There is no doubting that Ireland has a vast number of highlight attractions and locations to visit and many traditional coach tours offer a whistle-stop journey to the best of these. But there is a lot more to enjoy and experience while holidaying in this beautiful European country if you travel by bicycle or on foot.
A self-guided walking or cycling tour of the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland (or both) offers a very different and immersive experience. Here are a few reasons why:
At walking or cycling pace you have the time to truly drink in your surroundings. You will certainly see more of the countryside if you travel by car or coach, yet the scenery tends to whizz by at motorised speeds.
Instead, both walking and cycling afford you plenty of time to look around at the landscapes. Ireland is home to stunning coastlines, long and winding rivers, undulating hills and lush green countryside and it is worth immersing yourself amid it rather than rushing through it.
Ireland is not called the Emerald Isle without justification.
As well as the sights of Ireland’s wonderful landscape, a walk or cycle tour offers a chance to hear the sounds of the countryside and coast. There is little to beat the sounds of the sea, from crashing waves to gently lapping seas; the echo of a quiet cave or cove; the roar of rutting stags; the twittering of birds and insects; and even the sounds of your boots covering stony ground or bike wheels on a sandy beach.
A few coastal walks and cycles to suggest include:
Ireland is home to many famous natural wonders, including:
The dramatic geological splendour of the Giant’s Causeway, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland; the stunning Cliffs of Moher, located at the south-western edge of the Burren region in County Clare; and Megalithic Newgrange, to name but a few.
But this is not all because Ireland is also home to an array of beautiful wildlife. During a walking or cycling holiday of Ireland, you will hopefully catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife wonders, including Irish hare, red deer, foxes and maybe even stoats and pine marten. Sharks, whales and dolphins can be spotted along the coastline.
On foot or by bike you will reach places that many other people never get to. This could be a hill or mountaintop, a quiet cove inaccessible by motorised vehicle or simply a location that is recommended by local people in one of our self-guided holidays.
For example, The Kerry Way is an historic trail among the highest peaks in the Emerald Isle, while The Wicklow Way heads through a wealth of stunning places and amid the majestic Glenmalure Glacial Valley.
You can experience many quiet and unspoilt spots on the Sheep’s Head Way.
Sitting back in a coach is certainly more relaxing than walking or cycling as you explore Ireland. But the rewards for your efforts are plenty.
As well as a more personal experience amid the countryside and nature in this delightful country, you will also have an excuse for eating and drinking a little more than normal.
There are some great culinary gems to experience, including seafood, lambs, and traditional breads, Irish gin and, of course, Guinness, and after a day on foot or on your bike, you will have many calories to catch up on.
A great example is the Macs Adventure Connemara, Galway and Mayo Cycle Tour that travels a route on quiet country roads between colourful Irish villages, featuring authentic local accommodation and a warm Irish welcome. Maybe you’ll order a cold Guinness and enjoy a lively sing-song in a local pub. too?
Coming home fitter than when you left for your holiday is something that many people really value about a self-guided walking or cycling holiday with Macs Adventure.
Walking and cycling give you the opportunity to get to know other people on the same trail, as well as those that live in the countries that you visit. You will find that local people have the time to stop for a chat and offer you a wealth of tips and information about the area.
You will enjoy feeling more immersed in the culture of the country after speaking to people who know it well.
The Irish are renowned worldwide for their great craic (pronounced “crack”) and it means a love of news, gossip, fun, entertainment and enjoyable conversation. There is a high chance you will be treated to some of the famous craic if you are walking or cycling around Ireland. The local people like nothing more than to see holidaymakers immersing themselves in the countryside.
As well as enjoying a more in-depth and up-close-and-personal experience of Ireland by walking or cycling, you can feel good about doing your bit for the environment. Rather than adding to the carbon footprint by travelling in a car or coach, you will be spending days and weeks being greener.
As a compromise, choose a drive and hike holiday to Ireland, such as Ultimate Ireland Discovery, and reach more places over the duration of your trip but also experience some special locations and environments on a selection of well-chosen hikes.
A journalist, web copywriter blogger and social media chatterbox, Fiona combines her love of the outdoors – especially Scotland – with a diverse freelance work life. If she’s not at her desk writing about the outdoors, she’ll be outside cycling, running, kayaking, snowboarding and walking Munros. She shares her outdoors passion with partner, the G-Force. Sometimes her teenage daughter Little Miss Outdoors tags along, too.