mweelrea Mountains and the Sheeffry Hills enroute to Louisburgh. It’s such a gorgeous ride, and a fitting end to your Ireland adventure!
This was the longest ride of the tour but not too bad as far as hills go, except for the last ride into Westport, up and down and then back up and down again. Lots of scenery but not too many photo stops because of the long ride and then drive back to Ennis in the van.
Post bike tour: Ennis and Limerick
After the bike tour we stayed in Ennis for a few days and took a bus to Limerick for a day tour. The most interesting observation we made was that while Ennis had narrow streets with one lane one way traffic and narrow sidewalks, much of Limerick had wide streets with one lane one way traffic and very wide sidewalks. And both towns had portions of their centre cores that were pedestrian only.
We would like to thank our guide Jeff and everyone at Pedal and Sea Adventures for a wonderful holiday in Ireland, seeing it in a way that you could never do by car or bus.