Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 25 February 2018

'Trailing miles behind Europe'

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Dear Editor,

Having just arrived back to Ireland for a short visit, I noted the piece in Tuesday's Farming Independent (June 26) by Mary Stack of Failte Ireland in response to an article by your tourism writer John Mulligan.

I thought that John Mulligan had it right; Ireland has the potential for a great cycling holiday, but looks like that is all it will have: potential.

How do I know that? Well, a few years back I naively brought a group of 11 continental friends on a four-day cycling trip to Ireland. We survived. Just.

There are no long off-road cycle trails in Ireland with a purpose, despite the fact that the canal banks and disused rail lines could be cheaply converted to simple cycle tracks to create a network that would make for a wonderful holiday.

Travelling from A to B is the essence of travel. Nobody is going to spend a week or two cycling up and down the 40km Mayo Greenway like a touring gerbil. It would pass a morning at the leisurely pace of 12-14kph.

On the other hand, if we had a cycle network, we could start to compete against (and beat) European countries that have these facilities as standard.

Ms Stack seems to think that anyone spending more than a day cycling or walking is "hardcore" and must have a high fitness level.

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Among our group are six who never sit on a bike more than twice a year and yet manage 60-70km a day at a leisurely pace on our annual trip.

Much as I'd like to, I am ashamed to say that I cannot bring my pals here anymore, because we can go to places that want our business.

We will not risk our lives on Irish roads; we have plenty of choice on the Continent and in Britain with thousands of kilometres of trails at our disposal.

This year Hamburg to Berlin or Prague to Dresden over three or four days in September are under discussion.

Cycling is enjoying a boom in Europe, as it is here, but Failte Ireland seems to be asleep at the wheel.

We travel light and spend a fair amount of euros on food and accommodation as a result.

If Bord Failte spent more time trying to address the deficit in trails infrastructure and less time perusing the newspapers in order to write defensive articles every time some journalist (rightly) points out their shortcomings, we might start to attract a slice of this market, as well as providing amenities to allow Irish people to enjoy cycling holidays at home.

Our cycling euros will be spent on the Continent this year (again) rather than at home where they are more needed.

James Candon

82 Ave des Rogations

1200 Brussels

Belgium

Indo Farming