Wild Atlantic Way / MizMal Active
This Irish end-to-end mostly follows the spectacular Wild Atlantic Way winding up along the West Coast of Ireland.
Rob & I were lucky enough to join a group of 12 other riders from the US, Scotland, England, Ireland, Australia and Switzerland for this fantastic ride from the most southerly point in Ireland to the most northerly. Our tour was superbly guided and supported by John and Paul - not those ones! We were quite a mixed bunch of ages (30s to 70s) and riding abilities, both of which I'd say put us in the middle.
For us the weather was a mixture of sunshine and clouds with only the occasional shower.
The GPS directions and support from the Wild Atlantic Cycling guys were top notch and made it so easy - all you had to do was ride and admire the gorgeous countryside. Although some riders were so enthusiastic they overshot the regrouping points on a few occasions 😃.
Day 1 - Arrival Day in Cork
Our group travelled from all directions by train, plane and automobile. Riders who brought their own bikes assembled them in the briefing room, ready for tomorrow. Paul gave a very thorough run down of what to expect and what was happening when and where, and then took some of us down to get set up with hire bikes. We got to know some of our fellow riders at the briefing and later in the hotel dining room and bar. The others will wait till tomorrow!
Day 2 - Mizen Head to Glengarriff
The day started with a 2¼ hour coach trip down from Cork. The countryside was beautiful and a great introduction of what to expect for the next week - except it's always better on a bike!
I can see that Mizen Head could be very bleak and windy ... but not today!
We had a warm mostly sunny morning, Rob and I stopped in pretty Durrus for a coffee and catch up with my cousin Ruth who happens to live there! After lunch there were a couple of brief showers as we rounded the top of Bantry Bay.
The group became quite strung out partially due to some of us succumbing to the irresistible urge to stop and take photos of the stunning countryside of West Cork. However we all made it to the hotel with plenty of time to relax and later had dinner together at a nice pub in Glengarriff.
61 km, 540 m climbing
Day 3 - Glengarriff to Killarney
There was an earlier start to the cycling as there was no bus transfer. This was good as the urge to take photos only intensified - I gave into the urge over and over again! The Day 3 gallery below is just a small selection....
There were three climbs with three fantastic descents - the Caha Pass, Moll's Gap and the Gap of Dunloe. The latter was busier between cars, walkers, other cyclists and horses pulling traditional jaunting cars.
The scenery was absolutely spectacular and the mix of sunshine and cloud created shadows that only added to the breathtaking views. My 'sub-group' only experienced a couple of lights showers but some roads showed the evidence of having seen much heavier rain which we just missed!
Today has set a very high bar for coming days ...
Killarney is a great spot for music and the craic. Had an Irish Stew for dinner and then an ice cream to finish - Irish Brown Bread and Chocolate Whiskey flavour! A grand end to the day.
71 km, 870 m climbing
Day 4 - Killarney to Ballybunion
It was a damp start along fairly busy roads for a few kilometres. However the rain didn't last long after we set out and an hour later it was sunny. Weather wise it stayed pretty much the same all day with light winds - until we were about 10km out from Ballybunion when a huge storm threatened from the west. Fortunately we watched it stay to sea and pass north.
We cycled some delightful quiet back roads but also some busier ones and, although most motorists were pretty good, some ignored or were oblivious to the 1.5m passing rule!
The scenery was lovely but not as spectacular as yesterday - hence fewer photos. The day felt shorter as I didn't stop as often to take pictures 😄.
78 km, 670 m climbing
Day 5 - Ballybunion to Spanish Point
An optimistic sunny start ended as soon as we left the hotel and we had rain most of the way to coffee at Tarbert. At least that got it out of the way. After the café stop, at historic Tarbert Bridewell Courthouse & Jail Museum, it had fined up and remained most sunny for the rest of the day. The wind was slightly up on yesterday but was not an issue.
We made the 11am ferry and cycling resumed to Kilrush and then Kilkee for lunch. Although this is the longest day it felt quite comfortable - though I was happy to get out of the saddle at Spanish Point! The roads were mostly quiet with only a little traffic in places - I expect this will increase during the school holidays which start next week.
It's fun catching up with various members of the group throughout the day although there wasn't a chance of catching some of them! We regrouped at Kilkee which is a beautiful spot for lunch and even a swim at the beautiful, lifeguard patrolled, beach - though no-one availed of the latter!
82 km, 560 m climbing
Day 6 - Spanish Point to Ballyvaughan
Spanish Point is named for the ships of the Armada that were wrecked off the coast in 1588 - the survivors that made it to shore were then executed and buried in a mass grave. Despite this grisly piece of history it has been a popular seaside resort for over three centuries.
Today's weather was the best of the tour with wall to wall sunshine all morning, and mixed sunshine and clouds for the afternoon. This was particularly fortunate as our first stop was one of Ireland's most visited locations, the stunning and majestic Cliffs of Moher.
Our coffee stop was just after the pretty village of Doolin, the stepping stone to the Aran Islands, which were basking in glorious sunshine just offshore in Galway Bay.
Soon afterwards, with the Bay on one side, we entered into the spectacular karst landscape of North Clare's Burren. We climbed inland along narrow, generally well-surfaced, roads occasionally pulling over to let a car (or herd of cattle!) through. The descent into Ballyvaughan brought plenty more photo opportunities - sorry!
We had a lovely group dinner at the hotel and had some great craic later at O'Loclainn's whiskey bar, where local doyenne Margaret looked after us very well.
81 km, 890 m climbing
Day 7 - Ballyvaughan to Galway
Fuelled up by last nights whiskeys, the ride started well on a mostly overcast day - fortunately it yet again stayed dry for us.
Sights along the way included, just outside Kinvara, Dunguaire Castle which dates from the 16th century and was the seat of King Guaire of Connacht. We only had time for a short walk to the castle but it is open to the public, and also for 4-course banquets!
Further on, near Kilcolgan, was another grand residence, Tyrone House, which dated from the 1770s. It has unfortunately been a ruin since it was burnt down by the IRA in 1920, during the War of Independence.
The WAC route was along mostly quiet side roads skirting around beautiful Galway Bay. The shortest day of the tour allowed a bit of a rest in the afternoon and more time to explore the delights of Galway, which a very picturesque and lively small city.
57 km, 320 m climbing
Day 8 - 13 the tour continues onto Mizen Head in Donegal and finishes with a transfer to Belfast. Sadly Rob and I leave the tour in Galway - for this year anyway!
All the best to continuing riders. We're jealous - particularly as we see the comments and photos coming in through the WhatsApp group!
I hope the friendships formed last beyond the tour and we get to enjoy more shared experiences in years to come...
MizMal Ireland End to End Active
13 days (Bike: 12 days)
1040 km (~87km per day)
Tour Operator Wild Atlantic Cycling
From Mizen Head to Malin Head in 12 Cycling Days
The west coast of Ireland is rich in awe-inspiring landscapes, fascinating characters and foot-tapping music. Cycling Ireland End to End from the most southerly point to the most northerly will leave you with rich memories, new friends and a thirst for more! There is no better way to explore the wild beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way than from the saddle. The grandeur of the Cork and Kerry mountains. The warmth and joy of a night in a Galway pub. The lunar like landscape of the Burren. The packed mountain ranges dominating the horizon of the Connemara National Park. The giant Sea Loughs of the Inishowen Peninsula. Your Ireland end-to-end journey of 12 days has a breath-taking finish on the rocky promontory of Malin Head.
For a more challenging ride check out the Mizmal Ireland End to End tour.
Or if you're an 'avid' rider who prefers to do more distance per day, or the route in fewer days, please check out:
MizMal Ireland End to End
8 days (Bike: 7 days)
922 km (~132km per day)
Tour Operator Wild Atlantic Cycling
From Mizen Head to Malin Head in 7 Cycling Days
The west coast of Ireland is rich in awe-inspiring landscapes, fascinating characters and foot-tapping music. Cycling Ireland End to End from the most southerly point to the most northerly will leave you with rich memories, new friends and a thirst for more!
There is no better way to explore the wild beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way from Mizen Head to Malin Head than from the saddle. The grandeur of the Cork and Kerry mountains. The warmth and joy of a night in a Galway pub. The lunar like landscape of the Burren. The packed mountain ranges dominating the horizon of the Connemara National Park. The giant Sea Loughs of the Inishowen Peninsula. Your end-to-end journey of seven days has a breath-taking finish on the rocky promontory of Malin Head.
Suitable for the 'Avid' Rider.
For a more leisurely ride check out the Mizmal Relaxed tour