The Grand Tour of the West of Ireland
Self-guided bike tour Ireland – long distance cycling holiday
bike tour Itinerary
The Ring of Kerry is the most spoken about cycle route in Ireland and beyond. It has gained enormous popularity in Ireland due to the annual Ring of Kerry event in July raising funds for charity, attracting thousands of cyclists to enjoy the scenery and the challenge. But whilst they cycle the “Ring” in one day you are going to bike it over multiple days, leaving you to enjoy a more serene adventure away from the crowds and on quieter roads.
The Ring of Kerry will be followed by a steady move up the phenomenal coast of the Southwest and West of Ireland. This is truly the ultimate bike tour in Ireland.
Arrive in Killarney, free time to explore the town. We will meet you with the bicycles, equipment, and all the information either in the evening or the following morning.
Day 2: Killarney to Kenmare (43mls/705m – longer 46mls / 750m)
Leave Killarney through the Gap of Dunloe into the Black Valley and on a beautiful back road you climb up to Moll’s Gap. From here the shorter option will bring you down along the busier N road to Kenmare, a heritage town. Here you will stay for two nights. There are fabulous restaurants and music pubs to entertain you in the evening.
There is a longer option on backroads.
Day 3: Loop day in Kenmare (32mls, 66mls, 84mls)
Start the loop with easy cycling to exotic Derreen gardens, for the longer options head to spectacular headlands or cycle over the stunning Healy Pass, one of Ireland’s most spectacular cycles.
Day 4: Kenmare to Caherciveen or Waterville (45mls/776m)
A beautiful day starting out cycling along the famous Ring of Kerry road until Blackwater from where the route will bring you onto a quiet back-road. Stop in Sneem for lunch before continuing on along the coast. Visit Staigue Fort, one of Ireland’s best preserved prehistoric ring forts. Tour O’Connell’s estate at Derrynane before reaching Waterville or Caherciveen for a 2 night stop over.
Day 5: Waterville/Caherciveen loop rides (32mls or 44mls)
Possibility to visit the UNESCO world heritage site of Skellig Michael (weather dependent and needs to be pre-booked).Alternatively cycle a loop of Ballinskelligs and perhaps Valentia island.
Day 6: Waterville/Caherciveen to Killorglin (50km 31mls / 657m)
Head inland on spectacular and quiet back roads to climb the Ballagisheen pass, from there it is a gradual downhill to the lunch stop in Glencar. You are then cycling along the lakes to the small town of Killorglin, famous for the annual Puck Fair, the oldest fair in Ireland.
Day 7: Killorglin to Dingle (58km – 36mls / 560m)
Leave Killorglin on backroads as much as possible, but some busier roads can be expected to the village of Annascaul, home to Tom Crean, who sailed with Shackelton and was part of the team achieving the phenomenal rescue mission to Elephant Island. From here you are on backroads to Minaun Castle before arriving into Dingle Town, beautifully located and a great place to listen to traditional music. Here you will stay for 2 nights.
Day 8: Dingle Loop Ride (56kms – 35mls / 544m)
This is one of the most stunning bicycle rides around Slea Head. Visit the Blasket Island visitor centre, as well as Louis Mulcahy’s pottery, and the Gallarus Oratory. A day filled with plenty of interesting sites and stunning scenery. Return to Dingle for a second night.
Day 9: Dingle to Tralee (54km – 34mls / 584m)
This is a most beautiful day whereby you climb Connors Pass before heading to the village of Castlegregory with it’s beautiful beach. From there it is a stretch on a busier road which cannot be avoided through Camp to the village of Blennerville where you may like to visit the windmill.
Day 10: Tralee to Ballybunion (52km – 33mls / 310m)
Stay along the coast to the small village of Spa and then to Ardfert with it’s beautiful cathedral ruin dating back to St Brendan the Navigator (6th century). At Banna you will be back on the coast and cycle to Ballybunion. This village is famous for the golf courses which are some of the finest in Ireland and attracted for example Bill Clinton.
Day 11: Ballybunion to Kilkee (36mls / 396m)
Keep along the coast and cycle through the green pastures of County Limerick to the ferry port of Tarbert. From there you take the ferry across the Shannon to Killimer in County Clare. The Shannon estuary is home to Dolphins and if you are lucky they will follow the boat. Take to the backroads to bring you to the small seaside town of Kilkee. In Victorian times this was a favourite holiday destination due to the secure beautiful horse-shoe beach. Stay here for the next two nights.
Day 12: Kilkee Loop Rides (25mls / 410m or 41mls/540m)
Loop Head is the most westerly peninsula and will offer you some sublime coastal scenery with its cliffs, arches, and freestanding pinacles. At the tip of Loop Head you will find a fully working lighthouse (open to the public) offering a wide sweeping vista. The cycling is on very quiet backroads.
Day 13: Kilkee to Doolin (41mls/522m)
Today’s cycle will remain along the coast to the north passing Lahinch famous for the surfing and golfing, to Doolin (famous for the traditional Irish music). Stay here for the next two nights. The route lets you cycle past the Cliffs of Moher rising majestically more than 200m out of the sea.
Day 14: Doolin Loop Rides (36mls / 416m or shorter)
This is a stunning ride along the amazing coast passing Black Head, this is the first time that it will become obvious to you why this is such a unique area. Have lunch in Ballyvaughan before returning via the Poulnabrone Dolmen to Lisdoonvarna and Doolin. There are shorter alternatives available.
Day 15: Doolin for ferry to Inishmore (various options)
Cycle to the pier to take the ferry (ticket not included) to the island of Inishmore (the biggest of the 3 Aran Islands). The island is very rich in historic and pre-historic sites and highlights include the cliff top fort of Dun Angheos, the Seven Churches and the coast road to the west of the port village of Kilronan. The island is famous for the knitwear that bears the Aran name. Spend the night on the island to get a feel for island life.
Day 16: Inishmore (Rossaveal) – Carna (44km (28mls) climb 277m)
After a morning spent exploring the island further and perhaps visit the fantastically located Black Fort (a 3,000 year old promontory fort), you take the ferry back to Rossaveal at noon. You will be heading north into Connemara proper. There are great views towards the Twelve Bens (the 12 mountains at the centre of the Connemara National Park). Turning west you ride along the indented coastline of South Connemara, passing through the village of Kilkieran before reaching Carna. This area boasts beautiful sandy beaches.
Day 17: Carna – Clifden (42km (26mls) climb 284m or 59km (37mls) climb 436m
Continue your cycle along the coast via Roundstone where you can see traditional musical instruments being made by hand. On the way you come past the village of Ballyconneely and the site where Alcock and Brown crash landed their biplane after completing the first transatlantic flight in 1919. There are some very beautiful beaches here. If you still feel energetic there is a wonderful a ride out along the Sky Road to enjoy some sublime coastal scenery. The shorter route will bring you over a wonderful bog road. Stay the night in Clifden, this colourful small town is often labelled the metropole of Connemara and you may enjoy traditional Irish music in its pubs.
Day 18: Clifden – REST DAY or loop rides (ca 17km (11mls) /200m, 51km (32mls) / 400m)
Enjoy a day out of the saddle perhaps go horseback riding or deep sea fishing, or head for Inishboffin Island. But if you do want to go cycling there is a wonderful a ride out along the Sky Road to enjoy some sublime coastal scenery. Along the way walk to the ruin of Clifden Castle. For the more enthusiastic rider you then continue along more coastal scenery to Claddaghduff and Aughrusbeg.
Day 19: Clifden – Leenane (ca 61km (38mls) / 400m, 34km (21mls) / 321m)
Leave Clifden heading over the magnificent bog road, cycle along the fly-fishing river of Ballynahinch and into the valley of Lough Inagh. Stop for lunch at Kylemore Abbey, the fairy tale palace of the West. The end point of today’s bicycle trip is Leenane, beautifully located on Killary Harbour, Ireland’s only fjord. The village is famous as location of the film “The Field” starring Richard Harris. The shortest option brings you directly to Kylemore Abbey via Letterfrack village.
Day 20: Leenane – Cong (ca 36km (23mls) / 419m)
You turn inland into the beautiful Maam Valley and then through Joyce’s Country. These are beautiful back-roads bringing you to the small village of Finny and then along the lake of Lough Corrib to the quaint village of Cong. The village has a number of interesting sites, Cong Abbey, the dry canal, the monk’s fishing house and last but not least Ashford Castle (which is now a 5* hotel voted in Conde Nast as one of the Best Hotels in the World). The grounds are stately, as is the hotel which was once the home of the Guinness family.
Day 21: Cong – Galway (ca 60km (37mls) / 378m)
A last day in the bicycle saddle and it is a pleasant cycle through beautiful pastoral landscapes, take a small detour to Ross Errilly Friary, among the best-preserved medieval monastic sites in Ireland, and because if it’s away from the crowd location a beautiful quiet spot to spend time to explore site. The last night will be in Galway, the crown jewel in Ireland’s West. This university town has everything on offer from fantastic restaurants, great music pubs, theatre, street artists, a medieval pedestrianised city centre, to a most beautiful sea-front walk called “The Prom”. Spend your last night here – perhaps you want to add another night to explore the many attractions.
Day 22: Departure
Breakfast, followed by farewell and departure for your onward journey – there are regular buses to Galway from where you can catch bus or train to Dublin.
from € 3,250 pps (based on minimum of 2 cyclists)
moderate – some touring experience required
Starting Dates 2023
depending on travel restrictions – normally April – Oct
Accommodation & Meals
21 nights in guesthouses, B&Bs, and hotels inclusive of 21 breakfasts
Detailled daily route notes, maps, and route notes, gpx files, personal meet and greet, and emergency support.
Stevens hybrid bicycles with lights and back-rack bags
luggage transfers (can be booked for extra cost), ferry tickets, entrance fees and other incidentals
This self-guided bike tour in Ireland is designed to stay in comfortable, friendly, wonderful guesthouses and small hotels. Please find a selection listed underneath. Accommodations can be upgraded if you prefer.
Nolan’s is a long established family run B&B offering our guests a friendly welcome and the hospitality for which Ireland is so famous for. Ann was nominated for the Irish welcome Award by Failte Ireland! You will feel at home the minute you arrive! The safe bicycle storage and washing and drying facilities are an added plus for cyclists.
This beautiful house is located within a stones throw of the centre of Clifden in Connemara. Enjoy the elegance, unrivaled hospitality and all the benefits of modern conveniences, like orthopaedic matresses, and free wifi. This is one of our favorite houses in Ireland.
Gallery of Tour Pictures