I've drunk the Guinness in Dublin, walked the edge of Cliffs of Moher, eaten oysters in Galway and kissed the Blarney Stone. Of course, there is so much more to do in Ireland than the obvious, but most only scratch Ireland on the surface.
Ernest Hemingway had famously said, “it is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best", and on a recent cycling journey through north-west Ireland, I discovered just how true his words are.
When you are touring by tour coach or by car, you rarely see beyond the shop fronts and the marketed appearance of this emerald land, and for those who wants to get under the skin of Ireland, to experience Ireland without crowds and to feel the true welcoming hearts of the Irish, you are going to need a bike.
Three Good Reasons Why:
1. Because it is all about slow travel
Our lives are getting busier, our worries bigger. We seem to have to move faster every day and the stress of the daily grind can get a little too much. So the last thing you want to do on your holiday is to rush around trying to tick off a sightseeing list only to discover at the end of the day you haven't experienced all that much.
Cycling is all about slow travel. Not just to visit a destination, but to be immersed into it. And Ireland is the perfect place for slow travel. One of the best thing about traveling around Ireland is the people and traveling on two wheels allows you to get close to them, away from the tourist crowds to watch people just going about their daily lives. Join the locals for a local ale in the pub (and find out that it's not all about Guinness!) and maybe catch a Gaelic football game together. Wave back at the gardener who just smiled at you across the road and stop at roadside cafes for some gossip.
Cycling around Ireland is the sort of travel experience that you'll keep talking about in the years to come!
2. Because the Irish are some of the most cycle friendly people in the world
"Hey! Where you guys off to?" A lovely man in a red Ford stops by our cycling group to ask. We told him we were tourists exploring the area. He waves out of his window as he carefully maneuver around us before speeding off. "Have a great time!" He shouts.
A campaign to get everyone cycling in Ireland means more and more motorists themselves are cyclists. So they know to keep safe and comfortable distance between the car and the bike, making the Irish some of the most cycle friendly people in the world, so you can truly immerse in the joy of cycling without feeling the pressure of having rude motorists on the road!
3. Because you get to explore the lesser visited backroads of Ireland
When you are on a bike, you are able to access paths that may not even exist in a travel brochure, and come across shrines, ancient tombs and quaint little cottages that doesn't have an entry in Google Maps.
A good network of cycle paths around Ireland provide the opportunity to get off the beaten tracks and explore the less visited parts of Ireland. Whether it be a coastal route or up and down the hills near mountain ridges, when you get on those two wheels, you instantly have access to places that cars and coach buses can't get to, and to visit villages, towns and unknown corners that shows the true beauty of this country.
When you go
Ireland travel specialists Wilderness Ireland offers a range of tours by bike, including Touring of the Wild Atlantic Way, Coast to Coast Tour through Cork and Kerry for those looking for a challenge and a Biking and Yoga Escape for a wellness journey through north-west Ireland.
Written by Amy McPherson
Photograph by Oliver Dixon – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
Based in Sydney, Australia, Amy is a writer stuck in the corporate world. A Business Analyst by profession, she works her life around travelling and has managed to squeeze in postgraduate studies in writing somewhere in between. Amy met her husband in 2006 while working on a community development project in Peru, and the travel-holic pair celebrated their love by getting married in Vanuatu in 2010. Amy keeps a blog on various travel topics at www.footprintsandmemories.com