Nine of Ireland's best greenways to explore this summer

Melanie Mullan walks you through some of the best greenways in the country
Nine of Ireland's best greenways to explore this summer

Limerick Greenway: a 40km trail perfect for biking

Limerick Greenway 

The 42km route officially launched earlier this month enticing guests to West Limerick’s glorious countryside and picturesque landscape. The full 40km trail starts in Rathkeale weaving through Ardagh, Newcastle West, Barnagh and Templeglantine before finishing in Abbeyfeale. 

Before setting out, make sure to explore some of the heritage in Rathkeale, including the old railway station, while other notable points on this journey include Barnagh Tunnel and Tullig Wood. There are multiple entry points along the route, meaning you can take on as little or as much as you like. 

Bikes are available to hire in Newcastle West while other businesses offer mobile bike services. As the latest addition to Ireland’s greenways, in an area that is not spoken about often enough, there is plenty of stunning scenery to be discovered on this route. 

If Queen’s Bicycle Race isn’t stuck in your head for the rest of the day then I’ve gone about this article the wrong way.

Royal Canal Greenway 

Another new addition to the cycling and walking scene, the Royal Canal Greenway is Ireland’s longest off-road greenway currently stretching over 105km across four counties. 

Starting in Longford crossing over Westmeath, Meath and Kildare, this is a good challenge for those looking to push themselves this summer while. There are multiple entry points to this greenway, so it’s possible to enjoy a section at your leisure, and fully embrace the countryside surroundings and pretty scenic views that you’ll find alongside the canal, although bike hire options are limited so it’s best to bring your own. 

The route can also be taken on county by county, the longest stretch running at 43km across Westmeath. Take some time to explore the surrounding towns and their history, such as St Mel’s Cathedral in Longford, the stunning grounds at Carton House in Maynooth, or take the kids on an adventure via Enfield Fairy Trail.

Waterford Greenway 

Waterford Greenway: on every summer to-do list.
Waterford Greenway: on every summer to-do list.

The Waterford Greenway has been on every summer to-do list since it opened four years ago, and it’s easy to understand why. 

The route is 46km from Waterford City to Dungarvan with multiple points of interest along the way including Kilmeaden Castle, Kilmacthomas Viaduct and Ballyvoyle Tunnel but I think it is safe to say that this greenway’s most stunning views are on the final stretch, from Kilmacthomas into Dungarvan where the coastal views of the town and back across the Copper Coast are simply stunning. 

The route is suitable for walkers, runners and cyclists and is mostly flat – bikes can be hired in both Waterford City and Dungarvan, with some options to collect and return in Kilmacthomas should you be looking to only take on part of the trail, while many offer kids bikes and child trailer bike options too.

Great Western Greenway 

The term ‘West is best’ gets thrown around a lot when it comes to talking about the west of Ireland, but you can’t argue when a cycling or walking route takes you along the coast of Clew Bay and concludes on the breathtaking Achill Island. 

Many recommend starting the route in Achill Island and ending in Westport as Achill is the easier part, but I personally think that saving the best to last is important here. With the most challenging parts being in Westport you get that out of the way first thing and then can enjoy the best views as you arrive in Achill. 

The route is 42km in total, starting in Westport heading towards Newport, on to Mulranny and finally out to Achill Island. Each town has its own access points, and the route can be done on foot or bike with bike hire options available in each main town.

Carlingford Lough Greenway 

Slightly shorter than the other greenways but no less idyllic, the Carlingford Lough Greenway currently runs from Omeath to Carlingford with plans in place to expand it all the way to Newry City further down to Greenore. 

The current proposal hopes to extend the trail as far as Newry city and it will make it the first cross border greenway, from Louth to Down, adding an extra 15km to the route. The active 10.1km route is great for walkers and runners, comprising pretty views across to Warrenpoint and the Mourne mountains with a backdrop of the Cooley mountains. 

Bikes are available to hire in Carlingford and it makes an easy roundtrip for those on a bike, so pack a picnic and finish the cycle with lunch on the pier in Carlingford.

Boyne Greenway 

At only two kilometres in length, the Boyne Greenway is a great way to soak up the Boyne Valley region with young kids. 

Starting at Dominic’s Park and winding along the river up towards the Bridge of Peace in Drogheda, the trail is a blissful way to spend an afternoon strolling alongside the River Boyne alongside luscious greenery and scenic views of the region. While the route is suitable for bikes, it is probably best enjoyed on foot so as to make the most of the short distance. 

If you’re looking to explore a little further, there are a number of walks through Oldbridge Estate, where the trail ends, which take visitors through the parklands and grounds to the Battle of the Boyne Site.

Suir Blueway 

Comprising of 21km of walkway and cycling trails from the medieval town of Carrick-on-Suir to the walled town of Clonmel followed by 32km of waterway along the River Suir towards historic Cahir, the Suir Blueway makes for a fun adventure packed day out. 

The greenway side of the trail from Carrick-on-Suir to Clonmel is easily accessible for walkers and cyclists, while the route from there to Cahir is mainly for water-users. 

Bikes can be hired in Carrick-on-Suir and there are multiple options for those looking to explore the final part of the Blueway by water – activities include kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and canoeing, with fantastic views of Cahir Castle and wildlife from the water, while the cycling and walking trail has some pretty spectacular views of the Suir Valley and surrounding Tipperary countryside.

The Old Rail Trail Greenway 

Old Rail Greenway: one of two greenways in Mullingar
Old Rail Greenway: one of two greenways in Mullingar

Mullingar is probably the only town to have not one but two greenways pass through its doorstep, with the Old Rail Trail winding 40km from the town to Athlone. As its name suggests, this dedicated cycle path follows the former Midlands Great Western Railway track through the luscious Westmeath countryside before finishing in Athlone. 

The rural route is a haven for cyclists with tarmac paths the whole way through, and the option to hire bikes at the trails beginning in Garrycastle. For those looking to make a day of it and wish to explore a little more, the Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park in Moate, 10 minutes outside of Athlone, explores the rich heritage and traditions of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

The Comber Greenway 

CS Lewis on the Comber Greenway.
CS Lewis on the Comber Greenway.

The first greenway to open in Northern Ireland, the Comber Greenway runs along the former Belfast and County Down Railway track, spanning 11km from Belfast to Comber. 

The linear route begins in West Belfast at Queen Elizabeth Bridge, but those that wish to avoid traffic can begin on the east side of Belfast close to the Harland and Wolff shipyard. The route is short but there are notable points of interest along the way including the statue of CS Lewis, Parliament Buildings at Stormont and views of the Belfast Hills and surrounding city. 

This route is a great way to escape the city for the day and catch a glimpse of the vast beauty that Northern Island has to offer.

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