For the first time in its history, the Giro d’Italia Grande Partenza 2014 is taking place outside continental Europe, and the island of Ireland is gearing up for a three-day cycling event that will be watched by over 800 million people around the world. From May 9-11, 2014 more than 200 cyclists will battle it out against a backdrop of some of the island’s most incredible locations. The Giro d’Italia in Ireland will showcase some of the best cycling routes in Europe.
The island of Ireland is now a destination for cycling holidays, with a selection of looped and linear routes and mountain trails. With challenging stretches of road, friendly locals and a diverse landscape that sweeps from coastline to flat lakeland to mountain passes, makes Ireland an attractive destination for both professionals and leisure cyclists.
The Grande Partenza, or 'Big Start', kicks off with a Stage one Team Time Trial around the centre of Belfast on May 9, 2014. Stage two of the event begins at the Titanic Belfast on May 10, 2014 continuing through the Causeway Coastal Route before racing back for a finish at Belfast City Hall. Stage three on May 11, 2014 will start in the historic city of Armagh, a trail south along the coast through Dundalk, Drogheda and Balbriggan, and finish in the heart of Georgian Dublin.
A profusion of country parks, forests and canal towpaths means there’s off-road cycling experiences for a wide range of levels. Gosford Forest Park in County Armagh is a place for those with basic off-road skills, while the Phoenix Park in Dublin is a favourite choice with locals and tourists alike. It’s one of Europe’s largest enclosed parks, where one can explore with the help of Phoenix Park Bike Hire and Dublin’s city bike scheme.
The longest off-road cycling adventure on the island comes in the shape of the Great Western Greenway, a 42km route in County Mayo from the town of Westport to Achill Island. Following the path of an old railway, the route’s pace is ideal for a leisurely cycling.
For something more challenging, the island opens up with routes such as The Kingfisher Trail, which was the first long-distance cycle trail on the island through the border counties of Fermanagh, Leitrim, Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan. There are also cycle routes past some of the island’s famous landscapes, with the 69 kilometre Burren cycleway passing The Cliffs of Moher, and the Causeway Coastal Route passing the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.