As travel to Europe regains its footing, we'll likely be hearing a lot more from individual countries touting the great outdoors.
Call it a delayed reaction to the trauma caused by the pandemic, a sober acknowledgement of the realities of climate change or simply a desire to get away from it all and clear one's head — regardless of the motivation, the road less traveled has probably never been more appealing, even for those of us whose idea of a perfect European vacation would normally be people-watching from a sidewalk cafe.
Take Ireland, for example, which already knows a thing or two about beautiful scenery. This summer, the new Limerick Greenway https://www.limerick.ie/greenway is the latest addition to a network of greenways that showcase the countryside and coastline of Ireland.
A family cycles on the Limerick Greenway in Ireland. Photo Credit: Tourism Ireland
The Limerick Greenway opened July 1 and carves a 25-mile path through County Limerick, following an old railway line that once ran to Tralee in County Kerry.
The resurfaced route is 10 feet wide — plenty of room for cyclists, walkers and runners to get their dose of fresh air while enjoying the agricultural landscapes of west Limerick.
Historical sites and bike rides
The greenway links the towns of Rathkeale and Abbeyfeale, wending past towns, villages and heritage sites along the way.
Highlights include a Victorian-era railway tunnel, ancient castles and abbeys and — for those truly seeking solitude -- the rugged native forests of the region.
Or break loose from those long months of pandemic-induced quarantine by mingling with locals at shops, restaurants and pubs along the route.
Bike rentals are available, as are hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses offering special greenway packages www.ireland.com.
The availability of amenities means that visitors can explore the route in small sections — ideal for families with children or anyone not looking for a marathon outing — or all in one visit for a true getaway.
Where to stay on the Limerick Greenway
Accommodations include the boutique Rathkeale House Hotel http://www.rathkealehousehotel.ie/ in Rathkeale and the Mustard Seed Country House Hotel https://www.mustardseed.ie/ in Ballingarry — or head to Newcastle West, the second-largest town in County Limerick, for a wider selection of hotels and inns.
Newcastle West is located at about midpoint on the greenway, and in addition to shopping and dining venues, it is known for fishing, golf and horseback riding.
The new greenway, which is eventually slated to run all the way to Tralee, joins the Royal Canal Greenway https://www.waterwaysireland.org/greenways/royal-canal, the longest greenway in Ireland at 80.8 miles, which opened earlier this year.