Cycling the Great Western Greenway in Connemara, Ireland

April 2, 2014

sheep on greenway

Over the weekend while my parents were visiting, we took a trip to the west of Ireland. The weather for their visit was a little wet and grey, but on Sunday morning we woke up to serious sunshine that was not even in the forecast! We were thrilled since we had planned to cycle 30 kilometers from Achill Island to Newport on the Great Western Greenway. It would not have been nearly such an amazing day if it had been raining!  great western greenway

Michael organised with Clew Bay Bike Hire to meet in Newport, take their shuttle to Achill Island, and then cycle the 30 kilometres back to the car. I could go on and on about how incredible the views were, but I think you’ll get the picture from the photographs. Ocean, mountains, sheep, how could you not have fun?!  great western greenway 2

greenway path

The path is really well maintained and well marked, so there’s no getting lost at all. It’s early in the season, so we were the only people on the trail for the first half of the journey which was so nice. There were parts that were uphill, but the second half was mostly downhill. It was certainly a long cycle, but that just meant more fish and chips for lunch afterward!

I should also mention that all four of us were well able for the cycle, if a little wobbly with sore seats by the end! My dad cycles 40 miles at a time and judges a good ride by how big the hills are, but Michael and I don’t cycle more than a half mile most days. And my mom isn’t so sporty but we’re thinking this cycle might have turned her – next time she’s back she’ll be decked out in all the spandex cycling gear!  peat piles connemara

Lots of piles of peat along the path! I don’t love the smell of it burning, but I love the look of a whole pile of it!  emily connemara greenway

greenway slanty

I took a few photos without lifting the camera to my eye ( I couldn’t really take a photo if I wasn’t stopped – I’m not that steady!), but I really liked this slanty one!  greenway sheep

Sadly, this was the only baby sheep I saw on the whole journey. But he was a cute little guy! Connemara sheep have black heads and black legs that look like they’re wearing stockings! And they weren’t too nervous having us cycle by them – the ones on the road barely moved out of the way for us!  connemara gorse and sky

The gorse was in bloom so a lot of the path smelled like coconut. It was pretty heavenly!

All in all, we’re now big fans of the Great Western Greenway, but we’d really suggest the Achill to Mulranny leg at the very least. It’s by far more scenic and wild!



  • Reply Katie G. April 2, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Amazing! I’d love to add this to my list for that someday trip to Ireland.

    • Reply emily April 3, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Someday, Katie! Hopefully soon!

  • Reply Gerry Boyle April 2, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Beautiful photos, Emily. A beautiful route in a beautiful place. Thanks for choosing this as our outdoor activity. And thanks to the weather gods for providing a spectacular day to see the west.

  • Reply Maureen Ott April 3, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Oh, Emily, you have increased my longing to be there again on the west coast and see the sheep, the land, and Clew Bay. Thanks so much for the photos! I’ll be there soon enough! Land of my ancestors…can’t wait to visit again this fall!

    • Reply emily April 3, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      I’m glad, Maureen! You’ll have a great time!

  • Reply Poppiesandme April 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    You don’t like the smell of turf burning???? I adore it, it smells like home, like Ireland 🙂

    • Reply emily April 3, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      I know, it’s weird but it gives me a headache! I prefer a good Maine wood fire 🙂

  • Reply Dorothy Kealy April 4, 2014 at 8:04 am

    My hat is off to your Mama. We both laughed at cycle mad men we are married to while we are allergic to saddles. My rule, if it’s flat I’ll cycle. The photos are amazing and a pub at the end is the cream. Say hi from us to your parents, a lovely couple.

    • Reply emily April 10, 2014 at 10:44 pm

      I think we claimed it was flat, but it certainly wasn’t! She was a trooper – but in better shape the next day than we were! We were so sore and she was grand!

  • Reply Alex - Hydrangea Girl April 4, 2014 at 8:49 am

    My moms side of the family is from Connemara. It’s really like a world of it’s own out there. All the heather, gorse and peat remind me of summer with my nanny. Funny – I love the smell of peat fires!

    I visited Achill Island for the first time a couple of years ago and it really is incredible. It was during a mini heat wave so it really was like being in Spain. Incredible views and gorgeous pics, Em!

    I do have one question though – were you guys cycling on the road at any time? The roads out there are so narrow. I’d a bit nervous to cycle it, and I cycle every day in Dublin traffic!

    • Reply emily April 10, 2014 at 10:43 pm

      Ther’es almost no cycling on the road, Alex! You cross over it once during the section we did from Achill to Newport, and you maybe do 200m on the road a little later. It’s really pretty great! Makes coming back to Dublin traffic a little harder though!

  • Reply A Connemara Road Trip Pit Stop in Photos | From China VillageFrom China Village April 15, 2014 at 8:49 am

    […] having dinner in bustling Westport (make a Saturday night dinner reservation in advance!), then an all day cycle from Achill Island to Newport before driving home that evening. Here are a few photos from a little scenic pit stop we made in […]

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