Even though we started our bike tour in Cork and ended it in Belfast, we flew round-trip to Dublin Airport. It was cheaper than an open-jaw ticket, the schedule worked better than flying into Cork, and it allowed us to spend a couple of days exploring Dublin at the end of our trip.
Since our first order of business upon arriving in Dublin was to make our way to Heuston Station and get the train to Cork, we gave one of our group, Ed, the task of plotting a bike-friendly route using whatever resources he could muster from thousands of miles away. Ed mapped out a route that avoided both the M1 (off-limits to cyclists) and the N1. We assumed that the N1 might be a major thoroughfare, best avoided if possible.
As it turns out, Dublin Airport is easily exited by bicycle. Traffic, at least early on a Saturday morning, was very light. We followed Ed's cues as best we could as we made our way the 8 or so miles south to downtown Dublin. As it turns out, avoiding the N1 was more trouble than it was worth. We got turned around a couple of times, but finally found our way south towards the Liffy River. The Liffy made our task much easier, since we knew that once we found the river all we had to do was cross over to the south bank, then follow it west until we ran smack into Heuston Station.
As I said, the effort of trying to avoid the N1 was uncalled for. When we left Dublin at the end of our trip we simply followed the N1 north out of downtown Dublin and straight to the Airport. For much of the way there is a bike lane. Sometimes the lane is along of the edge of the roadway and we used it. Sometimes it leaves the roadway and goes up onto the sidewalk, and we ignored it. In any case, the traffic was easy to handle. When we arrived at the airport we simply followed the signs to departures and rode directly up to the doors of the departure terminal. Nothing could have been easier.
So, my final recommendation for traveling between Dublin Airport and the city is simply to follow the N1. It's only about 8 miles, the route is easy to follow, and it is very manageable by anybody who is comfortable cycling in moderate traffic.
We used trains several times while in Ireland. We started our trip by taking the train between Dublin and Cork. We also took the train in order to get out of Derry/Londonderry, and finally we trained between Belfast and Dublin at the end of our trip. We never had a problem getting our bikes on the train. It was simply a matter of buying a ticket for each bicycle and loading it onto the guard's van. Some trains required us to remove panniers and hang the bikes from hooks. On other trains we simply stacked the bikes, fully loaded, against the wall of the guard's van.
For our trip to Ireland we decided to leave the camping gear at home and rely on hostels and B&B's for our lodging. Of course, long before our trip we got the usual tourist info from the Irish Tourist Board (Failte Ireland). The information they sent included a rather large book listing B&B's. We did not carry this book with us while traveling.
Before leaving home I had made reservations for our first night at a hostel in Cork. This is the only reservation we made before arriving in Ireland. In nearly every town there is a Tourist Information (TI). In the larger towns there are often signs directing you to the TI as you enter town. In the smaller towns, just head for the center of town and you'll likely find it. The TI can direct you to hostels, B&Bs, hotels, or whatever style of accommodation you want. All that said, we found you can often do better just by walking around town looking for B&B signs and knocking on their doors. Not all B&Bs belong to the TI association. Also, if the TI makes the reservation, they take a portion of the B&B fee. Because of this, you can sometimes get a better price dealing directly with the B&B. On several occasions the folks at the TI told us there were absolutely no B&B rooms available in town. By walking around and checking at B&B's ourselves, we always found available rooms within 10 or 15 minutes.
We started planning our trip using the Michelin #923 Ireland map. This covers the entire island of Ireland in one sheet at a scale of 1:400,000. In my opinion, this is a very good map. You could, and we met some people who did, use this as your only map while touring. But it does lack some very helpful detail. So, we also used the Ordnance Survey Ireland 'Holiday' series maps. These consist of a set of four maps covering the island at a scale of 1:250,000. These are the maps I kept in the map window of my handlebar bag as we rode.
I have two cycling guides to Ireland, Cycle Touring Ireland by Brendan Walsh and Ireland by Bike by Robin Krause. They are both good books, but of course after reading them both and spending three weeks traveling in Ireland, I have opinions about each. I found Robin Krause's book the more readable, but preferred the routes suggested by Brendan Walsh. Sometimes Robin's suggested route would stick to the 'R' road, while a better route on adjacent lanes was obvious by looking at the map. Of course, 'better' is a matter of opinion. But in my opinion, the more minor roads are usually a better choice for cycling.
And here's something that didn't seem to fit in any of the above topics, but is something near and dear to the heart of a cycle-tourist:
Copyright © 1996 - 2011 Allen F. Freeman