Travel | March 31, 2021 1:00 pm

Cycle Halfway Across the Country on Ireland’s Brand-New, 80-Mile Biking Trail

This one's going straight to the post-pandemic bucket list

ireland biking route
The Royal Canal Greenway officially opened earlier this week.
Tommy Kwak/Unsplash

It’s a great time to be a cyclist in Ireland.

Just a couple years ago, Irish operators launched biking tours from the country’s most southwestern point (Mizen Head in County Cork) to its most northwestern point (Malin Head in County Donegal). The adventure lasts anywhere from a week to 12 days and covers the entire western coast.

Now, the country has a more leisurely long-distance route at its disposal. Earlier this week, Waterways Ireland officially opened the Royal Canal Greenway, an 80-mile cycling route that begins at a trailhead outside Dublin (in a town called Maynooth) and reaches well into Ireland’s Midlands Region, ending in a small village called Cloondara.

royal canal greenway
The 225-year-old canal fell into disrepair in the late 20th century.
Waterways Ireland

The Royal Canal was originally completed in 1816, to challenge the Grand Canal — a trade waterway that also originated near Dublin, but traveled southwest instead of northwest. It did a hell of a job, connecting barges to dozens of towns and harbors in the very middle of the country for well over a hundred years. By the 1960s, though, its use had run out.

Still, engineering vestiges of the canal’s hey-day — bridges and aqueducts, for example — remain. And similar to railway conservation projects in the United States, Ireland saw fit to retrofit the canal’s route with this new path, which is actually open to all sorts of foot traffic now, runners and walkers included.

It’s possible to turn back at any point and return to whatever town you started in. But we’re very much here for the full 80-mile trip. This one’s going on the post-pandemic bucket list.

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