The two capital cities on the island of Ireland are best seen on two wheels. Erica Reed saddles up for a bike rides in Dublin and Belfast.
I braved the Ireland ‘sprist’ (mist mixed with sprinkles of rain) and hit the city streets of and on two wheels with wise-cracking guides who were as full of jokes and foodie tips as they were historical knowledge. You don’t need a bike to follow me along on this one.
“I promise I’m not leading you into an alley to steal all your clothes and belongings,” joked Brian Griffin, one of the guides for Dublin City Bike Tour. This was only moderately reassuring as Griffin was leading our group into a dead-end alley beneath a shadowy railway bridge. We were however, just on our way to grab our bikes and get a short safety lecture from Griffin, before popping on our helmets and following him onto the road.
The beauty of the bike tour is two fold: visitors get close-up views of places no car or tour bus could ever hope to go, and it is possible to cover enough distance to visit more sights than any walking tour could aspire to. Rory Martin of Belfast City Bike Tours explains “70% of our tours are only possible to do on a bike”. And don’t discount that wind-in-your-hair bonus. “A plus”, Griffin points out, “is it’s eco-friendly”.
The Belfast tours were designed from the prospective shoes (or seat) of the tourist, according to guide Martin. The tours are constant works in progress, and fresh sights, facts and stories are added as they are built, researched or uncovered. The team works to blend both the old and new of the city, and this is especially obvious in the various tours the company has on offer.
For a peek into Belfast’s past, join the Titanic Bike ‘N’ Boat tour, which leads visitors on an exploration of the city sights all linked inextricably to the famous ship. For a modern taste of Belfast, pedal along the Hilden Bike ‘N’ Brew tour: a quiet and picturesque cycle through the countryside which ends at the Hilden Brewery. Another tour is waiting at the Hilden, and after getting a behind the scenes peek at the brewery, I’d recommend helping yourself to one (or several) pints of their local brew. You deserve a drink after all that exercise!
Although the Dublin tour doesn’t end with a tour of a local brewery, that doesn’t mean you can’t still end it with a toast. The Dublin City Bike Tour route passes important Dublin landmarks both old and new, and while the guides share historical info, a dash of myth and local tips like where to snag the best pint in Dublin. They’ll also show you where to find the absolute best (and possibly oldest) fish and chips joint in town.
Exploring both sides of the River Liffey and stopping at everything from the in the Dublin Docklands to reclining statue in to , the tour gave out more information than you could shake a textbook at, and the guide’s quips and stories kept the tour engaging and us laughing.
As guide Martin shrugged, “Biking is healthy, takes you back to your childhood and never fails to put a smile on your face.”
Why I love the Dublin Bike Scheme by Aileen
In the past couple of years, with a whoosh and a gear change, Dublin has become a cyclist’s city. The Dublin Bike Scheme was responsible. Stations dotted the city. The bikes were free. Suddenly every local was turning a 20 minute walk into a gentle 7 minute cycle. Within months it was deemed the most successful bike scheme of its kind. Dubliners realised en masse what a flat, accessible city we had, and what a pleasure it was to cycle along the canal. I was among them. My favourite bike route is along the Docklands; light traffic, a river-hugging route, dreamy views up the Liffey and salty air when the wind changes. The Dublin bike scheme is open to visitors, offering 3 day passes for just €2. When in Rome… do as the two-wheeled locals do.