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The Secret West

The Secret West

Degree of difficulty -

NEW FOR 2019....
The Sligo / Leitrim landscape, the “Country of the Heart” of Nobel Prize winning Poet W B Yeats, is very different to much of the rest of Ireland. It’s difficult to put your finger on it. There are the stone walls of Connacht but more abundant vegetation in the sheltered glens. Perhaps it’s the sense that time has stood still here and you can stop on the road and look around at a scene that hasn’t changed in 60 years

The landscape is not as rugged as the West Coast, not as pastoral as the East, yet combines a multitude of tranquil lakes with low, weather etched hills.  Add to this the network of small roads, time forgotten villages and tiny population – the lowest in Ireland, and you have a recipe for some of Ireland’s best cycling.
An added interest is the crisscrossing of what will be the only UK/EU land border!

We have chosen the best accommodation in the area and the tour includes two night stays in three of our locations.

Day 1 Saturday, July 20 Arrive in Carrick on Shannon
The mighty Shannon River – Ireland’s longest – arcs lazily around the Co Leitrim capital of Carrick on Shannon. Originally a fording point that became an important trading post, Carrick on Shannon is now a lively town hosting cruisers on the Shannon –Erne waterway. 

Day 2 Sunday, July 21 Loop cycle to Arigna ( 46km/389m or 66km/567m )
Our route follows the Boyle River through the villages of Cootehall and Knockvicar to the edge of Lough Key. Heading North the route climbs Kilronan Mountain to arrive at the Arigna Mining Experience. This is an old mine which was in operation from the 1700s to 1990. 

The longer route follows the eastern shore of Lough Key before turning east on a tiny and almost traffic free back road across gently undulating terrain to Lough Meelagh. From here the route climbs to yield views across Lough Allen to Slieve Anierin before reaching the Arigna Experience.

Day 3 Monday, July 22 Carrick on Shannon to Ballinamore ( 69km/757m or 35km/173m )
Heading east out of town on the tiny tree-lined lanes we head through the lake lands to the village of Keshkerrigan.  
The great bulk of Slieve Anierin (the Iron Mountain) looms ahead of us and soon we are skirting it flanks with panoramas over Lough Allen.

Descending through reedy fields on quiet lanes, rust stained, from the iron-rich soils of the mountain, we cycle to the more fertile fields, small farms and lush hedgerows on our way to our destination, the pretty town of Ballinamore where we stay for the next two nights.

Sitting on the Shannon Erne Waterway Ballinamore is a popular boating and fishing destination and home to Leitrim Genealogy Centre where you can trace your Leitrim routes!.

Day 4 Tuesday, July 23 Ballinamore Optional Loop 52km/430m
Our route rolls out of town on a flat road for a couple of kilometres before turning north onto a small road between lakes which takes us past the old homestead of John McGahern, the Booker-nominated writer who the Observer referred to as the greatest living novelist before his death in 2006. McGahern’s first school and his grave are also along this 2km stretch of road.

Continuing on tiny Ash tree-lined roads we emerge on the shores of Lakefield Lough and on to Pol an Eas Waterfall before coming through the village of Fenagh with its Visitors Centre and cafe.

Day 5 Wednesday, July 24 Ballinamore to Belcoo (47km/365m )
Today our route heads through the hills around Slieve Rusheen and into Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland just after the village of Swanlinbar where the present border is imperceptible on a tiny tree tunnel road. With the Limestone massive of Cuilcagh Mountain looming into view on our left we roll along easy flat roads. Turning West up the Arney River valley to visit the 17th century Florence Court House and gardens we can have a pleasant lunch stop in the cafe on the grounds.

When heading to the lower slopes of Cuilcagh to the entrance of Marble Arch Caves – a wonderful underground waterway network well worth a visit. Another 300m along the route is the Cuilcagh Board Walk, known locally as the “Stairway to Heaven”.

If you are feeling energetic there is a 7.4km trot to the end of the boardwalk (and 7.4km back) giving you a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside and Lakelands.

Back on the road, the views are not over yet as the road contours on the side of the mountain revealing stunning views of Lough McNean just before our route descends these hills from which Irelands longest river, the Shannon derives its source. The final few kilometres into Co Cavan and the Republic are mostly downhill.

Our stay is brief as our destination for tonight, the would be twin villages of Belcoo and Blacklion which straddle the border – we stay in Belcoo on the northern side tonight.

Day 6 Thursday, July 25 Belcoo to Sligo ( 67km/600m or 79km/815m )
Staying in the “North” we ride up the Valley by Upper Lough McNean to the Village of Garrison and Lough Melvin on the other side of the watershed. Turning south here we cross back into the “South”.

Climbing gradually we wind our way through Rossiniver descending to Manorhamiton for lunch where we can visit its 17th Century castle. After lunch then there is a short/long option with the short route skirting the shores of the stunning Lough Gill on its way into Sligo.

Meanwhile, the longer route turns west into the Glencar valley to visit the beautiful waterfall and then continues west along the valley under the spectacular escarpments of Benbulbin to the village of Drumcliffe where we can visit the grave of W.B. Yeats the Nobel Prize-winning poet who drew much of his inspiration from his local surroundings here.

Day 7 Friday, July 26 Sligo – Sligo ( 59km/523m )
Having spent the past week in valleys and hills alongside fresh water we finally make it to the coast today. Our looped route takes us out along the bay to Strand Hill where you can watch the surfers on the Atlantic breakers or rent a wetsuit and board and try your hand at surfing. If you prefer to stick to dry land there is the option of hiking to Queen Maeve’s Tomb on top of Knocknarea Mountain with its wonderful panoramic views over the coast and mountains.

Skirting the foot of the mountain we head south-east along the shores of Ballysadare Bay with views across the shallow sandy waters to the Ox Mountains. Riding inland again we reach the shores of Lough Gill passing Dooney Rock Forest where if you still have an appetite for hiking there are numerous trails to explore. The village of Dromahair is a late lunch stop after which we rejoin the Lough Gill shoreline to follow it back to Sligo town for our final night.

Day 8 Saturday, July 27
Depart after breakfast

2019 Prices : The Secret West 
€ 920.00 per person sharing
€ 255.00 single occupancy (on request only)

Tour Includes

  • Seven nights accommodation with full Irish breakfast.
  • One evening meal
  • 24 speed touring bike with bag carrier, mudguards, water bottle carrier and a small pannier bag.
  • Route maps and details.
  • Helmet rental (on request)
  • Luggage transfer each day
  • Support van with tour guide with minimum of 8 people
  • GPS tracks available (on request)

Group tour dates ( Red = booked out / not available, Blue = Limited Availability and Green = available)


Self Guided Tour Information

This tour is currently not available as a self guided option.

On this trip we are staying mainly in small hotels and in Ballinamore we will stay in guesthouses.


CarrickonShannonBushHotel1 CarrickonShannonBushHotel2 CarrickonShannonBushHotel3

Day 1 & 2: Bush Hotel



BallinamoreHamills1 BallinamoreHamills2 BallinamoreHamills3

Day 3 & 4: Hamills B&B

BallinamoreGlenview1 BallinamoreGlenview2  

Day 3 & 4: Glenview B&B




BelcooCustomsHouse1 BelcooCustomsHouse2 BelcooCustomsHouse3

Day 5: Customs House Country Inn



SligoGlasshouse1 SligoGlasshouse2 SligoGlasshouse3

Day 6 & 7: Glasshouse Hotel

Dublin would be the best airport to fly into for access to this tour

This tour starts in Carrick on Shannon,  the town is well service by a bus and train network.   It is on the Sligo - Dublin train line

The tour finishes in Sligo which is well serviced from Dublin by trains & buses

Getting in Touch...

Cycling Safaris
Belfield Bike Shop,
UCD, Dublin 4,

Telephone: +353 1 2600749
Fax: +353 1 7161168


Office hours:
Monday to Friday 9.30am - 6pm

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