In terms of what I'd grown used to in the US. unfortunately planned trails in Ireland are pretty much unheard of and by the looks of things the popularly growing sport is largely frowned upon by official authorities, particularly Coillte - The Irish Forestry Organisation who have signs erected at the entrance to all their forest in the Dublin area pretty much informing Mountain Bikers that they're not welcome.
Anyway - I figured in the absence of much info on Irish trails it was time to compile my own guide on trails I've rode and what I thought of them and invite the contributions of others so that maybe we can build up a good reference point.
So here goes - My world guide to MTB trails both official and unofficial I've ridden
Old Kenmare Road, Outside Killarney, Kerry:
Last date ridden: August 2004
Directions: Take the Kenmare (Molls Gap) Road from Killarney as far as Galweys Bridge (About 11 miles), Just before Old Church turn left and follow considerably pot-holed road in till you come to a sign for Killarney National Park, prohibiting cycling along to the left - I usually parked my car here and hit off up towards the mountain towards Kenmare along the old road.
Description: This was one of the first "real" MTB trails I ever rode back in 1997 - It's got the thrills and the adrenelin surge and it's a tough climb to the top of the gap requiring one to dismount and push a fair bit of the way if yer not fit however the ride back down is fab and exhilirating and only one part is unrideable (except perhaps for the way out radical dudes!!!!!) - For a more detailed description check out my essay here
Update 2004: I finally got around to reriding this trail nostalgically on a balmy August evening in 2004. And it is better than I remember and even improved. The section near the top, previously unrideable has now been well excavated and is now a section of shale, other sections are alternatively muddy, boggy and rocky. A fit cyclist should be able to ride all the way up and back down again without (m)any stops but it's not a ride for the feinhearted and a certain level of skill and expereince is definately called for. Pix to follow....
Bangor Trail, between Furnace and Bangor Erris, North West Mayo.
Last Date Ridden: June 1996
Directions: From Newport take the Achill/Mulranney road and go about two miles until you see a sign for Furnace Lough and the Salmon Research Station to the right. Turn off and follow this road following signs for the IHA hostel, proceed on till you come to Srahmore Lodge at which point the road surface changes to gravel. About a mile further on you will encounter signs for the Bangor trail.
Description: This was one of my really "mad" ideas - After cycling the Westport to Achill Railway I was going to Belmullet for a poetry weekend so I sez "sure why not go via the Bangor trail" since I'd never been on a walking trail before and I figured since it's well marked on maps surely it must be pretty navigable by a Mountain Bike (Of course a mountain bike laden with panniers and tent and sleeping back is an even crazier contemplation!)
I "hit" the trail at about two in the afternoon on a very pleasant sunny June day with the intention that I'd be in Belmullet for a pint well before closing time.
The signs were ominious however about 200 yds beyond a footbridge across the river when I encountered my first section of boulder strewn bog.
Basically what followed was 20 miles of predominantly pushing and hogging the bike over and between boulders with very occasional spates of interesting cycling terrain.
At about 10.30 pm with light fading and no sign of civilization I finally conceded I wasn't goin to make last call in Belmullet so I pitched the tent for the night.
I awoke next morning and plodded on and finally spied a lone farmhouse about 3 miles later and headed for it (Away from the remaining 5 or so odd miles of the Bangor trail) and onto a gravel road which in turn led out onto the Ballycroy-Bangor Road. I finally reached Belmullet at about lunchtime considerably over thirteen hours later than originally planned.
Western Way around Nephin Beg
Last Date ridden: January 2008
Directions: From Newport take the Achill/Mulranney road and go about two miles until you see a sign for Furnace Lough and the Salmon Research Station to the right. Turn off and follow this road following signs for the IHA hostel, proceed on till you come to Srahmore Lodge at which point the road surface changes to gravel. About a mile further on you will encounter signs for the Western Way/Bangor trail. Continue on about another quarter mile until you cross a stream and turn left into the car parking area near the bothy (Little house!).
Description: This delightful forestry trail follows the
Altaconey river as it winds its way through a densely plantationed valley.
Along the way, through gaps in the trees, you are offered wonderful views
of the massive bulk of Nephin Beg which gives its name to this entire range.
The trail follows the route of the Western Way for about five miles and is
rejoined by the Letterkeen Loop off the Bangor trail about two miles along.
The track is undergoing some reconstruction in possible preparation for harvesting
works (Jan 2004) but this serves to make the ride more interesting with varying
surfaces and the odd unflattened gravel ramp along the way. I followed the
trail right around the north side of Nephin Beg departing the Western Way
to the left about five miles along. Following this track to it's conclusion
about another mile and a half on you come to a stram and unfortunately the
site of some agricultural dumping.
I loved this trail both for its truly delightful and, in places, breathtaking scenery and its peacefulness buts it's also a damn good ride with plenty of variation and ups and downs. Although you're climbing much of the way out from the bothy somehow you don't really notice it with all the scenery but it makes for a hell of a ride on the way back (Just be sure to take time out to look at the scenery on the way up cos you might miss it on the way down!!!).
Last Date ridden: January 2004
Directions: From Newport take the R317 towards Crossmolina, Continue for about 5 miles until you come to Cloondaff Post office. Turn left and follow the road in til you come to a fork, Take a right at the fork and follow the road till it become a gravel forestry track. Park anywhere alongside the road here, making sure not to obstruct any passing agricultural traffic.
Description: Birreencorragh Forestry is a forest track of gravel and lots of muddy sections through fairly recently clearcut forestry and some yet to be cleared sections of mature forest. It is a fairly steady climb with some pretty level sections that rises from about 60m to an eventual elevation of over 200m at the end of the track where the remains of the winches and machinery used for the tree harvesting appear to have been dumped. It is standard forest track fare though the harvesting activities have potholed and muddied the track in sections which makes for some exciting jumps and bumps on the descent. There is one fairly sharp right turn about half way down which you approach at quite a speed if you are flat out on the decent so be sure to anticipate it and have brakes in good working order. I very nearly overshot into the ditch on the left side of the track. Not an overtly exciting run but work a look of a Sunday afternoon particularly if you fancy tackling Bireencorragh from here at the end of your cycle up.
Croagh Patrick (The Reek), Murrisk, Westport, Co Mayo.
Last Date Ridden: May 2007
Directions: From Westport follow signs for Lousburgh, Croagh Patrick is about 14 miles out around Clew Bay. There is a large carpark for pilgrims (and bikers!) on the left hand side of the road opposite the Famine Memorial Ship beside Cambells pub.
Description: Croagh Patrick is Ireland's Holy mountain and a place of pilgrimage so it is a good idea to bear that in mind when attempting to cycle up it and offer it the due respect and reverence it deserves as well as being aware of the pilgrims and general hillwalkers that are to be found on it's slopes every day of the year. Definately avoid the last Sunday in July when upwars of 30,000 people climb the mountain.
I've cycled part of it three times. On the first two times I've got about two thirds of the way to the saddle which levels off before the final steep push to the top. On the most recent trip I got over the saddle to the flat part before the final ascent as per these pix
As a Mountain Bike trail it is surprisingly accessible for anyone with a fair level of fitness. Many sections of the path are wide enought to provide for a slalom zig zag ascent. Some parts are pretty shaley so that the back wheel tends to slide on the low gears. If you manage to get up beyond the valley where the stream runs thru there is a very wide area before it narrows into mountain side path from which point the trail is probably too dangerous for all but expereinced riders.
The descent is fun albeit a bit exhausting on the brake fingers since it is both necessary for safety and control reasons as well as being mindful of pilgrims to keep the brakes on for much of the descent. However there are sections with clear visibility that provide for good long uninterupted runs. The section with various paths back down thru the valley is particularly interesting. The steps at the bottom just below the statue add a final nice navigable challenge to end on a bouncing note.
NOTE: There is an excellent section of the Western Way which skirts Croagh Patrick over a summit locally know as Scelp. This section of the Western Way is totally navigable by bike and is a challenging climb but a rewarding descent. As in other places be aware that this path is popular with walkers also and a local sheep farmer traverses it regularly with his Quad to keep an eye on his stock so exercise the usual respect and caution. This is utilised as a bike section of the Gael Force Challenge that takes place each September in the vicinity of Westport (Quite painful after a 15km run on road and x-country, a 60km cycle and a climb of Croagh Patrick!)
Last Date Ridden: Sept 2007
Directions: Take the Rathbawn Road out of Castlebar towards Glenisland for about 3 miles until you come to a sign for Nephin Drive - Turn right here and follow the mostly gravelled road in past the windmills up to the hill on your right. After about 3/4 mile there a junction with a road going off to the right into the forest. These is a good deal of good quality forest road in here which has been upgraded in the last 18 months for the ongoing harvesting works. Of course the alternative if you want a challenging climb and a thrilling descent is to continue on straight ahead and follow the road right to the top to the TV comms tower (Elv. 428m).
Moore Hall Wood, Carnacon.
Last Date Ridden: Spring 2008
Directions: Follow the signs out of Castlebar towards Ballinrobe and from there follow signs for Carnacon and/or Moore Hall. There are a a nice few MTB tracks in the vicinity of the ruins of Moore Hall, including some fairly challenging and technical, rooty single track through the trees at the rear of the house. If you cross the road to the Lake side and go in the gate to the Moore Family plot there are some other nice tracks throught the woodland here. All in all a series of circuits can give you up to half an hour of cycling where you don't have to traverse the same tracks twice even if some of them are worth traversing many times. Due the the good work of local cycling clubs this is probabaly the best bit of semi "official" MTB track in Mayo.
Last Ridden: October 2005
Directions: Take the Spiddal Road out of Galway via Salthill. Before arriving on the village of Barna there is a small car park for Barna Wood on the right hand side.
Description: This is a short but nonetheless interesting bit of pathway through the small Barna woodland of decidious trees. The main circutious route is about 1/2 mile long but one can take in a series of variations on it, in a figure of eight pathway around the forest, with lots of opportunities for veering off the path down fairly steep inclines to rejoin the circuit at another section. There are also some narrow sections through undergrowth and involving some ducking and weaving around trees and branches. There are a couple of "chicanes" in the form of little stone walled passages which one can whizz through to test their steering abilities and a series of steps near the carpark which one can navigate eitehr up or down depending on whether you are approaching or departing the car park via this route.
Caution: This is a popular spot for couples walking together or with children and also with people walking dogs so I would advise alertness and the height of respect for others users at all times if Mountain Bikers are to be tolerated in using this area on an ongoing basis.
Last ridden : November 2002
Directions: From Leenaune take the Clifden Road. Proceed for about 2 miles past Killary Advernture on your left and the signs for Killary Lodge on your right. Take the next right and follow this tarred road to its end. The road now turns into a gravel/grassy path which proceeds alongside Killary Harbor for some three miles to the Youth Hostel.
Description: This is a nice dulating ride along one of the most picturesque parts of the West of Ireland.When I rode it it was extremely wet and muddy however, giving course to plenty of bogging down among rushes and much muck flying. There are some tricky bits to navigate over shale and rocks and a few places where it is necesary to lift the bike over obstacles.
Of course, as with all tracks through farming land, have some respect and be sure to close gates and steer clear of sheep and other livestock, whaever you think about the effect their overgrazing might have on the landscape.
Last Ridden: May 2006
Directions: Take the Dromahair Road out of Sligo for about two miles and look for the signs to the right for Hazelwood. Follow this road down about a mile and look for the signs for forest parking and boat launch area. The start of the bike trail is on the edge of Lough Gill at Half Moon bay and a nice loop through the woodland goes right out to the headland and the Garavogue river. This area is also very popular with joggers and people walking dogs, so do excercise a degree of caution, give them right of way and show a bit of respect, so that we can all continue to share this delightful resource convenient to Sligo.
Last date ridden: March 2002
Directions: Take the R116 from Ballyboden to Glencullen, About three miles from the M50 you come to a junction, follow the road round a sharp hairpen and the entrance to Tirbradden Wood is on your left just beyond (See Map)
Description: (Travelling Anti clockwise) This is a good challenging trail initially along a sound gravel mountain road which climbs steadily but not too steeply for about two miles. As you get further up the mountain however the trail become more like real MTBing territory with mud and grass and boulders and scree and rain channels. The last half mile ascent up to the cairn is good muck splattering stuff and the slight descent down towards the second peak (456m) includes some good fly thru mucky puddles. Beyond this you join a section of The Wicklow Way at a left turn and follow this for a couple of hunred yards. When the Wicklow way veers right you turn left and head back towards the car park. This section of the trail is a rough dulating forest access track over the mountain, the descent down to rejoin the ascent trail is quite challenging and exhilirating and the descent along the boulder strewn ascent trail is equally so - Watch out for walkers though along this section around the numerous bends.
Kilmashogue Wood / Three Rock Mountain:
Last Date Ridden: March 2002
Directions: From M50 exit 13 (End) take R133 (Rathfarnham Road), At Ballinteer Traffic Lights turn left (Marlay park) and proceed about 1/2 mile to R113, turn left and proceed to roundabout under M50. Take 1st exit off roundabout (Cul de Sac) and proceed a little over 1/2 mile to entrance to Kilmashogue Wood car park on left. (See Map)
Description: This is but one of a large variety of routes in the Three Rock Mountain Area. This the is the only one I've rode yet but I'll be back soon to suss out some more. The entire area is a treasure trove of semi developed trails teased out by various MTB enthuastists. However, because of its convenience to the city and its reputation, it is also the scene of some of the most flagarant abuses of the landscape and rights of the other visitors to the area, as well as unfortunatley attracting some of the most disrespectful, worst type of adrenelenin junkie MTB-ers who serve to give us all a bad name and risk getting us banned completely from places like this.
From the car park at Kilmashogue Wood the track rises steadily and around a couple of hair pens following the Wicklow Way for about two miles along a gravel forest road. When the Wicklow Way veers off to the right continue to follow the trail straight on. The trail levels off slightly along this section before the final ascent to the TV masts at Three Rock.
|If you continue off to the right following the track beyond the first mast one trail veers off to the left, down thru the forest, along some good between tree, failly technical rooty stuff. This rejoins the ascent mountain road again and if you wish there are loads of opportunities to veer off this road on the way down - Just remember that some of them do require backtracking back up again to rejoin the road. As ever, and especially here because of its popularity, watch out for walkers and horse riders (and Motocross - thought you'll hear them coming way off in the distance)|
Last Date Ridden: April 2002
Directions: Take the N11 as far as the turnoff for Newtown Mount Kennedy, From NTMtK take the road to Roundwood. In Roundwood head north following signs for the 1798 General Holt Memorial. At a crossroads go straight ahead. Entrance to Ballinastoe forest is about a mile and a half on the left.
Description: Wow!!!! This is the best Mountain Bike Track
I've been on in Ireland yet and is a well planned and constructed course running
through the forest and cutting across the fire breaks and forest roads, weaving
in and out between trees, plenty of bumps and hops and roots and hidden round
the corner surprises. A bit mucky (and bloody cold!) the first day I rode
it but I'll definately be back to give it the detailed review it deserves.
Last Date Ridden: January 2008
Directions: Not far from the Village of Ard Patrick about 8 miles south of Kilmallock, the trail head is at Green Wood.
Description: Mega Wow!!!! To quote MLK, "I have been to the mountain" - Man, this is something else, well in Irish terms this is the mecca of MTBing and that is my judgement from a single 10km out and back ride on a section of the soon to be opened properly designed MTB trail stretching 27km on the first leg alone, a true and worthy of supreme credit first for Ireland. I've got much more raving to do about this and a series of photos to up load for starters but I'm really already planning on goin back for an entire weekend as soon as it opens properly. One small point, albeit very minor in the light of things - The excellent local development organisation is already promoting it widely and noting that it (will) feature showers and bike washing facilities at the trail head but they are still it would seem a few months off so for the moment expect to have to try to rinse the considerable mud off yourself and your bike by standing in the ample puddles at the car park of Green wood.
Update January 2008: I went back in January 2008 for an excellent MTB Trail Leader programme run by two excellently knowledgeable and really nice guys from www.Cyclewise.co.uk (Thanx Rich and Craig). The trail is still not yet "officially" open but is getting there. Work is well advanced on the shower block and bike washing facilities. All the bridges on the initial loop are now in. The trail is undergoing a snagging process at the moment so should be open in the next month of so I believe. Watch www.ballyhouracountry.com for further information, even if they are sometime fairly slow in putting updates on the website, but it's all new to them as well so bear with them!
I welcome submissions from anyone with suggestions for trails to review or with their own trail review or with trails to recommend - If you let me know about 'em I'll put them up here. Just e-mail me
This site is maintained and updated by Peter
Last Updated Jan 2008
© Peter Jordan, 1999-2008