From Galway to Guinness: 9 reasons cyclists will fall in love with Ireland

Many people have Ireland on their ‘bucket list’ and we were among them. Cycling on the Emerald Isle offers beautiful scenery and scenic views along a dramatic coastline.

My husband, Dean, and I combined a trip to Ireland with our love of cycling and booked a VBT cycling holiday in June: Ireland: Galway & Connemara Coast. This was our third VBT trip, having traveled with them to Acadia National Park and again to Slovenia, Austria and Italy. Spectacular tours!

If you’re a cyclist, here are some reasons why I think you’ll fall in love with cycling in Ireland.

The Wild Atlantic Way

Photo credit: Joan Sherman

1. Epic nature

Part of the joy of cycling is being in nature. You’re not cruising down a narrow road looking out the window as you fly by, you’re on a bike and you’re in it. Of all the things to love about cycling in Ireland, top of the list has to be the epic scenery and scenery. Here are two of the many highlights.

The Wild Atlantic Way

It was exciting to cycle along the western coastline called The Wild Atlantic Way (WAW), the longest coastal route in the world. It is named after robust Atlantic storms that roll in along the west coast. The WAW covers around 1,600 miles from the northern Inishowen Peninsula to the southern town of Kinsale in County Cork.


The Burren is a large limestone plateau along the central west coast of Ireland that was formed by glaciers. The name “the Burren” comes from Gaelic Boireann which means ‘place of stone’ and at roughly 200 square kilometers they’re not kidding. It is truly unique among all the landscapes we saw. We hopped off our bikes and took a bumpy, craggy ride to enjoy this unique, rugged beauty.

On a trip to Corcomroe Abbey, Ireland

On a trip to Corcomroe Abbey

Photo credit: Joan Sherman

2. Historic sites

Ireland is steeped in history, and a bike tour can get you up close and personal with many of these historical wonders.

Corcomroe Abbey

On the edge of the Burren is the 13th-century Corcomroe Abbey, home to Cistercian monks for around 400 years. Although now in ruins, the cruciform monastery was a fascinating stop on our bike tour.

The Burren Centre, Kilfenora

Ireland’s first interpretive centre, the Burren Centre, provides a history of the area’s ancient burial grounds, castles and natural farming methods. It’s a great place to get off your bike and explore more of this rich and historic area.

Headstones at Kilfenora Cathedral

Headstones at Kilfenora Cathedral

Photo credit: Joan Sherman

Kilfenora Cathedral

The town of Kilfenora is called the “City of the Crosses” because it has one of the largest collections of high crosses in Ireland. Adjacent to the Burren Centre, Kilfenora Cathedral contains many crosses and fine carvings on tombstones, windows and doorways.

3. Moderate temperature

Ireland’s climate is temperate year-round, with a high of 67 degrees Fahrenheit in July to a low of 34 in December and January. We left in June and had seasonal temps in the 60s.

Pro tip: Rain gear is essential when cycling in Ireland. There’s a reason it’s called “The Emerald Isle.” Everything green comes from somewhere!

A winding road ahead, Ireland

A winding road ahead

Photo credit: Joan Sherman

4. Terrain for cyclists of all levels

The ride we took is rated easy/moderate, which is defined as “a combination of easy terrain mixed with moderate hills,” with daily mileage up to 33 miles. If you’re a cyclist who likes a challenge, Ireland is a great place to cycle. Some of it was hilly, some sections had switchbacks, and one section was very steep for half a mile (we walked with our bikes, as did most others on our trip). If you prefer more level cycling, you can work with an outfitter in Galway (like this one) to get a cycle route that suits you.

Pro tip: Bicycles match the direction of vehicle traffic, so we rode on the left side of the road. It definitely takes some getting used to, so take your time getting started.

The River Corrib in Galway, Ireland

The River Corrib in Galway, Ireland

Photo credit: Joan Sherman

5. Exciting Galway

A good bike ride has experiences both on and off the bike. In the bustling city of Galway, take a break from cycling and enjoy authentic Irish restaurants, live music and the riverside promenade along the River Corrib to Galway Cathedral. The streets of Galway are interesting with sculptures and many shops.

Pro tip: We enjoyed lively tunes from street musicians as well as various musical options in bars and restaurants, including Taaffe’s Bar.

6. Food to keep a cyclist going

If you’re cycling, it’s good to keep your calories up and Ireland has quick lunch stops to fill your ride and plenty of places with heartier suppers to enjoy after a day’s cycling. Here’s a selection of what we enjoyed, from north to south.

Galway – McDonagh’s

Our VBT guide recommended eating at McDonagh’s for authentic Irish fish and chips, so that’s what we tried (and enjoyed). He said it’s served with “mushy peas,” so you know it’s the real deal.

Ballyvaughan — The An Fear Gorta Tea & Garden Rooms

This tea room on the Coast Road in Ballyvaughan, County Clare is a great place for a light lunch of soup and sandwich – nothing too heavy when you’re out cycling for the day. The front gardens in full bloom are also a plus!

Sheedy's Hotel & Restaurant

Sheedy’s Hotel & Restaurant

Photo credit: Joan Sherman

Lisdoonvarna — Sheedy’s Hotel & Restaurant

Sheedy’s Hotel & Restaurant offers fantastic meals by its regionally renowned chef, including asparagus and leek soup, beetroot and goat’s cheese salads, local salmon, potato blocks gratin (cheesy brick-shaped potatoes – and delicious) and homemade lemon curd. . It’s enough to make you eager to get back on the bike to work off those calories!

Pro tip: Sheedy’s is also a charming place to stay, complete with some rooms facing the beautiful English garden. Cycling here gave us our first taste of Ireland’s rolling hills.

Ennis – Brogan’s

Brogan’s is a family-run Irish pub with dark wood, stained glass and lots of character. While the menu is filled with hearty soups, brown bread and classic Irish fish and chips, we opted for a couple of giant burgers and ‘chips’ (fries).

Pro tip: Ennis is a pretty little town on the River Fergus to enjoy the views of St Peter and Paul Cathedral, Ennis Abbey and a self-guided sculpture walk.

Bridge over the River Lee in Cork

Bridge over the River Lee in Cork

Photo credit: Joan Sherman

Cork — The Elbow Lane Brew & Smokehouse

In Cork, Elbow Lane Brew & Smokehouse is great for ribs and potatoes – hearty food after a day’s cycling. Watch the bartender, part chemist/part artist, mix a coffee drink like a masterpiece.

Pro tip: While in Cork, don’t miss the English Market, the oldest European market of its kind. Spanning an entire block, it’s known for mid-19th-century architecture and locally sourced artisanal food. Grab a snack to throw in your bike bag for the next day’s ride.

7. People you will meet along the way

As always, people make the trip. The VBT guides were knowledgeable, friendly and local to the area. We also rode with 14 fast friends, aged from 16 to 70-something.

The local Irish people we met were so gracious. Sure, most of them work in the hospitality industry, but we can tell they really care about people. Although the English language is common in Ireland, we also enjoyed listening for the Gaelic language – Gaeilge, or Irish as it is known locally – is a Celtic language and one of “the oldest and most historic written languages ​​in the world.”

Dean enjoys a Guinness at McDonagh's

Dean enjoys a Guinness at McDonagh’s

Photo credit: Joan Sherman

8. Birthplace of Guinness

I would be remiss if I wrote an article about Ireland and did not include Guinness. It is ubiquitous and a good choice after a day of cycling. Over $2 billion worth of this beer is brewed annually in more than 50 countries, but people say there’s just something special about enjoying a Guinness in its birthplace. I have to agree.

9. The Aran Islands and Connemara

As part of our cycling we took a ferry out to the Aran Islands to cycle on Inis Mór (also spelled Inishmore) and then the ferry back to mainland Ireland and cycled into storybook Connemara where we loved the mountains, the peat stacks and to and learned to perfect Irish coffee. These areas also offer spectacular experiences and extraordinary cycling.

A floral view along the Wild Atlantic Way

A floral view along the Wild Atlantic Way

Photo credit: Joan Sherman

So much to offer

We loved cycling along the coast of western Ireland. These are some of the main reasons why I think cyclists will fall in love with Ireland, as we did. It’s a beautiful and fascinating country that has so much to offer, and cycling is a fantastic way to experience it.

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