Your cycling adventure along EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route: discovering the most hidden rural gems

29 April 2022 /

6 min

Following Europe’s mighty western border, reaching from Scandinavia to the south and west of Portugal, the EuroVelo 1- Atlantic coast route visits the majestic fjords of Norway, the wild Irish coastline, the rough cliffs of Brittany and the sun-kissed beaches of the Iberian Peninsula, totalling 11,000 km. Along the way, visitors will not only be seduced by bustling port cities and cosy fishing villages, but also impressed by dramatic landscapes and hidden rural gems. 

Reaching less visited areas is one of the charms of a cycling adventure. This article guides your way to areas located off the beaten track along the longest EuroVelo route of the entire network. EuroVelo is the largest cycle network worldwide, with 17 routes crossing Europe on a north-south and west-east axis, totalling around 90.000km of cycling routes all across the continent. Many rural sections on EuroVelo 1 have repurposed unused infrastructure, allowing for the improvement of rural connectivity, bringing life to remote areas and boosting local economies. Below are some ideas for planning trips far from the touristic hotspots to the less travelled roads and the less visited communities, a trip to build amazing memories whilst leaving a positive trace on the destinations themselves.

Starting from the North Cape, the famous northernmost point in Europe, the route will take you to some of the most remote and unknown rural areas of the continent. The Norwegian west coast has plenty of natural and protected gems, such as the greatly preserved Alta canyon, which never fails to blow visitors away. It is known as northern Europe’s largest canyon and best kept secrets of northern Norway, located near the town of Alta. During the winter season, it is a great spot for admiring the northern lights, and in the summer season, watching the Scandinavian midnight sun is always a unique experience. Exploring the surrounding area is a fantastic one-day adventure, which is absolutely worth the effort to get there. The canyon’s northern end is relatively easily accessible. 

Cycling south across the breath-taking Norwegian fjords, from the city of Tromsø to the city of Bodø, you  will get the opportunity to pedal across Andøya, located in the Vesterålen archipelago in the Nordland county, still in the shadow of the famous Lofoten Islands. To get there from the beautiful and scenic second-largest island in the country, Senja, taking the ferry from Gryllefjord to Andenes is the best transport option. Cycling along the Atlantic coast, you might have the chance to spot whales from your saddle, as this area is the original leading whale watching destination in the country since 1988. It is relatively easy to cycle in the area, since the island has no major climbs. 

EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route in Ireland mostly follows small rural roads as well as rural greenways. The greenways, built on former railways, incorporate the old railway heritage and are entirely traffic free. These routes include bridges, former train stations and old railway buildings. Greenways are guaranteed to provide an historic cycling experience but many of the small roads used by Eurovelo 1 in rural Ireland are also a paradise for cyclists. Although these small roads are shared with motorised vehicles, the numbers encountered on many sections are so low that cyclists often feel like they have the entire road to themselves. By using these small roads, cyclists will be provided with a view of hidden Ireland as well as with a deep feeling of tranquillity as they cross small rivers on old bridges, pass by unknown lakes, old farm buildings and even schools from an ancient time. Some are still in use, but many sit forgotten, acting as reminders of the past.

After having cycled through the deeply rural and wild county of Sligo, it is time to explore the roads of the County Mayo, one of Ireland’s most captivating areas, home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country. Pedalling south from the city of Westport to the County of Galway, cyclists will have the privilege of cycling through the mysterious and dramatic Doolough valley. This hidden and preserved rural gem is a highly symbolic place to travel through and to take a break. The valley is a witness to the past: the Famine Memorial is a reminder of the Great Famine which occurred in Ireland in the 19th century, one of the most tragic periods in Irish history. Its cross is engraved with the words “Doolough Tragedy 1849”. This is an amazing way to immerse into the country’s atmosphere and to learn about its past.

It is now time to join the section of EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route. In the French Region of Brittany, cyclists will get the chance to discover some of the least known yet amazing locations along La Vélodysée, the 1200 km French section of EuroVelo 1. To reach the region, taking from Ireland to Roscoff, Finistère is a safe option. There, you will be amazed by the historical beauty of the town. Take your time to wander around the  small streets, enjoy local food specialties and have a meal in a local crêperie. If time is on your side, you can even book tickets to spend a day cycling on “L’île de Batz”, directly reachable from the port by boat. 

After having explored, visitors will then pedal south towards the Pays de La Loire region, reachable within a few days, and the small locality of La Barre de Monts, situated in the Vendée département. There, “Le Daviaud”, a local Eco-museum, awaits tourists looking for a unique experience in the preserved heart of the Vendée Breton Marshes. Visiting tourists are guided through a 250m² outdoor path, learning about local history and traditions. Audio guides are available in English, making the experience accessible for most tourists. Facing the famous island of Noirmoutier, the opportunity to explore the island by bike is also worth taking. 

After having planned your next stage here and after a well-deserved night of rest, cycling down EuroVelo 1 – Atlantic Coast Route to the Nouvelle Aquitaine Region will be very enjoyable. Within a few days, you can reach the natural reserve of the Courant d’Huchet, often called “little Amazonia”, after having travelled 42 km from Mimizan-Plage to Léon. The unique courant is an overflow of the 3.4 km² Léon lake snaking its way down to the Atlantic ocean through a lush forest tunnel. 

Cyclists could then follow EuroVelo 1 all the way to the Spanish region of Extremadura, crossed by the Ruta de la Plata from Puerto de Béjar, a mountain range declared a biosphere reserve, to the village of Hervás, home to the Castañar Gallego protected landscape. It is part of the cycling network “Via verde de la plata” that crosses the magical Ambroz valley from north to south. The Ambroz valley is a place of contrasts surrounded by over 2,000 metre high mountains, such as Pinajarro, as well as pasture lands at an altitude of only 500 metres. 

In the magical valley of Ambroz there are eight villages to discover, from the villages of Hervás and Baños de Montemayor, to locations full of rural cultural richness. Baños de Montemayor is located between a thermal spring and a Roman path, in the northern part of the province of Cáceres

Hervás is a unique village with a Sephardic legacy, having one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in Europe. Local materials such as chestnut wood, sun-dried brick and granite characterise the traditional architecture. Fun fact: you can walk down the narrowest street in Spain called “Travesía del Moral”. The village is also full of great religious architecture: the Church of Santa María and the church of San Juan Bautista. 

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