Geoff Bates rode our 12-Day Ireland End-to-End Tour in July 2019…turns out he writes as good as he talks! Many thanks Geoff – delighted you enjoyed the ride and thanks for taking the time to write about it!
Take 25 riders from as far apart as Melbourne, Manchester, Boston, Buffalo, Bungay and Bridport introduce them briefly at the Airport Hotel in Cork, sort out their myriad equipment requirements with patience and laughter, feed them, bus them to Mizen Head the following day, point them North and send them on their way.
Sounds like a hoot!
Remember, you have no idea how this crew will gel and what range of cycling abilities are represented across the group
But that’s what PKool and Brian the Vane are for – so fear not fortunate traveller because you are just about to embark on one of the rides of your life!
And so it turned out …
The daily tracks were designed to allow as many reduced traffic routes as possible, hugging the coastline, turning inland to isolated valleys, soaring over the ridges and taking in the spectacular, soft beauty of the West of Ireland – where everybody’s ancestors hail from – forget that stuff about the Rift Valley the Olduvai Gorge and Lake Turkana!
You can ride the Black Valley, the Gap of Dunloe, the Shannon, Lough Corrib and Killary Fjord, Lough Mask and the Burren, the Sligo wetlands, Croagh Patrick and the Donegal moorlands, each with contrasting but magnificent scenery. Even better, every day after 50 miles or so, you arrive at an excellent hotel for rest, recreation and sustenance, in or out, including Irish Stew, Colcannon, Champ, Boiled bacon and cabbage, Boxty, Soda bread, Barmbrack, and every variety of orthopod, mollusc and crustacean you could name. Accompanied if so inclined, by copious quantities of the Nation’s finest Guinness or Murphy’s. A good many of the restaurants have most excellent wine lists, but over-indulgence may come back to haunt you
Or … you could indulge away and just have half a day in the van citing an ingrowing toenail or some such to elicit sympathy, nobody minds, nobody judges and you can’t do better than your best eh ….
On-the-road brew stops and picnic lunches are a welcome daily sight usually after 15/20 and 30/40 miles depending on terrain and are consistently well catered, sometimes too well, as an image of cream filled, jam topped, zero cal, doughnuts comes to mind
Your humble correspondent has ridden over 15,000 cycle touring miles on 3 continents in the past 4 years and can honestly recommend Wild Atlantic Cycling as being in the top 10% of those companies patronised, all of which were pretty good
Many thanks Paul, Brian and Julie – I’ll be back next year for the Northern edition.
You know it’s out there, so get on your bike and ride it!
Built in the 15th century, Ross Castle is located on the shores of Lough Leane and will give you a glimpse of the famous lakes of Killarney National Park. Knowledgeable tour guides love to share tales of the past, making this a truly enjoyable place to visit.
St. Mary’s Cathedral is also open daily for visitors.
Muckross House & Gardens is another must see historical site. Set on Muckross Lake, acres of gardens surround this 19th century Victorian mansion, which was visited by Queen Victoria in 1861.
If you’re not in the mood for history or landscaping, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! You’ve plenty of opportunities to shop ‘til you drop at the Killarney Outlet Centre or downtown along bustling High Street and New Street. Killarney is one of Ireland’s premiere tourist destinations and its shopping districts do not disappoint!
Whether we’ve been shopping, sightseeing, or eating at any of the great pubs along High Street . . . we always end our night a little farther down the road, with a pint or two at the Killarney Grand. This award winning Irish Trad pub offers up nightly live sessions. There’s no cover before 11:00PM and the place fills up quickly, so grab a seat if you can find one, and settle in for some of the best music you’ll hear in all of Ireland.
Our stay in Killarney is always a ton of fun! The locals are warm and inviting, and we love the energy of this vibrant little town.
On day one of our 7-day tour and day two of our 12-day, we step back in time as we cycle through the Black Valley, so named for being one of the last areas of Ireland to be connected to electricity and telephone lines.
Delightful descents and long uninterrupted stretches along the River Gearhameen make you wish you never had to go back into town.
The scenery through the Gap of Dunloe will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Photos can’t do justice to this narrow mountain pass that separates the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks Mountains from the Purple Mountain Group.
We’ll share the one lane road with old-fashioned pony and trap carriages and cycle down through the five lakes lined by gorgeous old stone walls.
Of course a stop at the Wishing Bridge to make wishes will be in order.
All this on our way into Killarney, one of the most entertaining cities along the tour. Stay tuned for our Killarney City Highlight blog coming up next!
Our training tips have focused on cycling to improve your fitness. However, there are a host of other things that you could be doing if you can make the time!
Tighten up on your diet. Easier said than done, but worth the effort. You will actually notice a difference if you shed even just five kilos, especially on the climbs!
If you have time to spend off the bike, then it’s good to work on Core Strengthening. There are all sorts of exercises that will help. A Google search is a great place to start. Mix it up with Kettle Bells. They are very versatile – great for core work and cheap to buy too. Build in some ‘planks’ and some ‘crunches’ and you’ll be flyin’!
If that still leaves you with time and motivation, then work on muscle development. Squats and lunges will strengthen the glutes, which are often ignored yet absolutely necessary for cycling. Take the stairs two at a time. And don’t forget to focus on upper body – a long day in the saddle will work your back and arms just as well as your legs!
Rest. Training places your body under stress. Resting allows it to adapt and repair. The increase in exercise will make you tired, and while this is also a sign you’re pushing yourself and getting fitter, you must listen to your body. If you need to back off, it will tell you. Best to listen before it starts to shout.
Most of all, don’t push yourself so hard that you risk injury and practise a positive mindset in everything. Like all things in life don’t underestimate the impact of a positive outlook on the body. Have fun!
British Cycling has a number of great guides and videos that will help you get to grips with off-the-bike training and strengthening:
While it would be nearly impossible to pick any one city as the best along our MizMal route, we have to admit that Galway is one of our favorites. Set to be 2020’s European Capital of Culture, Galway is situated along the River Corrib where it enters the North Atlantic Ocean via beautiful Galway Bay.
After making our way through the Burren, we cycle into Galway on Day 3 of our seven-day tour and on Day 6 of our twelve-day tour. With a few days of peaceful countryside behind us, this lively city switches up the pace.
Participants love the accommodations at Nox Hotel, and the three hundred year-old Eyre Square. You can grab a cappuccino at one of the many cafés lining the park and plop down in the grass to soak in the buzzy vibe of downtown.
Galway Cathedral, Spanish Arch, and the Long Walk are all within walking distance of the hotel. And the Latin Quarter never disappoints. This neighborhood comes alive at night with a parade of street performers and lively restaurants spilling out into the lane. Head down Shop Street to Quay Lane for some of the best food, shopping, and entertainment in town.
Once you’ve settled in and had a nice walk around, you’ll be sure to find your Wild Atlantic Cycling team at The Quay’s Bar & Restaurant. We love them for their high quality traditional Irish and contemporary music and a pint or two of Guinness after a long day’s ride. Or possibly Tig Coilis – known as the country pub in the middle of the city which promises to give you an experience, as well as the finest pint in the city!
Galway is definitely a city we look forward to returning to!
Feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of averaging 50-85 miles a day for 7-12 days in a row? Fear not! We’ve got you covered with some training tips to make sure you’re as fit as you can be before you cross the START line at Mizen Head.
Before you begin, take note of how you’re feeling in terms of strength and cardiovascular fitness. Training is most effective when you track your progress and slowly but steadily increase your load over time. This allows your body to adapt each time you step it up. Make your rides challenging and push yourself, but also keep in mind that rest and recovery are equally important.
Look at your calendar and count back 12 to 16 weeks from your MizMal Tour start date. This is the optimal time period for when you should start training on a regular basis. At first, simply fit your training into your regular riding habits whatever they may be. Can you add a few more miles at the end of a ride or squeeze in a few more hills during? Build it up gradually.
You can vary your training rides between these three types:
1. The Long Ride
Weekend warrior? Great! Do your long ride once a week on the weekend.
Retired with all the free time in the world? High five! Do your long ride any ol’ day of the week.
Really it doesn’t matter when you do it, you just have to commit to getting it done once a week. Go ahead and groan, but recognize how important it is to build your stamina.
So what constitutes a long ride?
Excellent question! Start with 2-3 hours of riding and see where you’re at for distance. The next week tack on another 5-10 miles. Keep adding miles until you build yourself up to 85 miles if you are training for the Seven Day event [Insert link] and 45 miles if training for the Twelve Day event [Insert link].
Do these rides at a steady pace with moderate effort – somewhere between where you can hold a conversation and the point at which you can only manage shorter sentences. Also find a cycling buddy or two. Riding with others will help you maintain a steady pace, ride stronger, and have more fun!
2. The Steady Ride
This shorter weekday spin can be done a few times a week and will help you beef up your mileage and get you used to riding faster, for increasingly longer periods of time. Start with an hour long ride, and increase by 15 minutes each week until two weeks before the event, when you’ll start to taper. Since these are shorter than The Long Ride, you’ll want to move at a slightly faster pace. This type of training is one of the most effective in building endurance fitness.
3. The Speed Ride
A weekly speed ride will increase your lactate threshold, i.e. the point at which your muscles start screaming to stop. Over time this will help you ride faster without it hurting. Start with a 30-minute fast ride at a pace that is slightly difficult to keep. Build up over the course of a few weeks to an hour and a half in 15-minute increments. Then taper down by 15 minutes in each of the two weeks before the event.
Spinning (static cycling) is a good way to build speed and cardiac endurance. Spinning is the cycling equivalent of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a series of short, maximal efforts of 30-90 seconds, interspersed with brief rest periods of roughly double that time. Cycle as fast as you can for 30 seconds, rest for 60 seconds. Cycle as fast as you can for 45 seconds, rest for 90 seconds, and so on.
Here’s a possible rotation schedule to get you started:
Sunday – The Long Ride
Monday – Rest
Tuesday – The Steady Ride
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – The Speed Ride
Friday – The Steady Ride
Saturday – Rest
Pro tip: Life gets in the way. Let it! Train, rest, relax, repeat. Try not to get so focused on training that you forget to have fun with friends and family.
People often ask us how fit you need to be to ride our MizMal tour. It’s a hard question to answer but we’ll do our best!
First things first: no one here is aspiring to athlete status. We’re not professional racers. More often than not, successful MizMal-ers are leisure weekend cyclists.
Everyone is different. Factors such as general health conditions, injuries, and available training time will affect your overall experience. However if you can ride 50-70 miles once or twice at the weekend, with a few months of focused training you’ll be ready for the MizMal Seven Day tour. If you think a more relaxed pace is for you, we’ve got the more laid-back Twelve Day Tour as an option.
There’s something in the salty sea air once you hit the road down south at Mizen Head. Your adrenaline will kick in and keep you pedalling with the promise of magical landscapes and budding new friendships waiting around every corner. Our MizMal-ers cycle at their own pace and we are there to support if you need us. So long as you’re a capable cyclist looking forward to a bit of a challenge, you’ll be amazing and definitely cross the finish line without keeling over!
With all that said, it’s very important to stay as injury free as possible. Regardless of your current regimen (or lack there of), you’ll want to put in some training time before your tour is set to begin. At the end of the day you need to feel comfortable and strong. Check out our next post with some training tips to get you prepared for one of the most memorable trips you’ll ever take!
Since I was a small boy when our parents took us ‘home’ to the west coast of Ireland for our August Summer holidays, through to later taking our own children, and now more recently introducing our grandson and son-in-law to the west, it has always been to me a special, magical and almost spiritual place. So when I saw the chance to cycle Mizen Head to Malin Head, or MizMal, with Wild Atlantic Cycling it was a challenge and experience that was calling to me!
I started to dabble with cycling once I turned 50 in a half hearted attempt to improve my health and fitness, but MizMal was a whole new level of challenge for me now in my latter 50’s, with 570 miles to cover in 7 days! I knew I needed something more to inspire me through the necessary training in the lonely winter months so, as a further return to an emotional past, I decided to do the challenge for a charity – Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity.
“Whatever the ability there was always someone to cycle with and we all caught up and shared stories at the end of each day”
There were 22 of us who met on that first evening in the hotel with small talk conversations, and we headed off with a mixture of excitement and trepidation the following day from Schull via the Mizen Head to Killarney. Some came with existing friends in groups of 2’s and 3’s, many from the UK, a few second generation Irish like myself going back to the country we love, 3 came across from the USA, and one from Switzerland, with only the one living in Ireland today – that was Kenn who turned out to be my riding companion for most of those miles. So it was as a mixed group we started off but by the end of our 7 days, Paul, and his small Wild Atlantic Cycling (WAC) team of the knowledgeable Eric and the lovely Liz, had united us to become such a close knit and happy bunch of lovely, like-minded and extraordinary people who had a common purpose and helped each other to Malin Head; a bunch who forever will be close whenever our paths may cross again! We were of all abilities and ages some stronger than others, some who had cycled Lands End to John O’Groats, a pair on ‘honeymoon’ on a tandem, and others who were fairly new to cycling and whose training had not been as diligent as they intended! So whatever the ability there was always someone to cycle with and we all caught up and shared stories at the end of each day, or as we passed at tea or lunch stops!
In our 7 days we were treated by Paul and WAC with meticulously planned, cycle-safe routes, that Paul has personally ridden and researched himself, leading us through simply stunning scenery. We had scenic mid-morning team stops and picnic lunches, and when it rained we had warm soup and sandwiches in pre-arranged friendly pubs, ending each day at well-chosen hotels.
“The stunning wild beauty of that first day from Cork into Kerry will stay with me forever”
For our first three days from Schull to Killarney, and then onto Spanish Point in County Clare, and from there to Galway we were spoilt by wonderful weather, and the stunning wild beauty of that first day from Cork into Kerry will stay with me forever as we travelled over the Caha Pass, Moll’s Gap, into the Black Valley and then up and down the Gap of Dunloe. The west coast hit back on our 4th day into Connemara as rain and high winds meant we did not see Killary Harbour and Sheeffry Pass is all their splendid glory, but you know what – the true challenge of this adventure is experiencing all of the Irish weather, from blazing sunshine, through to pouring rain! Indeed if we did not have the rain I would have rather, masochistically, been rather disappointed! You can have Majorca, Italy or France cycling holidays, with their reliable weather, as the sense of achievement doing MizMal exceeds all of them, with the added benefit of Ireland’s own wild and beautiful coastal scenery, warm Irish hospitality and pubs serving smooth Guinness!
“I honestly don’t think I would have made that climb without the Sands cycling jersey bearing our daughter’s name.”
I had never been as far North as Donegal or Malin Head, but I will be back there as those final 40 miles from Buncrana to the finish at Malin Head exceeded Day 1 in many ways, not least because it also included Mamore Gap, which is an iconic Irish climb. 1.1km, 12.4% average gradient and 22% maximum gradient!! I somehow managed to do it without putting my foot to the ground though nearly burst a lung in doing so. I honestly don’t think I would have made that climb without the Sands cycling jersey bearing our daughter’s name as thinking of Siobhan got me to that top, where I don’t mind saying I shed a couple of tears! It was then onto the finish at Malin Head which I expected to be at sea level – but no as there was one more hill to conquer before hugs, more tears and celebrations at the end!
The relaxed, fun and safe atmosphere created and led by Paul is an added and unexpected bonus – he brings a warm personal touch with the ‘Paul Kennedy’ factor. With the truly exceptionally special group of people this challenge attracts, it all goes to make this one of the most memorable experiences of my life. For me the experience was enhanced by my own emotional ‘journey’ doing this for Sands, and in memory of our daughter Siobhan! Not only are you immensely proud of your achievement to complete this tough challenge (whatever your ability) you will also have so much fun along the way and be creating lifetime memories for you to bank and be so proud of, whilst being excellently cared for by Paul and the WAC team – I cannot recommend it highly enough, and if you do it for a charity close to your heart too you will simply enjoy it more! Thank you so much Paul, WAC, and all my fellow June 2018 MizMal riders.
If you are looking for a fun and challenging experience which allows you to explore the beautiful Northern Irish coastline in all its splendour, while strengthening your body and improving your fitness, then you are certainly going to be interested in taking one of Wild Atlantic Cycling’s corporate tours.
You can experience the beautiful and regal Mussenden Temple perched on a 120 ft cliff top overlooking Downhill Strand – one of the locations where the cult TV series Game of Thrones is filmed. Two other locations from the show are also on the route, the impressive ruins of the historic Dunluce Castle, which was built on a cliff edge, and the picturesque village of Ballintoy, with its pretty harbour. The Dark Hedges which is also featured is an option for the more experienced cyclist.
The unmissable and truly unique Giants Causeway is also on the agenda, a sight not to be missed and definitely one that you will remember. The beauty of this natural phenomenon is without doubt beyond description.
You also get to pass through the gorgeous seaside town of Portstewart, with its Blue Flag beach which incorporates a cycle track, meaning that you don’t miss out on the amazing views.
No pitching a tent or booking into a hostel on this cycling trip. Comfortable, quality accommodation is provided including the beautiful Roe Valley Golf Resort and the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle.
Good pubs and restaurants, featuring music and craic and the obligatory Irish nightcap add to the experience as well as coffee stops in pleasant friendly local coffee shops, where you get time to recuperate while sampling good Irish home-baking and of course, the coffee.
Finishing up close to the little village of Ballygally, you simply have to taste the Guinness and the Irish stew in Matties Bar, thus completing a truly unique but very Irish compendium of ceol, craic, good food, good company and awesome scenery, while feeling a sense of accomplishment and a desire to do it again.
So do you feel the need to sort out your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? If so then you should most certainly consider taking one of these breaks, and using the opportunity not only to raise money for a great cause, but also to increase team spirit, encourage camaraderie and simply just have fun and experience a sense of achievement!
The Wild Atlantic Cycling Team provide a wonderful support service ensuring that your experience is safe, properly coordinated and above all fun.
We had a fabulous tour of the Causeway Coast. Paul and his team provided super bikes, well thought through routes and a trip we would not have been able to organise on our own. All delivered with a friendly, professional and genuine service. We will be back!
Paul and his Wild Atlantic Team are top notch! From the pre-tour planning, to the fantastic scenic routes, to amazing coffee and lively Irish pubs, this will be in many ways an unforgettable experience.
Wild Atlantic Cycling offers an amazing experience – world class cycling expertise, superior route knowledge and planning, and a friendly personal service orientation (the ‘Paul Kennedy factor’). I highly recommend adding this unique adventure to your ‘bucket list’.
This is a fun and unique way to see more of our beautiful country, while having fun getting fit and building lasting memories and friendships. Definitely an experience not to be missed! Big thanks to Liz from Kingklix Photography for most of the pics!