4 April 2016

Cycling The Great Western Greenway



I can't remember the exact moment when I became so interested in outdoor endeavours, but it was most definitely during my time cooped up whilst suffering from the painful effects of late stage Freiberg's Disease. I suppose, seeing as I was unable to enjoy the outdoors as much during that time, I longed for it more than I ever had before - and made a vow to myself to spend as much time appreciating what nature had to offer as much I possibly could.

Wednesday the 30th of March 2016 marked not only the first big physical challenge I had set myself since my foot surgery seven months ago, but probably the biggest physical challenge have set myself in my life to date - to cycle the 42 kilometre journey from Achill Island to Westport in County Mayo, also known as The Great Western Greenway.

Not long after my surgery - I recall spontaneously asking my husband if we could attempt to climb Croagh Patrick together. Never before, had I ever considered visiting a mountain in Ireland - let alone climbing one! Yet, the request was there with no substance or reason. I suddenly wanted to climb a mountain, and I wanted Croagh Patrick to be my inaugural climb.

After visiting my surgeon for my final check up and getting the green light to start moderate hiking, we decided that Croagh Patrick, while not an unobtainable, may be a little too big of a dream right now and so, as we approached our wedding anniversary and weekly annual leave, we found ourselves longing to embark on a mini adventure that might assist in easing us into finally achieving our ultimate goal.

We decided that even if I couldn't climb Croagh Patrick just yet, we would at least go and see it in person. So we booked a four day trip to Westport, County Mayo with the intention of resting and generally just sussing out how difficult the climb would be for me.

A week before our trip, and anxious to get some sort of activity in, we found ourselves researching more and more about The Great Western Greenway, a 42 kilometre off road pathway designated specifically to cyclists and hikers, and offering some of the most spectacular views of our beautiful country. We excitedly decided to try it, despite being told it was quite a difficult trek to spontaneously attempt. Nevertheless our minds we made up, and we booked to hire some bikes from a fantastic company in Westport called Clew Bay Bike Hire.

The electric and standard bike
Shane hired a standard bike, while I opted for the electric bike - which I was so thankful for when reached the more hilly areas of the trail. Bike Hire also included shuttle transfers, and so we decided to start our journey on Achill which would ensure that the wind would be on our backs as we cycled the Greenway back to Westport. 

We took off from Achill sound around 10:30am to begin the first 13km of the trail which would bring us from Achill to Mulranny.

Achill to Mulranny
This section was probably our favourite, with beautiful sweeping mountain views that took our breath away. 

Beautiful views | Achill to Mulranny

Achill to Mulranny

Achill to Mulranny
It was also a fairly easy trek which ended at the Mulranny Park Hotel where we decided to take a well earned break and treat ourselves to tea and scones. The first 13km had taken us a leisurely two hours to complete with rest stops for pictures and snacking. 

The view from Mulranny Park Hotel
At this point we had the option to turn our bikes in and be picked up by the shuttle which would take us back to Westport - but we were feeling pretty great - so after a quick refuel - we decided to push on. 

The next portion of the cycle was the longest - 18km from Mulranny to Newport. While we also enjoyed this stretch, it crossed over a lot of farmland and was much less scenic than the Achill to Mulranny stretch. We did however manage to get some beautiful sea views in which gave us time to admire Ireland's beautiful coastline and the abundance of Islands dotting it. 

Mulranny to Newport


Reaching Newport, we felt we had stopped for plenty of breaks - and so we decided not to stop off here for a coffee break. We pushed on through Newport town at which point we had to dismount and walk our bikes through. For a brief time while in Newport you come off the Greenway for a while - again with the option to drop your bikes in at the Clew Bay shop and be collected by shuttle which again we decided not to do. 

After walking through the town - we embarked once more on what was probably the most disappointing leg of the trek (hence the lack of pictures). This was mainly due to the extensive amount of roadworks going on in the area as well as the fact that the Newport to Westport leg is much less scenic than the previous 31km we had just travelled. Most of this part of the route is adjacent to the roadway and we also found ourselves tackling a new obstacle - hills! Aside from the roadworks and the hills, we enjoyed our cycle back nonetheless and it was an incredible feeling to arrive back in Westport to the impressive backdrop of my ultimate goal - Croagh Patrick - towering over the town. 

Reaching Westport Greenway Station 5 1/2 hours later
Reaching our final destination was an incredible feeling for us! We were completely surprised at just how much we thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience and we cannot wait to do it again!

To learn more about the Greenway you can do so by clicking here.
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