We have documented the 10 hardest bike rides in Ireland. On this page and the individual climb page you will find detailed summaries, epic photographs and statistics for these climbs.
Parliament Square, Dublin
Dublin photos clockwise from top left: Guinness Brewery; St. Patrick’s Cathedral;
City Hall; Irish Parliament;
Sphere within a Sphere - Main library, Trinity College (center)
For a summary of our July 2022 cycling trip through Ireland see our PJAMM Ireland Cycling Adventure page.
Ireland’s Top 5 bike climbs: #1 Mount Leinster West; #2 Allies Mast; #3 Horseshoe Road;
#4 Mount Leinster - Bunclody; #5 Minaun
IRELAND’S #1 BIKE CLIMB
Cycling Mount Leinster West, Ireland
Ride 7.6 kilometers gaining 685 meters at 9.1% average grade.
Mt. Leinster, West. It’s not every day one gets to ride the steepest climb of an entire country. The steep slopes of Mt. Leinster West are not only crowned as the toughest of Ireland, but they also offer a nearly non-trafficked and very scenic (albeit brutal and relentless) ride to the very summit of Mt. Leinster at 2,566 feet of elevation. Not a single car passed me when I rode this climb. It was just me, the thick bovine, and a number of free roaming sheep. You’ll turn right onto a well marked access road at kilometer 5 that is closed to auto traffic. There at the turnoff is a large parking lot with picnic tables which is an option for leaving your car if you’ve driven to the climb. At the summit, enjoy some of the best views available in this part of Ireland and take in that descent back down - it’s a fast and fun one!
Cycling Allihies RTE Mast, Ireland
Ride 2.7 kilometers gaining 291 meters at 11% average grade.
Here, you are nearly as far south as one can reach in the country of Ireland. This is a stunning country. The Irish landmass seems to pop out of the bay like an ancient serpent in strange places, making for a really unique coastline. On our climb, you pass a few small houses at the bottom, but past those, there is no development on this road. On your left as you climb there are a couple castles in view. Without any points of respite, the road charts up to a radio tower. Our summit point ends with the paved road, but if you're feeling adventurous, you can take the gravel road to the tippy top of the mountain and stand next to the radio tower - this is the segment that propels Allihies RTE Mast from Ireland #8 to #2.
Cycling Horseshoe Road
Ride 8.1 kilometers gaining 571 meters at 7% average grade.
Tucked away in the northwestern corner of the country, this scenic beauty is the third hardest bike climb in Ireland. The climb gets its name from Gleniff Horseshoe Loop, a 10 kilometer loop on single lane mountain roads beginning about two kilometers south of Cliffony. Our climb separates from the horseshoe route at kilometer four, just after a 900 meter descent. At kilometer four turn left and hop the gate to ride to the television towers four kilometers up the hill at an average grade of 10.2%!
Cycling Mount Leinster from Bunclody, Ireland
Ride 14 kilometers gaining 778 meters at 5.2% average grade.
One thing is for sure, this is (one of) Ireland’s cow territories! You’ll begin at a major junction in the heart of Bunclody and soon ride past many large farms and cattle ranches. Expect to see some really healthy looking Irish bovines. On the lower slopes, there are a decent amount of little downhills that break up some difficult steep sections. Once you make your left turn onto Road L3005, the farms and cattle are traded for unobstructed views and little vegetation. This increasingly steep mountain road eventually winds its way to a parking lot and junction point for the gated-to-cars access road to the summit. Once on the access road I never left my granny gear. Double digit grades will show no mercy until you reach the very top of the mountain at 2,566 feet of elevation.
Cycling Minaun Heights
Ride 4.3 kilometers gaining 403 meters at 9.5% average grade.
They say the view from the top of this climb is exceptional. Unfortunately, our Minaun climb day was one of two bad weather days we experienced on our UK/Ireland 80 climb trip in July 2022. Regardless of a lack of views, this is a very, very hard bike climb - averaging 9.5% with a full kilometer averaging 16.5%.
Minaun road is located just about as far west as one can reach in the Country of Ireland. It is a magnificent drive to reach this remote coastal town. Apart from a few gas stations and general stores, there isn’t much development out in the Achill Sound area, which is a real treat. It felt that the region has been relatively untouched by the modern world. The climb is on a narrow and fantastically steep road that takes you up to a couple of radio towers. If granted a clear day, the views of the Irish coastline are sure to be unforgettable. On the day that we rode, the weather was fully Irish -- which is to say, less than sunny. Cyclists certainly make it out to this road, as there are a number of ‘steep descent’ and ‘caution!’ warnings spray painted on the road.
IRELAND’S MOST EPIC BIKE CLIMB
Cycling Priest’s Leap South, Ireland
Ride 5.4 kilometers gaining 436 meters at 8.1% average grade.
While our Top 5 climbs are subjective (based on the Fiets Index), the Most Epic climb is purely subjective and surely open for debate. Our choice is Priest’s Leap - our favorite of about 20 top Irish climbs we did through all parts of the country and Northern Ireland in July 2022.
Priest’s Leap: Legend has it that in 1612, to escape Crown Forces chasing him, a priest on horseback leaped seven miles from the top of Coomhola Mountain across Bantry Bay to this point on this mountain. The famous poem about this event is at the bottom of this climb page.
Name your favorite mountain road in the Alps or Pyrenees, and Priest’s Leap Road does well to hold up against it - both in scenery and in difficulty. The opening mile passes farms and houses and there were a surprising amount of locals driving this lower part when we rode Priest’s Leap South. Past the 1.5 kilometer mark though, it is just you, the road, and the unbelievable rugged Irish mountains…and of course, sheep. As you can guess, this road is very narrow, but most roads out this way are. Pavement quality is good enough to enjoy a fast and fun descent, but do take caution. Should there be the odd car, you’ll likely need to unclip and let them pass. Much of the road has hair raising drop offs. Priest’s Leap South is a bucket list climb for any adventurous cyclist.
Already have an account?