I’m not much of a cyclist (if you hadn’t noticed). But I do like a challenge and completing routes of any description and I love saying yes to opportunities thrown at me. So when friends I met in Corsica suggested meeting up and cycling The Great Western Greenway in Ireland, I wasn’t going to refuse.
This was my first trip to Ireland and my first trip somewhere which had been built around the idea of cycling and not hiking.
The Great Western Greenway runs around Clew Bay in County Mayo, from Achill Island in the west around the north of the bay to Westport. It spans 42km in length but is broken down into 3 shorter chunks making it possible for families to use too. Or blokes on a pub crawl cycling trip too as we found later. As it was originally a railway line which closed in 1937 this makes it perfect as a cycle route as not too many hills.
We hired bike from Clew Bay bike hire as they do a bus service to drop you at Achill so you can cycle back. They also have a cabin at Mulranny and a shop in Newport if you need repairs or give up and need a lift back.
Despite the horrendous wind and rain we’d booked the bikes so we headed out. Its an hours drive to Achill along the coast road and we were all thinking how we’d made a mistake having got up very early Sunday morning to spend the day cycling in the rain. The Scottish couple also on the bus who were new to cycling and thought it would be a nice route to do must have thought about changing their mind too.
We left Achill after a coffee at 11.20am. The first bit of the Greenway is along the road for 1km before you reach the off road track to follow to Mulranny 13km later.
I can imagine how on a gorgeous sunny day the views of the Atlantic sea and the bay would be fantastic. However Sunday was a day of rain and 30+mph winds. Useful initially as we headed from Achill as we didn’t have to pedal hard, but as we turned around the headland the wind was at our side and meant leaning into the wind in order to stay upright. Challenging! (It is at this point I apologise for the photos as I didn’t stop to take them!)
We reached Mulranny an hour later and after swapping one bike and having my handlebars realigned at the shops bike station, it was raining hard so we dived in the Mulranny Hotel for a coffee and a cake, which I can certainly recommend!
Almost an hour later we emerged and continued on to Newport. Though 18km this section is easy going too, and some great views despite the weather. On a clear day the bay must look fantastic from the Greenway.
Sections of the route closer to Newport are still being improved so while the route is very much off road already it is set to be even better in the future. Just as you reach Newport the Greenway route hops onto the road to cycle into town.
We reached Newport in an hour and 5 mins and treated ourselves to a long lunch in the Grainne Uaile pub in the centre of Newport. I loved find out the story of Grainne Uaile otherwise known as Grace O’Malley, a headstrong female pirate queen who ruled Mayo’s islands.
By the time we’d eaten and chatted it was 4.20pm and going dark so we headed to Westport as quick as cycling into a headwind would allow. The Greenway along this section is 11km and includes some cycling on the road as well as next to the road on the trail. This is also the hilliest section with a long drag of a hill to get up and down to reach Westport. Not what you want at the end of the day!
The route is then on the road, passed a medical factory to reach the main road. From here we crossed the road and turned right to pick up an off road path to take us round the back of Westport centre and back to the cycle shop, an hour after leaving Newport.
3 hours 5 minutes cycling time – not bad to say we don’t cycle regularly!