Over­seas Cy­cle Tours: Ire­land- Cy­cling in Wick­low’s wilder­ness

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A cy­cling hol­i­day in Ire­land’s Wick­low County has his­tory, wild land­scapes, at­trac­tive towns and el­e­gant manor houses.

Dur­ing the day, you cy­cle on a maze of bliss­fully quiet coun­try lanes that me­an­der through tiny vil­lages, early Chris­tian ru­ins, re­mote moun­tains and coastal trails.

In the evenings af­ter a won­der­ful meal, join the lo­cals for a yarn or a pint at the pub. The Ir­ish sense of hu­mour and con­vivi­al­ity is con­ta­gious. A com­mon pub sign says “there are no strangers here, just friends”.

The place where it be­gins is the cel­e­brated city of Dublin which has some of Ire­land’s most vis­ited at­trac­tions; the Guin­ness Store­house; Book of Kells; and Tem­ple Bar, a lively scene of bars and folk mu­sic. It’s the gate­way to Wick­low County, of­ten re­ferred to as the ‘Gar­den of Ire­land’ for it’s land­scape of rolling foothills of the Dublin Moun­tains and the wild­ness of the Wick­low Moun­tains.

Dublin City was re­cently named the ninth most bike­friendly city so it’s easy to head out of Dublin via the bike paths to the gen­tle south­side coast in­dented with bays and promon­to­ries to dis­cover the small sea­side vil­lages and leafy green coun­try­side be­yond.

Ex­pect Ire­land’s weather to throw any­thing at you and all in one day; driz­zly rain and wind then bright and sunny. It was on such a day that I re­luc­tantly started my cy­cle tour of Wick­low, be­ing re­as­sured that “there was no harm in it” (the rain!).

I duly left Dublin in a haze of driz­zle ped­al­ing south out of town and along the coastal cy­cle route. There were enough breaks in the weather to stop and ad­mire rows of pas­tel coloured Ge­or­gian houses that grace part of the sea front and bike 500m along a pier that juts into the Ir­ish Sea. On a fine day the views back to the coast would have been splen­did.

There are coves dot­ted with fish­ing boats be­tween clus­ters of white cot­tages that would have been mod­est fish­er­man dwellings a cen­tury ago but are now prime real es­tate.

The frigid Ir­ish Sea did not de­ter the hardy swim­mers at lovely Sandy­cove where just around the point is the James Joyce Tower and Mu­seum. It’s the set- ting and where the author wrote the open­ing chap­ters of his mas­ter­piece ‘Ulysses’. Af­ter a short but tu­mul­tuous stay he de­parted The Tower which is now a mu­seum de­voted to his life and works. Be­ing an old Martello Tower built in 1804 to ward off at­tacks by Napoleon, it has a rooftop gun plat­form with panoramic views.

A de­tour takes you in­land to the her­itage town of Dalkey, a quiet un­pre- Op­po­site page: The Round Tower and St Kevin’s Church at the monas­tic set­tle­ment of Glen­dalough. Above: Rock walls line the fields in the Wick­low hills. Be­low: The Wick­low coun­try­side is peace­ful and green.

ten­tious town that has seven cas­tles in its’ prox­im­ity. The Ir­ish say, “if there was a Bev­erly Hills in Ire­land then this would be it”.

Hid­den be­hind stone walls and high hedges among the leafy coastal hills be­tween Dalkey and Killiney, are beau­ti­fully re­stored manor houses and man­sions, the homes of rock stars and mil­lion­aires.

Leav­ing this quiet grandeur and beau­ti­ful Killiney Bay, the route takes a turn in­land to the green Wick­low Hills and ru­ral coun­try­side. Cy­cling is on quiet roads with lit­tle traf­fic to reach the small vil­lage of En­niskerry, on the Glen­cullen River.

This pic­turesque vil­lage was built to ac­com­pany the nearby manor house of Pow­er­scourt which grandly sits in mag­nif­i­cent grounds next to two cham­pi­onship golf cour­ses. Splen­did as the manor may be, the big­gest at­trac­tion is the gar­dens which rate third in the world. Walk­ing paths wind through 47 acres of man­i­cured lawns, pretty flower beds and stat­ues. High­lights are the clas­sic Ja­panese gar­den and Ital­ian ter­raced gar­den which were laid out and built over a cen­tury ago.

Next des­ti­na­tion and a high­light, is the an­cient monas­tic set­tle­ment of Glen­dalough, head­ing south into the Above left: You pass Enya’s Cas­tle near Dalkey on the route. Above right: Stay overnight in cosy Ir­ish B&Bs and pubs. Left mid­dle: The quiet vil­lage of Dalkey is home to Ire­land’s rich and fa­mous. Be­low left: Quiet paved road is ideal for cy­cling on the Old Mil­i­tary Road near Dublin. Op­poite page above: Pass Lough Tarn on the Old Mil­i­tary Road near Dublin. Be­low: The Round Tower at Glen­dalough has stood for11 cen­turies

By Jill Grant Jill is an Auck­land based jour­nal­ist and pho­tog­ra­pher

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