Apart from building the bikes, our planning and preparation for this trip included books, magazines, websearches, maps, tips from friends, special clothing, and the like. I will try to recall our most useful resources, as follows:
Brendan Walsh, "Cycle Touring
Ireland", Passport Books Edition, 1999.
A great book - written by the sheriff of Dublin, an experienced cyclist.
Robin Krause, "Ireland by Bike", The
Mountaineers, Second Edition, 1999.
A perfect complement to Brendan Walsh's book, written by an American who has bike toured many times in Ireland. Robin also tries to give us an introduction to the culture and history of Ireland, vital to get maximum enjoyment and benefit from a bike tour.
Joanne McGrath, "11 things I love about Ireland",
Diversion, July 2000.
Sent to us by our friends Bill and Cindi - we managed to do 5 of the things suggested by Joanne, including a delightful "Cuisine and Craic" on our 35th wedding anniversary at Rock Glen House near Clifden, and a rejuvenating hot seaweed bath followed by an invigorating cold seawater shower at Kilcullen's Bath House in Enniscrone.
The touring maps that we used were the Ordinance Survey Ireland "Holiday Series", and found them to be perfectly adequate. The four maps in the series cover all of Ireland at a scale of 1:250,000 (1 cm equals 2.5 km, or about 1.5 miles). I photocopied various sections of the maps, then colored in our planned routes, a different color for each day. I then laminated the sections in plastic since nothing can be more frustrating than unfolding a large map in pouring rain - it worked beautifully!
Town maps are available from any Irish Tourist Office (Oifig Failte or Bord Failte). In the Tourist Offices we also found useful maps of the Aran Islands and Achill Island. One other map that we brought with us was MapEasy's Guidemap to Ireland, with a detail map of Dublin and Temple Bar. We used it mainly while in Dublin.
The main reasons for this choice is that the railway system
is centered in Dublin.
Both the starting and end points of our tour (Galway & Sligo)
were a convenient 3 hour train ride from Dublin. Taking a bike on
any train in Ireland is extremely convenient. You purchase a 6 Pound
ticket for the bike, wheel it onto the guard van, tie it up, then
take a seat in the nearest carriage. When you come to your
destination you take it off, and ride away - its as simple as that.
We came to Dublin by ferry from Liverpool to the mouth of the River Liffey, rode our bikes along the river quay (about 5 miles) until we reached the Heuston train station, and we were off. All of this was preplanned by checking the ferry and train timetable on the web.
We returned from Sligo to Dublin by train, and spent a delightful three days with our children in Dublin, before returning back by air. This gave us a chance to pick up bike boxes at the Cyclogical Bike shop next to the Ha'Penney Bridge on the River Liffey, pack our bikes, and explore Dublin by foot. (Photographs have not yet been developed - will add them soon)
On a biking tour one can only be certain of the arrival and departure points - everything in between depends on mood, weather, and countless other things. Luckily Ireland is blessed with a vast amount of B&Bs and three different Hostel systems: the An Oige Youth Hostels (associated with the International Youth Hostels), the Independent Holiday Hostels and the Independent Hostel Owners. We never had a problem of finding accommodation - we simply arrived and checked out the various B&Bs of the town. Even though the Irish Tourist board had sent us a thick book listing all the board approved B&Bs, we never used it. If we found a B&B which did not have the approved shamrock symbol, we simply asked to see the rooms, and were never disappointed.
All I can say about this section is that once you have decided on your absolute minimum requirements, divide them into two equal piles, and leave one pile at home. This will save you having to do this while on tour. We were extremely fortunate, in that our son Assaf lives in Galway. We left with him a duffelbag filled with about 25 pounds of extra items that we did not need or miss throughout the tour, which we later collected when we met in Dublin. He told us that he hurt his arm carrying the bulky package on the train.