County Donegal is a cyclist’s paradise, but it is equally as attractive for anyone who is willing to step off the bike to discover what lies hidden over the horizon. This 8 day adventure combines the best of both worlds. Savour the wonderful backroads, villages and jaw-dropping views of a bike tour and the undiscovered secrets of a walking tour. This mixed activity tour will take you as the name suggests – beyond even the backroads.
The Backroads and Beyond Cycling and Hiking Tour — Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive Donegal Town.
Donegal Town (ancient seat of the O’ Donnell Chieftains, from where they ruled over much of Ireland), is where your bike and hike tour begins. Depending on your arrival time you might like to explore the town. The town is steeped in history, with its imposing castle and ruined Abbey. It also has a great selection of lively pubs and cafés.
Day 2: Donegal to Killybegs – 38/53 km
Cycle west along Donegal Bay. The salty smell of the sea will soon be all around. Pass quiet bays and inlets. You can cycle along the narrow peninsula of St. John’s Point where you will have the Atlantic Ocean on both your left and right. Take in the wonderful views of the mountains further west and across the bay to Sligo. View the remains of Rahan Castle and the Killaghtee Cross. Continue to your overnight destination in the bustling fishing village of Killybegs.
Day 3: Killybegs to Glencolmcille – 37/40/48 km
As you follow the coast west from Killybegs, the scenery becomes ever more dramatic. Towering cliffs, golden sandy beaches and rocky headlands create a magnificent panorama. As you cycle, you will pass by Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) and you will see the summit of where tomorrow’s hike will bring you. Continue to Glencolmcille, passing some of the most photogenic coastal views you will ever see. Ancient history, the thriving Gaelic culture, vibrant traditional music and the wonderful natural beauty make this valley a must see destination.
Day 4: Hike Sliabh Liag – Cycle 24 km. Hike up to 11 km
Today you hike one of Ireland’s iconic landmarks. The cliffs at Sliabh Liag rise almost 600 metres above the Atlantic. In the morning a 12 km cycle will bring you to the start of the hike. It is up to you to decide how much hiking you will do. The loop following the difficult terrain over the top of the mountain will take approximately 5 hours. Shorter options will be no less dramatic. Return to your bicycle and cycle back to Glencolmcille.
Day 5: Hike Glen Head. Up to 15 km
The coast between Glencolmcille and the deserted fishing hamlet of Port is among Ireland’s most stunningly beautiful spots. Yet you will almost certainly find yourself alone here among the towering rocks and sea stacks. This is a hike that we promise you will never forget. Return to Glencolmcille, again taking in more of the Early-Christian historic sites.
Day 6: Glencolmcille to Ardara – 30 km
Today the remoteness of the landscape dominates. You cycle through one of the most sparsely populated areas in Ireland. Descend through dramatic Granny Valley to Maghera, where a pristine beach, a series of caves, and dramatic Assarancagh Waterfall await. Cycle along Loughros Beag Bay to your overnight destination in the heritage town of Ardara, a centre for traditional Donegal tweed and wool crafts. Many of the pubs in Ardara have traditional music. You might just be lucky enough to stumble on one of the legendary “sessions”.
Day 7: Around Ardara – 18/30 km
Today you cycle a beautiful loop around by Portnoo and Rossbeg. Once again, the coastal views are magnificent and ever-changing. Stop at the impressive Kilclooney Dolmen, dating from the early Bronze Age. If you fancy a dip in the Atlantic Ocean there are several beautiful sandy beaches to choose from. If you would prefer a shorter route, an 18 km out and back route will bring you along stunningly beautiful Loughros Point. Return to Ardara for your final night.
Day 8: Breakfast and tour end
After one more breakfast it’s time to depart, taking with you treasured memories of the natural wonders and friendly people of Donegal.
The Backroads and Beyond Cycling and Hiking Tour — Accommodation
One of the great things about travelling by bicycle or by foot in Ireland is the chance to meet local people, and one of the best places to do this is at your accommodation. There is no better type of accommodation to suit cyclists and walkers than the type we use — the traditional Irish Bed and Breakfast (and occasionally small hotels). Here you will be guaranteed a warm welcome. The owners cater much more to the needs of the adventure traveller than the larger hotels.
Your host will serve you a delicious breakfast in the morning — which will set you up perfectly for the day ahead. All of the accommodations we work with cater for people with special dietary requirements.
Choose a single, double, twin (two single beds), or family (one double and one single bed) room. Rooms have their own private bathroom.
We make every effort to choose locations as close as possible to the village or town centre, so that you will be able to stroll out in the evenings to have a meal and then afterwards you can check out the local entertainment!
The Backroads and Beyond Cycling and Hiking Tour – Getting Here
This cycling and Hiking tour starts and finishes in Donegal Town. It is easily accessible from Dublin and Ireland West (Knock) airports. If you are flying Trans-Atlantic it is worth noting that most flights are overnight – arriving in Ireland in the early morning so you may want to consider a “recovery day” before starting to cycle.
Use the links below to check the bus timetables.
If you are arriving in Ireland at a different location and would like advice on how to get here, let us know and we will help you to plan your journey.
Backroads and Beyond Cycling and Hiking Tour – 2023 Dates and Prices
Arrival Day: Friday Tours Available: Friday 05 May 2023 – Friday 23 June 2023
Friday 25 August 2023 – Friday 22 September 2023 Alternative Start Day: Available to groups of 5 or more
Price per person sharing: €1,240 Single occupancy: €280 Bicycle: €100 E-bike: €230
Self-Guided bike/hike tour price includes:
• Bed and breakfast accommodation in B&B’s and small hotels
• Welcome meeting and bike set up on arrival evening or first morning
• Luggage transfers
• Comprehensive guide booklet
• Maps and turn by turn directions
• GPS unit with all routes pre-programmed (one per room)
• GPX tracks available pre-tour by request
• Emergency support
Not included in price:
• Travel to and from start/finish of tour
• Meals other than breakfast
• Entry to sites and attractions not included as part of the tour
• Evening entertainment
The Backroads and Beyond Cycling and Hiking Tour – Photo Gallery
Backroads and Beyond Cycling and Hiking Tour – Booking
To book the Backroads and Beyond self-guided biking and hiking tour with Ireland by Bike:
1: Make a Booking Request
Please use the Book Now button.
Once you have completed the booking form you will be asked to pay a deoposit of €100 per person.
We will get back to you confirming your booking. We make every possible effort to ensure that dates shown on the booking form are still available. However in the unlikely event that the date you requested is not available we will contact you to offer an alternative date.
3: Pay Balance
Full payment is required at least 4 weeks before your arrival date.
Once we have received full payment we will email you your bike tour accommodation list, along with your guide notes and any other essential information.
4: Enjoy Your Adventure
We will meet you on the morning of your first cycle and get you set up with your bike, notes, GPS etc . Time to relax and really enjoy your adventure.
The Backroads and Beyond Cycling and Hiking Tour – Customer Reviews
“Thanks again for the flawless organization and support during our recent trips (August 2019). We had a fabulous time and have recommended Ireland by Bike to all of our friends here in Switzerland. Don’t be surprised if you soon see a deluge of Swiss adventure seekers. We very much appreciated the personal attention from you and the friendly welcomes we received from everyone along the route… it seems you two are on a first name basis with everyone we met! The “Backroads and Beyond” trip, with an itinerary that included both biking and hiking was a nice mix. Chris particularly enjoyed the atmospheric walk from Glencolmcille over Glen Head to Port.” – Chris and Bettina Venezia, (Prangins, Switzerland). Causeway Coast Tour + Backroads and Beyond Tour. August 2019.
“Mary and I have been on a number of bike trips in Germany, Italy, Spain and here at home all over in Switzerland but the trip you planned for us tops them all when it comes to discovering backroads and extraordinary landscapes, cozy and friendly accommodations and your personal care along our route. You obviously know the type of trails seasoned cyclists like and you chose the accommodation at B&Bs with friendly hosts we will never forget. It was my first trip to Ireland but it will not be the last. Many thanks to you and Nora for taking such good care of us, for your recommendations when it was raining and help when the dots did not line up on my ebike and for picking us up for special hiking to grand scenery we would not be able to reach by bike. We will be happy to recommend you and Ireland by Bike to anyone who loves an adventurous and out-of-the-ordinary cycling tour. I feel so blessed that at 76 I was able to enjoy the whole 15-day trip!” – Dianne Dicks, Switzerland. July 2017
“We absolutely loved the trip and will highly recommend it to everyone. It was exactly what wewanted. The B and B’s were friendly but professional and very accomodating beyond our expectations. The scenery, routes and optional rides were all incredible. We could not have asked for a better experience.!” –Kim and Kevin Whelan, U.S.A. May 2017
“Nora and Seamus, you did an excellent job! De manier waarop jullie zorg droegen voor ons en alles wat we maar nodig hadden gedurende de fietsreis, was voortreffelijk! We vroegen ons wel eens af of het allemaal niet te veel was voor jullie, al die zorg. We hoopten met het boeken bij Ireland by Bike op een zorgeloze vakantie, zonder geode en geregel; en dat is precies wat we hebben gekregen. Of het nu de keuze van B&B’s ,de fietsroutes of de routeboekjes waren, aan alles was te merken dat jullie deze vakanties met veel liefde en overgave organiseren. We zullen jullie zeker aanbevelen aan onze vrienden!”
(“Nora and Seamus, you did an excellent job! The way you took care of us and of all the things we needed, was remarkable. Sometimes we worried if it wasn’t too much for you to handle. We hoped to have a carefree holliday, without any hassle, and that is what we got. In every aspect it was noticeable that you organize these holidays with a lot of love and care. We would surely recommend you to our friends!”) – Ilse en Answina, Utrecht 2016. (Custom Tour) July 2016
“’Back Roads and Beyond’ was our first self-guided bike tour in another country. We were doing it to celebrate a 65th birthday! Nora and Seamus organized and supported us with every rotation of our pedal, choosing excellent routes to ride and comfortable warm B&B’s to end each day. Having the luggage transferred and our B&B chosen ahead of time was so great. We could not have done this on our own. Their knowledge of the country was invaluable in every way. They were open, honest, knowledgeable and approachable. There can be no other way to see Ireland! The Irish people were open, friendly and very welcoming. They are not jaded toward tourists but rather helpful and encouraging. We often got the side-ways nod as we cycled, the nod that says, “Not my cup ‘o tea but good for you!” Thank you Nora & Seamus!” – Rochelle and Warren Brubacher, BC, Canada The Backroads and Beyond July 2016
“I think Ireland by Bike gives us an excellent experience to explore Donegal. Otherwise we would not be able to see so many beautiful and quiet places. The idea behind Ireland by Bike is very good.” – Andrew Leung and Catherina Chan, Hong Kong, Backroads and Beyond – September 2015
The Backroads and Beyond Cycling and Hiking Tour – FAQ’s
Below you will find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about this tour. For other more general FAQ’s please visit our FAQ page.
Who is this tour suitable for?
This tour is suitable for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. It is important the you are competent cyclist with adequate bicycle handling ability and a proper knowledge of the rules of the road. It is not recommended that you book this tour unless you have cycled at least occasionally before you arrive. For cycling days the distances are typically 40 – 50 km with some extra options. The routes for the cycling sections are very hilly. (E-bikes recommended)
The hikes are up to 15 km (10 miles) in length. However they are over sometimes difficult terrain with a lot of climbing. However it is possible to hike shorter distances if preferred.
Will I be cycling and hiking along with others?
Possibly – but this is not guaranteed. This tour is offered in May June and September. May and September are quieter months when visitor numbers are smaller so it is quite possible that yours will be the only group on the road at that time.
Will I be biking on dedicated cycle paths or public roads?
For the vast majority of this tour you are on roads that are also open to traffic. However as we focus on small back roads the traffic is almost non-existent in most places. There are some short stretches on roads with moderate traffic. However even here cycling is not difficult.
Are the cycling routes hilly?
The cycling routes on this tour are VERY hilly. (This is partly why it is so beautiful) The gradient varies constantly from gentle to very steep. On an average day of cycling 40 km you can expect an elevation gain of approximately 400 metres (1,300 ft). For this reason we recommend using an electric bike for this tour.
What type of terrain do the Hiking routes follow?
The routes involve climbing to the top of Glen Head and Sliabh Liag. The terrain in both places can sometimes be difficult, with uneven underfoot conditions. For safety you will need sound hiking footwear.
How do I get to the start?
This bike tour starts in Donegal Town. It has regular direct bus connections to Dublin Airport where most people arrive into Ireland. There are also direct connections to Ireland West (Knock) Airport. Belfast Airport has bus connections with one change. To see links to websites with more information and timetables click on the “Getting Here” tab above.
Cycling and Hiking Tour
8 day/7 night
May, June, September
8 days/7 nights
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Amuigh Faoin Aer Teo. T/A Ireland By Bike Teelin Rd, Carrick, Co Donegal, Republic of Ireland
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