Bicycle Touring Ireland’s Ancient East
We landed in Dublin on a misty, dreary evening in early April. We’d been a little unsure how the weather would shake out in early spring, but we thought we would at least avoid the crowds being the shoulder season. After leaving Dublin, we rode through the Wicklow Mountains and began bicycle touring Southeast Ireland before heading to the Wild Atlantic Way.
Download the GPX track of our tour through Southeastern Ireland. NOTE: This is not a polished route and is intended for research and planning purposes only.
Time Frame: Early April 2022
World Tour Days: 332 – 343
After building our bikes in the Dublin airport, we rode straight across the city center on a Saturday night. The traffic was intense at first since we were on a bigger highway leaving the airport, and then we had to dodge all the pub-goers downtown. We did get to hop on a nice bike path for awhile before arriving at our Warm Showers host’s cozy house in a Dublin suburb.
Our host made pizza for us and we shared some stories before heading to bed. The next morning, he helped us out with some bike maintenance and even gave us a hex key we’d been badly needing.
We ran some errands in Dublin but didn’t stay too long, as it’s a pretty expensive city and we needed to find a campsite out of town before dark.
Wicklow Mountains National Park
Shortly after leaving Dublin, we immediately started climbing toward the Wicklow Mountains. We only had to go about 16 miles out of the city before we were in a relatively undeveloped area, which was good because we’d gotten a pretty late start. We found a spot to camp that was off a dirt side road and ate dinner quickly since it was very cold at such high elevation. Our first night was one of the coldest in awhile, and we had a decent sheet of frost on our tent in the morning.
Luckily the sun was out the next day, and we had a wonderful ride through Wicklow. It seemed like there were more bikes on the road than cars that day, which was awesome to see. We had a nice chat with a couple road cyclists who welcomed us to Ireland and gave us some tips on what to check out on the Wild Atlantic Way.
We rode through lots of hilly farmland after leaving the Wicklow Mountains. The scenery wasn’t the most exciting, but we saw lots of entertaining sheep and met some friendly locals. In one small town, we were attempting to discreetly do some laundry at a rare public water fountain, and a man who was cutting grass at a small park came over to talk to us. It turned out that he was an avid mountain biker, and he commended us for braving the ferocious headwind that day. He was really fun to talk to and told us what to expect as far as hills and terrain on our way into New Ross.
There were a number of interesting small towns in this area, and many historic ruins and old churches. Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland – founded in 914 AD by Vikings – and was a neat town to explore. We ran into yet another enthusiastic cyclist in the downtown area who particularly enjoyed touring in France, and he gave us some advice on where to camp for the night. Waterford is also the beginning of the Waterford Greenway, which we would ride to Dungarvan.
The Waterford Greenway is a bike/pedestrian path that stretches 46 kilometers between Waterford and Dungarvan. Being a rail-to-trail, the grades and very mellow and the trail passes over some neat old railway bridges and aqueducts. Our favorite part of the greenway was the Ballyvoyle Tunnel, which opens into a beautiful little canyon with moss and fern-covered walls. There were a bunch of tiny wooden doors that people had placed into crevices in the walls and looked like fairy houses.
Coastal Riding to the Start of the Wild Atlantic Way
After Dungarvan, we mostly stuck to the coast as we headed toward Kinsale and the start of the Wild Atlantic Way. The small coastal towns were generally very pretty but also pricey since they are frequent tourist stops, but we usually rode through and stopped at some of the free attractions. Biking in these towns could be hectic at times, because the main streets are almost always busy and narrow.
We particularly enjoyed Ardmore, where we visited a 12th century round tower and some monastery ruins. Youghal was also memorable, but mostly because we were on the receiving end of a long rant from an anti-vax resident.