Lough Gill Cycling Loop

Lough Gill Cycling Loop

For those of you who wish to discover the Lough Gill Cycling Loop without any knowledge of what awaits you, this is a short version of the route so every turn on the road will be a surprise.

Take in a visit to Parkes Castle on the Lough Gill Cycling LoopStart in Sligo Town and use the R286 to reach the first stopping point Parkes Castle. It should take about 40 mins. (12 Km.).

From Parkes Castle to Dromahair you will be in the saddle around 24 mins. (7.5 Km.)

Dromahair to Slish Wood will take 32 mins. (10 Km.) (Slight detour to Creevelea Friary will add a minute or two)

Slish Wood back to Sligo Town should take 37 mins. ( 10 Km.)

For a more detailed description of this route, click the read more button.

For bicycle hire in Sligo: Sligo Bike Hire (+353 87 637 7999), Chain Driven Cycles (+353 71 912 9008), and Gary’s Cycles (+353 71 913 8060).


cycling in Sligo-Leitrim

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Lough Gill Cycling Loop
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Benbulbin and Kings Mountain Walk

More about Lough Gill Cycling Loop

Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Sligo countryside lies the Lough Gill Cycling Loop, a popular cycling route that takes you on a journey through mile after mile of landscape that, from first glimpse, excites the soul. Most of our cycling tours in this county begin from Sligo town, and this particular route takes you on a 40km journey through historic landmarks, secluded forests and majestic mountain ranges with hypnotic views of lough Gill in sight for most of the trip.

With its moderate distance and gradient, the Lough Gill Loop is suitable for most fitness levels and is a great way to experience the beauty of Sligo in a unique and memorable way. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the Lough Gill Cycle Loop, starting from Sligo town and passing through some of the most scenic and historic sites in the area.

If you're interested in taking on the Lough Gill Loop, the first step is to hire a bike for the day. Sligo is home to a number of bike rental shops and cycling tour operators, including Sligo Bike Hire (+353 87 637 7999), Chain Driven Cycles (+353 71 912 9008), and Gary's Cycles (+353 71 913 8060). These companies offer a range of bikes for all ages and skill levels, as well as helmets and other safety equipment to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride. Once you're equipped with a bike, you're ready to start your journey through scenery that will steal your heart away.

While it's tempting to start this  cycling in Sligo journey with a visit to the Hazelwood Demesne, a serene and picturesque woodland walk along the Lough Gill lakeshore, it might be best to save it for a day when a relaxing walk is order. The trail, which inspired W.B. Yeats' poem "The Song of the Wandering Aengus," is considered one of the best in Ireland and includes memorable views of the lake, rivers, and woodlands.

Hazelwood House, which dates back to 1730, is also a must-see and has been described as Sligo's "most neglected treasure." But, as there is simply so much to see for now, it's time to hop on your bike, and cycle on towards Parkes Castle. The 30 minute cycle on the R286 is mostly flat, and you'll be rewarded with serene views of the lake and surrounding countryside along the way.

Parkes Castle on the Lough Gill Cycle Route

The R286 will bring you quickly to  Parkes Castle, a fortified castle built on the site of the former O'Rourke's castle during the plantation era. If you're interested in the history and folklore of the area, there's a guided tour available for a fee that will give you a deeper understanding of the castle's rich past. Alternatively, if you prefer to just take a quick look, you can continue on your cycling journey. It's worth noting that this road can be busy with traffic at certain times of day, as it's one of the main routes from Dromahair to Sligo, so be sure to keep an eye out for other vehicles as you journey along.

Leaving Parkes Castle behind, you'll be cycling towards Dromahair, through winding roads, passing colourful hedgerows, fields, curious cows and sheep and some near and distant hills of County Sligo. This section of the loop is around 10km.

Creevelea Friary Dromahair

Dromahair itself is a charming village with a rich history, and you'll find plenty of pubs and cafes where you can stop for a break and refuel before continuing your journey. This village is about half way through the tour (in Leitrim) and its nice to know that your hopeful expectations that the remainder of the journey could be as fascinating as the first half will be entirely justified.

As you leave the village on the R287, keep an eye out for a right hand turn and a brief detour to Creevelea Friary, a well-preserved 16th-century Franciscan friary that, if you allow it will bring you back to another era. Leaving the friary, you continue on the R287 towards the southern rise of Killery Mountain. As you round the mountain, relax your mind to the views of the surrounding countryside. The cycling is steady, but not too challenging, and the downhill stretch on the other side is exhilarating.

As you descend towards Slish Wood, you'll see Lough Gill come into view again, with its shimmering waters and forested shores. It is a beautiful wooded area with a network of trails to explore, including the Slish Wood Loop, which boastfully displays another side of its sublime views of the lake and 'backdrop' countryside. It’s the perfect spot to take a break and stretch your legs before you take to the road again. It must be said in passing that there is a boardwalk from Slish Wood (part of Sligo Walk) to Inisfree, an area that moved Yeats to write the poem ‘ The Lake isle of Inisfree’, but alas again, that should be for another day or you will never get home.

Lake Isle of Inishfree on Lough Gill

From Slish Wood, you'll be cycling back towards Sligo town, passing by the celebrated Dooney Rock which inspired Yeats to yet more mastery. Here we have a short walk, just over 1km, by the lake’s lapping water, part of a beautiful nature trail. If a light wind is coming off the lake listen, carefully and perhaps you will hear the whispering of W. B. Yeats telling you and you alone about the secret places he loved so much the surrounding countryside. Just think, the panoramic view before you could have been the one to inspire Ireland’s greatest poet and Nobel prize winner.

You are almost back in Sligo town and cycling even a few more inches is probably the last thing on your mind but it would be a shame to miss Cairns Hill, a popular hiking spot. The short walk surrounds you with thick forest but there are glimpses of Sligo Bay which, along with Benbulben that can  make a memorable photograph. The feature here, however, is two Neolithic unopened cairns. Take Yeats by the hand and let your imagination run riot, it's your turn.

The final stretch of the day takes you alongside the Garavogue River, with its tranquil waters and charming riverside paths, before bringing you back to where you started in Sligo town. It's the perfect way to end a day of cycling, with plenty of opportunities to relax and try and recall everything the beauty of the Sligo has presented you with.

You did bring your camera didn't you? If not make sure to make it No.1 on your list for the next cycling trip.