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Kingfisher Cycling Trail, Ireland

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Posted by Catherine Mack at 06:37 on Sunday 02 May 2010

The Kingfisher Cycling Trail, IrelandThe Kingfisher Cycling Trail, IrelandThe Kingfisher Cycle Trail is the best slap in the face for those who grumble that Ireland is now a concrete jungle full of alien architecture and Audis. Forests, lakes and farms are just about all you see on the 370 kilometres of this carefully signposted and mapped trail around five counties of the North West of Ireland. 

The Kingfisher is an appropriate name for Ireland’s first long-distance cycle trail. It is associated with lakelands and, as this trail twists in and out of the extraordinarily endless lakes of Counties Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim and Monaghan, the Kingfisher has superb choices of shores to rest upon. Visitors who are new to these counties will be knocked out by the vast network of waterways feeding off, among others, the River Erne which, in turn, steers its way down a natural corridor to Donegal Bay. The Trail was started as a cross-border initiative in 1995 and, at certain points along the way, it is hard to know if you are in the North or the South, so keep a selection of currencies to hand. Consequently, it is co-marketed by the British cycling charity Sustrans and Greenbox, and maintained by the relevant local authorities. 

Kingfisher Cycle Route
The figure of eight route is divided into two loops. The northern loop circles the whole of Lower Lough Erne, alongside Loughs Melvin and Macnean, stretching out as far as  Ballyshannon in County Donegal. The lower loop is bordered on two sides by Upper Lough Erne and Lough Allen. A good starting point for the southern loop is Carrick-on-Shannon, from where you can travel east, along backroads through the patchwork quilt-like landscape of tiny lakes. On this route, an ideal picnic stop is at Newtownbutler where, if travelling anti-clockwise, you have to phone the ferryman to help you back on your journey across the lake to Crom. For the northern loop section, hire bikes at Corralea Activity Centre, and base yourself here for a few days. Then go further north, and check out the extra Atlantic mini-loop from Belleek or Ballyshannon to the sandy beach at Rossnowlagh. Creevy Cottages is the perfect stop-off for this part of the loop. 

The Kingfisher Trail’s map is excellent, offering several different ways to break up the Trail, as well as day routes and tourist attractions along the way. It also points out some of the busier sections of road, warning cyclists to take caution, but there are few of these. There are many green places to stay along the Kingfisher Trail, including Creevy Cottages,  The Old Schoolhouse, Orchard Acre Farm, Corralea Activity Centre, Little Crom Cottages, The Breesy Centre, Lough Allen Adventure Centre, The Old Rectory, Trinity Island Lodge, The Share Holiday Village, Blaney Spa and Yoga Centre and Ard na Breatha.

So it is possible to cycle your way around the whole trail and support sustainable businesses en route. Most of themCatherine's son on the Kingfisher Cycle Trail at Castle Archdale, County FermanaghCatherine's son on the Kingfisher Cycle Trail at Castle Archdale, County Fermanagh will arrange bike hire, or have bikes available for use. Good off-road cycling for children can be found on the sections at Crom Estate, Castle Archdale and Florence Court, all in County Fermanagh. The closest train stations near or on the Trail are Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon, although Bus Eireann  in the Republic of Ireland and Ulsterbus in Northern Ireland are both happy to carry bicycles if there is room in the luggage section of the coach.  

 

This article, by Catherine Mack, was first published in her book, ecoescape: Ireland

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