After 10,800 kilometres of e-biking across the UK, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium Austria and Holland the e-Bike Cycle Tourists thought they had seen just about all the amazing scenery there was to see in Europe.
But as we have discovered time and time again, you never know what is around the next corner and in this case on Ireland’s west coast.
It is, without a hint of exaggeration, a magical place that features stunning landscapes, wild Atlantic views, hundreds of historic islands and a fascinating history that stretches back to the Bronze Age.
To say we were unprepared for what we have seen as we continue to cycle towards a new world e-bike long distance record is a statement of monumental proportions.
Determined to keep away from leprechaun-filled souvenir shops and crowded tourist haunts, what we have discovered – with help from the local e-bike community – is the ‘real‘Ireland.
With the tourist season – fortunately for us – over for the year, the roads have been virtually traffic free and the tourist buses few and far between, with the result that we have almost had many of the region’s stunning beauty spots to ourselves.
And to top off what has been an amazing two weeks of cycle touring up the west coast, Ireland has turned on perfect weather after what we were told was the worst summer weather-wise for many, many years – how good is that!
The first stop after leaving Kilfenora where we enjoyed a couple of days of R&R off the bikes was the Aran Islands – what an amazing place it is! A 45 minute ferry ride from the mainland, the Aran Islands is a group of three islands where time has seemingly stood still.
It is quite simply a step back in time where the horse and cart are still used, where bicycles outnumber cars and where people go about their business as their forefathers have done for centuries. And the scenery? You just have to see it for yourself; pictures just don’t do it justice.
From there we caught the ferry back to the mainland where we cycled through a landscape of towering mountains totally devoid of trees to Clifden, the unofficial capital of the Connemara region.
It is here in what is seemingly the middle of nowhere where farmers still dig peat bog to burn in their fires through long winters and where adventurers come to hike through pristine hills where no hiking trails exist.
Prior to arriving in the region names such as the Twelve Pins, the Maumturk Mountains and further north the Sheeffry Hills struck fear into us as we imagined never ending hill climbs on our Haibike e-bikes.
But the reality of the situation was that we were able to cycle through traffic-free valleys and were able to stop as often as we liked for photo opportunities.
From Clifden our journey north continued towards Westport where we have been staying for a few nights with Paul Harmon and his wife, Marie, from Electric Escapes the Kalkhoff e-bike agent in Ireland.
As well as a providing a comfortable bed, Paul’s knowledge of the region is encyclopaedic, with the result that he has been able to direct us to some of the region’s iconic cycling destinations.
On Thursday we cycled to Achill Island and returned via the Great Western Greenway, Ireland’s first long distance rail trail, on Friday we caught a ferry to Clare Island – which is even more remote than the Aran Islands if that is possible – and on Saturday we cycled a loop route that took us through the beautiful Sheeffry Hills.
With our Ireland experience due to draw to a close when we catch the ferry back to Wales on Tuesday where we will cycle to London before travelling to Portugal for the next leg of our e-bike adventure, it is with heavy hearts that we leave.
To say that we have loved our visit to Ireland is a major understatement. The generosity of everyone we have met, the beauty of everywhere we have visited and the experiences we have had have been amazing.
So much so, that Ireland ranks right up near the top of our favourite places so far. To be sure it is a place that demands to be visited. If you do nothing else in your travels make sure you put Ireland on your ‘must visit’ list.
If you want to see the ‘real’ Ireland for yourself from the best vantage point available – an e-bike – go to the www.electricescapesireland.ie website. The website us a collective of seven companies who hire e-bikes on Ireland’s west coast and elsewhere.
Rest assured an e-bike is the ONLY way to see Ireland!