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