To celebrate the launch of ŠKODA's new cycling website - welovecycling.ie - Off The Ball have taken a look at some of the most stunning and enjoyable cycling destinations that Ireland has to offer.
As we shake out of our collective hibernation, each of us are looking for new, enjoyable activities to get us in shape, have fun with friends or challenge ourselves. Luckily, we live on one of the most lush islands in Europe, with cycle tracks snaking the Irish landscape and ringed by the towering hills and diving valleys!
Welovecycling.ie provides helpful tips for the amateur and recreational cyclist if you're still in the market for a bike, as well as all the nutritional information you need for your adventure. With no further ado, here are five of the best destinations for getting out and about on your bike - be it a road bike, mountain or a racer.
Ticknock National Park
Ticknock is right at the foot of the 444-metre Three Rock Mountain, overlooking county Dublin. With incredible views of the city and its environs, it is worth the trip alone - but the incredible mountain bike trail that it harbours is a challenging and enjoyable ride.
White-knuckle in places, the trails are large loops that begin and end at the same point - meaning there's no need to mount a smartphone for directions! The full network of trails are about 13km total. There are also food and drink options on site, and plenty of car parking space for those for whom the legs couldn't take the ride home too...
Connemara National Park
Arguably one of the most beautiful areas on the island, the Connemara National Park is a perfect place for a ride. 15km from the picturesque town of Clifden, the hills, valleys and lakes of the National Park provide a beautiful backdrop to the route. Nestled handily between Galway and the beautiful Clifden, it is a handy spot for a weekend break.
Inis Mor Loop
On the subject of weekend breaks, the Aran Islands have one of the most enjoyable leisure rides around the island of Inis Mór. Looking out on over 3,000 kilometres of Atlantic Ocean, the loop allows for a relatively easy-going ride around the island. The ruins of ancient Ireland abound - including the hilltop fort of Dún Aonghasa - and don't be surprised if sheep and donkeys come and join your picnic!
Take in the beautiful sights of the Wicklow mountains with the Blessington Loop. Glendalough is a stunning way to spend a day out, even better with company and the welcoming food and drink of nearby Blessington itself. Around 47km of cycle trail brings a challenging ride, up to a high of 330 metres above sea level, but it is well worth it for the views. The route takes you from the outskirts of south Dublin city around the Blessington lakes.
Wild Atlantic Way
Finally, for the cyclists that are not doing this for play. To take in the beauty of Ireland in its totality is a bucket list undertaking. The ride begins in Derry or in Kinsale, depending on where you would like to take in first. It encompasses 2,500km of Ireland's Atlantic coastline, from the hills of Donegal to the culture and music of Galway, all the way to the stunning outcrops of Kerry, this a must for any serious cyclist.