Iron Donkey Bicycle Touring | Bike Tours in Ireland England Wales Scotland Italy Spain
Iron Donkey Bicycle Touring : bike tours, cycle vacations and biking holidays in Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Italy and Spain.

Routes and Route Options


  • Linear routes start at one town and end at another. Routes
  • Loop routes start and end at the same town.

Building loop routes into an itinerary has several advantages:

  1. Staying at the same accommodation for two nights allows a day’s respite from packing up to move on. This gives more relaxed feel to the overall itinerary.
  2. You can choose to take all or part of the day off the bike to do other things – or just to relax.
  3. You get the chance to catch up with your emails, laundry, postcard writing etc.
  4. If your itinerary includes luggage transfers, the number of transfers (and therefore the cost) is reduced.

Route Options

Each route comprises a range of route options –differing in distance, terrain, traffic, en-route sites of interest and services. You can choose your ride based on your preferences for that particular day. Because you can leave the decision until just before you set out (or later in cases where different route options share the same starting stretch), you can take factors such as the weather and your energy levels into account.

Routes marked (^) offer the option to travel part or all of the way with your bicycle by train or bus.

Routes marked (*) can be divided into two shorter sub-routes to produce itineraries that are suitable for those looking for a very leisurely trip. This can meet the needs of families with young (and perhaps not-so-young!) children, those who want to spend a lot of time visiting the en-route attractions, and those who feel that a couple of hours in the saddle each day is quite sufficient!


Classifying cycling routes in terms of difficulty / degree of challenge is not an exact science, and the easiest of routes in theory can be made testing in practice by the addition of a brisk headwind! Nevertheless, our classification system gives a good indicator as to whether a given route option will be suitable for you.

Apart from uncontrollable variables such as the weather there are two major factors that contribute towards the difficulty of a route option – the distance and the total ascent involved.

Route Option Distance Ratings
Description Range (km)
S short ≤ 40
M medium 40 ≤ 65
L long 65 ≤ 90
X very long > 90
Route Option Terrain Ratings
Description Total Ascent (m)
1 easy < 600
2 easy / moderate 600 ≤ 1200
3 moderate / challenging 1200 ≤ 1800
4 challenging > 1800

Classifying route options into four distance categories and four ascent categories gives 16 possibilities as shown below. These are grouped by overall difficulty – from yellow (easiest) through to dark red (hardest). You should choose itineraries and route options that can offer a level of challenge within your comfort zone.

Increasing total


increasing distance

Route Option Suitability
Occasional riders
Regular leisure riders
Strong riders
Very strong riders

Route Networks

The route network within each tour region consists of the individual routes that link the trailhead towns and staging towns.

  • The trailhead towns are the start and finish points for the various itineraries – they are the most convenient locations to access and depart the region. Trailheads provide a range of services such as accommodations, banks, restaurants, tourist information centres, bicycle shops and bike rental outlets. They are also interesting destinations in their own right (examples are Bath, Siena, Edinburgh and Killarney) - and you may decide to extend your trip by stopping for extra night or two at the beginning or end of your tour.

  • The staging towns/villages are the start and finish points of the individual routes. Generally smaller than the trailhead towns and with fewer services, they provide accommodations, options for evening meals and (in most cases) for evening entertainment. Staging towns are also chosen on the basis of charm and attractiveness, and on the capacity to offer cyclists the chance to mix with the local population and experience the local culture.

The route network allows us to build a wide variety of possible tour itineraries within the region.