Cycling outfitters for the British Isles

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of February 13-19, 1997
Cycling outfitters for the British Isles
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Cycling outfitters for the British Isles
Question: We want to take a cycling tour in Ireland or Scotland. Who are the best tour groups and where are the best places to go?

Janet Mansfield
Tuzla, Germany
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Ah, the hardships of choosing an outfitter! To make your tortuous job--just thinking about cycling in the British Isles makes my skin crawl--a little bit more bearable, I've done a quick survey of bike tour outfitters worthy of a closer look. First thing to know: For the most part, the bike routes of choice are throughout the rural farm country of southwestern Ireland, the Emerald Isle.

That said, starting from the top with the extremely plush end of things, there's Butterfield & Robinson, a company that defines bike adventure as luxurious inn-to-inn travel via two wheels. I rode in one of their more spartan student trips in Europe and was really impressed by their guides' in-depth knowledge of the backroads and small towns along the way. (They've since scrapped student tours to devote all their time and energy to high-end adult rides.) In Ireland, they run an eight-day trip through County Clare and its impossibly green sheep pastures and out to the Aran Islands, off the southwest coast. Trip cost is $3,475 per person, not including airfare; call 800-678-1147.

Classic Adventures' seven-, nine-, or 15-day rides ($1,249, $1,589, and $2,589 respectively; bike rental is $90 extra) also pedal the little-trafficked backroads of southwestern Ireland, through Clare, Kerry, and Limerick counties. Nights are spent in small hotels, country inns, guest houses, and an Irish manor house. Trips depart late June through mid-July; call 800-777-8090 for dates and details.

Bay-area bicycle legend Backroads has an eight-day version of the classic southwestern Ireland trip: inn-to-inn pedaling along the rugged coastal cliffs and through the green valleys of Kerry and Cork counties. Cost: $2,495 per person; bike rental, $149. Call 800-462-2848.

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