County Donegal is a cyclist’s paradise, but it is equally as attractive for anyone who is willing to step off the bike to see what lies over the crest of a hill or at the top of a cliff. This 11 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. The tour is similar to our “Highlights of the Highlands” self-guided bike tour, but with 3 extra days of walking, to bring you — as the tour name suggests — beyond even the backroads.
Day 1: Arrive Donegal Town.
Donegal Town (ancient seat of the O’ Donnell Chieftains, from where they ruled over much of Ireland), is where the tour begins. Depending on your arrival time you might like to explore the town or go for a cycle. 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 – 39 km
Cycle west along Donegal Bay. The salty smell of the sea will soon be all around. Pass quiet bays and inlets. 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 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 – 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 we will bring you to the start of the hike. We will give you details for your choice of one of the following: (a) Loop walk; walk along the cliffs to the highest point, and then back by the pilgrims path (approx 5 hours walking), or (b) Linear route; walk along the full length of the cliffs (approx 8 hours walking). We will pick you up on completion of the walk and take you back to your accommodation in Glencolmcille.
Day 5: Hike Glencolmcille to Port – 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 Glenties – 39 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 on to the heritage town of Ardara, a centre for traditional Donegal tweed and wool crafts. Continue to your overnight stop in the pretty village of Glenties.
Day 7: Glenties to Annagary – 45 km
The early part of today’s cycle allows you to experience the unique splendor of Ireland’s blanket bogs. Heathers, mosses, lichens and rough grasses create an artist’s dream landscape. Further on you have the chance to visit one of the many inhabited islands off the Donegal Coast. Arranmore is a 20 minute ferry trip from Burtonport. The trip itself makes the journey worthwhile. Spend some time exploring the island, or if you prefer, explore the numerous golden sandy beaches on the way to Annagry.
Day 8: Annagry to Glenswilly/Letterkenny – 52 km
The unique beauty of the Donegal Highlands is all around during today’s cycle. Pass beneath the peak of majestic Mount Errigal. If you fancy a hike, the trip to the top will take you around 45 minutes, where the views will richly reward your efforts. Further along is the hauntingly beautiful Poisoned Glen. Your cycle then takes you along Glenveagh National Park and past Gartan Lake on your way to your overnight destination among the lush farmland around Glenswilly.
Day 9: Hiking Glenveagh National Park – 15 km
Spend the day walking in the magnificent surroundings of Glenveagh. The valley, with its pristine lake and cascading waterfalls, as well as the surrounding mountains, are just waiting to be explored. Follow the bridal path through the valley and along the lake. Cross the remote hills via the Lough Inshagh walk to finish beside the Glebe Gallery.
Day 10: Glendowan to Glenties – 44 km
As you leave Glenswilly you gradually climb along the southern edge of Glenveagh National Park. From there descend along a beautiful quiet valley, with the Glendowan Mountains on your left and Slieve Snacht on your right. You’ll need no reminding here why activity holidays in Ireland are simply the best way to see the country. Cycle on to Lough Finn and Fintown village, where a restored vintage railway runs along the lake shore. Then it’s back once again to Glenties.
Day 11: Glenties to Donegal – 32 km
The final day of your biking and walking adventures brings you back to your starting point in Donegal Town. Climb from the town of Glenties over expanses of open bogland. Further on magnificent panoramas over Donegal Bay open up before you. Pass through the village of Mountcharles and back again to Donegal. If time allows, you can also cycle around tranquil Lough Eske.
Day 12: Breakfast and tour end
After one more great Irish breakfast it’s time to depart, taking with you treasured memories of the natural wonders and friendly people of Donegal.
The Backroads and Beyond — 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, triple or family room. Rooms have their own private bathroom.
We 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 – Getting Here
This cycling tour starts and finshes in Donegal Town. It is easily accessable from Dublin, Ireland West (Knock) and Belfast airports. Use the links below to check the bus timetables. It is also possible to start this tour at Donegal Airport.
If you are arriving in Ireland at a different location and would like advice on how to get here, please let us know and we will help you to plan your journey.
From Dublin Airport and Dublin City
By Bus: Direct buses run to Donegal Town from Dublin Airport and City every 90 minutes. Timetable
From Ireland West (Knock) Airport
By Bus: Frequent buses run to Donegal Town direct from the Airport. Timetable
Tours available: 05 April 2021 – 27 Sept. 2021 Peak Season: 31 May 2021 – 30 August 2021
Price per person sharing: €1223 Peak Season: €1333 Single occupancy: €325 Bicycle: €145 E-bike: €255
Self-Guided bike tour price includes:
• Bed and breakfast accommodation in carefully selected guest houses and B&B’s
• Welcome meeting and bike set up on first morning
• Daily luggage transfers
• Emergency support
• Comprehensive guide booklet
• All maps and guide notes
• GPS unit with all routes pre-programmed (one per group)
• Where applicable, transfers from B&B to start of walk and from end of walk back to B&B.
Not included in price:
• Travel to and from start/finish of tour (Donegal Town)
• Meals other than breakfast
Shorter Cycling Holidays
If time does not allow you to follow the full 12 day itinerary click on the Short Tours tab above to see shorter versions of this tour.
If you wish to avail of an extra day’s accommodation and bicycle hire at any location during your tour, this can be arranged at a cost of €80 per night/person sharing. Single supplement – €15
The Backroads and Beyond – Short Tour Option
8 day/7 night Cycling and Walking Tour
Day 1: Arrive Donegal Day 2: Donegal to Killybegs Day 3: Killybegs to Glencolmcille Day 4: Hike Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) Day 5: Hike Glencolmcille – Port – Glencolmcille Day 6: Glencolmcille to Glenties Day 7: Glenties to Donegal Day 8: Depart after breakfast
To book a self-guided combined cycling and hiking tour with Ireland by Bike:
Please fill out the Enquiry Form giving details of group size, dates, etc.
Once we have received your enquiry we will get back to you letting you know if the dates you requested are available. We will then ask you to enter full tour and group details on a Booking Request Form. Once we have received this we will send you confirmation of pricing etc.
2: Pay Deposit
If you are happy with our proposal you can proceed to pay the deposit using the secure link we will send you. The deposit required is €100 per person for all tours.
Once we have received your deposit we will send you confirmation of your booking along with an invoice for the balance.
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 cycling holiday accommodation list, along with the full guide notes for your cycling tour.
If you are just making a general enquiry, and would like to ask some questions, then simply contact us.
“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
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