Wild Atlantic Way series – Sustainable cycle touring

This posts focuses on trying to find the most sustainable, least harmful way of getting to the start of my Wild Atlantic Way cycling adventure.

Man-made climate change is real and undeniable. Only cranks and shills disagree with the astounding amount of verifiable scientific evidence. I’m very aware of my personal CO2 footprint, and am working to reduce it further. Like most people living in a developed country, mine is far too high.

This post is not about climate change, but rather about my efforts in solving logistics in a most sustainable manner.

The Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way follows Ireland’s spectacular west coast. The name is easy to explain – it’s on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. That brings spectacular views, but also challenging conditions. Especially the winds that come roaring off the Atlantic can be ferocious.

When you throw in Ireland’s very hilly terrain – the route crosses one mountain and thousands of hills – it you soon realise it’s a challenge.

Getting to Ireland

By far the quickest, and cheapest way for me to get me and my bike to Ireland is to fly there. I can get a flight from Bristol airport to the starting point of my Wild Atlantic Way adventure, Cork city. Alternatively, I can get a flight from even closer to where I live, Exeter, and fly to Dublin, and get a train to Cork. Either option is by far the cheapest way to get there.

I’m choosing not to fly. I’ve been flight-free since 2008, and while I’m not saying I’ll never fly again, I try very hard to avoid flying. In this case, I have alternative choices, so my plans are to take a train, then a ferry, then a train again.

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My travel options

Great Britain forms the bulk of the UK, and is the largest island in the British Isles, but it remains an island. Ireland, though nearby, is an island, too. There are no bridges, nor any under-sea train tunnels connecting the two. That means your travel options will always mean crossing the Irish Sea in one way or another.

Flying is an option, but one I firmly ruled out. That means catching a ferry. The point in Ireland where I’ll start cycling in earnest is Cork city, so that’s my target. I’ll be cycling the bottom 700 miles of the Wild Atlantic Way, and complete my ride in Galway. Obviously, I need a way to get back from Galway again.

At first I looked at ferries to Rosslare, in Ireland, then a coach from there to Cork. However, the ferry times simply didn’t line up with train times to get to either Pembroke Dock, or Holyhead. In addition, while the coaches do carry bicycles, it’s on the basis of “provided there’s space in the luggage compartment”. I simply cannot risk being left behind.

Cliffs of Moher, on the Wild Atlantic Way

Viva le France?

My best option would really have been to catch a ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff, in France, then catch another ferry from there to Cork. However, the ferry port is Roscoff isn’t like an airport, where passengers transiting through can remain on the international side, and so avoid going through passport control.

While a permanent resident in the UK, I travel on a South African passport, and would therefore need a Schengen visa, even just to wait on the dock for a short period of time. That pretty much ruled a ferry via France out.

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Originally, I was only going to visit Dublin once – while travelling back. However, my most reliable route from Plymouth to Cork, then from Galway back to Plymouth, means passing through Dublin twice.

First, I’ll get a train (well, rail travel in the UK is SO fragmented, so it’s actually 5 different trains!) from Plymouth to Holyhead. That will get me to Holyhead in time to catch a ferry to Dublin. Once in Dublin, I’ll get a train to Cork city.

In Cork, I’ll book into a hostel overnight, then set off cycling early the next morning. Little over two weeks and some 700 miles later, I’ll be in Galway, where the cycling part will end.

From Galway it’ll be a train back to Dublin, another night in a hostel, then an early-morning ferry back to Holyhead. From there, it’s a reverse of the UK train journey, to arrive in Plymouth at around 22h00, the night before I need to be back at work!

The cycling bit

This post isn’t about the cycling. There will be several other posts covering that. While on the ride, I’ll be carrying my little 7″ tablet, and will be posting a daily update. In addition, you’ll be able to dot-watch my glacial progress on the Where’s Will Now page, as I’ll be live-sharing my location.

1 thought on “Wild Atlantic Way series – Sustainable cycle touring”

  1. I am also trying to reduce flying, especially within Europe. I had never considered the Roscoff option for getting to Cork although aware of the route. Could be an interesting tour option, perhaps via Cherbourg if time was on my side. Good luck with planning, it is a beautiful route, I lived in Mayo as a child for a while.


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