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A collection of tales from the road #27 - Ireland

This chapter is very much work-in-progress. Having just married into an outdoor-sporty Irish family, I am sure that my knowledge and the subsequent stories of cycling in Ireland will grow.

In the various visits I have made to Ireland thus far, I have already built up a sense of how riding in these parts is good for the soul. The fresh ocean air on the west coast certainly blows away the cobwebs, and my mind constantly wanders to the travellers who must have passed the same way over the millennia. One can feel the history, the traditions, and the pride at every turn. Your expectations of Ireland will be met, whether it is from the glow of a decent pint of Guinness, the welcome you'll receive even as an Englishman or the moody views you will see.

The Wild Atlantic Way, running 2750kms along the west coast, has become one of Europe's great journeys. Now that the tourist infrastructure is in place, and now that the millions of people from around the world with Irish heritage have been reminded, this route it is hotspot. It would make for a tough and windy bicycle ride whether one cycles north or south, as the blustery conditions and the gradients of the craggy bays would be a test for anyone. I have not yet cycled much of this, but have seen enough in the car to want to give it a go one-day.

Each year the 180km Ring of Kerry bike ride takes place. This is a one day event, but this loop which is mostly on the Wild Atlantic Way, would likely best be seen over a week, allowing time to visit the beaches, pubs, and hillsides. This would also provide enough time to dry out overnight in the various hostels and guesthouses along the way.

I once rode along a narrow pass known as the Gap of Dunloe, weaving through Ireland's highest mountain range the Macgillycuddy's Reeks. It was a full days ride of about 60kms, with dozens of switchbacks and stops for wonderful views across five lakes, surrounded by hills of a purple hue. The road was fairly quiet when we rode here, but it becomes very busy in summer. Most drive in a northerly direction, so best to do so too as suddenly meeting oncoming traffic on these narrow roads could be nasty. Again, there are hostels and guesthouses to stay in with real fires and great breakfasts. Just ignore the rain and the pain, and love the ride.

Ireland is full of keen cyclists and the nation provides more than its likely share of elite riders. It is no real surprise as the terrain and the conditions here make you hardy. Partly because of this success, the popularity of cycling is at an all-time high and other road traffic remains relatively light compared to neighbouring countries. This all means that there are myriad resources out there to help you plan a visit, which you must. Combine your ride with a spot of golf and some Whisky with an ‘e’, and if you are anything like me, you'll think you're in heaven.

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