Hike or bike in Ireland

There are two well-known reasons for visiting Ireland:

  • The glorious scenery
  • The friendly locals

Both the North and the Republic of Ireland have earned these plaudits, but there’s another acclaim that should be added.If you’re into soft adventure, especially cycling and hiking, head to the Emerald Isle.

1) Cycling in the Republic:
One dazzling cycling trip is along Galway Bay. We departed from the seaside village of Lahinch, just northwest of Shannon, to pedal a pastoral route through sleepy towns renowned for lively music.The route took us along an ever-changing coastline, and along undulating back roads bordered by brilliant yellow gorse. It was four days with many highlights.Timeless landscapes
The amazing Cliffs of Moher that drop 200 metres into the pounding Atlantic Ocean are a dramatic sight.We also pedalled across a tranquil, timeless landscape of rolling verdant hills, slate-roofed cottages, castle ruins and the occasional lonely graveyard.

We took time to explore the Burren, glacial-formed limestone with unique flora. Both alpine andediterranean plants thrive on this windswept plateau.

Medieval times revisted
A day on the Aran Island of Inishmore was like stepping back to medieval times as we visited the ancient remains of a fort, Dun Aengus.

Our accommodation was in charming, family-run inns or even refurbished castles.

You can’t visit Ireland without experiencing the pub culture-possibly the world’s best-as you dance, sing and laugh with the locals.

Cycling can be done on your own or on a self-guided or guided trip. Whichever, two-wheeling adds an element of freedom and adventure to a trip that is tough to duplicate.

Next page: 2) Hiker’s paradise in Northern Ireland

2) Hiker’s paradise in Northern Ireland
Ireland is also walker-friendly. For the truly ambitious, Northern Ireland’s Ulster Way is one of the world’s best-and longest-hiking routes.

The famous circular 900-kilometre path follows the coastline before looping through the lush countryside, offering marked trails for walkers of all abilities.

An Information Guide to Walking published by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board details 14 walks along the Ulster Way that range from two to six hours.

Another brochure recommends places to stay if you wish to join walks together.

Cliff-side path
A divine day walk is along the Antrim Coast, a cliff-side path with views of the cerulean blue sea, craggy bluffs where shorebirds swarm and castle ruins dotting the hillsides.

We departed the village of Bushmills, famous for its whiskey, and five kilometres later, arrived at one of Ireland’s most visited sights, the Giant’s Causeway and its hodgepodge of 40,000 basalt columns.

At the Visitor’s Centre we learned that the unusual columns were formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions. However, romantics prefer the Irish myth that a giant, Finn McCool, built the walkway to reach his ladylove on the Hebrides Island.

Bus ride back
Walking west, we looked down at time-eroded bays where white-foamy waves crashed. It was easy to imagine the dark and stormy night when, at Port Na Spaniagh, the Girona, a Spanish treasure ship, sank in 1588.

The rugged coastline softened as we meandered downhill to Dunseverick Castle and then into the picture-perfect, tiny harbour town of Portbraddan.

Our walk ended at Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The narrow, swinging bridge hangs above a high gorge and leads to a small island.

It was a short bus ride back to Bushmills where we enjoyed our creature comforts. Some of the world’s best seafood is served in the town’s sidewalk pubs and upscale restaurants.

Later, tucked into historic Bushmills Inn, we drifted off to contemplate our next Irish adventure.

For more information on Ireland vacations call 1 800 SHAMROCKIsle