Earlier this year, the much-anticipated Waterford Greenway officially opened to the public.
With its lush green surroundings, coastal scenery and plethora of historical information along the trail, I suspected that a long Easter weekend was the perfect opportunity to check it out.
As it’s set to be one of the biggest new tourist attractions of 2017, I decided to get on my bike and give it a bash.
This weekend sees the June Bank Holiday roll around so what better weekend to check it out for yourself?
I’ve always found Waterford to be one of Ireland’s most underrated counties. A stroll through the city tells you how big a part the Déise people have played in the history of the country.
The Comeragh mountains provide visitors with some of Ireland’s most breathtaking views, while the sunny south coast makes for phenomenal photo opportunities all year round.
When I heard about the Waterford Greenway, I thought it would provide an excellent chance to see the beauty of the county without being confined to a car or tour group.
The 46km track stretches from scenic Dungarvan, right across the county and into Waterford City.
Myself and my girlfriend, who is the more experienced cyclist of the pair of us by a long stretch, set off on Easter Saturday afternoon. We didn’t really have any intention of cycling the whole greenway (some other time, eh?), so we pondered which section we’d like to get started at.
Dungarvan and Waterford are the two main starting points but there are plenty of very well-signposted entry points along the way. You can pretty much drive alongside the greenway and take your pick on where to begin, depending on the amount of time you have and how much energy you wish to put into your efforts.
We decided the 13km stretch between Kilmeadan and Kilmacthomas would be perfect to get started.
The greenway is built on the old Waterford Suir Valley Railway and we chugged along on what struck us as a rather gravelly surface at first. This isn’t what we signed up for, we thought, but our journey quickly became smoother as we picked up the pace.
While the views of Waterford’s green pastures were no doubt impressive, we were a little disappointed that the Easter weather hadn’t lived up to our perhaps lofty expectations.
As we passed by a number of disused train platforms we really got a sense of the old Irish countryside. A welcome escape from the trappings of modern day life.
We crossed over the hugely impressive stone Kilmacthomas Bridge (above), caught a glimpse of the famous Flahavan’s porridge factory on our right, before rolling downhill into the village where we were met by a number of other cyclists and walkers resting their weary legs.
For every person we saw with their own flash bike and all the gear, there was a novice only discovering the joys of cycling. There are rent-a-bike shops at almost every stop on the greenway so even if you don’t possess a bike, you can still take part in the fun.
Being a relative beginner myself, I decided that 13km was quite enough for one day. After enjoying a cycle-free Sunday, we decided to take in the coastal part of the route on Easter Monday.
This meant about a one hour drive from our accommodation in Dunmore East to the picturesque town of Dungarvan (below) and we were on our bikes again.
We decided to go one better this time and embark on the 10km trek from Dungarvan to Shanacool and back again, totalling a rather impressive (to us anyway) 20km.
All in all, it was a completely different journey to the one we undertook two days previously. We stopped a number times to take photos of the coast, breathe in the sea air coming in from Dungarvan and enjoy the hustle and bustle of bikes zooming past at various speeds and walkers with and without dogs in tow cheerily trotting along.
Having gone over a number of viaducts with magnificent views of Dungarvan Bay and the Gaeltacht area of An Rinn, we arrived at the pièce de résistance of the whole weekend – the quarter-mile long Ballyvoyle Tunnel.
As we approached, we sailed through what we both observed to be reminiscent of a jungle, or the closest thing in Ireland as we’ve seen to one anyway. Branches hung down low and the sounds of various wildlife filled the air.
Despite my best efforts, it was impossible for a Jurassic Park fan like myself not to hum John Williams’ famous score as we whizzed along the winding path of the ‘jungle’.
Before entering the tunnel, signs warned cyclists to disembark their bicycles as the pitch darkness would only be hazardous to themselves and pedestrians alike.
A rather surreal experience awaits as you walk the long stretch while keeping an eye on the tiny bit of light at the end. As one passer-by pointed out: “It’d be some spot for a disco.”
At the end of the tunnel it’s only another half a kilometre before you’re met with a grassy picnic area at Shanacool where you can take a breather and plan your next move.
After we did just that, we began to make our way back to Dungarvan. We were delighted when it clicked that it was pretty much downhill the whole way back so we barely had to pedal at all.
We were back in Dungarvan within 40 minutes and satisfied with a grand total of 33km cycled over the weekend. More than enough to counteract the calories gained from scoffing an Easter egg or two.
There’s still a chunk of the greenway that we are yet to experience so we will definitely plan to make a return this summer.
Who knows, we might even manage to do the whole route and back again in one go!
(header pic credit: Waterford Greenway)