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Old 09-24-06, 08:02 AM   #1
Monoborracho
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Anyone Toured in Ireland?

I would appreciate any comments or feedback.

Next summer my brother and I are planning to fly to Galway (west coast), pick up rental bikes (21 speed Saracen hybrid tourers) and spend 7 to 10 days touring southern Ireland. The bikes are part of the Rent-A-Bike program so we don't necessarily have to return them to Galway but can drop them somewhere else and take the bus back if we wanted to.

After much review of websites and email correspondence with the bike shops, this seems doable. I tour on a bike very similar to the Saracen and I'll be taking my own saddle, pedals, accessories, and panniers. The low gearing on the Saracen is quite low so unless we have awsome hills, we could probably make 40 to 60 miles per day fairly easily. My normal riding is about 100 miles per week, with about half on a Saturday, and my brother does about 15 -20 miles per day on a road bike.

We are planning to fly into Galway and spend the first night there with reservations at a local B&B.
For the rest of the tour it would be staying in B&B or hotels at night with no reservations ahead of time. Or at least, none more than one day ahead. This is a "credit card tour" .The Irish Tourist Agency promises me that I should not have a problem finding a room at night.

Has anyone done a credit card tour of Ireland without a structured itinerary?
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Old 09-24-06, 08:20 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monoborracho
This is a "credit card tour" .The Irish Tourist Agency promises me that I should not have a problem finding a room at night.

Has anyone done a credit card tour of Ireland without a structured itinerary?
I have done alot of toruing in Ireland and though I usually camp or wild camp in hayfields, I have 'dropped into' B&Bs without reservation pretty often and I'd say you ahve a good chance of success. Many households 'do' B&B on short notice even if they don't formally advertise the service. Don't be surprised if, when you go to a B&B and its full, that the folks don't get on the phone and try and razzle up a place for you. That happened to me a few times.

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Old 09-24-06, 09:02 AM   #3
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i spent a few months living in the burren on the west coast. if you are flying into galway and heading south, you'll head through there. a very interesting place indeed! i biked all over the burren while i was there. there are great areas with very few, if any, people there at all. if you go in the summer, there will be a great number of tourists. if you could swing it, going in the fall or winter would yield a more tranquil experience. the weather there is still quite warm during the winter months, around 50F so you won't have to worry about freezing.

the winds on the west coast can be verty strong. my daily ride would be at the absolute minimum four miles a day (two each way from the house i was staying in to the school i was attending). with the wind at your back it was a five minute ride. if you were going against it, it was more like twenty minutes.

the drivers will generally give you space when they can and will also wave to as they pass, but they also drive fast. if you are stranded they will usually offer a ride before you can stick out your thumb. i was once offered a ride by a woman who was with her two week old baby. the irish people are incredibly trusting and friendly. the roads, unfortunatley, are terrible. poor conditions and curve and bend over hills and with NO shoulders. many blind curves so be careful. you will want mountain tires.

but probably the thing you should keep in mind is going to be the rain. it will rain everyday. sometimes two or three times a day. but almost never all day. out of the four months i was there, we got only one full dy of rain. besides, a rain storm is always a great excuse to duck into a pub. just make sure that your gear is waterproof.

other than that, it sounds like you and your brother are going to have a great time. while in galway, stop in at "noodle house" for a great meal before departure.
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Old 09-24-06, 12:19 PM   #4
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Check out Iron Donkey, they do "self-supported" tours in Connemarra and Clare. They set up the hotels, give you maps and cue sheets, they can also rent you bikes and transport your luggage from one hotel to the next. I just did their Clare tour and it worked out pretty well. Most of their routes are around 40-50 miles with another 15 miles of optional extensions.

You won't need absurdly low gearing if you're credit-card touring. I hauled 25 lbs of stuff in panniers with a low gear of 35" -- not low enough, but something around 30" - 32" will be fine. Don't expect to find a lot of snazzy gear in any bike shops over there, by the way -- bring your toys with you. Cycling in Ireland seems to be focused on basic transportation rather than conspicuous consumption.

Wind isn't a huge issue, but yeah, you need to be mentally prepared for rain. Don't believe the "oh it's a fine light mist" thing, it rained non-stop one day when I was there. If you carry your own luggage, definitely pack your stuff into sealed plastic bags or durable garbage bags; as long as your stuff is dry, rain really isn't a big deal. Also make sure you have a waterproof map holder.

IIRC unless you're coming in from Europe, you'll probably fly into either Dublin or Shannon. If you fly into Dublin, you can take a bus directly from the airport to Galway, 3 hours, 20 euros, cuts right across the countryside.
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Old 09-24-06, 01:27 PM   #5
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I just did a short 1 week tour here, was good fun. Here's a good one for you - canal toepaths out of Dublin - my next plan! You can make it all the way to the midlands, even further west if you take a MTB rental for.

Another possible trip: get to Galway, cycle or bus out to Rossaveel, get the high speed ferry out to the Aran Islands and do a day trip or 2 on the islands. http://www.flickr.com/photos/alrocket/tags/inishmor/

btw drivers suck here, especially on main roads (aka "National Route" equiv to "A road" or "Highways"). They won't give room more than needed to clear.

Re maps, get Discovery series "Ireland East" and "Ireland West" maps, they include all backroads. Sure there's N&S equivs.
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Old 09-24-06, 01:50 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Alrocket
get to Galway, cycle or bus out to Rossaveel, get the high speed ferry out to the Aran Islands and do a day trip or 2 on the islands.
Y'know, I didn't see what the big deal was about the Aran Islands, a few hours on Inis Mor seemed like plenty of time to me. Maybe the other islands are nicer? I chatted with someone who was part of the tourist economy of the Arans, and she was like "I grew up there, and I don't see what all the fuss is about...."


Quote:
btw drivers suck here, especially on main roads (aka "National Route" equiv to "A road" or "Highways"). They won't give room more than needed to clear.
I concur that riding on the main routes like the N18 and near the big cities kind of sucks, but usually they can be avoided and overall I thought the drivers were courteous -- especially compared to the East Coast of the US. Over there never know when there will be a cow or a sheep around the next bend, so usually the drivers aren't flooring it around the curves. ; I also got off the road onto the "shoulder" if it was very narrow, I have a feeling that's what the drivers expect you to do on the tiny routes.



Oh yeah, almost forgot the bane of my cycling existence over there.... almost none of the streets or roads are marked, even in cities like Ennis and Galway. If you aren't used to that, it will take you a few days to get used to navigating. If you don't have one already, I strongly recommend that you pick up a compass.
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Old 09-24-06, 03:38 PM   #7
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I biked around Ireland for five weeks, having had no previous touring experience and without an itinerary. I was ready to camp, but it turned out I always found a hostel or B & B to stay in. At night, I would pull out a map and choose an interesting looking town as my next day's goal, using castle locations as a loose structure for the overall trip. Met a lot of fun people in the hostels and pubs, and had the time of my life really.

Watch for tour busses, they are eerily quiet and blast past you before you know they are there. Get a mirror for your helmet or handlebar, it will help in assessing whether encroaching cars see you or not based upon their lane positioning.

Have fun and don't be shy when you're out there! Also, remember to take advantage of the huge breakfasts at B & B's when you can.
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Old 09-24-06, 05:19 PM   #8
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Arans are nice, big deal? Maybe not, but where is? Nice view of a native Irish speaking community who actually speak it in day-to-day - the vast majority of us don't. Main attractions? Rugged island with some fantastc locations and views, my pics don't come close to doing justice.

If you want spectacular rural setting, after Rossaveel, head north via Connemara into Westport. Unbelievable.

The only probs you might have touring Ireland, if you're the faster style tourist, is running out of road. But you can just switch direction and head north into Donegal or south to Clare, Limerick, Kerry, also fantastic.
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Old 09-24-06, 05:20 PM   #9
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fillthecup is right.

there is nothing in the world that beats a full irish breakfast.
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Old 09-24-06, 05:33 PM   #10
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I'll beat it hands down. It'll cost ya though. Got a nice frame for a fixie conversion for me?
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Old 09-24-06, 06:37 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Alrocket
The only probs you might have touring Ireland, if you're the faster style tourist, is running out of road. But you can just switch direction and head north into Donegal or south to Clare, Limerick, Kerry, also fantastic.
Running out of road should not be a problem as we are only on a 7-10 day affair. I've toured before but my brother has not and he still thinks I'm a little daft for wanting to do this. I am 54, he is 63 and only recently had to give up running for biking.

This is a great thread and I really appreciate everyone's comments.
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Old 09-25-06, 02:57 AM   #12
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Independant touring is really easy in Ireland I dont see the need for a tour company.
The hire bikes are perfectly adaquate, I did a week long tour on a rental Raleigh Pioneer. Taking your own saddle/pedals/bags is a good idea. Carry a simple toolkit as well, you get a very basic one just a ball wrench and puncture repair kit.
The independant hostel network is worth using esp as so many other riders use them, you pick up lots of good info on the grapevine.
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Old 09-25-06, 07:47 AM   #13
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I just got home last week from 6 weeks of independent touring in Ireland. In and out of Shannon, and we tried to circle the island clockwise. Ran out of time but did get quite a bit of it in.

We never had advance reservations, and stayed mostly at the hostels. Highly recommended. There are two different hostel associations, some overlap but some are exclusive. So you'd want to get both brochures. One is the IHH which is at http://www.hostels-ireland.com/ and the other is IHO which is at http://www.holidayhound.com/ihi/
Sometimes we'd call in the AM if we were trying to get there for the evening, which helped because if they fill up, it will happen later on in the day and you'll be more guaranteed a spot...and this was in August in the heart of the tourist season.

BTW, the roads really chewed up our tires. The "loose chippings" as they do road work are everywhere. It's sharp little gravel over a base of tar, kind of like the slurry seal we use here but with a lot more exposed sharp gravel.

It was a great trip though, and the Irish people were indeed the highlight of the trip! Enjoy
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Old 09-25-06, 09:42 AM   #14
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BTW, the roads really chewed up our tires. The "loose chippings" as they do road work are everywhere. It's sharp little gravel over a base of tar, kind of like the slurry seal we use here but with a lot more exposed sharp gravel.
Seems like it would be a good idea to carry a folder tire once I know what bike and tire size. The bike rental place said it would be Feb before he knows what rental bikes will be available summer 07.
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Old 09-25-06, 09:57 AM   #15
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I met two sixty-something couples at a B & B in Ballyvaughan (near Aillwee caves in the Burrens). They were riding rented three speeds, had panniers but little gear, and were shooting for about 20 miles per day, stopping whenever they wanted to. They were starting to regret the amount of Scotch they were carrying, and so were trying to finish as much as they could. I joined them, had a great time, but spent the rest of the night staring at the wallpaper in my room waiting for it to stop moving. Few wrongs ways to go about bike-touring Ireland, as long as you have a good attitude and an open mind.

I hope your brother stays positive through the discomforts of touring. Rain ponchos are good, keeping the body mostly dry (but for sweat), and trailing like a giant flag behind you for vehicles to see. Still, even with ponchos, be ready to get wet.

You can 'waterproof' normal panniers by just stuffing your things inside plastic bags and putting these inside the panniers. Alternatively, you can buy nylon duffel bags of various sizes, treat them with tent waterproofing chems (they're already resistant anyway but...), and put these inside normal panniers. No need to spend 2X as much on waterproof panniers.
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Old 09-25-06, 12:29 PM   #16
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On a bright note, I did 40+ hours of cycling here that week touring. It was cloudy and even stormy on several of the days. We only got rained on for 1 hour out of the 40ish. Our weather is under-rated
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Old 09-25-06, 01:26 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monoborracho
Has anyone done a credit card tour of Ireland without a structured itinerary?
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

there is no such thing as an itinerary in Ireland!

you guys are gonna have a blast!
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Old 09-25-06, 04:14 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Lolly Pop
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

there is no such thing as an itinerary in Ireland!

you guys are gonna have a blast!
I can already taste the Guiness !!!! The more I hear and read and learn from others the more I like the thought of the tour.
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