Do you like outdoors? Do you enjoy Cycling and Hiking? Then you can not miss this post.
We are happy to share this article that, Ben Shorten from Mybikeorhike.ie has written with the 7 Top Cycle Guided routes around Dublin

Best Cycle Guided routes around Dublin

In this time of the daycation we tend to think of getting away to those remote rural escapes. The quieter and further away the better and the discovery of little-known hidden gems a bonus. As an experienced beneficiary, I too dream of such escapes. But what if time, budget or public health constraints mean we can’t escape as much or as far as we would like? What if we must make do with an escape closer to home, confined to our own locality?

The circumstances of recent months have given us an opportunity to rediscover our localities, when before, we by-passed historic sites, stories and natural features in the oblivious rush of our daily business. Almost by accident, I found myself experimenting with the creation of virtual tours of my locality; 2km from home; 5km from home, based on my daily cycling loops. I surprised myself by how much I learned about my locality, and how much I had overlooked and ignored. Living in County Dublin, I now share some of these cycling routes. I hope you may be enticed to get on your bike and venture out where wondering where can I cycle that’s enjoyable and safe has previously been prohibitive.

Another noticeable feature of recent times is the development of cycling infrastructure around Dublin City and County. This seems to be happening with breath-taking speed relative to the seemingly obfuscated slow pace heretofore. It is far from perfect, especially when compared with the infrastructure of other European cities, such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Also, there will always be detractors who tend to see and focus on flaws seen through the lens of their own interests. However, I believe there is plenty of evidence of quality cycling infrastructure and safe routes to offer something for every type of cyclist. From the casual beginner to the fitness enthusiast, the first-time visitor to the long-time local resident, from those seeking leisurely pursuits to better commuting options. In the following descriptions of my seven super cycle routes in Dublin, there should be something for everyone in the audience!

1. Tolka Valley Greenway

Tolka-Valley-GreenwayMetrics-Tolka-Valley-Greenway

Not a map, a guidebook, a blog, nor any of the common sources of information one might associate with learning about a new cycling route, but it was an old friend who first introduced me to the Tolka Valley Greenway. During a rendezvous some years ago, a casual remark about a nice cycle path near where he lived led to the discovery of arguably the finest cycle route across the north side of Dublin. It’s hard to believe you are within 10km / 6 miles of the city centre, such is your immersion in greenery, trees and parkland, with the the sound of traffic reduced to a distant murmur, if audible at all!

I decide to commence this route at the park entrance at the bottom of Addison Hall residential estate in Glasnevin. Alternatively, and especially those with an interest in botany and plants, you could start at the National Botanic Gardens, though you would have to make your way up the busy and steep Glasnevin Hill, before turning left through the estate. Once in the park, you completely forget you are close to the city, until you come to Finglas Road, where, after a short up, cross and back the other side on cycle lanes, you rejoin the greenway. There is only one further road crossing to negotiate until you get to Ashtown village. Apart from that, the only other obstacles to negotiate are the so called kiss gates at each park entrance, but there is a simple knack, which once mastered, you will happily negotiate them too, needing just a little patience. This is definitely a route to be enjoyed simply for what it is, a green oasis inside an urban desert, but you might like to stop by the wonderful Integrated Constructed Wetland and read how natural biodiversity has been used to tackle pollution. Further along, you might like to take note of the informative descriptions of the native shrubs and trees cleverly postioned either side of the cycle track: definitely an educational as well as enjoyable spin.

Unlike most Dublin parks where cycling is permitted through shared cycle tracks, the Tolka Park Greenway has the added benefit in that there is a physical separation between the cycle and pedestrian tracks; they are well marked and maintained. If you want more than the 4.4 km spin, then you can extend it to join the royal canal greenway as far as the 12th Lock, and perhaps return towards the city centre through the Phoenix park and along the recently opened and much welcome segregated cycle lanes along the noth city quays.

Some Places of Interest

  • National Botanic Gardens
  • Glasnevin Cemetery
  • The Met Office
  • Integrated Constructed Wetland
  • Dunsink Observatory
  • Ashtown Village

2. The Metals

Metrics-Table-The-Metals-route

At the end of this cycle you stand in a place that bears witness to four world records: the world’s oldest commuter railway; the world’s largest constructed harbour; the world’s first atmospheric railway, and a man called Frank Elrington who, unwittingly, became the fastest human in history at the time, when the carriage on which he stood took off at breakneck speed. The fact that the conversion of this historic railway line to a pedestrian / cycle way occurred long before it’s more  contemporary greenways, just adds to its charm.

A series of pathways, easily navigable by bike or on foot, lends itself to a spin that lies very much in the leisurely end of the active spectrum: speed along and you will surely miss all but the occasional bump and hollow. Apart form the rich history, the views of Dublin Bay from Dalkey all the way downhill to Dun laoghaire are another reason to give it a go. Of course, you can do it in the other direction, but the climb only gets steeper! With DART stations at Dun laoghire and Dalkey, it is as well served for access as it is for culinary treats at both start and finish. Another gem you may never have known was there!

Some Places of Interest

  • Dalkey Village
  • Dalkey Castle & Heritage Centre
  • Dalkey Quarry
  • Site of the original stationary locomotive of the atmospheric railway
  • The Metals railway line
  • Dun laoghaire seafront
  • National Maritime Museum
  • Teddy’s Ice cream
  • People’s Park
  • Dublin Bay Ferry (to city centre or Howth)

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3. Liffey Greenway

Liffey-Valley-Greenway-routeMetrics-Table-Liffey-Greenway-route

 

Quality not quantity; short and sweet. Only just over 2km in length, this is by far the shortest of my super seven cycle routes in Dublin. In fact, the actual cycle track itself is only 1.4km long, but I have extended the route through the War Memorial Gardens; too picturesque to ignore and to connect with the South Circular Road near Islandbridge. Clearly, such a short distance can be enjoyed on foot or by bike, and indeed, of a busy weekend you may be better advised to leave the bike at home, or perhaps wheel it on foot if part of a longer bike ride, such as through the Phoenix Park, for example. 
 
When I was first introduced to this cycle route by a friend, my surprise was as puzzling as it was pleasant, as I wondered why I had not discovered it before. With good access to both ends, the route can be done in either direction, but I have chosen to begin near the quaint village of Chapelizod, at the entrance gate a few hundred meters east of the village. Immediately, you forget you are anywhere near the city as you are suddenly immersed between lush greenery all around, the river Liffey on your left, and straight ahead you are lured by a well-marked cycle / pedestrian path. Though separated by broken white line, its narrowness means this is not a route for the speed cyclist wanting a workout, but a leisurely pedal while taking on the scenery, or to observe the rowers going through their paces on the Liffey, belonging to any of the rowing clubs located on the north bank. When I am doing my tours here, I sometimes tell the story of how Oliver St. John Gogarty cheated death near the banks of the river: a story which takes as long to tell using my audio system, as it does to reach the end of the cycle track. It’s worth taking moment to read the information board just inside the entrance to the gardens; interesting pieces about the Viking past and the more recent great war. Indeed, it would be opportune to park up the bike and enjoy a ramble through the gardens.

Some Places of Interest:

  • Kilmainham Gaol (nearby)
  • War Memorial Gardens
  • Boat Clubs (watch the rowers pulling strokes)
  • Chapelizod Village

4. Gran Canal Greenway

Omers-Cottage-GranCanal-GreenwayMetrics-Table-Grand-Canal-Greenway

Who’d’ve thought that you could cycle from the heart of Dublin’s Liberty’s all the way to Adamstown on the western outskirts of County Dublin while barely touching a road of any description? Well, thanks to a Dutch engineer and a small army of workers who, over the course of the latter half of the 18th century, built the grand canal, it is indeed possible!

The original towpath, was of course built to allow the canal barges to be horse drawn as they carried both passengers and cargo, not least the illustrious Guinness. Today, with the barges out of commission save for an increasingly popular leisure industry, and now generating their own horsepower, the redundant towpaths have happily been converted into a shared use greenway for pedestrians and cyclists.

While the official greenway commences at Inchicore, I have opted to begin this route at the historic basin near St. James’ Gate. No longer existing and once known as City Basin, it was the original dock from where that the Guinness brewery produce began its journey west to the nooks and crannies in the heart of the country. It is indeed a pleasant surprise to realize you can navigate by bike all the way to Adamstown, some 12km west, and barely a car in sight save for the occasional road crossing.

Some Places of Interest:

  • Grand Canal Basin
  • Nocturnal Wildlife Sensitive Lights
  • Thomas Omer’s Cottage
  • Corkagh Park
  • The Red Bridge
  • Adamstown

5. Royal Canal Greenway

Royal-Canal-Broome-Bridge-RouteMT-Royal-Canal-Broome-Bridge-Route

Since I started writing this blog, a significant and most welcome development took place which meant I had to revise the route. At 145km, the royal canal is Ireland’s longest, and relatively soon, fingers crossed, it will be possible to cycle along its entire length from Dublin city centre all the way to the River Shannon. In fact, it is already mostly complete and the sections which are not, mostly in Dublin, can be easily navigated with reasonable care, negotiating minor obstacles and the occasional detour.

Phase one of the greenway is a short section from the beginning of the entire greenway where the canal commences at the junction of North Wall Quay and Guild Street, as far as Sherriff Street near the Luke Kelly Statue. From here, you can enjoy the newly opened phase 2 section, a revision I happily made after having tried it out. This is a most welcome section as hitherto, the alternative was to cycle along the busy Seville Place before negotiating an ugly right turn onto North Strand Road. Now, safely away from traffic and on a dedicated cycle track, as the pedestrian path is also segregated, you can enjoy this stretch through this historic part of Dublin in a care free manner.

Understanding that plans are underway and at various stages to develop the rest of the Royal Canal through Dublin to complete the Greenway, it is still possible to cycle the route today, albeit with the occasional road crossing and other obstacles to negotiate. Crossing the Newcomen Bridge, a quiet side street brings you onto the southern towpath, and soon, passing the underside of the canal end of Croke Park you get a rare, up close and personal perspective on Europe’s third largest stadium. After the busiest and therefore least appealing next section by Whitworth Road, depending on how much time you have, you could swing right at Phibsborough, park and lock up your bike at the rails provided in the carpark of the National Botanic Gardens. Here, you have a choice of a visit to the gardens, the wonderful Glasnevin Cemetery only a short walk away.  If peckish, then my favourite Dublin haunt, Kavanagh’s Gravedigger Pub, is an absolute must!

Back to the canal, blink and you’ll miss the inscription on Broome Bridge, marking the spot where William Rowan Hamilton wrote his famous quaternion formula. A pleasant, quiet and safe section brings you to Ashtown, where, after negotiating a level crossing that can only be described as a throwback in time, the pleasantness continues to the end of this route. With an abundance of deciduous trees flanking the north bank, this section is spectacular in Autumn colour. Cycling over the impressively engineered viaducts crossing over the M50, canal to the right, railway to the left, motorway beneath and your own cycle line in the middle of all, you feel privileged!

Finally, if you haven’t yet stopped for a refreshment, snack or something more substantial, the 12th Lock Boutique Hotel Bar where this itinerary ends, might just hit the spot!

Some Places of Interest:

  • Bindon Blood Stoney’s Diving Bell
  • Luke Kelly Statue
  • Croke Park
  • National Botanic Gardens
  • Glasnevin Cemetery
  • The Gravediggers Pub
  • William Rowan Hamilton’s Quaternion Formula
  • Ashtown Village
  • M50 Viaducts
  • The 12th Lock

6. Clontarf to Howth Route

Clontarf-Howth-CyclewayMetrics-Clontarf-Howth-Route

 

After a long, protracted and frequently interrupted construction project, the final section of the Clontarf to Howth Cycleway was opened in 2019. Even at that, it doesn’t quite go as far as Howth, but just shy of Sutton Cross roundabout at the start of the peninsula, but given that Howth is typically the ultimate destination, the name fits even if not technically correct. It is one of the most popular and well-known cycle routes in Dublin for good reason. The sea views and sea air would be reason enough to get on your bike, but add in the variety of points of interest, stop off points and the relative safety of a purpose-built cycle lane, then it really does hold up to its billing with so much to offer. While it is not perfect, as frequent complaints about the close proximity of fast-moving cyclists and unsuspecting pedestrians might testify, the old rule of thumb of common courtesy and due care and attention to all users will ensure a safe and enjoyable amenity for all.

For this particular itinerary, I choose for the out and back option, with Howth Village being the obvious half way stop off point. However, with ample parking and good transport access to both Clontarf and Howth, the shorter point to point option is also possible. For me, however, my favourite stop by far is the suitably named “Happy Out” cafe perched on the 200-year-old North Bull Wall, well worth the diversion over the wooden bridge.

Of several choices of where to start and finish, I chose to begin at junction of East Wall Road and Alfie Byrne Road as it passes over the Norse named Tolka River. At the next traffic lights at the entrance to Eastpoint Business Park, you cross at the pedestrian crossing to join the dedicated cycle lane to begin a thoroughly enjoyable 9km spin all the way to Sutton Cross. Then, after negotiating a right turn at the only difficult junction, shortly take another right to follow the quieter coast road. After re-joining the main road, exit again near the Summit Inn, and follow a quiet, narrow road parallel to the old number 9 tram route, eventually popping out at Howth Harbour.

For the fitness enthusiasts seeking a further workout, there is an alternative route back up the hill to the Summit Inn, but the most obvious and popular option is to follow the main road on the northside of the peninsula in the relative safety of an advisory cycle lane, through Sutton Cross and back the way you came out. Another possible diversion is to pop across the road to St. Anne’s Park for a short rest, if even just to visit the recently restored Peace Tree. Closer to the finish, you can visit the birthplace of Bram Stoker, while for variety at the finish, pedal through Fairview Park.

Some Places of Interest:

  • North Bull Wall and Island
  • Old Dollymount tram stop and now a bus station
  • Anne’s Park and The Peace Tree
  • The old Kilbarrack cemetery and 13th century Church of Mone
  • Lui na Greine (Sunset) standing stone
  • The world’s first gas operated Bailey Lighthouse
  • Howth village
  • Bram Stoker’s birthplace
  • The Oldest Jewish Cemetery in Ireland

7. Across the Southside & Dodder Greenway

Dodder-Trodder-GreenwayMeter-Southside-Dooder-Trodder-Greenway

Seeing is believing, and I certainly would not have believed it would have been possible to traverse east to west across the southside suburbs and only have to contend with unprotected main roads for just 2% of the journey, had I not cycled it myself. This is far from the finished article as cycle routes go, but it does offer a pleasantly surprising variety and quantity of quiet parkland routes, well away from motorised traffic.

There is something soothing about cycling near running water, and of that there is plenty to offer as you pass along or across no fewer than 7 rivers and streams. Along the way, or with minor diversions, there are some interesting historical points of interest, such as Stillorgan Obelisk, believed to be Ireland’s first, the Pearse Museum in St. Enda’s Park, and the ruins of the Priory, the 18th century home of Sarah Curran who had a secret and tragic love affair with the famous patriot, Robert Emmet.

This route is yet another example of one that is under development at the time of writing, for the long-awaited Dodder Greenway is at last under construction. Currently, the dedicated cycle track along the Dodder river can be enjoyed for the last 2.4km of this route, but from my weekly monitoring of progress, this should increase to some 5km before long. While this route or parts thereof can be enjoyed as a leisurely cycle for visitors and local residents alike, it may also offer some attractive options for commuters who might otherwise consider other modes of transport

Some Places of Interest: 

  • Stillorgan Obelisk
  • The Priory
  • Pearse Museum
  • Dodder Greenway

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8. Author

Ben Shorten, founder of Mybikeorhike.ie is a Failte Ireland approved tourist guide and is a member of the Approved Tourist Guides of Ireland. He also is a certified Cycling Ireland Ride Leader, trained in first aid with a REC3 (rescue emergency care) and in mountain skills.
For  over thirty years,  he has organised and led hillwalks for groups all over Ireland and regularly participates in road cycling charity events. He is fully insured as a guide. His vast experience and knowledge ensure you are in safe and capable hands.