Rugged mountains, dramatic coastline, rolling hills and meandering rivers can all be found on the Emerald Isle. The unspoilt terrain is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy spending the day surrounded by heather and peat bogs and curling up around a fire by night. Traveling by bike, on foot or by car offers outdoor enthusiasts the best way to get off the beaten path and really experience Ireland's countryside.
Thirty one long distance paths mean that travelers can criss-cross Ireland to their heart's content. Rolling green hills, rocky mountains, national parks and miles of coastline combine together to offer stunning views. At 132 miles, The Kerry Way is the longest long distance path and incorporates some of Ireland's most dramatic scenery. This route takes about 10 days and starts and ends in Killarney. Another popular route is the Wicklow Way which typically takes between eight to 10 days. This route begins in southern Dublin and ends in Clonegal in County Carlow. Hikers typically stay and eat in local bed and breakfasts en route and carry a small pack with clothes, food and emergency equipment. Guided trips are available with companies, such as Backroads, or local companies, such as Go Ireland or South West Walks Ireland.
Many of Ireland's national parks, quaint bed and breakfasts and historic monuments are located off the beaten path and so renting a car gives you flexibility and widens your horizons. Plus you can fill the 'boot' of the car with as much gear as you need to surf, bike, hike or fish. However, be warned that driving is a slow process as motorways are limited and as a result you will spend a lot of your time driving on narrow, windy roads with rough surfaces. Cattle and sheep are often around the next bend so driving slow is the key to avoiding accidents. But this is half the fun of driving in Ireland. Remember that the Irish drive on the left side of the road and distances are marked in kilometers. Be sure to buy a good map and don't be fazed by bad road signage or the complete lack of signposts.
Biking is a wonderful way to get off the beaten path and explore the backroads of Ireland. Equip yourself with a bike, helmet and panniers and meander from one bed and breakfast to another. There is no shortage of places to stay and eat along the way. Be sure to remember that motorists drive on the other side of the road than back in the United States. If you are looking for some challenging terrain, consider heading to County Kerry which offers coastline and mountain passes. The mystical land of Connemara outside of Galway is better for cyclists who are looking for flatter terrain and want to immerse themselves in traditional Irish culture. Guided tours are available with companies, such as Backroads, or local companies, such as Irish Cycling Safaris or Go Ireland.