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Ireland: Cycling Dublin & The Wicklow Mountains

There aren’t many countries quite as beautiful as Ireland to cycle through. While it’s true that there can be a lot of rainy days, the country itself is gorgeous.

You may choose a route along the coast or one more inland, surrounded by green countryside and small towns. Either way, there will be plenty to see and do along the way.

It’s a small enough country that you can actually see a great deal of it on a fairly brief cycling tour. In this case though we’re talking about a fairly compact and highly recommended cycling journey, south from Dublin and along a famous loop.

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Start In Dublin

Dublin is a logical starting point for many Irish cycling trips, both because it’s a must-see city while you’re vacationing in Ireland and because it’s likely where you’ll be flying or boating into anyway. Before you get going on your cycling journey, there’s a lot to see and do in Dublin.

You’ll want to see some of the main sites, such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Stephen’s Green, as well as the beautiful Phoenix Park and the historic Dublin Castle. You may also want to find some ways beyond sightseeing to entertain yourself, such as ducking into one of the famous town pubs or touring the Old Jameson Distillery, which is certainly a favorite activity amount tourists.

From Dublin, you’ll want to head to Blessington on the first leg of your journey. This is merely an A to B route, starting on O’Connell Street Lower in Dublin and following mostly side streets out of town before following N81 between the two towns. The trip can be done in less than two hours, and though there can be traffic it’s a manageable route.

Blessington & The Loop

Blessington is a pretty town known for being situated on the River Liffey and near the Blessington Lakes. Most of the activity in the area is outdoors, so you might not be too active assuming you’re saving your energy for the cycling.

However, you can duck into West Wicklow House for a comforting pub atmosphere and some good food to rest after the journey from Dublin. And if you’re trying to rough it rather than stay in a hotel, camping on nearby Wicklow Way is a popular activity.

In the morning, you’ll want to set off on the Glendalough Loop, a cycling route that passes through town. It’s a full day 75km cycling route that passes through the Blessington Lakes (to the south) and Wicklow Mountains National Park, if you start off going north.

I’d recommend a quick dip south to see the lakes, then doubling back to head north so that you can do the national park portion of the trip (which is breathtaking) and end up in Glendalough. From there it’s a fairly quick (though less scenic) to the town of Wicklow.

The Blessington Lakes offer some lower, flatter ground and gorgeous scenery to take in, particularly if you get started in the early morning.

You need only go cross the river and travel a short distance south, crossing the lakes at Valleymount before turning back north. Then you’ll be warming up for the more difficult part of the trip, taking you through the National Park. These aren’t towering mountains, and the trail is labeled as having a moderate level of difficulty.

But if you do it all in one go, you’ll definitely get in a serious workout. It’s well worth it though, as just about ever kilometer through the park is stunningly beautiful.

Cycling the Wicklow Mountains

Wicklow, incidentally, is a nice place to rest for a night and part of then next day after doing the Glendalough Loop. It’s a pretty town of just over 10,000 people right on the East Coast of Ireland, and it’s the perfect place to find a simple little bed and breakfast or hostel following your long ride.

During the day there are old shops and cafés to explore, and for a great way to relax following a long day of trail riding, you might want to explore the Mount Usher Gardens. They’re arguably the main attraction in town, and in fact one of the top-rated garden attractions in Ireland. The gardens date back to the 1860s, and today you can still walk through them as well as enjoy a delightful on-site café.

Once you’ve rested your legs a bit and explored the town for the morning, it’s time to head back to Dublin. This is a straightforward trip along R761, and should take you under three hours if you don’t stop much along the way.

However, because the whole route hugs the coast, you may want to take one or two scenic detours as they present themselves. By nightfall though you should be back in Dublin, free to indulge in more of the city’s charms to celebrate a successful few days of riding.

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