This Donegal cycle tour explores Sligo Lakeland, Fermanagh Lakeland, the Blue Stack Mountains, Leitrim and the Glen Peninsula in Donegal. This is a wonderful (and moderatley challenging) itinerary that explores some of the best cycle routes in Donegal.
Starting out from the busy town of Sligo you are riding north on country lanes toward Ballyshannon. From there you follow the beautiful coastline north, with its many coves and inlets, towards Donegal Town, where you can stop for lunch and a spot of shopping. There is then a gradual climb to the hamlet of Letterbarra before an exhilarating descent to meet the Atlantic Ocean at Ardara, where you spend two nights. You have several options of loop rides from Ardara, all spectacular. From Ardara you then ride through the extremely picturesque Blue Stack Mountains, arriving at Ballybofey.
Out of Ballybofey you join the extremely quiet, remote, Mourne Beg River, which straddles the border between the North and South of Ireland. You spend the evening in the town of Belleek, home of the world famous Belleek Pottery. From Belleek you then ride to Belcoo, where you have another two-night stopover with excellent loop options. You should be able to see Cuilcagh Mountains, Tullydermot Falls and the UNESCO recognised Marble Arch Caves. After departing Belcoo, you then head through the majestic 19th Century Lough Key Forest Park, before arriving in Boyle. The last leg of your journey takes you from Boyle back through glorious countryside to the bustling Sligo.
Strolling through the grounds of Boyle Abbey
Lough Key Forest Park
The Lake Isle of Inishfree
Visiting Parkes Castle
Donegal Craft Village
Traditional music sessions in Ardara
The sea cliffs of Slieve League
Testing your climbing ability on the Glengesh Pass
Glencolmcille Folk Museum
Otter spotting in the Blue Stack Mountains
10 nights accommodation with breakfast
All routing, maps, cue sheets and gpx tracks
Emergency telephone support
Meet, greet and bike fitting
Core tour cost
Hybrid bicycle rental
Touring bicycle rental
Road bicycle rental
€450 (for two people)
Arrive in Sligo. After arriving in Sligo and checking into your accommodation, you can go and collect your rental bicycle, explore the town and/or go for a short warm up ride to check out the bike and equipment.
Sligo to Ballyshannon 71km / +503m (L, S)Leaving Sligo you are riding north on country lanes towards Glencar Lake, which can be visited on a short out and back detour. Next comes the village of Drumcifff and the grave of WB Yeats, one of Ireland’s finest poets. Continuing north you cross over the main Sligo to Donegal Road and pedal through the foothills of Ben Bulben, a table-topped mountain that is the source of many myths and legends in Irish folklore. There is the option to take a detour around the remote and atmospheric Horseshoe Loop before heading down to meet the coast at Mullaghmore. A ride around beautiful Mullaghmore Head offers great seascapes and views of Cassiebawn Castle. This impressive building belonged to Lord Mountbatten, who was blown up in his boat by the IRA in 1979. Mullaghmore is a good lunch stop on your ride. Continuing north you ride through Kinlough and around the shores of Lough Macnean to arrive in Ballyshannon.
Ballyshannon to Ardara 52km / +533m (L) The coastline north of Ballyshannon is a series of coves with beautiful sandy beaches separated by low rocky headlands. Following the coast leads you to Donegal Town with its castle, its craft market and its bustling Diamond (town square). North of the town is Lough Eske and the option to ride a beautiful roller coaster loop around the lake – there is a lovely lakeside hotel which makes for a great lunch stop. There is a gradual climb to the hamlet of Letterbarra before a exhilarating descent to meet the Atlantic Ocean at Ardara.
Ardara Loop 55km / +889m (L, S)There are several ways to configure today’s ride – all of them spectacular, and all requiring a bit of effort! The peninsula to the west of Ardara, besides some marvellous scenery, also boasts the towering sea cliffs at Slieve League, the remote village of Glencolmcille with its fascinating folk museum, and the sea caves at Maghera. To access the peninsula at the start of the ride you are confronted with a climb up to Glengesh Pass – the effort is amply rewarded with the views back down the valley from where you have come!
Ardara to Ballybofey 54km / +692m (L, S)Leaving Ardara you ride north and then east across lake dotted moorland to the village of Glenties, where you can stop for a coffee. You might also think about picking up something for lunch as there is not much on offer between here and your destination of Ballybofey. The ride is through (rather than over) the Bluestack Mountains on scenic roads with barely a car to disturb the peace and quiet. If you are lucky you may spot an otter on this remote stretch. The ascent from Glenties is very gradual, and once over the top you can enjoy a wonderful freewheeled descent to the twin towns of Ballybofey and Stranorlar.
Ballybofey to Belleek 70km / +894m (S) For the most part this is a remote ride on tiny country roads – you will probably not see more than half a dozen people after leaving Ballybofey. Riding south you pass Trusk Lough and continue to cross the Mourne Beg River that marks the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. In the village of Killeter you turn west for a very gentle ascent of the Pettigo Plateau before entering Killeter Forest. In the forest you recross the border and drop down into The Pullens, following wonderfully quiet country lanes which lead eventually down to Belleek.
Bellek to Belcoo 66km / +771m (L, S)Belleek is home to the Belleek Pottery and if their world renowned products are to your taste you will certainly want to visit the factory before setting off on your ride. Leaving the village you pedal south to Lough Melvin and on to Garrison. The route from here follows very minor country lanes to Kiltyclogher and then climbs to afford great views over Lough Macnean before dropping down to Belcoo. Just across the river is Belcoo’s twin village of Blacklion in the Irish Republic.
Belcoo Loop 57km / +682m (S)The Belcoo loop ride takes you on a circuit around Cuilcagh Mountain which is the focal point of the Cuilcagh Mountain Park to the south of Belcoo. On the ride south from Belcoo you pass the spectacular Tullydermot Falls en route to the village of Swanlibar where you can find refreshments. Turning north you arrive at Florencecourt stately home and estate. The last leg of the ride takes you up to Marble Arch Caves – the site is a Unesco Global Geopark. As part of the tour of the caves, there is an underground boat trip.
Belcoo to Boyle 58km / +433m The first leg of the ride takes you on lanes that parallel the county boundary between Leitrim and Cavan to Dowra the the northern end of Lough Allen. From the village you follow the eastern short of the lough, enjoying wonderful views across the water to Corry Mountain and Kilronan Mountain. At the southern end of the lough you should arrive in Drumshanbo in time for lunch before striking out west across country to Knockvicar on on to Lough Key Forest Park. You can ride through the 19th century parkland with its majestic trees, follies, bridges and canals and emerge at Boyle Abbey.
Boyle to Sligo 59km / +491m Passing Boyle Abbey again as you leave the town , you ride north – first along the western short of Lough Key and then beside the eastern shore of Lough Arrow – passing through the sleepy hamlets of Riverstown and Ballintogher. Just after Ballintogher you can ride north for a vista of the Lake Isle of Inishfree on Lough Gill – immortalised in the poem by Yates of the same name. As you approach Dromahair, Creevylea Friary is a medieval Franciscan friary and a designated national monument. From Dromahair you follow the shores of Lough Gill to Parkes Castle, once an important stronghold of the local O’Rourke family, which has been recently restored to its original 17th Century style. From here the last leg takes you back to bustling Sligo and the end of your journey through this magical part of Ireland.
The standard accommodations for this region's self-guided itineraries are guesthouses and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs). Generally, these have between 4 and 10 guest rooms and the owners/providers live on the premises. In almost all cases the bathroom facilities are ensuite (self-contained within the room), and the room facilities usually include a television and tea/coffee making facilities. There is a communal reading / television lounge. Small family run hotels are also used in a few locations. The providers are excellent sources of local information.
Breakfast is always included. Most guesthouses do not offer an evening meal.
When you book a tour, your pre-trip planner will have more details about the specific facilities and services provided by the accommodations.
Examples of our guesthouses in this region include;
Ireland's climate is surprisingly mild given its northern location. This is mainly due to the warming effects of the Gulf Stream which brings warm waters up to Western Europe from the more tropical Atlantic zones.
Temperamental is a fitting description of Ireland's weather. It can be very unpredictable! The old adage that it is possible to experience four seasons in one day is close to the truth. During the summertime, the warmest months tend to be July and August, when average temperatures during the day can range from 15ºC to 20ºC. A hot day in summertime could produce temperatures of 22ºC to 24ºC and on rare occasions can exceed 30ºC.
The best time to travel to Ireland for an outdoor trip such as a bicycle tour is from the beginning of May to the end of September. April and October are also possible, but the chances of encountering inclement weather increase. Towards the end of October the days are significantly shorter.
Traditionally May can provide some of the best weather days of the season. The last two weeks in June have the longest days of the year.
July and August are peak travel season for Ireland. The first weekend in August (a public holiday weekend) is the busiest of the season. School holidays are from the end of June until the end of August.
The latter half of September sees the change to autumn colours.
€1025 is the cost per person sharing. The cost includes the following (unless stated otherwise)
|Core Tour Cost||€1025|
|Hybrid bike rental||€175|
|Touring bike rental||€195|
|Road bike rental||€245|
|Luggage transfers||€450 (for two people)|
The standard charge is based on one or two riders. A couple would therefore share the luggage transfer costs. There is then a small additional fee for the third and each additional person.
Note that the more riders in the group, the less expensive are the luggage transfers per rider.
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