Cycling in Ireland
Our trip was so easy to organise and was loosely organised to be honest. We like to leave ourselves space to make last minute decisions and go with our intuition. I also had this faith that if something went wrong or if we were in any trouble then 'we would be grand ' as we would say in Ireland - where people are open, curious and always willing to help, especially 2 strangers on bikes.
Of course I am bias but I know that sense of community and being able to help is important for the Irish.
We rented our bikes from a company in Galway, who dropped them off for us in Cork ( at least 2.5hrs away) where we were starting our trip. We payed a little more for this service but it saved us a lot in terms of time and organisation in the end. The 'debut' of our trip was to be from Cork city, working our way down towards Kinsale, joining the beautiful 'Wild Atlantic Way' and finally ending in Galway city. A total of 11 days. But things changed slightly. Instead of beginning in Cork centre, our airbnb host insisted on driving us and our bikes out of the city first, so that we could launch ourselves off from the luscious and rolling countryside. We were so pleased and thankful for his kind act. Plus, it was a glorious day!
We covered 60 kms a day on average - nothing for a regular cyclist but we aren't cyclists! We did challenge ourselves, especially as we carried our bags, some food and camping gear. We hadn't done any training but the difference each day in our fitness levels and stamina became quickly evident. Our accommodation was a mix of airbnb, wild camping (wild, open beaches) and traditional bed and breakfasts when the weather got too much and we needed a little comfort.
Speaking of weather, it was just about perfect for us. It rained a little, usually lightly and it was welcomed. We never felt cold and we were always in shorts and t-shirt, with of course a light rain jacket. I couldn't have imagined the strain it would have been for two novice cyclists in hot weather, with a heavy load, climbing many hills on windy coastal roads.
One very stormy morning does come to mind though! We woke up between the sand dunes and looked out to the moody sea. The idea of setting off on the bike in that weather was definitely not appealing. So we decided to pack up the tent and have a big Irish breakfast in the pub next door, with many cups of tea. I experienced quite a shock before that though. As I stumbled with my bike across the soggy sand dune , I also stumbled into an electric wire (in place for keeping the cows of the beach). This left me nervous and on edge for the entire morning. My warrior side had definitely taken a blow and the accumulation of the tiredness began to express itself.
At moments we cut off the 'Wild Atlantic Way' onto the main road to either gain in time or to have a break from the hills. The only negative with that was the cars. The Irish drive fast in their own countryside - they know their roads but they aren't actually used to seeing that many cyclists. So you do have to be careful. Otherwise along the way you have people waving hello, asking where you are from, keen to chat. You never feel alone. We were even recognised by some people as they passed us in their car, friendly tooted their horn and wished us good luck as they had seen us a few days before and realised we were on a long trip.
Of course the evenings are the best bit. When you find your camping spot - ideally on a beach with a pub nearby. A warm, friendly, music filled pub with food is all you need at the end of a long day cycling. There is often the bonus of meeting some people that you met before or not.
On one occasion we arrived into a harbour town that was hosting a regatta. It was late in the evening but the days are long and we began to look for a camping space. A young mum seen us, said hi and asked if we were looking for a place to camp - she offered us her garden. We spent a lovely evening together, she introduced us to her blueberry filled microclimate garden and the following morning prepared us a delicious breakfast before setting of to take a boat to the most southern island of Ireland - Cape Clear. This woman ended up being the daughter of a famous Irish chef - so you can imagine the breakfast!
We hopped on and off boats and even a bus at one point and it was very simple to do. There were little barriers logistically speaking - even though Ireland isn't a big destination for cyclists. We only actually met 4 others.
What left the biggest impression on us in this trip was the ease of everything; the friendly people, the calm and of course the landscapes. It was a soft, nourishing, adventure filled and physically challenging trip. If you would like to experience a 'fresher' summer holiday, away from the traffic heavy roads on mainland Europe then we highly recommend a trip in Ireland, on bike or by car if you have less time.