Arrival day before tour start.
Most people arrive in Ireland the day before the tour begins. This facilitates the recovery from jet lag or indeed a few days of touring before the start of the bike tour on Saturday morning. We will be on hand to help out with airport and train station transfers. Lots of experience dealing with delayed arrivals so dont worry is your plans change at the last minute.
First things first. A detailed fitting followed by an orientation meeting. We will address safe cycling practices and give you a heads up on the route you will ride that day. Alerting you to historical sites and points of interest mean you don’t miss a thing . We ride a loop root starting and finishing in Bunratty today.
Time to load up and move to a completely new landscape. You now begin to experience the real advantage of full group mobility thanks to the support of two tour buses. We take you to a geological region of Ireland called The Burren. Its only a 35 minute transfer but this move Open up an entire new experience.
We start off the day with a guided visit to a Norman Castle built in 1520. Its a fine example of Norman tower house overlooking the village of Kinvarra. After that we begin our ride from back across the Burren Karst scenery all the way to Lisdoonvarna and later that evening after you have had a chance to shower and crest up a bit we will take you up to visit the Cliffs of Moher in the tour bus.
One of the most striking coastal rides awaits you today. The 18 mile stretch of road from Lisdoonvarna to Ballyvaughan is listed among one of the finest rides in the world. You will also get the opportunity to visit a Neolithic tomb that pre dates the great pyramid at Giza. You will be dining in McGann’s pub in Doolin while listening to some of the best Irish music in the country.
“A change is as good as a rest ” or so they say. You are going to get a break from the bike today as we take you across Galway Bay from Doolin to Inis Mor, home of the Aran sweater. You will visit a very striking stone fort built on a sheer cliff face called Dun Aengus. On returning to the mainland you will be taken through the heart of Connemara to Clifden town. You will spend two nights in this location.
A great selection of routes awaits you today. Given that you were away from the bike yesterday many people strike out on longer rides today. This will be your first day riding in Connemara. You will encounter a landscape dotted with lakes and bogland while the Twelve Bens mountain range overlook your progress throughout the day in the distance. Stop off for lunch in Ballynahinch Castle before riding back to Clifden along a turquoise coastline possibly stopping off for a coffee in the quaint village of Roundstone.
You start today with a 20 minute transfer to the top of the aptly named Sky Road. Later in the morning you will get to ride out across Omey Beach. Today you will ride along the most rugged Atlantic coastline throughout the day before finishing off by cycling into the only Fjord in Ireland. The village of Leenane built on the shores of Killary Harbour is where your cycling comes to an end. We then transfer the group to The Meyrick Hotel in Galway city for the farewell dinner and your last night of the tour..
Weather you are continuing on to explore other parts of Ireland or heading straight home you will find all necessary transport facilities available within a short walking distance of The Meyrick hotel in Galway city, Two bus stations, a train station and car rental agency all within a stroll of your finish location. I will transfer anyone with a very early flight from Shannon airport to a hotel just across the road from the Airport on Friday night after the farewell dinner. We can talk more about your specific transportation details directly.
PRE TOUR DAY
Most people endeavour to arrive at the tour start location (Bunratty) the day before the tour begins. Doing so helps to acclimate to changes in time zone and also facilitates bike sizing, saddle selection. This greatly benefits the accuracy of the fitting process on Saturday morning. We use The Courtyard Guesthouse which is located right in the heart of Bunratty village with pubs, restaurants and Castle located a short stroll from this guesthouse. Let me know if you wish to arrive the day before the tour starts and I will ensure you will have a room.
Many customers arrive into Ireland via Shannon Airport which is located just 15 minutes from Bunratty (the tour start point). We will run transfers all day from Shannon airport. First arrivals generally get in around 5.45AM. Some customers also choose to meet at the airport following the return of a rental car. I generally arrange to meet up with such folks late in the day affording them a long day of exploring. I try to avoid car returns on Saturday morning as our focus is bike fitting and getting the tour on the road.
You can of course fly to Dublin airport if you find it easier to get flights to that destination. On arrival at Dublin airport you can take the shuttle bus to Dublin Train Station (Heuston Station) from where you can take a train to Limerick Train Station (Colbert Station). We will be on hand to take you directly to Bunratty. I will send out details of train times and booking portals well in advance of your arrival. We usually run two pickup times from Colbert train station in Limerick city at 2.00 pm and 4 pm. Its best to avoid arriving later than 4.pm as Friday evening traffic in Limerick is just gridlock. If your travel plans get messed up by delayed or missed flights rest assured we will be on hand to get you to Bunratty whenever your flight or train arrives. Once you have access to email we will be able to coordinate your pickup if plans have to be adjusted. Most people find it much cheaper to buy an Irish sim card for their phone rather than deal with the complexities and costs of roaming charges.
Fit is critical. Your body will not adopt to an ill fitting bicycle. You must start with the appropriate frame size. Handlebar and saddle adjustments optimize your anatomical geometry to deliver power to the pedals throughout the week while, while avoiding any injury. By fitting people with bikes for over 20 years I have learnt, through experience, the single most important thing that you must have is the proper size bike frame to start with. It’s the foundation to a successfully fitting. That’s why we use a bike that comes in seven different frame sizes. Customizing the fit with non-standard adjustable stems will get you into the sitting position that best suits your requirements. Many of my customers with shoulder, back or wrist issues benefit greatly from the custom modifications I have made to the bikes to accommodate an much more upright riding position. Anyway enough about bike fitting, we take it seriously and it will be done correctly
Distance Options A 20 Miles, B 30 Miles, C 35 Miles, D 40 Miles
Accommodation : The Courtyard Guesthouse, Bunratty
Bike sizing and fitting will be carried out in detail. We get started at 9.00 am If you wish to bring your own saddle or pedals we will fit them to our bikes for you. The single most important element of the tour is the bike fitting session. Consider how much time and effort is expended fitting an engine to a vehicle. In cycling, you are the engine.
Rest assured, with the GPS cell phones provided we will know exactly where you are.We encourage the group to split up and spread out as much as much as possible. Within 1 hour of the tour starting the group will spread out by as much as 8 to 10 miles, with many people opting to explore the small by-roads that cover the Irish countryside. Today’s cycling will be based in an area dotted with small farmhouses and cottages. The route will be a loop route starting and finishing in Bunratty. You can choose any distance that you feel comfortable with today. The roads for today’s route are particularly quiet and wander through the farmland
We encourage everyone to cycle at their own pace so dispersal of the group will occur naturally. You are free to enjoy a sense of adventure as you explore the minor roads safe in the knowledge that support is just a call away.
Supporting the group with a support bus and a motorcycle really helps to develop a sense of reassurance . I feel this is particularly important on the first day of the tour and your acclimation to cycling in Ireland has just begun. The motorbike allows me to continually leap frog the ever expanding group to help with navigation and continue to help out with bike fitting. I find it takes a few miles of riding to get all the adjustments sorted out. I make all of these adjustments out on the road as soon as you request it.
We would aim to finish cycling today around 5-00PM. Dinner will be booked for 6 PM in Gallagher’s Seafood Restaurant. After dinner there is a good selection of pubs in the village of Bunratty.
DISTANCE OPTIONS A 26 MILES, B 33 MILES, C 40 MILES, D 45 MILES
Accommodation : The Merriman Hotel, Kinvarra
Today you experience one of the fundamental advantages of our tour. This is where our ability to move the entire group, bikes and luggage to a remote starting point comes into play. Bikes are loaded the evening before so no delay on Sunday morning. Once we arrive at the start point (village of Crusheen) it takes us less than 3 minutes to get every bike on the road and ready to go thanks to the Thule snap release bike racks. Toilet facilities are available before we hit the road as well as a small but very well stocked convenience store in the village. Its a very popular stop for Sunday morning cyclists so a good opportunity to chat with some local cyclists
Irrespective of which distance option you choose you will be able to enjoy lunch in an old British Police station (called an R.I.C. Barracks) in the village of Carran. You will find yourself in the picturesque village of Kinvarra this evening. Home to one of the finest example of Norman tower house and one of the pettiest harbours along the West coast of Ireland.
The transfer only takes about 35 minutes in the buses. We are anxious to get you into the Burren National Park as early as possible in the tour. Within 20 minutes of commencing to cycle you will find the scenery beginning to change very dramatically. You begin to notice some rocky areas to begin but steadily the limestone pavement begins to dominate the landscape.
The Burren region is internationally famous for its landscape and flora. A visit to the Burren during the summer months will leave a person amazed by the colorful diversity of flowering plants living together within the one ecosystem. Arctic-alpine plants living side by side with Mediterranean plants, calcicole (lime loving) and calcifuge (acid loving) plants growing adjacent to one another and woodland plants growing out in the open with not a tree nearby to provide shade from the sun. Also found here are certain species which although rare elsewhere are abundant in the Burren. Even more amazingly they all survive in a land that appears to be composed entirely of rock. The highest point in the park is Knockanes (207 metres) which continues as a curving terraced ridge to Mullaghmór to the south. East of this ridge is an area of extensive, low lying limestone pavement containing a number of semi-permanent lakes. West of this ridge the pavement sweeps down to partially drift-covered ground which gradually rises again to reach the foot of a rocky escarpment. To the south of the park the limestone bedrock disappears under a layer of glacial till. This till area is far more intensively managed for pasture and silage.
The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place. This is an extremely appropriate name when you consider the lack of soil cover and the extent of exposed Limestone Pavement. However it has been referred to in the past as “Fertile rock” due to the mixture of nutrient rich herb and floral species. Smashing roads to ride today. Very quiet and a good road surface.
In 1651 a Cromwellian Army Officer named Ludlow remarked, “of this barony it is said that it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury them. This last is so scarce that the inhabitants steal it from one another and yet their cattle are very fat. The grass grows in tufts of earth of two or three foot square which lies between the limestone rocks and is very sweet and nourishing.”
Distance Options: A 27 Miles B 37 Miles C 54 Miles
First thing this morning we will visit Dunguaire Castle. Its situated just on the edge of Kinvarra village. In fact you will be able to take some excellent photos of Kinvarra from the battlements. The castle was built in 1520 by the O’Hynes clan on the picturesque shores of Galway Bay. This restored 16th century tower house sits on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Galway Bay just outside the village of Kinvara.
You will have seen many similar Castles (Tower Houses, to give them their correct title) over the past two days so it would be a shame not to get to explore such an excellent example. After the visit to Dunguaire its back on the bikes and out into the Burren landscape again. We take some of the quietest roads you will find along the West coast of Ireland. No no commercial traffic. As always the support busses will be on hand to give you a lift to the top of any hilly sections you choose not to cycle. We get you into some spectacular scenic areas of the Burren again today.
Making your way trough farmland and forestry you will arrive in the village of Lisdoonvarna. This little village is renowned in song and verse as home to the best craic in the West of Ireland. We will be staying with Ann in the Royal Spa hotel for two nights. Staying in Lisdoonvarna for two nights situates us within striking distance of the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs can sometimes disappear in the sea mist that rolls in from the Atlantic. being based a short drive from the Cliffs for two days means you double your chances of visiting these spectacular cliffs in the optimum weather conditions. Remember you will not be cycling up to the Cliffs as there is way too much uphill. We will take you to the viewing area in our buses. The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s top Visitor attractions. They are 214m high at the highest point and range for 8 kilometers over the Atlantic Ocean on the western seaboard of County Clare. O’Brien’s Tower stands proudly on a headland of the majestic Cliffs. From the Cliffs one can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, as well as The Twelve Pins, the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara and Loop Head to the South. Sea mist can sometimes spoil the spectacular views from the cliffs. If its a nice evening we will take you up to see the Cliffs in the support busses before dinner.
After visiting the Cliffs we head back to Lisdoonvarna for dinner. Good food and great traditional Irish music session make for the perfect end to the day. No packing suitcases tomorrow morning so you can stay to enjoy the entertainment a little longer tonight.
You will also visit the village of Kilfenora (good spot for some lunch) featuring the ruin of Kilfenora Cathedral which is dedicated to St. Fachtna, who founded his monastery here during the sixth century. The original church was probably wooden and was later replaced by a stone building. Murrough O’Brien burned the abbey church in 1055 and killed many of the inhabitants. Repairs were carried out between 1056 and 1058 but the building was plundered in 1079 and accidentally burned in 1100. The present structure dates from between 1189 to 1200. Kilfenora cathedral was built in the transitional style with a nave and chancel. Samuel Lewis described it in 1837 as “a very ancient and venerable structure with a massive square tower, commanding a very extensive and interesting view; the aisle is at present undergoing repair, and is being fitted up as the parish church”.
The Cliffs of Moher are home to one of the major colonies of cliff nesting seabirds in Ireland. The area was designated as a Refuge for Fauna in 1988 and as a Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA) under the EU Birds Directive in 1989. Included within the designated site are the cliffs, the cliff-top maritime grassland and heath, and a 200 meter zone of open water, directly in front of the cliffs to protect part of the birds’ feeding area. The designation covers 200 hectares and highlights the area’s importance for wildlife.
You have another opportunity to listen to more traditional music tonight. We will arrange dinner in McGann’s pub so as to get you up front for the performance. I should explain, The local pubs pay the musicians to come and perform. This in turn attracts more customers to the pub. Due to the quality of the musicians playing, space in the pubs will be at a premium. The only way to guarantee a prime seat in the pub for the performance, is to reserve a table for dinner. You then retain that vantage point for the rest of the night. Otherwise, you will be stuck at the back of the pub with standing room only. We have been doing this for years and always lock down the best tables in the house.
You will also get to visit one of the most striking Neolithic burial places in Europe today called Poulnabrone.This tomb was in use during the Neolithic and radiocarbon dates place its use between 3,800 – 3,600 BC. The first excavation of Poulnabrone Dolmen was in 1986 and then again in 1988 by Ann Lynch. During this excavation, one portal stone was replaced, and the team excavated the chamber, portico, and cairn. The remains of up to 22 individuals from the Neolithic were found. Sixteen adults, six children, and one newborn (from the Bronze Age) were among the remains. Their bodies were not cremated. Only one adult was over the age of 40 while most died before they reached 30. Most of the children were between the ages of five and fifteen.
Distance Options: A 12 Miles B 20 Miles C 34 Miles D 45 Miles
Accommodation : Royal Spa Hotel, Lisdoonvarna
We have some spectacular scenery for you today. The Atlantic coast will be your constant companion for the 18 miles of the route. As if that wasn’t enough this section is largely downhill finishing in the harbor village of Ballyvaughen. If you were only going to cycle 18 miles today then this last section is the what I would advise you to ride. The views and vistas along this section are unmatched. This section of coastal road takes you into Ballyvaughen. I would then suggest taking a 6 mile transfer that will take you up a substantial elevation to the location of one of the several megalithic tombs in the region. From this location you recommence cycling trough the heart of the Burren.
Following a series of tiny roads you navigate your way back to the village of Lisdoonvarna, home to the largest matchmaking festival in Europe.
The skeletal remains show evidence of arthritis. The tip of a flint or chert projectile point was found embedded in the hip of one individual. Two other healed fractures, one skull and one rib, were also found. Dental wear analysis shows evidence for the consumption of stone-grounded cereals. Also found in the burial chamber was a polished stone axe, 2 stone beads, a decorated bone pendant, a fragment of a mushroom-headed bone pin, 2 quartz crystals, several shards of coarse pottery, and a number of arrowheads and scrapers. Grykes are crevices in the limestone that were then filled with remains. Chamber and grykes also were filled with the bones of various large and small animals.
Day 5 – Wednesday
Rest Day. Visit Aran Islands or Day in Galway city
Your heading off on a ferry this morning. This is your opportunity to visit the Aran Islands, do a little hiking giving those cycling muscles as well as other bits and pieces a rest for a day. Alternatively you can spend the day in Galway city if you prefer. We will give you a full briefing on both options so you can make an informed decision.
We will transfer you to the pier in Doolin, where you take the ferry to Inis Mor, the largest of the three Aran Islands. If you have opted for the 5 day tour we will transfer you to Galway city.
Exploring the Islands uncompromising landscape which is home to a resourceful and resilient island population. Lots of little pubs and restaurants on the island as well as the great opportunity to purchase an Aran sweater for which the islands are widely renowned. We strongly recommend a pair of sturdy walking boots for your exploration of the island. The highlight of your visit to Inis Mor will be Dun Aengus (thats a photo of it above).This prehistoric stone fort was the last stronghold on what was once believed to be the most Westerly point on the map of the World. The island is 8 miles long and 2 miles wide so very little chance of getting lost.
Here, on the very edge of Europe, is an island rich in the language, culture and heritage of Ireland, unique in its geology and archaeology and in its long tradition of gentle hospitality. Here is a place to sense the spirit of Gaelic Ireland, to touch the past, but with all the comforts and facilities of the present. Aran will take you back to an Ireland of Celts and Early Christians. This is an island of great peace and tranquility, but it is also an island of great fun and activity.
A timeless land in an endless sea, weathered monuments on awesome cliffs, great labyrinths of limestone, meandering walls, patchwork fields, quiet beaches and a welcoming island people, this is Aran in Galway bay on the west coast of Ireland
You will return to Rossaveal harbor in Galway this evening where we will be waiting to transfer you to the town of Clifden. The transfer will take you through some of the most scenic valleys in Connemara. Lighting is everything when it comes to scenery. The sun casts a gentler light across the mountains and valleys of Connemara as we make our way to Clifden. By the time we get to your accommodation you will understand we have brought you to an incredibly beautiful corner of Ireland.
Fabulous valleys flanked by striking mountains makes Connemara one of the most beautiful regions to cycle anywhere in the world. You will be very busy with the camera today. A system of land ownership called “commonage” allows several farmers to graze large tracts of land without the usual subdivision of land fencing you encountered riding through the small country lanes of East Clare on Day 1. This is big country. Mountains, lakes, the Atlantic, form the boundaries.
DISTANCE OPTIONS A 25 MILES, B 33 MILES, C 45 MILES, D 70 MILES
Accommodation: The Station House Hotel, Clifden
As today’s ride will be a loop route you get to avoid packing up your gear and shifting luggage this morning. Your biking exploration of Connemara begins today. The fact you got a break from the bike while visiting the Aran Islands yesterday will mean you are refreshed and rested. Your going to be riding through one of the most scenic areas along the West Coast of Ireland. Much of the days ride is set along the rolling coastline. The photo to your right is a glimpse into the beauty of Connemara. Ok, its also a glimpse into the back of the luggage trailer, sorry about that.
You’ll get to ride through Bogland that began to develop shortly after the end of the last ice age. Evidence of glacial erosion is widespread and distinct, thanks to the detail trapped in the quartzite landscape. This is where people cut peat from the earth, dry it out and take it home to provide fuel for fires and stoves for the winter. Indeed turf cutting is a contentious issue here in the west of Ireland at the moment. The EU want to preserve the remaining uncut “high banks” while the bog owners protest their right to continue a tradition that has been practiced for countless generations. Good topic to discuss over a pint of Guinness.
Due to the impermeable nature of the Quartzite rock the hillsides glisten with streams making their way to the lakes. After exiting the South end of the Inagh valley we then ride past Ballinahinch castle and make our way to Clifden. We will spend tonight in the family owned Stanton House Hotel in the center of the town. You can take advantage of the spa facilities such as jacuzzi, steam room or sauna. By prior arrangement you can also enjoy a massage. Clifden boasts lots of little stores that stock unique craft gift purchasing opportunities. You can also stop off in one of the local pubs for a pint and a chat with some of the locals. Great spot for some traditional music.
DISTANCE OPTINS A 24 MILES, B 35 MILES, C 45 MILES, D 50 MILES
So, the last day. We want to make the most of time available today. The first part of today’s route takes us along the Atlantic coast through the village of Letterfrack just outside the town of Clifden as you ride along the Sky Road and the Connemara Loop.
We always stop in the village of Cleggan for a spot of lunch in Oliver’s seafood restaurant before heading out on what has to be my favorite 8 miles of the entire tour. Riding between lakes and overlooking the Atlantic coastline. We even get to go swimming here when the weather offers. I really need to upload some video of this section just to show you what a smashing place it is to cycle. Back to the cycling. The route continues through the village of Letterfrack and onto Tully Cross. This route will eventually takes you to Leenaun . This will be the end point for the cycling. We will transfer the group to Galway city for the final night of the tour. Galway city is located about 45 minutes from Maaum Cross. Tonight we stay in the Hardiman hotel overlooking Eyre Square and only a short walk from the cultural heart of Galway city, Quay street.
Your hotel in Galway city for the final night of the tour is pretty special.
Hotel Meyrick first opened its grand doors to guests in 1852, it was then known as the Railway Hotel. It was completed for the Midland and Great Western Railway Company. The company’s architect, John Skipton Mulvany, designed both the Galway railway station and hotel. Mulvaney incorporated a secret passage between the hotel and the train station. I’ll show you where it’s located and you can use it to walk straight from the hotel onto platform 1 in Galway train station, just as all visiting celebrities do these days when avoiding the paparazzi. If you are considering spending an extra day to explore galway this is without doubt the place to stay. Situated in the cultural heart of Galway you would need to book it immediately. I make reservations for the tour a year in advance so as to be sure of availability. Not only will you stay in one of Galway’s landmark historical buildings you will stay in the hotel engrained in the history of Galway city for just over 160 years.
Galway is situated about one and a half hours North of Shannon airport. If your flight departs early on Saturday morning I can arrange to get you closer to Shannon Airport on Friday evening, after the farewell dinner. This will eliminate a very early start on Saturday morning. Let me know what your departure plans are and I can advise you of the options available. If your flight departs late on Saturday or anytime on Sunday you can spend some time in Galway city and take the bus which leaves every hour for Shannon airport. Talk to me before you make your flight arrangements so I can advise you how to maximize your time in Ireland.
If you are planning to spend a few more days in Ireland its handy to know Galway is a transport hub. We have a train station, bus station and local airport in Galway. You can also arrange car hire if you wish to do so. Just let us know what your time frame is and we can assist and advise you in relation to a car tour of the remainder of the country. If your arrival flight originally landed in Shannon you should check out the option of departing from Dublin airport. This would streamline your continued exploration of Ireland after the bike tour