Cobh ➤ Ballycotton Loop
World Championship Gold & Olympic Silver
Why this trip?
East Cork has some great cycling routes and this one takes in everything from the Titanic to Fota Island and Ballymaloe. It’s a long route at the 100km mark but the roads are good and it’s mostly flat – perfect for a long day’s cycling with lovely coffee stops and seaside breaks!
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Need to Know More?
Cobh ➤ Ballycotton Loop
Route Rating ➤ Moderate
Distance ➤ 102 km
Climbing ➤ 908 meters
Starting off in Cobh, it’s a good idea to use the Cathedral car park as a starting point – you can leave your car there for free and you’ll be up high enough to get a stunning view of the harbour before heading off on the road.
Once set up, cycle downhill to the centre of town and what better place to grab a quick picture than the SOS statue beside the Titanic Bar and Grill in the old White Star Line office? And you can look forward to a meal or snack here on your return and get a close up look at the old pier passengers left from to board the ill-fated Titanic in 1912.
Seasalt across the road is another gourmet café worth visiting.
Then it’s time to get on the bike for real and head out of town, turning slightly uphill past the Cobh Museum and along the High Road where you’ll be met by stunning harbour views on a fine day.
This is the main road out of town and will take you past Rushbrooke Station and the Glenbrook car ferry which is a nice diversion if you fancy it: cyclists can board for just €2 return to explore Crosshaven and even go as far as Kinsale.
Back on the road, you’ll pass under the rail bridge at Carrigaloe Station and climb the gradual hill past Cobh Golf Club before a nice drop back down to the sea wall. After passing Hederman’s Smoke House (home of the best smoked salmon I’ve tasted anywhere in the world), you’ll come round the bend and Belvelly Castle and Belvelly Bridge will come into view. The 14th century Norman castle has recently been renovated and provides a spectacular crossing-point on the Great Island.
Crossing Belvelly Bridge, you’ll leave the Great Island and land on Fota Island at the entrance to Fota Wildlife Park, House and Gardens which is a great spot for a run off the roads and around the trails.
Cycle onwards for abount 2km until you find the entrance for the Fota Island Golf Course & Resort on your left. Here you’ll move to the right turning lane and head along Cois Fota (the Old Carrigtwohill/Midleton Road). A short way along, there’s a funny crossroads you’ll need to navigate straight through and which will take you past more farmland on a gently-undulating country road.
A few km later, you’ll come to a major roundabout. From here, you have two options: the safest route is straight through the town of Midleton itself (it’s a bit early for a stop but there’s a fantastic farmer’s market on Saturdays which is well worth a visit). Onwards along the Main Street and through the town, you’ll pass the Jameson Distillery and come to the Lakeview roundabout. Take care on the roundabout and head for Ballincurra. Alternatively, faster and more experienced cyclists can bypass Midleton and ride along the hard shoulder of the N25 for 2km until you reach the Lakeview roundabout. This is best done in a group of cyclists used to riding on a main road.
Either way, from the roundabout you’ll head for Ballincurra. In Ballincurra, turn left and continue through Kearney’s Cross onto the Geragh Road. This will take you along a lovely quiet road directly to a junction at the back entrance to Ballymaloe House.
You can either stop into Ballymaloe House and Café (always lovely) or continue onwards to the Kilkenny Shop Café in Shanagarry where the beautiful sun room is warm even in winter and the coffee and scones are lovely all year round too. The Stephen Pearce Pottery Café is also a great option.
From Shanagarry you can turn left to finish the loop towards Cobh or take a slight diversion to Ballycotton – it’s definitely worth it on a clear sunny day. You can cycle down to the sea the end of the road, sit on the wall and have a banana and a drink while taking in the views of the harbour and Ballycotton Lighthouse.
On the return out of Ballycotton, you might catch a glimpse of the plaque on the wall to mark the start and finish line of the famous Ballycotton 10 Mile Road Race – there used to be a permanent line on the road but the race has been off a few years now so this has faded away.
After Ballycotton, head back towards Shanagarry and take a right at the service station for a coffee stop at either the Kilkenny Shop or the Stephen Pearce Pottery Shop and Café.
After the break continue along the R632 past Garryvoe Beach towards Ladysbridge and straight on to Castlemartyr. If you need to pick up a drink or snack to keep you going, the bike-friendly Village Greengrocer at the bridge over the Kiltha River is the place to go. You can leave the bike in the yard behind the shop and stop in for tea, coffee or even a full meal – it’s a lovely and very eclectic little shop.
Continue towards home on the Mogeely Road towards Dungourney, these are quiet country roads where you may meet the odd tractor. While it may be tempting to take a short cut, the roads here get narrower and narrower and turn into a rocky stream so although it’s a longer trip, it’s worth taking the R627 at the Dungourney intersection. Alternatively, if you do fancy a quieter spin, keep going to Castlewhite, turn left on the L3601 and right onto the R626 onto Castle Rock Avenue which will take you behind the Water Rock Golf Course into Carrigtwohill. Once in town take a right and stay on the Main Street until you reach the Cobh Cross Roundabout and head for Cobh.
There are options here if you still haven’t had a coffee stop: either call in to the Bakestone Café in the Fota Retail and Business Park or try the second Bakestone Café at the Fota Gardens and House entrance – it’s a nice place to sit in the sun for a rest.
Once back on the bike and over the bridge, the choices open up once more.
You have the option of returning along the same route you came out but I prefer to go back in over the hills – more hills, fewer kilometres! Turn left at the bridge and follow the road up Ballard Hill through Ticknock and past the Old Church Cemetery until the Cathedral’s spire comes back into view as you crest the hill and drop back down into Cobh and where you started.
Back in Cobh, the Titanic Bar and Grill is a good spot to refuel and soak up the views across the pier and the famous harbour.
Enjoy the spin!