It was an evening of legendary rain when we drove up to Westport for a weekend cycling the Great Western Greenway.
Living in Ireland means you are ready to go anywhere regardless of the rain, you just take it as part of the package and make the most of it. The good news? it comes quickly but most of the time it goes as quickly as it came. It is one of the beauties of the ‘land of the fast moving clouds’ and it is so true.
By the following morning the Mayo sky had cleared and we set off on two shiny rental bikes with what seemed to me perfect cycling conditions: a comfortable 16 degrees and a shy but promising sun trying to break through the fluffy Autumn clouds. Ready to get on the saddle, we were on our way to Achill Sound.
Cycling the 42 kms of the Greenway from Westport and back over a weekend was one of the best trips I had in a long time. A bit of rain made an appearance towards the end, but who cares when you are having so much fun? These are 4 great reasons to love the Great Western Greenway
Great for beginners
The Great Western Greenway is a fantastic trail for ‘leisure’ cyclists like myself: we want to enjoy the ride but take it handy, stop for a picnic or even a swim! take a few pictures and generally just take a breather and enjoy being there.
Because the Greenway is a trail built on a former railway line it is stress-free and 90% off road, apart from a couple of junctions where you’ll need to cross the road and a couple of small stretches of road, for instance entering and leaving Newport and reaching Achill Sound. It is extremely well marked and sign posted so you can’t go wrong, navigation is fool-proofed.
Because there are a few towns and villages along the way (the Great Western Greenway connects Westport, Newport, Mulranny and Achill Sound), you can easily turn the route into a relaxing family cycling trip with children of all ages.
The terrain is pretty flat with only a couple of manageable hills, and that bit of an uphill stretch will be well worth it, once you get to see the…
As you cycle out of Westport, you can spot majestic Croagh Patrick (The Reek) looking over the town. From Westport to Newport you will make quick progress across lush farmland and forests and once you approach Mulranny, the pure beauty of the West of Ireland and the Atlantic really hits you.
The mountains of Nephin Beg at the back, Mulranny beach ahead, the islands of Clew Bay and the Reek far in the distance form a spectacular 360 panoramic view that leaves you in absolute awe: isn’t life just full of wonders? helped by the fact that you just cycled up the worst hill of the trail and from here it is all free wheeling (happy days)…
And if you thought this was magnificent and breath taking, it just gets better: the last stretch from Mulranny to Achill takes you north of the peninsula, with Bellacragher Bay and Ballycroy National Park in the distance to your right and the unique beauty of the boglands, dotted with pretty cottages and freshly cut turf stacks, to the left.
If you choose to leave the Greenway and take the Atlantic Drive to Achill Sound or on your way back to Mulranny (like we did), the south of the peninsula following the coastal road is just as spectacular and relatively traffic-free (you will be on the road now). You might even be brave enough to go for a quick and refreshing dip in the ocean.
The Greenway is gloriously traffic-free, apart from the fearless sheep that seem unfazed by walkers, cyclists and locals. If they don’t get out of the way, negotiate your way around them or ring the bell. They might get the message, they might not.
All the way from Westport to Achill, ‘hellos’ or friendly nods are exchanged between fellow cyclists and locals. Hotels, cafes and other services in the area happily accommodate newbie and experienced cyclists, always accompanied by a nice chat and a cheerful ‘come again soon’. That is just priceless.
Once in Achill, you can continue touring the island. In our case we chose to cycle back to Westpot instead, taking the Atlantic Drive. Achill Island is on the to-do list for next time.
More Greenways are planned to be developed in Ireland in the next few years, including an extension of the Great Western Greenway to Achill Island and an epic trail from Dublin to Galway, so that should be exciting!
For more information about the Great Western Greenway, cycling the Wild Atlantic Way or to book your trip, contact our travel specialists