West Of Ireland Guided Group Bicycle Tours
||Start / Finish
|Best of the West
||Ennis / Westport
||(Furbo) Galway / Westport
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The Best of the West of Ireland Bicycle Tour
This one-off itinerary is the trip of a lifetime - a bicycle tour that encompasses all the best that Ireland has to offer - at a fantastic price!
The West Coast exudes a romance like nowhere else in Ireland. It boasts an unsurpassable beauty and wild drama that is inextricably linked to the region’s culture, traditions and people. Ablaze with colour, it offers the chance to really get away from it all, to stand on the edge and face nature in all its glory. Here you can immerse yourself in the authentic Irish experience, from the vibrant Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) areas and their lively céilÍs (Irish dancing) to the multitude of festivals that celebrate the history and heritage of this fascinating region.
Our itinerary ticks all the “must do” and “must see” boxes for the West of Ireland. You will travel through Connemara, The Burren, Galway, Mayo and the Aran Islands. The attractions that you will visit along the way include the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, the Ailwee caves, Dun Aengus clifftop fort, the Sky Road, Kylemore Abbey, Doolough, the Twelve Bens, Killary Harbour, Croagh Patrick......and many more.
The tour is limited to 16 participants. The package will include airport transfer from Shannon Airport to the starting point, 10 nights accommodation (including breakfast) in a variety of excellent 3* and 4* hotels (see the day by day itinerary below), 7 full dinners, sag support, daily pre-ride briefing, ride options to cater for both the leisurely and the not-so-leisurely rider. Riding is all on blacktop roads, with the great majority being on beautiful minor roads that carry very low volumes of traffic.
The tour will be guided by Tony Boyd, founder of Iron Donkey Bicycle Touring. Tony’s knowledge of the West of Ireland has been built up over many years, and he never gets tired ofshowing off the wonders of the region to the Iron Donkey‘s guests.
- Day 1
On arrival in ancient Ennis, 15 miles from Shannon Airport, you can check into your hotel. Ennis, the county town of Clare, is one of Ireland’s most attractive, being surrounded by the River Fergus. The bow-ways (arched tunnel passageways that link the narrow medieval streets) are a particular feature. Dominating the town is the ruined 13th century friary in which there are some wonderful medieval sculptures. In the afternoon there is a bike and equipment fitting after which you are free to explore the town or to relax. There is a meet-and-greet and a short tour briefing before dinner at the hotel.
Accommodation – Old Ground Hotel
- Day 2 - 53km or 72km
From Ennis we pedal north through tiny villages and past sheep dotted fields to Dysert O’Dea, a fascinating collection of sites dating from prehistoric times to the 19thCentury. There is an archaeology centre in the restored 15th Century tower house. A little further north, the town of Corofin provides refreshment opportunities before we continue west through remote Clare countryside to Kilfenora and the Burren Heritage Centre, which tells you everything that you need to know about this remarkable region. We then pass through bustling Ennistimon before reaching the coast at Lehinch, renowned for its challenging links golf course and for its surfing beaches. Next comes a climb to the awesome Cliffs of Moher, best visited towards the end of the day when the tourists have mostly disappeared. The final stage takes us to the spa centre of Lisdoonvarna, location of the annual matchmaking festival.
Accommodation - Sheedy’s Hotel
- Day 3 - 55km or 74 km
Today you will enjoy one of Ireland’s classic coastal rides, with wonderful vistas all the way along the dramatic Burren coastline. Leaving Lisdoonvarna we descend to the coast and pedal north along the majestic Atlantic shoreline. After rounding Black Head we follow the southern shore of Galway Bay to the town of Ballybaughan, and a welcome lunch stop. A short distance south of the town is the remarkable Ailwee Cave. There is a good climb from here onto the Burren escarpment to view the Poulnabrone Dolmen from where we follow tiny country lanes back to Lisdoonvarna.
Accommodation - Sheedy’s Hotel .
- Day 4 – various riding options available on Inishmore
After breakfast we have a 6 km downhill stretch to Doolin Pier to catch the ferry (named the “Happy Hooker”) for the 45 minute crossing to Kilronan port on Inishmore, largest of the 3 Aran Islands. On disembarking we can explore the village before riding out along the coast road to Dun Aengus, the Stone Age cliff top fort that dominates the western end of the island. There is the option to continue the ride to the very western tip of the island, before returning to our Kilronan hotel by the scenic inland route. After dinner you can join in the fun at a traditional session in one of Kilronan’s pubs.
Accommodation - Kilmurvey Guesthouse
- Day 5 - 37km
After breakfast there is plenty of time to visit the Black Fort and to ride out to the eastern tip of the island before embarking on the noon ferry to Rossaveal on the northern shores of Galway. The ride from here takes us towards the distant Twelve Bens, the mountain range that dominates the centre of the Connemara landscape. A longer more testing option follows the coast while a shorter option traverses atmospheric moorland (where you can watch peat being dug for fuel) to the tiny coastal village of Cashel.
Accommodation - Zetland Country House
- Day 6 - 49km
From Cashel we continue to follow the coast west to the fishing village Roundstone. Here you can watch the manufacture of traditional musical instruments at the Roundstone Bodhran Centre. The road from Roundstone to Ballyconneely , where we stop for lunch, hugs the coast and overlooks beautiful Dogs Bay and Gurteen Bay. Just outside the village is the site where Alcock and Brown crash landed in a bog after the first transatlantic flight in 1919. Clifden, the unofficial capital of Connemara, is a lively and colourful market town. To the west of the town, the Sky Road offers magnificent views of the coastline to the south – on a clear day you can see all the way to the Ring of Kerry.
Accommodation - The Quay House
- Day 7 - 18km or 51km
Today is designated as a rest day, giving you the opportunity to explore bustling Clifden and its environs on foot, or to enjoy one on the many activities on offer in the area. You could play a round of golf, go pony trekking, try deep sea fishing or take a hike in the Connemara National Park. However if you can’t bear to be away from your bike, there is the option of a spectacular coastal loop ride. In the evening you will be able to enjoy a traditional music session in one of Clifden’s many lively and welcoming pubs.
Accommodation - The Quay House
- Day 8 - 40km or 63 km
Leaving Clifden we follow the remote, scenic Bog Road to the impressive Ballynahinch Castle for a morning coffee. From here there is a beautiful ride up the Lough Inagh Valley to Kylemore and the opportunity to visit Kylemore Abbey, one of Connemara’s best known attractions. The ride around the coast from here via Tully Cross is especially impressive. The last section follows the southern shore of Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only true fjord, to Leenane. There is the option to take an educational cruise on the waters of the fjord before dinner.
Accommodation - Leenane Hotel
- Day 9 - 62km
From Leenane we pedal south into the Maam Valley. A good climb is rewarded by great views of the beautiful but strangely named Lough Nafooey and by the exhilarating descent to its shores. There is then an easy ride on delightfully quiet country roads to the village of Tourmakeady on the shores of Lough Mask. After lunch we face a tough but very exhilarating and scenic climb through the Partry Mountains to Aghagower with its round tower. Our destination is the historic town of Westport, situated at the head of island-strewn Clew Bay.
Accommodation – Westport Plaza Hotel & Spa
- Day 10 - 41 km or 68km
Our last ride is a loop with a wonderful variety of scenery. We first head south to skirt around the back of the impressive cone of lofty Croagh Patrick and then climb over the Sheefry Hills before dropping down to Doolough, a hauntingly beautiful lake in a remote valley which hides a tragic secret from the days of the Irish Famine. Following the valley north we arrive at Louisburgh on the shores of Clew Bay, once the home port of Grace O’Malley, the infamous Irish pirate queen. East along the shores of the bay from here lies ancient Murrisk Abbey. Close by is the start point for the ascent of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holiest mountain, at the summit of which St Patrick is reputed to have spent 40 days and nights and from where he banished the snakes from Ireland. The ascent is rewarded by stupendous views over the islands of Clew Bay. A pleasant waterfront ride brings us back to Westport and the end of the journey.
Accommodation - Westport Plaza Hotel & Spa
- Day 11
Departure after breakfast – there are trains to Dublin, or bus to Galway, private transfers can be arranged.
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Connemara (7 nights)
This is the Iron Donkey tour which has stood the test of time and has
proved over many years to be a firm favourite among our clientele. We
have had several riders join us on the tour twice, so we must be doing
Connemara and the Aran Islands make for an excellent tour because, in
addition to the magnificent scenery.
- The region is typically 'Irish', and provides a great introduction
to the country for first time visitors.
- The terrain is, for the most part, gently undulating. Although there
are mountains at the heart of the region, the roads go around them rather
than over them. There are however, some good climbing opportunities
for those who want a challenge on the latter half of the tour.
- There are plenty of biking options available, allowing each rider
to bike just as much, or as little, as he or she wants on any given
- There are plenty of great accommodation options.
- There is the opportunity to enjoy traditional music session on several
- An overnight on the Aran Islands is a real highlight.
- The region is readily accessible from both Shannon International
and Dublin International Airports.
Connemara Dates and Rates
- Day 1 (Saturday)
We meet at the Connemara Lake Hotel in Oughterard in the afternoon (flexible timing), we are happy to collect you in Galway if you arrive on train/bus from Dublin or Shannon airport. After checking in, bikes and equipment can be tried out during a short trip out to Lough Corrib. Over dinner, you can get to know your fellow travellers, and your guide will run through the itinerary for the week ahead. Then you might just want to sample a Guinness before retiring!
- Day 2 (Sunday)
The biking proper starts with a beautiful 18-mile ride over moorland to the port of Rossaveal, from where we take a 40-minute ferry ride to Inishmore, largest of the Aran Islands. On arrival at Kilronan, you can lunch in the port before checking into Kilmurvey guesthouse or the Aran Islands Hotel. The rest of the day is free for exploring the island by bike and on foot, either on your own or with your trusty guide. The cliff top stone-age fort of Dun Angeus is a must on your agenda. The whole island offers a fascinating insight into what life was like in a simpler, bygone age. Dinner in the evening can be followed by a visit to one of Kilronan’s lively pubs.
- Day 3 (Monday) - 58km (36mls) 250m (longer option 56mls)
After an early breakfast, there is a chance to visit the impressive Black Fort and perhaps do a little shopping (for an Aran sweater?) before we catch the ferry back to Rossaveal. After lunch we bike west through the magnificent Connemara landscape to the town of Clifden, the 'capital' of the region. The ride offers plenty of great vistas of the Twelve Bens – the mountain range that sits at the heart of Connemara. Along the way there are several locations where peat is dug for fuel. The quaint town of Clifden is renowned for its craft shops, its lively musical pubs and for its spectacular location. Accommodation for the next two nights is in the family-run Foyles Hotel in the centre of the town.
- Day 4 (Tuesday) - 18km (11mls) - 160m; 51km (32mls) 360m; longer options available
Today’s biking route is a figure-of-eight loop. The first loop takes us out on the legendary Sky Road, while the second heads south around the coast through Ballyconneely to the fishing village of Roundstone, where you can watch traditional musical instruments being made in the craft centre. If we get back to Clifden in time, you might want to spend a little time shopping for a few presents or souvenirs. Alternatives for those considering a day away from their bicycles include horseback riding or a round of golf at the lovely links near Ballyconneely.
- Day 5 (Wednesday) - 63km (39mls) 248m; short option 23mls; longer options available
Leaving Clifden, we ride east on the beautiful (if not so beautifully named) Bog Road before turning north past Lough Inagh to visit Kylemore Abbey, one of Connemara’s architectural treasures. The setting is perhaps even more impressive than the abbey itself. From the village of Letterfrack, where we stop for lunch, there is a stunning coastal route from Tully Cross that culminates in a glorious downhill run to the village of Leenane, at the head of Killary Fjord, Ireland’s one and only fjord. The village’s chief claim to fame is that it was the setting for “The Field”, a disturbing film (starring Richard Harris) that explores the relationship that existed between the Irish and the land. The Leenane Hotel provides tonight’s accommodation.
- Day 6 (Thursday)
From Leenane we head south before climbing steadily over a saddle and then dropping down to follow the shores of Lough Nafooey and Lough Mask to the village of Toormakeady. This is a stunningly beautiful ride on roads that are to all extents and purposes devoid of traffic. After lunch at one of the local pubs, there is a choice of the low road or the high road to our destination town of Westport on the shores of Clew Bay. The mountain road is spectacular – but challenging! The lower road is a gentler, pastoral alternative. Westport has plenty of musical pubs and craft shops. The impressive Atlantic Coast Hotel on the Quays is where we stay for the next two nights.
- Day 7 (Friday) - 62km (39mls) 682m; 59km (36mls) 374m; shortest 20mls 162m
Today’s loop route takes us south from Westport to Aasleagh Falls, and then north through Delphi and the very atmospheric Doolough Valley to Louisburgh, one of the homes of Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen of the West of Ireland. From here we follow the Clew Bay coastline east towards Westport. On the way we pass the striking sculpture which commemorates the 'coffin ships' that carried countless thousands of Irish emigrants to America. Close by is the foot of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holiest mountain and a popular destination for pilgrims. The steep path to the summit is rewarded by fantastic views over Clew Bay. And yes - you can climb it if you have the inclination (and the energy!). Our farewell dinner is back at our Westport hotel. You might like to top off your tour with a visit to one of the town’s many musical pubs – Matt Molloy’s (Matt of Chieftains fame) is a favourite.
- Day 8 (Saturday)
Depart by train or bus to Dublin, or by bus to Shannon – or to anywhere else in the country!
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