If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that ‘adventure holidays’ is not a combination of words I use very often… if ever. Here we tend to visit lush gardens, period houses, old-fashioned museums and at a push, we might hike a moderate trail.
But this Summer, I cycled (part of) the Waterford Greenway and this is the most ‘adventure holiday’ you’ll see here. To be honest, I feel like a changed woman. I absolutely loved riding along the Copper Coast and I can’t wait until my next cycling trip! A sentence I never thought I would say. Luckily, Ireland is going through a ‘greenway boom’ as they are fast becoming a popular holiday destination so I have a large selection to pick from. The Waterford Greenway has actually been voted Ireland’s Favourite Adventure in the Independent’s Reader Travel Awards 2019. Below you’ll find everything you need to know before you set your wheels on this stunning trail.
WHAT IS THE WATERFORD GREENWAY?
The Waterford Greenway is an off-road trail stretching between Waterford City and Dungarvan, in the Southeast of Ireland. With a distance of 46 km, it is the longest greenway in the country. It follows an old railway line and features 11 bridges, 3 viaducts and a tunnel. It was opened in March 2017 to cyclists and walkers alike. As it’s car-free and mostly flat it’s a great introduction for those who are less confident on a bike.
HOW TO GET THERE?
You can start the Waterford Greenway from either end: Waterford or Dungarvan.
Waterford City is one of the major Irish cities so you won’t have any problem getting a train to the city’s station: Plunkett Station. From Dublin, the train journey is direct and takes about 2 hours. Alternatively, you can use Bus Eireann or a private coach company for the journey. By bus, it takes 2,5 hours.
As there’s no train station in Dungarvan, you’ll have to come by public or private bus if you want to use public transport. I used the the private Dublin Coach M9 Express Service (which also stops in Waterford). It was the cheapest and fastest option I could find for Dungarvan at the time.
Alternatively you could start at one of the greenway’s access points which you can locate via this interactive map. Local bus lines stop at a few of them.
HIRE A BIKE?
Of course you can also walk the greenway but I think it’s more fun to cycle it (and being on two wheels allow you to see more of it in a shorter time).
You won’t need to bring your bike (and gear) with you as there’s no shortage of bike hires in the region. It is quite hilarious actually, it seems like every business along the greenway has added a rental as a side hustle. It amused me greatly to spot the various shop signs: ‘cafe and bike rental’, ‘pub and bike rental’, ‘barber’s and bike rental’, ‘Funeral Parlour and … okay, okay I might exaggerate a bit but it really all felt a bit ‘Hot Fuzz’.
You’ll find bike rentals in Dungarvan and Waterford City but also at some of the access points along the greenway. Click here to access the interactive map to locate the greenway’s access points, bike hires and available car parks where you can leave your vehicle.
I personally rented a hybrid bicycle from Waterford Greenway Cycle Tours and Bike Hire in Dungarvan. I’d recommend 100% as they were super friendly and helpful. They also have a desk in Kilmacthomas and Waterford. It was €25 a day and came with a helmet (I did regret not enquiring about a lock as it would have been nice to park the bike safely and explore off-road). If you want an electric bike, it will cost you €50 a day. Included in the price is the trip back with their shuttle bus should you need it. I had intended to catch it in Kilmacthomas (the greenway’s halfway point) but unfortunately missed the only one available that afternoon.
The bike prices are more or less the same everywhere but I think what you should take into consideration when choosing your bike rental is their shuttle bus’ timetable and make sure it fits your plan.
With that being said, you’ll find public transport along the greenway so you’re not likely to get stranded anywhere. For information, the public bus I took from Kilmacthomas was €5. Not expensive by any means but it was a cost I should have avoided with more preparation.
In retrospect I should have gone with Waterford Greenway Bike Hire & Visitor Centre, their shuttle bus leaves from their Kilmacthomas hub in the Workhouse which is exactly where my journey ended.
An extra tip for you: make sure you write down the exact name of the rental company you’re going for to avoid any confusion as they may have very similar names.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
If you’re a seasoned cyclist, legend has it that you could whizz through the whole thing in 4 hours. Honestly, I personally wouldn’t know. You see I’m couch potato in chief so I had to push myself real hard to cycle half of it. It took me 3 hours to cycle the distance between Dungarvan and Kilmacthomas, about 22km. To be fair, I didn’t rush it, I stopped a lot to take pictures or to simply catch my breath. Don’t tell anyone but I even walked for a bit (what can I say, my bum was sore).
You’re free to tackle the Waterford Greenway the way you want, but I think the nicest way to go about it is to take your time, enjoy the scenery and the various stops.
If you’re set to complete the whole way, take at least a half day, maybe more if you want to include a visit to Mount Congreve Gardens.
But it’s important that you know your physical limit. If like me you hardly ever cycle, pick a section that you think you’d enjoy. The most beautiful part for me was from Dungarvan to O’Mahony’s Pub. If I had to do it again, I’d cycle there, have a cosy pub break then leisurely come back to Dungarvan for an evening along the quays.
WHAT TO SEE ALONG THE GREENWAY?
The Waterford Greenway is divided in 6 sections. Each of which comes with its own set of sightseeing spots. It’s generally advised to go in the direction from Waterford City to Dungarvan as the views when you reach Clonea Bay are breathtaking. Added bonus, the path goes a midge downhill in that direction.
With that being said, I started from Dungarvan but that was alright with me as it meant more breaks to stop and look behind (and I can confirm the views are indeed amazing). Here is a quick breakdown of the greenway’s six sections.
WATERFORD CITY TO KILLOTERAN (7.5km)
Your journey starts in Waterford city and soon enough you’ll pass by the Waterford IT campus, which has a car park available. Through woodlands, you cycle along the River Suir and the railway track operated by the Waterford & Suir Valley Heritage train. Keep an eye for the old-timey locomotive!
KILLOTERAN TO KILMEADAN (3km)
In Killoteran you’ll find another car park but if you decide to go on you’ll be surrounded by the same kind of landscape: woodlands along the water. On your way, you’ll pass by a Norman Castle and Mount Congreve Gardens. The Gardens are absolutely ravishing, they’re renowned for their rhododendron collection so do plan a stop there, you won’t regret it. Besides, they have a charming courtyard cafe should you be in need of refreshments at this point.
KILMEADAN TO KILMACTHOMAS (13km)
Here the woodlands will slowly make way for countryside scenes, the farm animals will become your new road companions. Along the way, you might spot a tower. It is Fairbrook, the old woollen mill.
Just outside Kilmacthomas, there’s an old Famine Workhouse which now houses the spiffing Coach House Coffee. Great place to enjoy a bite to eat!
The town of Kilmacthomas marks the half way point of the greenway. Remnants of its old train station have the charming look of a toy set from another era. Here you’ll cross your first viaduct. If you want to have a better view of it, leave the cycling trail to join the main street of Kilmacthomas.
KILMACTHOMAS TO DURROW (13km)
The green emerald fields keep rolling as you ride and the cows graze, indifferent to your huffing and puffing. The beautiful valley surrounding you is partly framed by the majestic Comeragh Mountains, to the North. You will come across the second viaduct, the Durrow viaduct.
DURROW TO CLONEA ROAD (6km)
In Durrow, you’ll find the famed Mahony’s Pub and shop with old Irish charm to boot. It’s almost mandatory to stop here for a pint and a chat. Soon after you’ll be faced with the Ballyvoyle tunnel. It is 400m long and it is advised to get off your bike before entering. As you exit, you’ll feel you’ve been transported to another latitude. The surrounding walls are covered with exotic plants, giving the greenway a jungle flavour all of a sudden. Spot the fairy-sized doors dotted along the way among the fern leaves.
Next is the third and final viaduct, Ballyvoyle viaduct.
Brace yourself for the big greenway finale, as you’re now approaching the Copper Coast. The views over the Clonea Bay are a favourite among locals and visitors alike.
CLONEA ROAD TO DUNGARVAN (4km)
The last section follows along the coastline and brings you to Dungarvan via a rather scenic metal bridge over sea marshes. The view over Clonea bay and Dungarvan harbour combined with the sea air are truly exhilarating. Dungarvan is a charming sea port town with some great restaurants to explore once you have returned your trusted steel steed.
WHAT IS THE GREENWAY CODE?
Before you cycle the greenway, you need to know a few rules so it’s all smooth sailing… I mean cycling for you and the others whom you share the road with.
– Just like on any road in Ireland, keep on the left and pass others on the right. It’s advised to ring your bell before you do so but from my own experience, people seem to prefer a good, clear, warning, hello.
– Always cycle at a safe speed.
– In Ireland, especially in the countryside, it is not uncommon to greet any person you walk by on the street. It seems to apply to cycling on the greenway too. I’m not the most sociable creature (understatement of the year) so I compromised with a friendly nod.
– Leave the place like you find it. Clean up after yourself and bring your litter home.
– If you walk your dogs, keep them on a lead and scoop the poop.
WHAT TO PACK?
In terms of bike gear such as helmets, high-visibility jackets, tow-along for kids and locks, your rental should be able to provide. One thing that you might want to pack is padded shorts. I know glamorous but I deeply regretted I wasn’t wearing any. I may have first had a little laugh when I noticed that the cyclists around me had weird cushioned bums. Twenty minutes later, I got it. Ouch. Trust me, these are essential. If you’re not into cyclist fashion, you can also get seat pad covers that you can add to any bicycles.
Bring water in your refillable bottle. Recently the Greenway has added free drinking fountains along the way. They are available at four locations: Abbeyside, Balleylinch Cross, Kilmacthomas and Bilberry.
Pack snacks. Breakfast bars or energy balls will give you a boost along the way. For something more substantial, there are plenty of great spots to stop for a bite (for instance, Coach House Coffee or Mount Congreve Gardens’ cafe) but you’ll also find picnic tables dotted around if you’d rather bring your own lunch.
As you all know by now, the Irish weather is temperamental so be ready for all occasions. Carry a rainproof jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses and wear layers. A little tip, do reapply your sunscreen regularly, especially on your hands. They’re in a vulnerable position on the handlebars. I only applied some just before taking the road and they got sunburnt.
Make sure your phone is charged and you have all the emergency numbers saved.