Idyllic cycling through the quiet roads of Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Cavan and Fermanagh…
When you picture a cycling holiday or bike tour in Ireland, what destination comes to mind?
The chances are that destinations such as Connemara, Donegal or the Ring of Kerry are high on the list. There and several other iconic destinations and wonderful places to visit by bicycle, but perhaps the best Irish cycling destination of all is missing off most bike enthusiast’s list.
The area forming a rough triangle between the towns of Sligo, Ballyshannon and Enniskillen is an area of quiet country roads, tranquil lakes, green valleys and small villages. It includes parts of counties Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and Cavan (in the Republic of Ireland), and County Fermanagh (in Northern Ireland.) The network of small roads found here perfectly fits most cyclist’s definition of what constitutes idyllic cycling.
Sligo town, with its good transport connections to the rest of the country, is a good place to start. Leaving Sligo, the North West Cycle trail takes you quickly into the surrounding countryside via a network of tiny roads. From here you can point your bicycle north along the Atlantic Ocean or head east through Glencar Valley.
Wonderful countryside awaits in either direction. Along the Atlantic there are beaches and bays to explore — with the best probably being at Mullaghmore. Further inland, lakes abound. Glencar Lake, Upper and Lower Lough McNean, Lough Gill, the great stretch of Upper and Lower Lough Erne and legendary Lough Melvin are among the best known. But for a genuine hidden gem, cycle along Glenade Lake, where, as well as the stunning lake and valley, you can also pass the magnificent Eagle’s Rock – the highest free standing rock in Ireland.
Apart from all the delightful scenery in the area, it is also steeped in history. One of Europe’s best megalithic sites lies just outside Sligo at Carrowmore. The ruins of the Abbeys at Creevlea in County Leitrim and Keenaghan in County Fermanagh are great places to visit. An uphill cycle from the village of Blacklion will take you to the Cavan Burren, an area dotted with iron age and bronze age monuments. If you are willing to leave the bike for a while and get on a boat, Devenish Island in Lough Erne — just outside Enniskillen — is one of the best monastic sites in Ireland.
And if you have explored all of what the area has to offer above the earth, you can take a trip underground at Marble Arch Caves, or the lesser known Whitefather’s Cave. There are a handful of busy roads here, but even a simple local map will keep you on the quiet back roads. There are also a number of marked cycle trails. The North West Cycle Trail and the Kingfisher Trail pass through the area.
If you would like spend time cycling this wonderful part of Ireland, then please check out our Yeats Country and Lakelands Self-Guided Cycling Tour. We have options of 3 to 11 night leisurely tours available. For those of you who are looking for something more active, we have a 5 night version of the tour.
Perhaps it’s time you discovered this first-class Irish cycling destination!