Island Hopping by Bike around Ireland
© Tourism Ireland
One of the best outcomes from lockdown has got to be the staggering increase in bikes on our roads.
We’ve been beating that drum for years and now finally people have seen the light and discovered how awesome life on two wheels really is.
Owning a bike opens up a host of new opportunities for adventure from day-long spins out in the hills to multi-day rides. I recently headed west on an island-hopping escapade by bike and cannot recommend it enough!
So what are you waiting for? Pump up those tyres, throw on your lycra and get pedalling!
Day 1: Explore Westport
Westport is the perfect spot to kick start your adventure. With a host of great restaurants, wild swimming spots, hikes and lots more on your doorstep you can easily spend a couple of days exploring the area without tiring of the place.
Hike Croagh Patrick
A trip to Westport isn’t complete without a hike up iconic Croagh Patrick. At 764m above sea level, it offers panoramic views across Clew Bay and out to islands. The hike takes roughly three to four hours.
Surf at Carrowniskey Beach
This long sandy beach is home to some of the most reliable surf that Mayo has to offer. Surf lessons and rentals are available from Surf Mayo.
An Port Mór has won a host of awards and it’s not hard to see why. Serving up scrumptious Irish food including pig cheeks, lamb and freshly caught fish, this cosy restaurant always hits the spot.
If you are looking for something a little more casual, then Westport Woodfire Pizza will not disappoint. You can even get the food delivered to the door of your glamping pod!
Cuckoo Wood Hexagon
With nothing but a few goats and hens for company in the neighbouring field, the Hexagon offers complete escapism. The wraparound deck is the perfect place unwind. The property which sleeps two has been finished to a very high standard and even comes complete with breakfast goodies too.
Westport Glamping at Doon Angus Farm
With two glamping pods and a shepherd’s hut, this is the perfect spot to head to with a couple of friends. The communal barn area comes with a fully equipped kitchen, dining room and BBQ area. Located just 5km from the centre of Westport it’s a fantastic launching pad to explore all that this part of Mayo has to offer.
Day 2: Westport to Clare Island
The first day out on the bike is a fairly relaxed one. The 30km route takes you out of Westport, along the coast to Roonagh Pier where you can catch the ferry to Clare Island. There are five to six ferries per day during high season. You will need to purchase a one-way ticket in advance.
Once you arrive on Clare Island you can continue your day in the saddle by exploring the island. Beware, there are a couple of punchy climbs but they are short and sharp so aren’t too taxing.
This gorgeous guesthouse couldn‘t be closer to the pier and they welcomed us, muddy cyclists, with open arms. The rooms are bright, airy and clean and the breakfast is top-notch.
Go Explore Hostel
This family-run hostel is also located close to the harbour. The dorm room accommodation has been replaced with double rooms due to the pandemic, but they still offer great value.
Sailors bar is located in the hostel and offers really great food. From freshly caught mackerel and pollock to a hearty steak it’ll be sure to hit the spot. The views from the bar are also spectacular!
Day 3: Clare Island to Achill Island
Distance: 50km (approx.)
After a refreshing morning dip in Clare Island’s crystal clear waters and slap-up brekkie in your accommodation it is time to hit the road again! Clare Island ferries run a scheduled service from Clare Island to Achill on Wednesday mornings, but they do charters on request which are very reasonable. Call Alan (086) 8515003 or Brian (087) 9004115 in advance to arrange this.
The boat leaves you on the south of Achill Island at Cloughmore. From there it’s a 40km cycle to Keem Beach on the north of the island. Keem provides the most stunning backdrop for a refreshing dip before a good hard climb back up to your accommodation. The effort really does pay off though as the views can’t be beaten. And you never know, you might even be lucky enough to spot basking sharks or a pod of playful dolphins on a clear day.
Situated at the foot of Slievemore Mountain and overlooking Keel Lake, Pure Magic Achill Lodge is my favourite place to stay on Achill. It offers double and twin rooms and has a slight hostel vibe but with a little more luxury. And best of all, they serve up delicious pizzas every evening in their lively bar.
Slievemore House is the perfect spot for those looking for something a little more luxurious. Offering really comfortable double and twin rooms and a slap-up breakfast, it’s the perfect place to unwind after a long day in the saddle.
Seafood lovers will not be disappointed by the Chalet Restaurant in Keel. It serves up everything from oysters and delicious chowder to whatever fish they have caught that day. As previously mentioned, those staying at Pure Magic should not miss out on the pizzas there.
Day 4: Achill Island to Westport
Distance: 55km (approx.)
Just when you think the scenery can’t get any better another epic day in the saddle awaits. The route back to Westport includes the 42km Western Greenway – the longest off-road cycling route in Ireland. Offering panoramic views of the golden beach and turquoise waters below Mulranny Hotel provides the perfect pit-stop for a bite to eat on route back to your starting point. From there it’s a gentle enough 30km spin back to your starting point in Westport.