The frequently sun-spoilt county of Waterford is remarked for its Copper Coast with golden beaches, cliff top hotels, top seaside restaurants and a Viking past, but many will argue that hopping on two wheels - rather than four - is the best way to see the highlights of the county, come rain or shine.
Running 46km point-to-point, the Greenway is the longest off-road cycling and walking path in Ireland, tracing a former rail line from the seaside town of Dungarvan right to Waterford City via Kilmacthomas.
Each of these three key points on the route offer bike rental for kids, adults and even e-bikes, priced per day hire, whilst there is also a number of cark parks dotted along the route so you can jump in at various points and start peddling. The route is accessible for all, though expect some dips and inclines and dress for all weather.
It is worth noting that there are free water-filling stations, a couple of toilet stops and one or two playgrounds along the route too. Whatever the weather or fitness level, this is a beautiful way to get to grips with this part of the world and take it all at your own pace, even breaking up the sections one day to the next.
At almost every kilometre clocked there's a unique and stunning view to behold as the route weaves inland from the Copper Coast, with the sea to one side and the mountains to the other. The route boasts three beautiful viaducts (Ballyvole, Durrow, Kilmacthomas) each one the ideal opportunity to stop and snap the vista, as well as 11 bridges.
The spectacular brick-lined, dimly lit Ballyvoyle Tunnel is worth the cycle alone, running for a quarter mile with eerie hidden recesses and still in spectacular condition considering it was used as a railway tunnel for 90 years before closing in the late 60s. Tall walls of verdant fern and moss greet you on the other side, and try to spot the fairy doors too!
The bustling market and harbour town of Dungarvan is the gateway to the Greenway, all pretty, picturesque and historic. You can’t begin to cover Dungarvan without starting at The Tannery, run by Máire and Paul Flynn, and celebrating 25 years in business in 2021.
The restaurant that put Dungarvan on the map and kept it there, The Tannery is a fine dining take on comforting classics, celebrating great local produce with deft, warm service –– a winning combination that has endured through the years. You can even take one of the Tannery Picnic Boxes (€35) with you on your cycling route to enjoy at one of the vantage spots of your choosing.
Local chef and catering industry powerhouse Eunice Power (as seen regularly on RTÉ Today) opened her gourmet chip shop AndChips in 2019 and the queue hasn’t begun to lessen yet.
This is what any run-of-the-mill chipper in any given Irish town should be looking towards in terms of style, provenance, service and value.
Hand-cut, freshly-fried chips (always in beef dripping, we believe) and enviably fresh battered fish are the iconic double act here, but also sit beside contemporary options like fish tacos and their own take on a spice bag. A select choice of wine* is also served, with picnic tables outside overlooking the water.
Where to go after a cycle on the greenway? The Moorings is the ideal spot for lunch and a drink, especially if you opt for their legendary chowder and locally-loved fish and chips, open from midday ’til late daily.
The Old Bank on Davitt’s Quay offers several spaces to enjoy their food and drink in, from the cocktail bar and terrace to the seafood deck, the creamery yard and the bistro itself, serving Wednesday to Sunday weekly.
On the Greenway side of the town, you can cycle to the very popular beach Clonea Strand by bike from Dungarvan but prepare for crowds in the busier season. If you’re driving instead of cycling, we’d suggest a spin to the quieter beaches and coves at Bunmahon and Kilmurrin instead.
On the opposite side of the town you’ll find the Gaeltacht area of An Rinn where you’ll find seaweed bathing at Solás Na Mara, the artisan stalwarts of old school, hand-made crystal at Críostal Na Rinne, a great traditional pub with views in the form of Tigh Muirithe and the legendary Harty’s Oysters.
Kilmacthomas, as the mid-way point, is the perfect spot to stop for a coffee and a bite to eat at Coach House Coffee, a café, eatery and delicatessen set within a former Famine workhouse serving seven days a week about a kilometre from Kilmac. In the quiet town, Kiersey’s Bar and Tearoom (as featured on At Your Service) and The Greenway Grill are the main stopping points for a bite to eat, as well as one or two other small pubs.
Between Kilmac and Waterford City you’ll pass through the town of Kilmeadan with its Waterford Suir Valley Railway, as well as the likes of a Greenway Fairy Forest and Mountcongreve Gardens.
To plan your own itinerary, route and for more trip information, the Greenway has its own website to guide you: visitwaterfordgreenway.com.