Exploring Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
David Flanagan & Richard Creagh
Planning a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way?
This compact book, packed full of information and great photos is essential reading, whether you are an Irish or an overseas visitor.
Exploring Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way has so many little features that are BIG pluses. Firstly, it’s size - it’s what could be described as a mini-hardback with a soft cover! Huh? Well, it’s small enough to pack into a rucksack but the paper and outstanding photographs are hardback quality. Other great features include the useful reference points that you can plug into a phone or other device and the route maps which are clear and attractive.
This book is generally, well researched and contains loads of practical information on places and activities along the route. There are endless cycling, kayaking and hiking suggestions and it’s obvious that the author (rightly!) believes that this is the best way to explore the WAW. However, the book doesn’t get bogged down in the detail, but is easy to read and there are plenty of web links if you need more information about something specific.
There are only two very minor criticisms that I could level at this book, firstly that some of the information could be a little more up to date - as an example, it would have been nice to see the newly restored Signal Tower & Lusitania Museum included in Cork section on The Old Head of Kinsale area. Secondly, the typesetting can be a little basic, however, to be honest, this doesn't take away from what is a great, value for money, guide book.
This book is a great starting point for researching a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way; definitely one to bring on your journey and those spectacular photos make it ideal as a gift or as a reminder of an awesome trip!
€22.50 available from the publishers, Three Rock Books
You’ll Need Seven Heads to Take in This Scenery!
The Seven Heads peninsula is an area of beautiful, unspoilt countryside in West Cork, Ireland. Last summer, the Irish tourist board, Bord Fáilte decided that this ‘forgotten peninsula’ should be included on popular Wild Atlantic Way route. It’s perfect to discover by bike as the countryside is rolling and distances between towns and villages are short. It's not too far off the beaten track, as it's only 48km/30miles from Cork airport, which has a direct bus link to Kinsale.
If you enjoy being outside, keeping fit and have two days for an adventure you should explore the Seven Heads Peninsula by taking our Wild Coast and Country Tour!
Courtmacsherry Bay used to be a deep water port, however an earthquake in Portugal in 1755 triggered a tsunami which affected the topography of the sea bed and today, at low tide, flat and silted mud flats are exposed. These provide an important habitat for numerous sea birds. Look carefully and you'll find cormorants, curlews, herons, gulls and possibly even the rare white egret, a member of the heron family.
The lush countryside is contained by rich hedgerows, which are often flowering with wildflowers including fuchsia and provide a habitat for foxes, badgers and other small mammals. Rabbits sunbath in the fields to the north of Courtmacsherry Bay.
Eating & Drinking:
West Cork is known for it’s fresh locally produced foods and Clonakility is famous for it’s black pudding - try it for breakfast at your B&B. There are some great places to eat out - in Timoleague, it’s worth stopping at Monk’s Lane, while nearby Courtmacsherry has two good food options - the Food Depot which won a Georgina Campbell’s Ireland Street Food of the Year Award for 2018, serves delicious food from a trailer by the beach most Sundays through the year. Nearby, the Golden Pheasant Cafe combines a small aviary with a quality cafe. If you’re looking for a take away lunch to eat en route, check out the healthy but delicious Lettercollum Kitchen in Clonakility.
The local towns, offer some great historical sites. Timoleague Abbey, founded by the Franciscan Order in 1240 A.D. on the site of a 6th century monastic settlement, is an unmissable sight as you enter the village of Timoleague from the Kinsale direction. Nearby Clonakility was home to Michael Collins, a well known figure in Irish history, having been instrumental in the founding of the Irish Free State (1920-1). You can find out more about his life by visiting the Michael Collins museum in the town or the Michael Collins Visitor Centre, not far from the town.
The countryside also has plenty of history and stories to tell. You can explore the old graveyard and church at Lislee a few kilometres from Courtmacsherry. Also near Lislee Court, you are transported in both time and location by a fascinating statue of Patrick Keohane (1879-1950), born locally and a member of Scott’s Antarctic Expedition to the South Pole. As you cycle out of Courmacsherry, you pass the ruins of a Cistercian abbey, Abbeymahon Abbey built in 1172 by Dermot MacCormac MacCarthy, King of Desmond.
Wild Coast & Country Tour:
The Wild Coast and Country Tour is a two day, self-guided cycling tour from Kinsale to Clonakility. On day one, you follow the Wild Atlantic Way past the first discovery point - the Old Head of Kinsale, along the coast to Clonakility. Stay overnight in Clonakility - great pubs with live music - then, next day, loop back to Kinsale via the Seven Heads Peninsula. The tour includes B&B accommodation, bike hire and more!
There are some hills, of course, but also some amazing sights which you just wouldn’t experience by car. Stop off for a picnic along one of the beaches and watch the kite boarders get air born on a windy day. Then, roll by acres of green farmland with cows grazing over the hedges. On a clear day, you’ll find views back to the Old Head of Kinsale, just over your handlebars!
The Wild Coast and Country tour allows you to enjoy your own adventure in this largely undiscovered area of Cork county, soon to be part of the Wild Atlantic Way. Whether it's enjoying taking selfies in the ruins of Timoleague Abbey; having a meal outside at one of the great local cafés or just taking a quiet moment of reflection as you watch the sea birds dive by the cliffs at Donworley Point, we know that this is the stuff memories are made of! It's the best of West Cork, seen at your pace by bike.
To book this tour, just call Ruth on +353871032317.
Have you been to West Cork, Clonakility or the Seven Heads Peninsula? Comment below on your trip highlights!
Looking for something a bit different to do when you visit Kinsale? The Wild Coast Tour is a bike tour with a difference. It gives you the chance to experience the real Wild Atlantic Way. We explain what it's like to live in this exposed location both in the depths of the winter and also during the busy summer season.
We've called it the Wild Coast Tour for a reason - on breezy days we sometimes encounter mini-sandstorms along by the beach (don't worry, they really are mini!) and we'll point out the garden sheds, tied down so that they don't blow away in the winter storms! However, in spring, summer and autumn, the weather can often be really pleasant with the sea appearing a beautiful turquoise colour on sunny days.
Spring is probably the nicest time to visit, April - June as all the wild flowers are out - sea pinks (pictured below), wild garlic, yellow celandine (looks like a buttercup!) bluebells and the purple foxgloves along the roads and in the forest.
This isn't a tour just for cyclists, it's a tour for people who like to cycle and enjoy seeing the best the area has to offer. So why not give me, Ruth a call on 087 1032317 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your place today.
The tour starts from the Signal Tower on the Old Head of Kinsale, 15-20 minutes drive from Kinsale. We provide quality mountain bikes, helmet, high vis vest and plenty of laughs along the way! Tours run all week at 10.30am, 2.30pm or 7pm.
This week, I spent three busy days, training to become a Cycle Right Trainer/Instructor. In case you haven't heard, Cycle Right is the new national standard for cycle training in Ireland and it's aim is to produce safe, confident primary school aged cyclists. It was launched on 17th January this year by the Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, Shane Ross T.D. Fourteen instructors took part in the training in Charleville, Cork run by Cycling Ireland.
First up, it was time classroom time for us instructors. We practiced teaching topics such as road symbols; clothing; how to carry out a bike safety check; helmet fit - everything children should know before they start to cycle on quiet roads - using pictures, games and quizzes. Then, it was onto school yard sessions where we were either teaching sessions as an instructor or pretending to be children, for the benefit of our fellow instructors (not too much acting involved, for most of us!). Cones were used to simulate road junctions and there was plenty of time to perfect our teaching of cycling left and right turns; negotiated mini-roundabouts. pedestrian crossings, all on bikes, of course!
Towards the end of the 8 hour Cycle Right programme, the school kids will get a chance (in small groups) to practice their new skills on real roads, most likely in a quiet residential area. We did the same, causing a sensation in a nearby housing estate - never before had local residents seen so many adults signalling frantically around quiet road junctions! Some local children from the estate got in on the act, following us on hover boards, bikes and scooters.
The last day, saw us learning how to teach more advanced, - Stage 2 & 3 of the programmes. This is aimed at older, more confident cyclists and involves cycling in fairly busy, real life road conditions. Unfortunately, I had to sit this part out due to a recent knee injury, so instead, I became a cyclist stalker, following behind the cycling group in my van and stopping now and then to listen in on the groups' conversations. Instructors had to make decisions on how they would negotiate real life dynamic road junctions while keeping their group safe.
As well as becoming really familiar with the information we will teach, the group developed some fun, games and skills sessions that are bound to be a hit in primary schools!
Wild Atlantic Sports looks forward to running Cycle Right in Cork primary schools in the near future. If you are a primary school teacher or a parent, keen to get your school involved, drop me a line - email@example.com or call 0871032317.
Happy, safe cycling! - Ruth
So, it's January and the snowy forecast has got me thinking about winter cycling. May people push their bikes to the back of their shed as soon as the first dose of bad weather hits, however, there's no need! Cycling in the winter months can still be great, just pick the right day and the right gear. Just because the month begins with a O,N,D, J (Jan, I mean, not June or July!) or F doesn't mean you can't cycle. Nor does it put everyone off - on a club cycle last weekend, our group of 8-10 cyclists saw probably about 100 more fellow cycling freaks pedalling away furiously. Go on, you won't be alone! Get out there, you'll be happy you made the effort!
So, I might go cycling, what should I wear?
1. Lots of Light Layers
These are good this time of year as the temperature varies a lot in the sun and wind. Get too hot as you cycle uphill, just shed a layer or add a layer just before a downhill. Don't go for a cotton tshirt, there are plenty of cheap light fleece tops on the market these days. They'll keep you snug as well as allowing your body to breath.
Essential this time of year. As a commited non-glove wearer (in normal life), I wear a mid-weight glove which is supposed to be good for 3 seasons. If you're keeping a pace which is quick enough to keep you warm cycling, these should be good on all but the coldest of days.
3. A Buff
An essential outdoor item! Buffs are light enough to fit under your helmet (just pull it over your head and tuck it in at the back of your neck) keeping your head and ears nice and snug. Wear one around your neck to protect against unwanted breezes. In really cold weather, pull your neck buff over your nose and mouth to stop your lungs freezing!
4. Waterproof/Windproof layer
We've been blissfully free of showery days (down here in the south anyway), however, anyone who's ever even thought about going outside a house in Ireland, knows that a raincoat is an essential item of clothing! Wear a light one, it'll keep the wind off you even if it isn't raining. Cycling raincoats often come with a zip pocket on the back which is useful for a pump or an emergency banana.
I only wear these on the coldest of cold days! But on the right day, they'll keep a bit of life in your toes. In case your not sure, overshoes are covers which slip on over your regular shoes. They can be expensive, so keep an eye out for a bargain pair and if you find them, buy!
So, have I convinced you yet?
Ireland is pretty mild. Here, on the coast in Cork, we only get a few days of snow and an odd few weeks of freezing temperatures. So, have I convinced you yet? Go, on, close the door behind you. I don't want the cold air coming in!
Happy cycling! - Ruth
Having just welcomed in the new year, I'm looking back on the great times cycling part of the Wild Atlantic Way from Kinsale, Co. Cork to Kerry. It's a must do for 2017! Here's why.....
Myself and a friend are cycling it in one week stages and loving every minute - well, most minutes! Cycling the West Cork section - from Kinsale to Kenmare or even Killarney - is a great challenge for the fairly, but not very fit (it's quite do-able for someone who cycles now and then but has a reasonable level of fitness). Why not make your new years resolution be to cycle around the West Cork/Kerry section of the Wild Atlantic Way?
There are a number of pluses to this route, aside from the spectacular, coastal scenery, of course! The Wild Atlantic Way, although mainly marketed as a driving route, is amazing to cycle, and being a marked route, you're unlikely to lose your way! You are likely to find yourself sharing the road with some sheepish pedestrians like these!
Most days, you cycle 50-70km per day. However, the magic to this route is that you can add or subtract miles as you wish! As the Cork/Kerry route follows the coast around a series of peninsulas, if you are feeling tired one morning, and simply want to get to your next B&B, then cycle directly to the next main town, probably only 15-20km away.
Highlights of the Cork/Kerry section of the route:
Whatever you decide to do this year, include some fun adventures and see, experience and enjoy the Irish countryside by bike! If you want to know more about this route, just email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ruth H
Cycling the Beara Peninsula to Dursey Island, Ireland's only cable car was definitely the highlight of my five day cycle touring trip around West Cork, Ireland in Oct 2015. So I've decided to share in the hope that you (yes you!) will be inspired to cycle part of the Wild Atlantic Way coastline. The day I have described below is only part of one of several amazing cycling days. Enjoy the read and see you on the road!
We had already cycled 22 miles/35km with heavily loaded bags and we faced nearly the same distance again to reach Eyeries, a small town on the Beara Peninsula, where we hoped to find accommodation for the night. Now we faced a decision - should we lengthen our journey by a further 9 miles/14km roundtrip, to see Dursey Island or cycle on towards civilisation and a bed for the night. Spirits were lagging. Legs were tiring. But I was keen to take on this diversion. Somehow, I knew that Dursey Island was going to be a highlight of this trip.
However my friend, Bernie who had been cycling with me for the last 4 days was less keen, although her friend, Tina, who was tagging along for a one day adventure was slightly more upbeat.
After some gentle coaxing and bribing Bernie with a shared packet of Tayto crisps (Ireland's favourite!), we decided to ditch our panniers behind a stone wall and make the trip to Dursey Island.
It was a perfect cycling day, clear and cool with a gentle breeze. There was a big swell coming in and the waves were crashing on the rocks below. Stone walls lined our route and the road rose and fell gently. Happily, part of the way out, Bernie's back carrier fell off her bike, so we were forced to stop for repairs and enjoy the view. One or two cable ties later, we were back on our bikes.
Finally, we reached the end of the peninsula and saw the Dursey cable car and the island itself. Although the cable car wasn't running the day we visited, it was amazing to think of the six or so residents who live year round on the island and who depend on this cable car as their transport to and from the mainland. There are no shops, pubs or restuarants on the island and it is hammered by gale force south-westerly winds for much of the winter. Farming is the main source of income for inhabitants and sheep are brought to and from the island in the cable car which fits 6 adults (not sure how many sheep!) and takes about 8 minutes to cross the narrow stretch of water known as the Dursey Sound. The currents below are known to be treacherous.
Although we didn't get a chance, the island is supposed to be well worth exploring. Part of the Beara Way, a spectacular, long distance walking route is sign posted around the island. Definitely worth checking out!
After a while enjoying the amazing view, we cycled back to the crossroads where our panniers were hidden. The road was kind to us on the way back and any uphills were fairly gentle. I was glad we had put in the extra miles to see the cable car and island. This part of the cycle trip certainly opened my eyes to the different lives that people who live on the small islands off the Irish coastline live. It's a 'must do' trip for any keen touring cyclist or cycling wanna be!