An array of brand new cycling trails have been popping up in Co. Offaly, earning The Faithful County a place in the list of Irish cycling hotspots. The Slieve Bloom Mountains, one of the oldest mountain ranges in Europe, now includes over 80kms of bespoke trail riding – with designs on boosting local business and tourism in the area in the process.
This newly-promoted initiative, which is a partnership between Fáilte Ireland, Coillte and Offaly and Laois County Councils, endorses not only a whole host of hiking and biking trails, but also heritage attractions, angling and bird-watching opportunities; basically, just about everything an outdoor enthusiast could fancy. We’ve put the spotlight on what you should expect on a visit to Slieve Bloom..…
With its rolling hills, paths and roadways, Slieve Bloom offers a stunning setting for both road and mountain biking – and whether you’re a beginner looking to learn the ropes on flat surfaces, or an experienced biker awaiting a new challenge, you’ll find the right terrain for you.
For those on the hunt for high speed thrills, there are 35kms of brand-new mountain biking trails, with trailheads being situated at Kinnity and Baunreagh. These are specifically marked trails designed for MTBs, with varying difficulty levels catered for. You’ll find these waymarked trails colour-coded, ranging from blue, (moderate with some single-track sections) to red (difficult, with climbs and tricky descent).
For a cycle that’s breathtaking in every sense of the word, we recommend a trip towards ‘The Cut’, which sits at an elevation of 430m, promising views across the Midlands; if you’re really lucky, it’s said you can see as far as Armagh on a clear day!
To delve more into the world of cycling at Slieve Bloom, check out the array of trails on this map here. And, if you’re feeling inspired, we’ve got even more recommended mountain biking trails for beginners in our shortlist.
Location, location, location
Sitting just over an hour from Dublin and Limerick, Slieve Bloom’s central location makes it an entirely accessible option for both day trippers and those looking to staycation. For those planning on staying, there are plenty of accommodation options nearby; some recommendations include Kinnity Castle Hotel, Barrow View B&B, Streamstown Caravan & Camping Park and O’Brien’s Cottage. For more accommodation ideas, check out Slieve Bloom’s Where to Stay guide.
Once there, you’ll find something of an outlier in Irish terms; considering the country isn’t flush with forestry, the Slieve Bloom area is altogether special. Dominated by the coniferous woodland of Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine, it’s also home to a 2,300 hectare nature reserve, Ireland’s largest state owned Special Area of Conservation. Families can enjoy wildlife walks which are guided by local conservation rangers, bringing you up close and very personal to a true haven for flora and fauna.
Watch out for the Hen Harrier, one of the rarest birds of prey in Ireland, as they can often be seen nesting on the ground on the bog and heath!
Meanwhile, if you fancy trading your bike for a different type of saddle then the Birr Equestrian Centre offers hourly, half-day and full-day trekking in the mountains – perfect for those looking to keep things active. Mind, there’s been plenty of praise reserved for the area’s charming country pubs, too – so you should well entertained whether in the saddle or out…
The road ahead
Whilst the development of Slieve Bloom’s mountain biking trails is welcome news, it’s likely to just be the beginning; the Irish Government’s ‘Our Rural Future’ policy has set out to invest more than €11 million in cycling trails across the country.
Heather Humphreys, Minister for Rural and Community Development, spoke about the importance of outdoor recreation for mental health and wellbeing, in addition to local and international tourism. With a number of projects on track to develop further MTB centres in Limerick, Sligo, Dublin and Wicklow, the goal of the overall initiative is to position Ireland as a leading international destination for trail cycling.
If you’re looking for more recommended cycling trails to explore, check out our guide on the best cycling routes located across Ireland, with varying difficulty catered for!