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Osturna, Slovakia: history, architecture, what to see, where to stay
A guide to a hidden gem of the Carpathians

There are many small and hidden gems in Slovakia, one we really feel like recommending is the fairy-tale village of Osturna, near the Polish border (see map).

This was one of the best days of our whole 5-months Europe bike trip, a day full of marvel, an area of Slovakia you really shouldn’t miss when traveling here.

Osturňa is the westernmost settlement of the Lemkos. They are traditionally Orthodox, use the Cyrillic script and preserve a unique and wonderful architecture.

Why not do some cycling in Slovakia?

About Osturna

Osturna is a laid-back fairy-tale place with an interesting history and remaining sparkles of a unique culture, laying 700 meters above sea level amidst a gorgeous valley.

This nine-kilometers-long village is only inhabited by about 390 persons. Those persons are Rusyns or Gorals, a diasporic ethnic minority group with a complex history (more about this later) and a fascinating architecture.

They are the descendants of the Rusyns (Ruthenians, Lemkos), now an official national minority in Slovakia, but their distinct identity was never officially accepted by the countries they always lived in (Poland, Russia, Austro-Hungary, Ukraine).

157 of Osturna’s wooden structures are recognized as a national treasure. Passing through Osturna is a 10km long jump in a parallel universe, but there are also reasons to stay overnight, and why not, making it your base to explore the Tatra Mountains, one of the most beautiful regions of Slovakia.

Lemko People

Rusyns, Goral, or Lemko? Ethnicity of Osturňa

As far as we could figure out, the inhabitants of Osturňa are Lemko, an ethnic subgroup of Gorals, that are sometimes superimposed to Rusyns.

The endonym Rusyn has frequently not been recognized by various governments and in other cases has been prohibited. Of the estimated 1.2 million people of Rusyn origins, as few as 90,000 people have been officially identified as such. This is due, in part, to the refusal of some governments to count Rusyns and/or allow them to self-identify on census forms, especially in Ukraine.

The Gorals (literally “highlanders”) are an ethnic group primarily found in their traditional area of southern Poland, northern Slovakia, and in the region of Cieszyn Silesia in the Czech Republic (Silesian Gorals). There is also a significant Goral diaspora in the area of Bukovina in western Ukraine and in northern Romania, as well as in Chicago, the seat of the Polish Highlanders Alliance of North America.

What makes the Lemko culture differ is their deep commitment to Eastern Christianity which was introduced to the Eastern Slavs from Byzantium in the 9th century. Most Lemkos today are Eastern rite or Byzantine-rite Catholics. In Osturňa they belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

Osturňa: History and Geography

Osturňa lays on the Osturniansky Potok (Osturňa River) Valley, separated from the rest of Slovakia by mountain ridges. Poland is just behind the smaller ridge up north, indeed one of the most direct ways to get here is from the town of Kacwin.

Both villages belong to the same region – Spisz/Spiš that in 1918 was split between two newborn countries, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Founded in 1313 on the estates of the Niedzica Castle, the village of Osturna was originally settled by Ruthenians (Lithuanians) who came from the Lemko region of Southern Poland. Osturna is first mentioned in historical records in 1593.

Rusyns had struggled for their independence for centuries, they formed two short-lived states after World War I: the Lemko-Rusyn Republic and Komancza Republic. Some of the founders of the Lemko-Rusyn Republic were sentenced to death or imprisoned by the prosecuting attorney Kost Levytsky, future president of the West Ukrainian National Republic.

During World War II, Nazi Germany sought to Germanize the Gorals, along with the Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians, and include them in the resettlement plans. Under Nazi racial laws, the White Russians, Gorals and Ukrainians were viewed as “undesirable”, and thus subject to special statutes (labor and police law) in the occupied territories of Eastern Europe, although to a milder degree than other non-German ethnic groups.

About 130,000 to 140,000 Lemkos were living in the area in 1939. Sadly, after 1947, no Lemko villages survived north from the Carpathian mountains (on the Polish side and also in Ukraine, further east).

Those people were subject to forced resettlement, initially to the Soviet Union (about 90,000 people) and later to Poland’s newly acquired western lands (about 35,000), they were victims of the Operation Vistula in the late 1940s. This was a state-ordered removal of the civilian population, in a counter-insurgency operation to remove potential support for guerrilla war being waged by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in south-eastern Poland. Its aim was to get rid of the partisans groups that kept fighting against the Soviets after WW2 by relocating and dividing them.

At least, in the communist Poland many of the Lemkos improved their life quality (by receiving post-German, generally bigger farms, brick houses, running water) – a contrary to what happened to the Lemkos within Soviet Ukraine who, in the same period, were deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia and forced to an extreme poverty.

While some 5,000 Lemko families returned between 1957–1958 (they were officially granted the right to return in 1956), the Lemko population in the area only numbers around 10,000–15,000 today. 55,000 more Lemkos live in other areas of Slovakia.

A Peculiar Architecture

A fascinating enigma, Osturňa’s traditional vernacular architecture is nowadays protected by the Slovak government. The vernacular architecture of the Carpathians draws on environmental and cultural sources to create unique designs.

Vernacular architecture refers to non-professional, folk architecture, including that of the peasants. In the Carpathian Mountains and the surrounding foothills, wood and clay are the primary traditional building materials. The Zakopane Style architecture, established at the end of the 19th century, is held as a Goral tradition and is widespread in the Podhale region.

Details vary from locale to locale but the majority of homes in this area have traditionally been a single-story rectangular plan; one or two rooms; a central chimney; a gable, hipped-gable or hipped roof; and plastered and limewashed exteriors.

Materials are sourced locally, wood (usually oak), mud, straw, fieldstone, lime, and animal dung. Roofs are typically clad in wooden shakes or shingles, whit occasional exceptions of rye straw.

Buildings in Osturna are made of horizontal logs, notched to hold together. The simple saddle notch is the easiest and therefore common. Dovetailing is used by people with more experience in woodworking.

Most homes are plastered inside and outside to prevent moisture, improve insulation, hide imperfections in construction, and for general coziness. Traditional plaster is made of clay, water, dung, and straw or chaff. Several coats may be applied to create a smooth finish, and then coated with lime and water to produce a pleasing white color and protect the clay from the rain.

Thatched roofs are traditional but have been declining in popularity because of fire hazard. Dirt floors are common although most houses have wooden ones nowadays. The center of the home is dominated by a traditional clay oven.

157 of Osturna’s wooden structures are recognized as a national treasure by the Slovakian government. In the village, there is also one of the very few Orthodox churches in the area.

Goralska Drevenica, our stay in Osturna

Where to stay in Osturňa

Luckily there are no big hotels in Osturna, a few cozy and well-blended accommodation options are available. Most are traditional style vernacular building, so you’ll get to admire Osturna’s architecture from the inside. We stayed at the Goralska Drevenica, a very cozy cottage with 3 rooms, a very nice kitchen/living room, and a beautiful garden with a view.

There are no official campsites in Osturna, wild camping is tolerated in Slovakia though so you might try to get to the forest or ask some local to pitch your tent on their land.

There is a small supermarket in the village, mind that the village is very stretched, so it might be a bit far to walk to.

Have a look at all guesthouses in Osturna

Map of hotels in Osturna

 

How to get to Osturňa

Getting to Osturna without one’s own means of transport is a serious task. There’s a train station in Vysoké Tatry where trains arrive from Poprad (check timetables here).

From there, there might be a few local buses a day, we saw the stops but never saw the buses, and haven’t found any info online. Your best bet is to ask the friendly tourist info office in Vysoké Tatry. If you’re an adventurous spirit, hitchhiking might be the quickest way to get there.

If you have a vehicle, you’ll easily make one memorable road trip out of getting here. The scenery along the road is one of the main reasons to come to Osturňa.

We arrived here by bicycle, coming from the Dunajec River gorge lays at the border with Poland, very close to the High Tatras, this is really the perfect entry/exit point if you’re cycling from/to Poland. There’s an unpaved but..

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Cycling the Danube from Budapest to Vienna
maps, routes, advice everything you need to know to organize your Danubiana bike tour

The cycle path along the Danube is probably the most famous route in Europe, and certainly the longest; from Germany to Austria, then cutting out national borders between Slovakia and Hungary, Croatia and Serbia, Serbia and Romania, and then to the shores of the Black Sea, for a total of 1400 kilometers.

This section is part of the Euro-zone 6 that connects the Black Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, in France for a total length of 4400 kilometers. A few years ago we cycled a part of the Danube cycling path between Serbia and Romania, among the marvelous Porte di Ferro, while we recently traveled the EV6 (EuroVelo 6) from Vàc, in Hungary to Vienna, in Austria, passing through Bratislava.

We cycled in this last one in October so we did not meet almost any other cyclist down the road, except for a Korean guy who cycled with us to Vienna and helped us not to die of boredom in some parts of the way. Because yes, the idea of cycling along the Danube may seem romantic but often the landscape remains the same for miles and miles. In our opinion, the most boring part is from Bratislava to Vienna, for long stretches the river cannot be seen and there are constant detours for works.

We must admit that we liked much more the stretch traveled between Serbia and Romania we rode years ago. In any case, the Euro Velo 6 cycle route is almost always on a dedicated cycle path, along the way there are restaurants, hotels, and campsites, it is very suitable for family cycling holidays and, in general, for all types of bicycle travelers, trained or not.

In this article, we will talk about the last part of Danubiana we have traveled, from Vàc to Vienna.

Below you can see the track of the route, keep in mind that in some places you can also ride the cycleway on the other side of the river. We where coming from Slovakia into Hungary so we hit the bike path around Vac, but you can also start in Budapest if you are interested in visiting the city.

Danube River Cycling Path – Map and GPX track 

Maps and Apps: how to navigate the Danube by bike

There is an official app with offline maps and track, you can find it here, it costs a couple of euro and in addition to the Danube map, you can download for free the GPX tracks of all EuroVelo routes.

If you prefer the old style you can also resort to paper maps, we only found this on Amazon though they should be available in major cities libraries. It must be said that routing is not really essential in some sections of the cycle path, for example in Austria and Germany, where signs are always present.

The only “catch” is the crossing of the river, in summer there should be no problems but in October, when we cycled, some connections between the two banks of the Danube were no longer active.

For some countries, however, the signage is almost absent and the offline maps might be very useful. Moreover, in each country, the cycle route takes different names and acronyms:

  • in Germany, the Danube cycle path is called DR6
  • in Upper Austria, Obaöstarreich, it is called R1
  • in Lower Austria, Niedaöstareich, is reported as R6
  • in Hungary, Slovakia and Serbia you will find EuroVelo 6 or EV6
  • in the westernmost part of Serbia, but especially in Bulgaria and Romania there are no signs, often it is not a rural cycle path but secondary roads or country roads, so you have to rely on a route map.

Geography of the Danube

The Danube rises in the Black Forest, from the meeting of two streams, the Breg and the Brigach. Those meet in the park of an ancient castle, where a fountain symbolizes the birth of the river.

Hence the Danube course runs in Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Bratislava, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria. Near the Ukrainian border plunges into the Black Sea, here the wonderful mouth of the Danube has been recognized World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Danube has been one of the most important connection for goods and people for centuries. Near the mouth, where the river widens considerably, is also traveled by ocean-going ships. In the 1990s, thanks to the construction of a canal connecting the Rhine, in Germany, it became possible to sail the river from the Black Sea to the Netherlands, on the North Sea.

Climate along the Danube cycle route

Crossing so many countries, so different from each other, it’s difficult to talk about a general climate situation along the Danube.

In general, especially in its central and eastern part, it is dominated by the continental climate while in the western part, in Germany, the area is more influenced by the Atlantic climate.

The southwestern part, which once passed through the former Yugoslavia, gets a Mediterranean climate. The Alps to the west, the Dinaric-Balkan mountain ranges to the south and the Carpathian mountain bow in the eastern-center are distinctive morphological and climatic regions and barriers.

These mountain ranges receive the highest annual rainfall (1,000-3,200 mm per year) while the internal and external basins (Vienna basin, Pannonian basin, Romanian plain and Prut), the lowlands of Czech Moravia and the delta region are very dry (350-600 mm per year).

From 50 to 70 days of annual snowfalls are recorded at high altitudes in the Alps and the Carpathians, while the plains have only 1-3 days/year (from http://www.undp-drp.org).

Best season to ride the Danubiana

The best time to cycle along the Danube is without a doubt the summer: in June, July and August, the longer and generally sunny days will also allow you to take a refreshing dip in the river’s waters. However, let’s say that even spring, from the end of April, is a good period as well as autumn, with its typical colors.

We cycled from Hungary to Austria in the second half of October, the days were sunny and we met very little rain but in the evening it was quite cold, say around 5 or 6 degrees, so if you plan to sleep in the tent you need to be equipped with a good sleeping bag.

Where to sleep while cycling the Danubiana Hotels, hostels and guest houses

We have traveled this route in October and have never had any problems finding a room. Prices in Slovakia and Hungary are around 20€ X night, double that for Austria. In the busiest months, July and August, you may find full accommodations. If you are in Esztergom (Hungary) visit the Kaleidoszkóp Ház Hostel, a very charming place run by a very kind girl.

See below a map of hotels around the Danube river

 

Camping

On the banks of the Danube, there are plenty of places to camp, in addition to equipped campsites you can camp freely along almost the entire route. In Slovakia free camping is allowed, there are only a couple of rules to follow:

  • Camping is not allowed in level 3 protected areas (National Parks)
  • Camping is not permitted in protected forest areas

The first rule means that you are not allowed to camp in the High Tatras, fortunately there is a network of free huts particularly useful for hikers (it is not so easy to reach on a bike, I fear), some can be found here. Bonfires are forbidden but tolerated in safe areas, be very careful though. Learn more about cycling and camping in Slovakia.

In Hungary, however, wild camping is officially forbidden, even though this rule doesn’t seem to be strictly enforced. In Austria, however, free camping is prohibited so if you don’t want to risk being hunted in the middle of the night follow the general rules

  • mount the tent when it is almost dark in a place not visible and dismantle at dawn
  • do not light fires
  • leave no traces.

Alternatively, you can ask the locals if you can put the tent in their garden or go to an official campsite, bare in mind though… those are only open in Summer! You can use an app such as komoot to find campsites along the way.

Hospitality

Besides asking for hospitality in the people’s garden you can use WarmShowers o Couchsurfing to find a roof and above all a shower. In the summer months, it could be a bit more difficult as those who live along the river receive dozens of requests. In Austria and Germany you’ll find many Warmshowers hosts, less so in Slovakia and Hungary.

If you don’t know what we are talking about, have a look at our article about the best hospitality network websites.

Rent a bike along the Danube cycle route

If you are not on a long journey and you want to travel more freely without having to pack and ship the bikes, you might think of renting one on site.

Renting a bike is more expensive than taking one’s own, taking the train with a bike is quite simple in many of the countries involved in the route so, if you plan to travel for a couple of weeks always on a bike, probably rental is not the best option.

If, however, you think of pedaling only sections and then move by train or bus to other destinations, renting could be a convenient choice. Naturally, the services and costs change according to the country you are in, in general:

  • in Germany the cost of bike rental varies from 10 to 15€ per day and some shops provide the pickup services for about 25/35€ per bike;
  • in Austria, from information found on the net, prices do not seem very friendly, some services offer discounts if you are in a group, 100€ for two bikes, 120 for three bikes… to which you have to add the 15€ x pannier (if you are not provided). It is also possible to rent an electric bike, the cost is the same;
  • in Hungary, on the other hand, the costs are much more reasonable: around 8/10€ a day with further discounts for a longer rental period
  • in Slovakia it is possible to rent a bike for 15€, usually the panniers are paid only once (not daily) and cost about 10€ in total;

Keep in mind that renting a bike for one day is more expensive, usually discounts are applied for longer periods. We didn’t find particular information about bike rentals in Serbia and Romania, we figure you can find them in the main cities. If you have information please contribute in the comments section.

What to see along the Danube cycle route

Here’s a list of interesting spots to visit along this section of the Danube, you can see their location in the map above.

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Morpher Foldable Helmet Review - an 8,000km field test
Comfort9
Safety8.6
Design9.5
Look8.8
Price8
2018-08-23
8.8Overall Score

Morpher Folding bicycle helmet, a field review after 8000km
pros, cons, history and product description

Folding bicycle helmets have been around for several years, but it’s only recently that their fame is growing, Morpher Helmets are pulling the cart of this new niche market, their collapsible bike helmets are getting more and more popular. What about them?

We tested them during our 7000km European bike trip and now we are ready to give Morpher Helmets a review, are they the best folding helmets available? Are they worth the price? Let’s answer these and more questions.

Maybe you’ve never thought about it but a folding helmet solves a lot of space problems compared to a traditional bicycle helmet.

morpher helmet folded

Why a foldable helmet

Helmets are oddly a hot topic in the bicycle community, they shouldn’t be… wearing a helmet is always a wise choice and any argument against it pales in confront of the advantage of keeping your head whole.

One of the arguments often used by those disliking bike helmets is their portability: they are bulky to carry, won’t fit in a backpack and so on.

Of course, no one wants to leave the helmet attached to the frame of the bike (at least if you want to find it once you’re back), and carrying it under the armpit can be really uncomfortable besides increasing the risk of forgetting it around. A folding helmet, however, can be comfortably slipped into a backpack, at least that’s the case with the Morpher.

Another advantage of folding helmets is for those traveling with bikes; having to enter disassembled bikes and panniers in a box to be loaded on the plane already causes a headache, and often the last thing to put in is the helmet that, although it may not seem, takes up a lot of space in the box.

Several companies produce collapsible helmets, we chose to try the Morpher for their design and safety. Morpher provided us with free helmets for testing purposes, we have been using them every day for almost 5 months, here’s our review.

Elena and Morpher in Wales

Morpher: the company

The English company was awarded in 2016 by Time Magazine with the Edison Awards, an award dedicated to the best innovations of the year. This was followed by several other awards for creativity and the contribution to safety on the road for cyclists.

The Morpher Helmet has been designed by Jeffrey Woolf, an English inventor, businessman, journalist, and innovation specialist (twice awarded British Inventor of the year).

Availability: where to buy Morpher Helmets

Morpher Helmets can be purchased from their official website (with free shipping worldwide) or from Amazon

Morpher: the helmets – a description

Morpher Helmets are very lightweight, thanks to their foam structure, there are 14 small vents (about 5cm x 2cm) which might not be the airiest in sweating hot weather, their small size though makes the structure stronger.

Indeed they passed all applicable cycle helmet safety tests. It has CPSC certification which covers the USA and Canada and CE EN1078 certification which covers the rest of the World, other than Australia.

The folding system is easy to use: 4 magnets keep it flat when folded to an approximate size of 36cm x 22cm x 6cm (about the size of a textbook), fitting even in small purses. To open it just pull the sides and put them in place with the intuitive click system.

The chin strap has a peculiar system which becomes very easy to handle once you get a grasp on it, making occasional regulation possible even while riding. The strap holds it very well, but for people like me, with a lot of hairs, it’s a nice plus.

The traditional buckle for the chin fastening is replaced by a magnetic one, we find it very convenient, it makes it super-easy to fasten and unfasten the helmet, even with gloves on.

The Morpher fit system is certified for heads with a circumference between 52 cm and 58 cm (20.5 to 23 inches) making them suitable for most teens and adults. It may feel a little fiddly to use at first (we recommend using 2 hands or asking a friend to help) but it only needs to be done once. Once it is set it will stay in position unless you decide to adjust it for some reason.
(N.B. It is not necessarily suitable for very large heads. They won’t fit kids, the company is planning on launching new sizes soon)

We find Morpher Helmets aesthetically very pleasant, with great availability of colors and a cool design, the currently available colors are Matt Black, Shiny Black, Frosty White, Regal Red, Stunning Silver, Gunmetal Grey, and Sunshine Yellow.

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Choosing the best base layer for cycling and camping – a look into Green Rose Merino Wool clothes

Base layers are an essential part of any bicycle touring gear kit, a piece of equipment that you really won’t regret having taken with you (except if you only travel in tropical countries, of course).

For our latest (still ongoing, I’m currently writing from Tromso) bicycle trip around Northern Europe, we knew we wouldn’t survive the chilly nights without a proper base layer and we are glad we chose Green Rose as our expedition partner and Merino wool as the warmest fabric available.

What is a Base Layer?

A base layer is, as the name suggests, the innermost of your clothing layers, the one in direct contact with your skin. Its main purpose is to absorb sweat and dampness from the body and keep it warm.

Merino Base Layers VS Synthetic

There are basically two types of base layers, the synthetic ones, usually made out of polypropylene fabric, and merino wool base layers.

While synthetic base layers are certainly more durable and less painful to maintain, nothing beats the quality and the feeling of merino wool. Merino wool has the property of keeping you warm in winter and cool in summer and feels great on your skin (even if you are not a big fan of wool).

Merino Base Layers in Cycling

A good base layer helps regulate body temperature whatever the weather, transferring moisture from the skin and proving a vital aid to performance, keeping the body shielded from the freezing cold on steep mountain descents and drying the sweat out while struggling uphill.

Keeping yourself warm while winter camping

Yeah, I hear you… it’s not winter here… but still we are above the Polar Circle and temperatures can drop considerably during the night, pretty close to 0°C.

Every night, after an usually wet and chilly cycling day, after pitching the tent under the rain, we look forward to getting into our merino wool clothes by Green Rose and finally feel that coziness and warmth again. I don’t know how we would’ve handled these temperatures without them.

About Green Rose company

Green Rose is a small company based in Vilnius, Lithuania, they produce and sell organic and natural clothes using hemp and merino wool as the main materials. They proud themselves of using only natural products, no chemical colors whatsoever and we can confirm their clothes really feel great on the skin and do not cause any irritation, even to someone like me who also had allergic reactions to wool.

Our experience with Green Rose underwear

We are in a partnership with Green Rose and we were sent the products for free to test and write about, but you can trust that all the opinions expressed here are our own and not biased, we didn’t receive any monetary compensation from them.

Of all the pieces of equipment we carry around with us, the base layers from Green Rose are the ones I look forward to using every day, I’m wearing them right now while I write this article and that just feels like being home.

We have long sleeve shirts, pants, and sleeveless shirts. We mostly use them for sleeping, but the sleeveless shirts work great also while cycling. I wish I had one more piece of that.

Care, maintenance, and durability

Some might be scared away from using merino wool on a long-term expedition because of the famed difficulty in washing wool clothes, and the hassle that might come with that.

While it is true that merino wool requires a bit more of care, it’s not that hard to keep your clothes clean and functional. The merino wool underwear by Green Rose can be washed in the washing machine, you don’t even need to use the wool program, just use a generic “delicate” and a temperature not higher than 40°C.

Their website mentions not to tumble-dry but we didn’t have any problem with that. When drying them normally, do not hang them if they are too wet to avoid stretching the fibers, that’s it.

Conclusions

We love Green Rose clothes and we sincerely and honestly recommend them.

The post Green Rose Merino Base Layers – field review appeared first on Cycloscope: bicycle touring planet Earth.

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Ireland: the Wild Atlantic Way by bike
A cycling tour along the west coast of Ireland
One of the best-known routes in Ireland, for cyclists and non-cyclists, is the western part of the coast to the south of the island which includes the famous Cliff of Moher and the Ring of Kerry. Part of the very long (2500km) Wild Atlantic Way, which includes the whole northern and western coast, meanders along jagged cliffs, alien landscapes, and beautiful beaches.
Several people had frightened us about the narrow streets and the traffic, especially in the summer. And in fact both things are true: narrow and poorly paved roads and many tourists with rental cars and campers make Ireland not exactly a destination for cyclists. But even here it is possible to travel a few alternative routes and choosing the right roads will free you from the machines. Poor asphalt instead you will never get rid of…
The map of our Irish bike route is in the middle of the article
How to arrive by bike on the west coast (Wild Atlantic Way)
People usually arrive in Ireland by landing/disembarking in Dublin, Cork or Rosslare (for those like us who arrive by ferry from Wales). In any of these ports you arrive, the road that will take you to the west is rather boring to ride, flat and just pastures for miles and miles. If you don’t have too much time or do not want to ride boring roads, we recommend taking the train.

How to take the train with the bikes in Ireland
It is always possible to load bicycles on Irish trains, the service is free. There are usually two stands per train or sometimes four. However, you need to make a ticket from the railway company’s website to reserve a bicycle seat. The site is www.irishrail.ie. The place for the bike can only be booked online, if you make the ticket at the automatic machine you cannot book for the bikes and the ticket costs twice as much.
We have tried to pay with Postepay (Mastercard) but the transaction has been refused, you can use a prepaid Irish account that you can open online (Revolut). When booking, you will select seats. Once the ticket is done, you must pick it up at the ticket office before leaving. We took the train twice and both times the carriage indicated on the ticket was not the one used to transport bikes. You will see the symbol of the bike on the carriage. In general, however, Irish trains are very short, 5 carriages in all. The bikes must be placed vertically in the appropriate racks.
Connemara National Park / Connemara Ring
We took the train from Dublin to Galway and from there our itinerary started. Galway is a nice little town where you can stock up before leaving, even if there will be a few more shops along the way. In Galway, though, there are a couple of discount supermarkets (Lidl and Aldi) that will really save you money compared to regular Irish supermarkets. From Galway we took the N59 or R336 road, the first 15 kilometers are quite busy, there is no bike path but a sidewalk that can be used by bike. From Spiddal the traffic starts to decrease and on your left you will see several small roads leading to the sea.

The road to Inverin offers little chance of wild camping, maybe it’s possible on the beach but we have not checked.
Since the road turns north the landscape suddenly changes, becomes panoramic and there are far fewer houses. Keep in mind to buy food before the turning point because then there are no more shops until Maam Cross (where there is only one hotel restaurant), the next shop is in Recess and then nothing more until Clifden. We have camped in the bog between the midge flies between Derroe and Costelloe.

From Maam Cross, you start to see the mountains, in particular from Clifden to Moyard the landscape is very scenic. Even from Moyard at the junction with the R336..

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