In this time of the daycation we tend to think of getting away to those remote rural escapes. The quieter and further away the better and the discovery of little-known hidden gems a bonus. As an experienced beneficiary, I too dream of such escapes. But what if time, budget or public health constraints mean we can’t escape as much or as far as we would like? What if we must make do with an escape closer to home, confined to our own locality?
The circumstances of recent months have given us an opportunity to rediscover our localities, when before, we by-passed historic sites, stories and natural features in the oblivious rush of our daily business. Almost by accident, I found myself experimenting with the creation of virtual tours of my locality; 2km from home; 5km from home, based on my daily cycling loops. I surprised myself by how much I learned about my locality, and how much I had overlooked and ignored. Living in County Dublin, I now share some of these cycling routes. I hope you may be enticed to get on your bike and venture out where wondering where can I cycle that’s enjoyable and safe has previously been prohibitive.
Another noticeable feature of recent times is the development of cycling infrastructure around Dublin City and County. This seems to be happening with breath-taking speed relative to the seemingly obfuscated slow pace heretofore. It is far from perfect, especially when compared with the infrastructure of other European cities, such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Also, there will always be detractors who tend to see and focus on flaws seen through the lens of their own interests. However, I believe there is plenty of evidence of quality cycling infrastructure and safe routes to offer something for every type of cyclist. From the casual beginner to the fitness enthusiast, the first-time visitor to the long-time local resident, from those seeking leisurely pursuits to better commuting options. In the following descriptions of my seven super cycle routes in Dublin, there should be something for everyone in the audience!
Not a map, a guidebook, a blog, nor any of the common sources of information one might associate with learning about a new cycling route, but it was an old friend who first introduced me to the Tolka Valley Greenway. During a rendezvous some years ago, a casual remark about a nice cycle path near where he lived led to the discovery of arguably the finest cycle route across the north side of Dublin. It’s hard to believe you are within 10km / 6 miles of the city centre, such is your immersion in greenery, trees and parkland, with the the sound of traffic reduced to a distant murmur, if audible at all!
I decide to commence this route at the park entrance at the bottom of Addison Hall residential estate in Glasnevin. Alternatively, and especially those with an interest in botany and plants, you could start at the National Botanic Gardens, though you would have to make your way up the busy and steep Glasnevin Hill, before turning left through the estate. Once in the park, you completely forget you are close to the city, until you come to Finglas Road, where, after a short up, cross and back the other side on cycle lanes, you rejoin the greenway. There is only one further road crossing to negotiate until you get to Ashtown village. Apart from that, the only other obstacles to negotiate are the so called kiss gates at each park entrance, but there is a simple knack, which once mastered, you will happily negotiate them too, needing just a little patience. This is definitely a route to be enjoyed simply for what it is, a green oasis inside an urban desert, but you might like to stop by the wonderful Integrated Constructed Wetland and read how natural biodiversity has been used to tackle pollution. Further along, you might like to take note of the informative descriptions of the native shrubs and trees cleverly postioned either side of the cycle track: definitely an educational as well as enjoyable spin.
Unlike most Dublin parks where cycling is permitted through shared cycle tracks, the Tolka Park Greenway has the added benefit in that there is a physical separation between the cycle and pedestrian tracks; they are well marked and maintained. If you want more than the 4.4 km spin, then you can extend it to join the royal canal greenway as far as the 12th Lock, and perhaps return towards the city centre through the Phoenix park and along the recently opened and much welcome segregated cycle lanes along the noth city quays.
Some Places of Interest
- National Botanic Gardens
- Glasnevin Cemetery
- The Met Office
- Integrated Constructed Wetland
- Dunsink Observatory
- Ashtown Village