Bikes & Ballads: A Cycling Tour on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

A 10 day trip to Ireland 
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Travel a fantastic stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way’s more than 1,550 miles on the Cliff Coast during your unforgettable Ireland cycling tour. Blend beauty, tradition, activity, and luxury on a custom-tailored exploration featuring ocean spray, puffins, bottlenose dolphins, and quiet villages. Traverse ancient limestone paths and plateaus decorated with blossoming flora. Discover historic, isolated fortresses and, opulent palaces rising out of dense woodlands. You will have an immersive ride featuring enchanting music and captivating precipices adorned with lighthouses, castles, villages, and viewpoints connected by your cycling route. 

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General Information

Photos
Loop Head Peninsula is situated in West Clare on Ireland's Atlantic coast.
Doonagore Castle in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland.
Carrigaholt Castle in County Clare was built around 1480.
The beautiful coastline of Ballyconneely, Ireland.
A Celtic Cross in Kilfenora.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Ennis, Kilkee, Doolin, Galway, Inishmore, Carna, Clifden, Roundstone, Ballyconneely, Cliffs of Moher, Kilfenora, Burren National Reserve, Carrigaholt Castle, Loop Peninsula

Ireland is a region unlike any other; learn more by seeing how our partner Ireland trip operators can personalize the experience for you.

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures. 

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Ennis – Arrive in Ireland and Relish a Quiet Tour of the Small Town of Ennis

Cobblestone streets wind in an irregularly through the medieval center of Ennis, a charming town in County Clare. The Fergus River flows east beneath the shadow of the historical charm until turning south to reach the Shannon Estuary. Pedestrian-friendly streets narrow near elegant shop windows featuring lavish antiques and graceful pastries garnished with bright fruits. An emerald bookstore shimmers above the silver cobblestones, overflowing with new and secondhand titles. A stove at the rear of the store creates a charming nook flanked by two comfortable armchairs.

The main square leads to the 13th-century Ennis Friary, the most notable church in town featuring architecture from between the 13th and 19th centuries.  The interior hosts a tomb with alabaster panels depicting detailed religious scenes. The sounds of traditional Irish music emanate from the community center. The scent of thyme and cured salmon drifts through the doors of a distinctive restaurant located on Abbey Street. Poets, musicians, and locals of all stripes wind beneath the coffered ceiling of the local pub embracing the casual, yet festive ambience of the historic city. Your private transfer escorts you from the Shannon International Airport to a luxurious hotel in the countryside that blends historical opulence with contemporary amenities.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation 

Day 2: Kilkee – Enjoy the Cool Air and Atlantic Scenery on a Full Day of Cycling 

In the morning, the dining room fills with the aroma of buttery scones and black currant jam. You sip a strong, herbaceous black tea before meeting your guide in the lobby. You mount your bike in the cool air as the sunlight glints off the residual dew that is spread across the emerald grass. The back roads winding through the Irish countryside lead you towards Kilkee, the town at the heart of West Clare County. The hills roll along the landscape, broken by long stretches of plains and sporadic slopes. You travel over 35 miles before reaching the town known as a prominent feature along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Kilkee became a popular resort town in the Victorian era, swiftly becoming the main town of Loop Head Peninsula. The breeze carries an enticing aroma of the Atlantic. The street leads to open views of the plains sweeping to the east and the dramatic semi-circular bay to the northwest, with unique rock formations spanning the southwestern edges of the bay. The powdery beach becomes a happy coastal getaway for Irish families from across the Republic, eager to watch the crashing waves and to dig their toes into the hot, soft sand. You make your way to the southern edges of Duggerna Reef where the natural rock enclosure creates rippling pools changing with every tide. Locals scour the pools for radiant starfish, while translucent jellyfish wade in the still water flickering with refracted light.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Kilkee – View Carrigaholt Castle and the Landscapes of the Loop Peninsula

The aroma of rich Irish tea blends with the scent of cinnamon emanating from a bright-purple café located on O’Curry Street. The display case shimmers with light over the coveted carrot cake as locals enjoy a quiet morning sipping their tea and reading their papers. You mount your bike after breakfast, eager to traverse the marvelous paths circling Loop Head Peninsula which can span more than 50 miles. The air fills with the perfume of fragrant wildflowers blossoming out of the emerald grass. Pink thrift shine brightly against the tall plain alongside the pristine petals of white campion.

You reach Carrigaholt Castle, which stands at the edge of the peninsula overlooking the Shannon Estuary and harbor. High walls enclose a courtyard on one side, with the natural rocks of the bay guarding the opposite side. The 15th-century stronghold has five stories with a large mural decorating the winding staircase. The neighboring town of Carrigaholt is an idyllic fishing village south of Kilkee at the mouth of the Moyarta River. The fishing boats wade in the water along the two harbors. If you want a break from the banana seat, you can board one of the seafaring tours to explore the Atlantic.

The sea air feels different than the breeze brushing over the coastline. The waters splash against the hull of the boat and mists into the air. You catch droplets on your cheek and notice the cold temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean. Your captain points away from the shores of Carrigaholt where the largest group of Bottlenose Dolphins in Europe resides. The pod can reach more than 100 playful members who love to follow the passing boats and play in the wake.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Doolin – Travel the Dramatic Coast to Find the Cliffs of Moher and Kilfenora

Today, you will travel nearly 60 miles on an exciting trail leading past the celebrated Cliffs of Moher. You depart early with the scent of flaky pastry dough returning to the streets. The cool morning air is invigorating as you take in the lighthouses towering over the coastline. In the evening, the shores glow with a white light flashing over the cliffs and sands to protect the ships at sea. You stop for a rest in Lahinch to find a beach town celebrated for its fabulous golf course and treasured waves. Surfers take to the water and carve the barrels as the sound of the crashing waves fills the air. Surf schools and stores catering to the burgeoning sport line the seafront alongside quiet cafés offering views of the beach.

You continue to the Cliffs of Moher, the dramatic and iconic image of the Irish coastline. The cliffs reach more than 700 feet tall and span five miles across the shores of the Emerald Isle. The wind sweeps over the grasses, and the crowds disappear at the edges of the country, providing a new and inspiring perspective of the thrilling landscape. Cows graze on the grass, and an occasional burst of wind brushes your hair. The sandstone cliffs resemble layers rising out of the thrashing azure water below. The elements shaped the enchanting landscape over a period of 300-million years, with evidence of this taken from the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Galway – Discover Burren Reserve and Stunning Castles en route to Galway

In the morning, you make your way to the Burren National Reserve for a glimpse of the unique scenery shaped by the harsh elements of Ireland. Sheep graze on the grass of the 50-acre organic farm. Native Irish trees line the ancient road that once connected historical settlements. Long tailed bushtits twitter soothing songs as you cycle through the open landscape. Their black and white plumage contrasts the emerald leaves and their three-and-a half inch long tails resemble dangling twigs. The karst landscape encompasses nearly 100 square miles of rolling limestone pavement, crisscrossing cracks, and isolated rocks.

The palimpsests contain fossils of coral and sea urchins within the layers of limestone which reaches up to more than 2,600 feet thick. Patches of grass protrude from the tiles of silver limestone for a remarkable juxtaposition spreading across the hills, terraces, and plateaus. You continue toward the bustling university town of Galway, stopping en route at the ruins of Kilcolgan rising out of the banks of the eponymous river. The ruins of the Tyrone House, an 18th-century manor, continues to grace the countryside. The structure was destroyed in the early 20th century during the Irish War of Independence. The shell of the three-story manor dominates the flatlands for a view over land and sea.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Inishmore – Ferry to Inishmore Island for an Excursion into Ancient Life

Galway casts an enchanting ambience of edgy art, bohemian cafes, and historic pubs. Cafes offer views of the street performers, and the cultured college atmosphere fills the diverse quarter. The seaside promenade overlooks Galway Bay where restaurants offer fresh oysters and locals speak Irish in the shops, enjoy drinks at the pub, and casually stroll down the streets. The welcoming greenery of Eyre Square contrasts the brown stone of former manor now bordering the upper-edges of the plaza.

After breakfast, you cycle to the town, noticing the way the silver stone of the Spanish Arch, an extension of the medieval city walls, reflects in the Corrib River. You board the ferry at the town of Rossaveal to cross the strait leading to Inishmore. The largest of the Aran Islands encapsulates the raw, rugged beauty of the windswept landscape. You feel as though the limestone from the Burren has sprouted like a weed, shaping the unique contours of Inishmore. Sheep graze on the sporadic tufts of grass and wildflowers grow above the jagged cliffs.

The surf breaks over the rocks at the base of the island as you cycle to Dún Aonghasa, one of several prehistoric hill forts on the islands. The stronghold stands at the edge of a cliff reaching more than 320 feet above the sea and dating back to the Bronze or Iron Age. The remaining stone walls reach as wide as 13 feet, creating an oval shape during its original construction. The architectural features of the fortress connote a religious and ceremonial purpose rather than a military stronghold.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Carna – Return to the Mainland for Sensational Views of South Connemara

In the morning, you return to your exploration around Inishmore, enjoying the way the wind whips upward from the dramatic cliffs. The tidal pools swirl around the beach beneath a nearly 2,500-foot precipice. The largest pool is known as “Serpent’s Lair,” for its precarious location, deep water, and bordering limestone cliffs. During the Red Bull Cliff Diving competition, professional divers plunge into the water from nearly 100 feet above the pool. You board the ferry and return to the lush landscape of the main island, noticing the way the light shines off the grass.

The cycling path offers spectacular views of the Twelve Bens, the mountain peaks rolling over the horizon in Connemara National Park. The road turns west, running along the coastline alongside gorgeous the beaches and the calm waters brushing against the sand. You take to the hills of the Kylemore Mountain Estate which was developed in the 19th century. Old oak forest runs along the foothills and glens leading to the views over the valley. The stunning panorama highlights the rugged peaks of Connemara to the east and the coastline to the west, blending the aromas of soft grass and salty waves.

You reach the stunning Kylemore Abbey, which resembles a palace more than a religious complex. The castle was erected in the 19th century with neo-gothic adornments, including a church and walled garden. It became a monastery in the 1920s filled with Benedictine Nuns who fled Belgium during the First World War. The marvelous features on the facade and dense woodlands reflect in the stoic lake, and the walled Victorian gardens display elegant manicured hedges and vibrant blossoming flowers.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast 

Day 8: Clifden – Visit Roundstone and Ballyconneely Towns en route to Sky Road

In the morning, the village fills with the aromas of fresh scones and raspberry jam. The refreshing black tea helps rejuvenate your body and mind, readying you for a full day of cycling. You mount your bike bound for the open trails along the stunning Wild Atlantic Way, stopping in Roundstone before reaching Clifden. Horses run along the fences guarding private farmland against the wide stretches of vast public landscape. Shellfish and mollusks populate the sea to the excitement of fisherpeople and local restaurateurs.

The colorful terraced homes create an inviting ambience above welcoming pubs overlooking Bertraghboy Bay. Lobster trawlers wade in the marina against the scalloped coastline as the white sands of Dog’s Bay glisten in the sunlight. You stop in a local shop where an artisan craftsperson makes traditional Irish musical instruments by hand. The artist is respected across Ireland for crafting stunning bodrán, an 18-inch drum made from goatskin, which adds to the distinctive properties of the instrument, including its sound.

You continue on the short route known as “Bog Road.” Large thistles of grass dance in the breeze and the Twelve Bens continue to graze the horizon along the road to Clifden. The moor grass turns from purple to gold in the autumn and returns to purple in the spring. The bogs absorb the rain and help feed the streams the cut through the countryside, offering sanctuary to the fishes including salmon and trout. You notice the oblong-leaved sundew as its red and orange hues shine along its oval body and thin, spindly leaves. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Clifden – Delight in a Day at your Leisure to Cycle or Explore as You Please

Wake up to the tranquil sounds of Clifden, the capital of Connemara. The foothills of the Twelve Bens descend into the edges of town, and the aroma of the Atlantic’s salt water sweeps through the streets. The twin spire of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and Christ Church of Ireland shape the skyline over the emerald trees. Locals enjoy the sunlight in Market Square, strolling on the cobblestone lanes and lounging on the benches in front of the colorful shops. After breakfast, you mount your bike to hit Sky Road, a nearly seven-mile long route along Clifden Bay.

A family of horses grazes on the grass leading to Clifden Castle. The 19th-century edifice resembles a storybook structure with crenulated circular and rectangular towers. Two round turrets adorn the entrance. Four standing stones embellish the walking route leading from the main road to the entrance where the Eyre family crest protrudes from the tower. The old farm contained grain storage, a workers’ cottage, stable, and coach house. From the coastline, you have a spectacular view of the islands of Inishturk and Turbot, which stand nine miles off the coast.   

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 10: Galway – Depart for Home

The morning fills with the familiar scent of aromatic black tea. At breakfast, you indulge in the flakey and buttery flavor of a fresh scone topped with clotted cream and black currant jam. Your head swirls with the sounds of traditional Irish music that filled the pubs late into the previous evening. You recall your visit with the musical instrument maker in Roundstone and the particular sounds the traditional drum made. After breakfast, your private transfer greets you in the hotel lobby and escorts you to Galway for your flight home, bringing an end to your cycling expedition along the captivating Wild Atlantic Way.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Price 

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.