To help you plan out your day here are some cycle route suggestions which will guide you out to some of the spectacular scenery and sights surrounding the town of Louisburgh.
Carry some food and drinks as there are no shops along the way and don’t forget to check the weather, pack the right gear, wear a Hi-Vis jacket, helmet and be safe on the roads.
Route 1: Roonagh Quay (19 kilometres about 1½ hours)
A medium distance route, this will take you across flat bog roads and then on up to some hill farms overlooking the town. From this vantage point you will enjoy fantastic views out to the Islands. Clare Island and Inishturk are closest while Achill and Inishbofin can be seen on any reasonably clear day.
A fast descent to the coast leads to Roonagh Quay; the point of departure for visitors to the islands. The area around Lough Baun nearby which is at or below sea level is a magnet for birdlife. A narrow strip of shingle is all that keeps the sea at bay. After Roonagh, the road becomes a track along sea cliffs overlooking Bunatuckeen Strand. It may be prudent to walk this section! The route then avoids the steepest parts of Ceathrú Mhór, keeping to the flanks until you arrive at Carrowmore. Here at this renowned bathing beach is your chance to cool off in the sea before returning to the town nearby.
Route 2: Bunowen (7 kilometres about 45 minutes)
This route offers incredible views over a short distance. Start off at the town centre. You could visit the informative Grainuaile Heritage Centre/Library located in a former church. Continuing on along this coast road you will be treated to spectacular ocean views across the strands of Turlin and Cregganbaun. Here the Bunowen salmon river meets the sea. The road narrows to a pleasant boreen on the approach to the two steep hills of the circuit. Each of these will test even an experienced cyclist, but is still short enough for the more leisurely rider to walk up. Either way, magnificent panoramic views await at the summits. A descent to the main Westport road demands caution, but having crossed it, return to the town via a quiet back road. Watch out for a historic old Lime Kiln along the way.
Route 3: Derrymore (26 kilometres about 2 hours)
Route 3 is a longer and more challenging trip inland to the mountainous Sheeffry Hills. The route traverses some wild and isolated country and you will need to ford two streams, so it should not be attempted during inclement weather. However the stunning scenery combined with traffic free roads will make it a memorable experience for those who complete it. Setting out initially on the back road south of the town, turn right after O’Malley’s DIY store.
The first glimpses of the imposing mountains may cause concern, but worry not; this road follows the relatively benign Bunowen River valley. During this steady ascent, watch out for the stumps of bog oak sticking out of the ground. These are the remnants of oak forests which covered these hills thousands of years ago. Also in evidence, the effects of flash flood erosion can be seen on the riverbank. Near the top the two streams must be forded. Any attempt to ride through will inevitably result in wet clothes for the rest of the trip, so remove shoes and socks before wading across. It should be no more than knee height except after heavy rainfall. A footbridge may be sighted near the second ford, but unfortunately it leads nowhere, although the natural jacuzzi below it may be appealing on a hot day.
Back in the saddle, cycle on past sheep pens and a few isolated hill farms before emerging onto a bigger road. This signals the start of the only seriously steep climb of the day; Derrymore. The name means Big Oak (Wood) and at 220 metres above sea level it affords an excellent view of the surrounding hills while you catch your breath. After a fast descent follow the signs back to Louisburgh via the townlands of Glenbaun, Cuilleen, Mullagh and Kinknock, the latter located on a small hill.
Hope you have enjoyed your cycling trip – come back and tell us how you got on and don’t forget to share your pictures over Facebook.
Details courtesy of Vincent Photography, Louisburgh, Co Mayo.