If you're looking for ideal bicycle tours Ireland has everything - from safe and easy family rides along the flat to some of the most challenging road-climbs you'll find anywhere outside the Alps!
As with any vacation, though, you'll get the most out of your bicycle tour of Ireland if you come prepared.
I've been living here for over three years now and this is where I discovered my real passion for cycling. We live in County Cork, the least populated county, (that's where we begin our Summer tours before heading North into Kerry and the splendour of Macgillycuddy's Reeks). The green hills and mountains, forgotten country lanes and absolutely fabulous scenery mean it's an ideal destination for the serious cyclist who wants the challenge of the steep, serious climbs without having to leave the road.
Here are a few simple tips to make your time here as pleasurable as possible.
1. Prepare for the weather! There's a reason Ireland is called the Emerald Isle... and there's a reason it's so green! In short, we don't lack for rain. And it can start pouring down from a hitherto gorgeous blue sky within minutes. So you'll need wet-weather gear, for sure. Also, the wind, especially on the South and West coasts. Luckily it's not often cold, not even in the depths of Winter so a waterproof shell and fleece should be fine.
2. Prepare for the roads. Wearing a cycling helmet just makes good sense at any time, but for bicycle tours Ireland offers its own unique dangers. The roads in Cork and Kerry in particular leave much to be desired. The smaller lanes, of which there are millions, offer some awesome views and fantastic cycling conditions, but taking a spill is probably more likely than the places you're used to.
3. Ireland is often expensive, but you'll be delighted to know eating out is not hugely more expensive than eating in (but is still expensive compared to the US and the UK). And there's no doubt, the quality of the food here is fantastic (and the welcome always friendly).
4. Bring maps (or buy them here - just make sure you have them). Ireland is a country about 2/3 the size of England but with a population of around 4 million - and a good quarter of those around Dublin and in the other major cities. It's particularly empty down in the South West and the road signs are... optimistic... at best.
5. Carrying on from the point above... even the "big" settlements and towns you see dotted over maps are typically much less impressive than you'd ever imagine, often they're tiny hamlets with little more than a pub and a few houses. Small stores abound but often you can have tens of miles to travel to the nearest decent supermarket. So... carry a toolkit and puncture repair kit at the very least. A spare cable or two and a mobile phone would be good to have, too.
6. Have insurance. Unlike the UK health-care is private over here. And it's not cheap.
7. Relax! The commonly held stereotype of the friendly Irishman (and woman) is 100% correct. In my experience they are indeed polite and friendly, and even more so once you're in the wilds.
No doubt about it - for bicycle tours Ireland is the closest thing to heaven on Earth - so long as you come prepared!