Cycling holidays in Ireland are a wonderful way to explore this beautiful country. You’ll cover more distance in a shorter period than walking, and you’ll engage more with your surroundings than you would from behind the wheel of a car. Using peddle-power to explore the Shannon Erne Waterway will immerse you in the serene surroundings and being such a quiet mode of transport, you can really appreciate the bucolic tranquillity.
If you like the sound of that, here’s all you need to know about self-guided Irish cycling holidays along the Shannon-Erne Waterway.
Cycling in Ireland – On-road
Cycling in Ireland is very popular but there are some things you can do to make it more enjoyable and improve your safety and that of your biking buddies.
Grab a copy of the Rules of the Road and familiarise yourself with the dos and don’ts. We might have different ways of doing things compared to your country.
Make yourself as visible as possible. Ensure your bike has front and back lights and that you wear bright colours, a high-vis vest and luminous belts and bag covers. Always wear a helmet.
Cycling in Ireland – Off-road
If you are going off-road and hitting the trails, know the limits of your technical ability and fitness. Ride within these.
Stick to the well-marked and graded routes and trails, that way you won’t have to worry about which way to turn!
Stay relaxed when you are on the decent and don’t go so that fast that you feel as though you are out of control.
Oh, and always wear a helmet.
Guided Bike Tours in Ireland
Guided bike tours in Ireland are usually with a group of people and a tour leader.
Self-guided Cycling Holidays in Ireland
Self-guided Bike Tours in Ireland can be done alone or with a group. There is no formal tour leader. Self-guided cycling tours are very popular because of the flexibility and independence they afford.
If you want to discover the Shannon-Erne Waterway by bike, here are some terrific trails to check out.
On-road cycling routes along the Shannon-Erne Waterway
These are ideal for the more experienced and adventurous cyclists.
Pilgrim’s Road to Clonmacnoise
Start from Clonmacnoise – 25 km – Moderate
This linear route on public roads runs from Clonmacnoise to Ballycumber in County Offaly. This route has been used by pilgrims for centuries and it starts, or finishes, at the monastic site at Clonmacnoise. If you arrive at Clonmacnoise by boat, you can moor up at the quay just south of the bridge. Along the route are plenty of churches, shrines and sites of religious significance. The scenery is smashing too especially as you approach Clonmacnoise. You’ll see the round tower in the distance and you’ll have Mangon’s Bog and the Shannon Callows on either side of you.
The Kingfisher Trail
Start from Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim village, Drumshanbo or Enniskillen – 238.5km – Easy
The Kingfisher Cycle Trail was the first long-distance cycle trail in Ireland. You can complete the whole figure-of-eight route, or you can cycle one of the six routes that make up the trail. The routes are of various lengths and almost all follow country lanes. The route is mostly flat with a few hills and is suitable for all abilities making this a great one for the family to enjoy.
Lough Derg Cycle Way
Start from Terryglass or Garrykennedy – 129.1km – Moderate
This looped route circumnavigates the third largest lake in Ireland. What a sense of achievement when you complete it! Along the way, you’ll pass through quaint villages with plenty of places to stop for a bite eat and to rest up. The landscape is varied and there are lots of sights along the way to keep the route interesting. Of course, you also have this magnificent lake to accompany you along the way.
Nenagh Cycle Way
Start from Terryglass or Garrykennedy – 67.4km – Moderate
Cycle through the peaceful countryside on this looped route that follows the eastern shores of Lough Derg. You’ll pass through some lovely lakeside villages where you can stop off for a pub lunch or a picnic. You’ll mostly be cycling along flat roads so this is a rather gentle and relaxing route.
Off-road cycling trails along the Shannon-Erne Waterway
If you don’t have much experience biking or are more of a leisure cyclist, these off-road cycling trails are perfect for you. They are family-friendly too.
Portumna Forest Park
Start from Portumna – 10.5km – Moderate
Just a 40-minute cycle from the Tipperary village of Terryglass lies Portumna Forest Park. This looped off-road trail starts in the car park and you’ll cycle through the trees and along the lakeshore. There are some lovely views over Lough Derg. This is a single lane track and it does get narrow and twisty in places but it isn’t too technically difficult.
Lough Key Cycling Trail
Start from Lough Key – 8km – Easy
If you have little ones, a family cycling holiday in Ireland is a great idea as there are plenty of traffic-free cycling trails through some beautiful parts of the country. One sure trail is the Lough Key Cycling Trail which takes you through the wonderful natural woodland. Keep your eye out for the majestic view of Castle Island. This is a particularly tranquil route through serene scenery.
Acres Lake Boardwalk Trail
Start from Drumshanbo – 6.5km – Easy
This off-road linear route follows the towpath and takes you across the famous 600-metre floating boardwalk sitting over the waters of Acres Lake in Leitrim. This family-friendly Blueway route can be completed in either direction from Battlebridge Lock in Drumshanboor Acres Lake. But we like to start in Drumshanbo and finish with a picnic along the lakeshore.
Start from Ballinamore – 4.5km – Easy
Enjoy the tranquillity of the Shannon-Erne Waterway along the towpath and partially on local and regional roads. As you cycle you’ll crosses over the canal at several points. Ballinamore is a picturesque village with some lovely spots to visit when you need refreshments.
Ballyduff to Aghoo Bridge
Start from Ballinamore – 8km – Easy
This family-friendly linear cycle route takes you along a towpath and partially onto regional roads. Starting at Ballinamore, there is a mooring here, you can complete the route in either direction. With beautiful scenery and views of the river, this is a very pleasant and gentle cycle.
Killykeen Forest Park and the Cavan Lakes
Belturbet – 3km – Easy
Situated on the shores of Lough Oughter in a very picturesque area of Co Ca-van, Killykeen Forest Park is a mixed woodland area with terrific lake views. If you are travelling along the Shannon-Erne Waterway we suggest starting this route in Belturbet and cycle 50 minutes to the park. This is a great route if you are cycling with kids as it is traffic-free and well-signposted. It is great for bikes with child seats or tag-a-longs.
Further Cycling in Ireland Resources
For even more cycling tours and activities, the following websites are full of great ideas.
Self-Guided Bike Rental Providers
Carrickcraft – we can provide bike hire along with your boat hire.
Lakeland Bikes – Bike Hire – Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
Corralea Activity Centre – Electric Bike Hire and Guided Tours, Belcoo, Co Fermanagh
On Yer Bike Tours – Bike Hire and Guided Tours – Belturbet, Co Cavan
Moran’s Bike Shop – Bike Hire – Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim
Electric Bike Trails – Bike Hire – Leitrim Village & Lough Key Forest Park, Co Roscommon
Lough Ree Boat and Bike Hire – Bike and Boat Hire – Lecarrow, Co Roscommon
Buckley Cycles – Bike Hire (Summer season only) – Athlone, Co Westmeath
Dick’s Bike Hire – Bike Hire – Portumna, Co Galway
Irish Cycling Maps
You can search for on-road cycling routes using websites such as Route You and Bike Map. Just be aware that these are user-submitted routes, so make sure to do additional research to ensure the routes are suited to your abilities.
Combine Cycling and Cruising
Combining a self-guided Irish cycling holiday with a River Shannon cruise is a relaxing and enjoyable way to explore the Shannon-Erne corridor. It also means you don’t have to cycle the whole time. You can be as relaxingly-active as you like. Here at Carrickcraft, we can provide bike hire along with boat hire. Bikes cost €50 per week or €30 for short break rental. They can be tied or locked on either the front or the back of the cruiser.