What a year of joy, cycling north, south, east and west of this beautiful island!
I’ve said it before but we have an unbelievable network of local roads suitable for riding bikes, whether it be an hour loop or a long distance tour. The beauty of the local roads is that it takes you into the heart of rural Ireland, into small villages and off the beaten track. Virtually traffic free the roads are super safe. As rural Ireland declines, eco tourism offers a mountain of possibilities and the growth of hiking trails and bike routes will aid in the promotion of local areas and perhaps keeping them populated with increased economic activity associated with sustainable tourism. With Covid concerns in 2021, we really enjoyed avoiding the ‘tourist hotspots’ over the year and travelling the road less travelled; people have more time to be friendly and it has a more authentic feel to it.
There’s massive potential for off road touring too if routes can be accessed and developed. Any route development needs to be minimal; in most cases all that is needed is some annual maintenance and good signposting.
It’s taken me a while to come to the realisation that a Greenway is definitely not designed as a cycle route. At this stage I’ve now cycled on all the Greenways across the country:
- Great Western Greenway, Mayo, 42kms
- Waterford Greenway, 46kms
- Old Rail Trail, Westmeath, 42kms
- Royal Canal Greenway, Longford to Dublin, 130kms
- Suir Blueway, Tipperary, 21kms
My experience on the Greenways is that the routes are used more by walkers than cyclists and by families with young children. Consequently most of the activity is typically in the 5 kms close to the hub points, with the mid sections very quiet. As most of them follow the path of old railway tracks they tend to be very straight and boring after a few kilometres. While there is stunning scenery on the Western Greenway and the Waterford Greenway, most of the routes are enclosed by the old banks that bordered the railway line or hedging. I find them a bit soulless and sterile and much prefer the local roads that twist and turn offer up interesting heritage sites and beautiful views. The Greenways are great additions to an area but for cycle touring I would tend to probably avoid them unless they linked specific places I needed to get to.
The majority of our cycling is of course locally and we have got into the habit of cycling all year round. Night cycles on cold winter nights are exhilarating and we have so familiar with our favourite routes close to Carlow Town that the bikes almost steer themselves!
We covered a lot of ground in 2021, most of it local but looking at the heat map, we are only scratching the surface of places to see and visit in the years ahead!. Roll on 2022.