32 great cycling routes around Ireland – one in every county

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Saddle up for some epic rides through the length and breadth of Ireland

Please note the maps below are just a rough guide to the routes. And whenever and wherever you go on two wheels around the island, stay safe, and enjoy the cycle!


Name: The Antrim Coast and Glens
Start location: Larne
Route: A rural winding road that hugs the coastline, sea views on one side and rugged steep hillsides on the other, passing through Ballygally, the village of Cushendall, then you across moorland and mountains into Ballycastle.
Distance: 112km (out and back)
Time: 3-5 hours
Highlights: The majestic mix of landscape, seascape and terrain, albeit properly hilly in parts.
Look out for: The spectacular Glendun Viaduct past Ballypatrick Forest and on through Ballyvoy.
Tips: Following much of the Causeway Coastal Route, traffic is heavy during weekends and holidays.


Name: Newry Canal Way
Start location: Portadown
Starting in Portadown, this route heads more or less straight for the county border passing the villages of Scarva and Jerrettspass to finish at the Town Hall in Newry.
Distance: 32km
Time: 2-3 hours
Highlights: Plenty of flora and fauna to help bring the canal and towpath to life.
Look out for: Moneypenny's Lock, the last lock on the canal before the River
Bann and the location of a small museum.
Tips: Though flat there are some gravel paths and boggy areas along the way so no racing.


Name: The Barrow Way
Start location: Carlow
Route: Who better than former Carlow football manager Turlough O'Brien to introduce me to this route, which dips in and out of the wonderfully scenic and off-road Barrow Way, taking in Bagenalstown as far as St Mullins, and returning via Borris and Fenagh.
Distance: 103km
Time: 4.5-5.5 hours
Highlights: The Barrow Way, taking in large parts of the second longest river in Ireland, is a proper hidden gem.
Look out for: The Borris Viaduct, within striking view on the descent into the town.
Tips: Break up into shorter sections to allow time for a riverside picnic.



Name: Killykeen Forest Loop
Start location: Killykeen Forest Park
Route: Starting with a 3km designated family cycling trail around the 240 hectares of Killykeen Forest Park, 12km outside Cavan town, this is also the perfect base to explore the wider Cavan lakes area.
Distance: 3km and beyond
Time: Minimum 1 hour
Highlights: Lough Oughter, renowned for local course fishing.
Look out for: The road for Killashandra which opens up the lakes for a longer cycle.
Tips: For more see coillte.ie/site/killykeen-forest-park


Name: Loop Head Peninsula
Start location: Kilkee
After interviewing Greg LeMond at the Doonbeg Hotel one time, we headed out for a cycle in this direction, taking the N67 into Kilkee, then hugging the coastal route through Newtown until Loop Head Lighthouse comes into view, coming back via Kilbaha and Doonaha
Distance: 60km
Time: 3-3.5 hours
Highlights: The repeatedly impressive cliff top views heading out and back.
Look out for: The sight of Bishop's Island not far down the coast from Kilkee.
Tips: The road surface is poor in places, so bring a pump and spare tube just in case.


Name: Sheep's Head Circuit
Start location: Bantry
Like Kerry there are numerous scenic routes around the Cork coast, this quiet little gem starting from Bantry and turning off towards Durrus, down by Ahakista, with views of Mizen Head to the South, and the Beara Peninsula on the way back.
Distance: 70km
Time: 3-4 hours
Highlights: The near-constant view of the water between Dunmanus Bay and Bantry Bay
Look out for: The last dead-end road at Sheep's Head, which feels like the end of the world.
Tips: Things certainly get hilly in parts, the road surface sketchy in parts, only this is a cycle not be rushed.


Name: Slieve Gallion Cycle Route
Start location: Moneymore
Route: A challenging and suitably scenic route circumnavigating Slieve Gallion with spectacular views and taking in Springhill House and the plantation towns of Moneymore and Draperstown and the easternmost of the Sperrin Mountains.
Distance: 50km
Time: 3-3.5 hours
Highlights: Part of my first cycle experience in the Sperrin Mountains, and for large parts could have sworn it was Wicklow.
Look out for: The steep climbs in parts!
Tips: For more information on all Northern Ireland cycling routes see cycleni.com


Name: The Donegal Cycle Route
Start location: Donegal Town/Newtowncunningham
Route: A linear route that can be tackled from either direction, the Donegal Town start taking in Mountcharles, Inver, Ardara, Dungloe, Loughanure, Crolly, Dunlewey, Creeslough, Glen, Milford, Ramelton, Letterkenny, broken into 14 sections.
Distance: 200km in total.
Time: Dependent on number of sections, a few hours to all day.
Highlights: The magnificent coastline and myriad of landscapes, mostly along quiet and scenic local roads, some main roads offering a parallel segregated cycle path.
Look out for: Three signed loops on the route – The Dooey Way Loop, The Maghery Way Loop and the Bunlin Way Loop, which offer short scenic circular diversions along the route.
Tips: The route is a section of the trans-national EuroVelo 1, the Atlantic Coast Route running from the North Cape in Norway to Porto in Portugal, so why stop here? (For the full EuroVelo1 Route see eurovelo.com)


Name: Head Road Route
Start location: Kilkeel
A moderate cycle beneath the high Mournes, via the Silent Valley, with views across the Irish Sea, to the nearby Cranfield Beach, returning via Ballyveaghmore.
Distance: 25km
Time: 2-2.5 hours
Highlights: The mostly quiet country roads with seemingly never-ending views.
Look out for: The Head Road with its panoramic views of the mountains, coastal plain and sea.
Tips: After leaving the town of Kilkeel all roads are country roads; for more see cycleni.com


Name: Dublin Mountain View
Start location: Dublin City Centre
Route: To the mountains or the sea? Dublin is blessed with options for both when it comes to pretty cycling routes, only the mountains afford the better views: from the city head southside towards Dundrum, the best ascent from the back of Marlay Park to Cruagh Road and Tibradden, across and through Glencullen, turning left at the village crossroads, and from there the descent around Barnacullia and back into the suburbs.
Distance: 33km
Time: 2-2.5 hours.
Highlights: The perfectly sweeping panoramic view of Dublin Bay from the last descent off Barnacullia
Look out for: The Blue Light pub, open for refreshments, on the left hand side of that last descent.
Tips: The ascent from the back of Marlay up Cruagh Road is certainly challenging in places, only less severe that the Killakee alternative, or is it?


Name: The Kingfisher Trail Northern Loop
Start location: Enniskillen
The Kingfisher Cycle Trail was the first long distance cycle trail in Ireland, and follows minor country roads through the border counties of Fermanagh, Leitrim, Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan.
Distance: 157km (in total)
Time: 4-5 hours per day
Highlights: Best broken up into shorter sections in between the smaller towns of Garrison, Kesh and Irvinestown.
Look out for: Close to Blacklion, on the way to Enniskillen, cyclists can rest awhile and descend underground in the magnificent setting of the Marble Arch Caves.
Tips: The website www.kingfishercycletrail.com offers clearly way-marked routes.


Name: The Connemarathon Loop
Start location: Lough Inagh
Route: My first experience of this route was on foot, running the Connemara International Marathon, also known as the Connemarathon, and it makes for a great ride too, from Lough Inagh up towards Killary Harbour and into Leenaun, the halfway point before the gentle climb towards Maam Cross.
Distance: 42km, or 26.2 miles
Time: 2-3 hours
Highlights: Those perfectly unique views approaching Killary Harbour.
Look out for: The possibly familiar setting for The Field on arrival into Leenaun.
Tips: Clifden serves the ideal overnight stay or start before riding out towards Lough Inagh and back again from Maam Cross.


Name: The Conor Pass Loop
Start location: Tralee
Route: Tralee (my adopted Kerry town) is the perfect base for exploring The Kingdom, especially for cyclists, this magnificent loop heading out by Blennerville following the road to the epic Conor Pass climb with views to die for, dropping down into Dingle, and following the Annascaul and Camp road home.
Distance: 90km
Time: 4-5 hours
Highlights: The view back down from the Conor Pass never grows old
Look out for: Short but useful designated cycle lanes from Dingle to Tralee
Tips: The hardened cycling could easily add a loop of Slea Head (43km), taking in Ventry, Dunquin and Ballyferriter.


Name: Arthur's Way
Start location: Arthur Guinness Square, Leixlip
Route: From where the rivers Liffey and the Rye meet, a well-marked northeast pathway via Celbridge out towards Oughterard.
Distance: 16km
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Highlights: The only leisurely trail in the country where you can learn all about the evolution of the nation's favourite pint.
Look out for: The imposing Leixlip Castle, dating back to 1172, and purchased by Arthur's descendant Desmond Guinness in 1958.
Tips: Short but sweet cycling trail best enjoyed at a properly leisurely pace.


Name: North Kilkenny Cycling Loop
Start location: The Parade, Kilkenny
Route: A most pleasant cycle from Kilkenny City to Jenkinstown Park and to Dunmore Cave along mostly riverside roads and rural laneways.
Distance: 27kmk
Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Highlights: One of the three designated cycle loops out of Kilkenny most suited to the leisure cyclist.
Look out for: The busy stretch of the N78 before turning onto Dunmore Cave laneway.
Tips: For more see visitkilkenny.ie


Name: Emo Court Loop
Start location: Emo/Emo Court.
Route: Starting from either the village or Emo Court Demesne, designed in 1790 by James Gandon for the first Earl of Portarlington, head for Fishertown, the Vicarstown, returning via the Rock of Dunamase and The Heath
Distance: 41km
Time: 2-2.5 hours
Highlights: A beautiful mix of scenery along mostly good terrain.
Look out for: The Heath, a sort of miniature Curragh with freely roaming sheep.
Tips: Plenty of room for variety around here, including a further spin into Athy.


Name: Leitrim Kingfisher Loop
Start location: Ballinagleragh
A circular loop starting from Ballinagleragh to Ballinamore and then Drumshanbo, hilly in parts and suited for more experienced cyclists.
Distance: 56km
Time: 2-3 hours
Highlights: Part of this route follows the tranquil Leitrim Way, the long distance walking route.
Look out for: Bad weather on Bencroy, which would merit the low-route via Aghacashel.
Tips: For full route details see www.kingfishercycletrail.com


Name: The Great Southern Trail
Start location: Rathkeale
Also known as the Limerick Greenway, a fully off-road cycling and walking route in five sections along part of the old Limerick-Tralee railway line that connects the three market towns of Rathkeale, Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale in West Limerick.
Distance: 40km.
Time: 2-3 hours
Highlights: The Barnagh Tunnel and old viaduct by the River Deel
Look out for: The newly restored railway stations.
Tips: Parts of the greenway are being upgraded so check for local updates.


Name: Royal Canal Greenway
Start location: Cloondara
Route: Starting from Cloondara (or Longford town), heading south via Keenagh, Ballymahon, Abbeyshrule as far as Ballynacarrigy for a beautifully tranquil stretch of the county
Distance: 45km
Time: 2-3 hours
Highlights: A tidy 130km in full, the Royal Canal Greenway follows the historic 225-year-old canal and was launched ahead of the summer 2021 season.
Look out for: The 165km National Famine Way, which also follows part of this
Tips: Remember this is a shared greenway with walkers so be patient and alert.


Name: The Great Eastern Greenway
Start location: Dundalk
Can be enjoyed from either direction, rewarded with plenty of fine views, especially the stretch from Carlingford to Omeath to on the old Dundalk, Newry and Greenore railway line.
Distance: 42km
Time: 3-4 hours
Highlights: Another family-friendly cycle that rewards patience with plenty of pleasure.
Look out for: Views across to the Mourne Mountains and Slieve Foy from Louth side.
Tips: Another route not to be rushed, especially over the old level crossings.


Name: The Great Western Greenway
Start location: Westport
One of the original and still best designated greenways, the mostly coastal and magnificently scenic old railway line tracks its way through Newport and Mulranny finishes on the rugged Achill Island, still suitable for cyclists of all abilities.
Distance: 43.5km one-way, 87km return
Time: 3-6 hours.
Highlights: The first sweeping views of Clew Bay with Croagh Patrick in the background.
Look out for: A free shuttle service at different locations along the greenway (so you don't have to commit to doing the whole trip in one go).
Tips: Once safely landed on Achill Island, the cool clear waters of Keem Bay present the prefect cold recovery dip for tired legs.


Name: Royal Canal Greenway
Start location: Enfield
Another mostly flat slice of the level towpath from Enfield taking in Longwood, where you can also connect with the Boyne Blueway Trim, as far as Killucan.
Distance: 25km
Time: 1-2 hours
Highlights: A section of the Greenway which over the full 130km includes 90 bridges, 33 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts.
Look out for: The Boyne Aqueduct and Boyne Viaduct along the way.
Tips: Remember this is a shared greenway with walkers so be patient and alert.


Name: Monaghan Countryside Loop
Start location: Clones
Also part of the larger Kingfisher Cycle Trail (Ride 6), this explores some the quietly hidden countryside of Monaghan, a circular loop from Clones and out into Newbliss and back via Scotshouse.
Distance: 36km
Time: 2-3 hours
Highlights: An area of largely unspoiled countryside that is surprisingly well suited to cycling.
Look out for: With 182m of climbing it's far from flat.
Tips: If planning a Sunday cycle some summer make sure it doesn't clash with Ulster football final day.


Name: Grand Canal Way
Start location: Edenderry
The Offaly section of the Grand Canal Greenway (117km in full) that stretches from Edenderry in the east to and via Tullamore to Shannon Harbour in the west of the county.
Distance: 70km
Time: 3-3.5 hours
Highlights: Ideal for a relatively flat and rewarding slice of the county along sections of the tranquil canal towpath.
Look out for: Lough Boora Discovery Park, which has its own 22km traffic-free gravel track.
Tips: Another mixed-use route so cyclists should use a bell to alert walkers.


Name: Green Heartlands Route
Start location: Kiltoom (Stage 1)
Route: A designated six-stage tour around the green heartland countryside of south Roscommon.
Distance: 217km (in full)
Time: Dependent on stage
Highlights: Neatly divided into six daily routes giving the cyclist the option of one-day or six-day cycling tours, over a continuous 217km loop, with a dividing link road (stage 6) which separates the circuit into two shorter loops.
Look out for: Stage 1, Kiltoom to Drum, is the shortest route on the circuit and provides the ideal starting or finishing point.
Tips: For full route details see www.roscommoncoco.ie


Name: Atlantic coast route
Start location: Sligo and/or Bundoran/Ballina
Route: Three stages of the EuroVelo Atlantic Coast Route, first from Bundoran to Sligo (71km), Sligo to Coolaney (27km), and Coolaney to Ballina (73km), can be tackled in any order or direction.
Distance: 171km
Time: Dependent on stage
Highlights: A sort of mini Tour de Sligo taking in the best of the northwest, including Ireland's only table top mountain, the mighty Benbulben.
Look out for: The steep climbs on Stage 3 around Easkey Bog
Tips: Also part of the trans-national EuroVelo 1, the Atlantic Coast Route running from the North Cape in Norway to Porto in Portugal. (For the full EuroVelo1 Route see www.eurovelo.com)


Name: Glen of Aherlow Circuit
Start location: Tipperary Town
From Tipperary town, a gently sweeping climb through Bansha Woods into the Glen of Aherlow, on towards the village of Anglesborough, and back down via Galbally by briefly passing into Limerick
Distance: 47km
Time: 2.5 to 3 hours.
Highlights: The majestic looking Galtee Mountains as the backdrop into Aherlow
Look out for: The Aherlow House Hotel, the prefect coffee stop.
Tips: The Glen itself is relatively quiet of traffic, though pretty steep in parts too.


Name: Gold Cycle Route
Start location: Gortin
Setting out from Gortin, up the Owenkillew Valley, past Glenhull village and back along the Owenkillew River to Gortin.
Distance: 50km
Time: 2-3 hours
Highlights: The breathtaking Glenelly and Owenkillew Valleys as you cycle through the dramatic Barnes Gap and the wilds of Sawelabeg and Doraville.
Look out for: On route there are public houses at Glenhull and Scotch Town.
Tips: For more information on all Northern Ireland cycling routes see www.cycleni.com


Name: The Waterford Greenway
Start location: Waterford city
Gently rolling and all-paved pathway along the old railway line, from the quays of the city and along the base of the Comeragh Mountains to the (often) sunny seaside market town of Dungarvan.
Distance: 46km one-way/92km return
Time: 3-5 hours
Highlights: A fun, relaxing and not too strenuous cycle, especially given this was introduced to me as part of a stag weekend.
Look out for: Mount Congreve, a stop along the way that boasts one of the finest gardens of the world
Tips: The Dyehouse hotel, right on the quays, is a funky place to stay over.


Name: The Old Rail Trail
Start location: Athlone
Route: Purpose built off-road pedestrian and cycleway trail, along disused railway track, via Moate, Streamstown and Castletown Station on the way to Mullingar.
Distance: 40km
Time: 2-3 hours
Highlights: Perfect for cycling families given easy access and safe route.
Look out for: The old abandoned railway stations along the way.
Tips: Though entirely off-road care is needed at the road junctions.


Name: Ring of Hook Head
Start location: Duncannon
Another recommendation from Turlough O'Brien, setting off from the seaside village of Duncannon, heading south via Templetown out towards Hook Lighthouse, then returning via Fethard and Saltmills and Tintern Abbey.
Distance: 44km
Time: 2-3 hours
Highlights: A route full of history and mystery with sweet scenery to boot.
Look out for: Loftus Hall, Ireland's most haunted house, on the way into Hook Head.
Tips: Pause to enjoy some of the iconic sights topped off by Hook Lighthouse.


Name: The Luggala Loop
Start location: Glencullen
Setting out from Glencullen (still in Dublin, but not for long), head down and promptly up the Devil's Elbow into Glencree, following the valley up to the top and then on up again to the Sally Gap, turning left down towards Luggala, before turning left again up the old Long Hill Road back up to Enniskerry, then back up to Glencullen.
Distance: 50km
Time: 3-5 hours
Highlights: Some of the finest Wicklow mountain views, lakes and forests all taken in one super circular loop.
Look out for: The amount of times "up" was used in the route description, a height gain of 979m in all.
Tips: Having written a South Dublin-Wicklow cycling guide, this is one loop that still never tires in the strictly scenic sense.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics