Howaya! There’s no better way to experience the diverse scenery, stunning coastline, rich history and cultural heritage of southeast Ireland than on the traffic-free Waterford Greenway.
Also known as the ‘Deise Greenway’, the Waterford Greenway (in County Waterford… no sh*t, I know) is regarded as one of the most scenic cycling routes in Ireland.
Although the Greenway is Ireland’s longest off-road trail (46km in length), you can complete it in a couple of hours by bike. Fancy walking it? You can stroll through the six stages on foot over several days.
Those that tackle the Waterford Greenway can expect to stumble upon deserted railway stations, historic pubs, churches, Norman castles, the site of a Viking settlement, along with a tonne of scenery.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything you need to plan your trip!
The Waterford Greenway: What it’s all about
The Waterford Greenway runs roughly southwest from Waterford (Ireland’s oldest city) to the coastal town of Dungarvan. It follows a historic railway line that operated from 1878 to the late 1970s.
The Greenway Trail was developed at a cost of €15 million and officially opened in March 2017.
Although the Waterford Greenway passes through scenic hills, river valleys, and a steep-sided gorge, the former railway line maintains a relatively level surface with few, if any, sudden inclines.
It’s perfect for walking, jogging or cycling along. Visiting with kids? They’ll love the freedom to ride safely, and you can bring your four-legged companions as long as they’re kept on a short lead.
Waterford Greenway Map
If you’re looking for a map of the Waterford Greenway to help plan your route, this should do the job.
- The various entry and exit points (we’ll go into them in detail below)
- Where to find a toilet
- Points of interest
If you can’t make out the image above (from Waterford City Council), here’s a downloadable Waterford Greenway Map that you can use.
Exploring the Deise Greenway: The Route
Waterford Greenway Starting Point
Technically, the Waterford Greenway starting point is completely up to you. In this guide, we’ll be kicking it off from the historic Waterford City, but you could just as easily do it in reverse, from Dungarvan.
The Waterford Greenway starts in the city of Waterford and runs for 46km through gentle green countryside to the coastal town of Dungarvan.
It winds through small towns and villages, woodland, and farmland, passing a wealth of historic sites, landmarks, ruins and engineering monuments, each of which tell the story of this area’s culture, history and development.
Wildlife abounds in the hedgerows, fields, rivers, and woodland so there’s something to tickle the fancy of every walker and cyclist, whatever their age.
The Waterford Greenway route runs along the former railway in a southwest direction. For ease, it’s divided into six sections (3km to 13.5km), each with access points and noteworthy points of interest.
For those of you itching to get stuck in, you can do the route in a day. If you’d like to slow it down and make a weekend out of it, you can split up your trip using the map above for guidance.
If you follow the guide below, you’ll pass through:
- Waterford City
- Clonea Road
In some cases, the trail has literally put towns and villages on the map for tourists.
Part 1. Waterford City to Killoteran (7.5km)
Your adventure begins in Ireland’s oldest city. If you’re visiting the area for the first time, you really should linger a day or two and enjoy the sights before heading out along the Waterford Greenway (here’s a full guide of things to do in Waterford for you to follow).
Here’s a handfull of my favourite things to do in the city:
- Take a factory tour of the House of Waterford Crystal and see master craftsman blowing molten glass and hand-etching designs
- Have a nosey around Reginald’s Tower
- Nurse a pint or 3 in Geoff’s pub
As you leave Waterford and head out from historic Grattan Quay, the Waterford Greenway follows the bends and contours of the sweeping River Suir.
The tidal estuary of the River Suir is a Special Area of Conservation and is home to salmon, otters, lamprey, and shad.
Set a steady pace that allows you to enjoy the surrounding vistas and landmarks, including the remains of an old Red Iron Bridge and a 230m-long sail-like Thomas Francis Meagher Bridge, the longest single-span bridge in Ireland.
Keep going and you’ll pass Woodstown, the archaeological site of the 8th century Viking settlement that predates the city of Waterford. Artifacts can be seen at the Waterford Museum of Treasures and at Reginald’s Tower.
You’ll pass the sprawling campus of the Waterford Institute of Technology and before long, you’ll leave the urban architecture in your rearview… or whatever the bike equilivant is.
Part 2. Killoteran to Kilmeadan (3km)
This section of the Waterford Greenway is flat and easy – ideal for those with small children or for those of you looking to move at a leisurely pace.
In this section, history lovers can spot the four-bay lime kilns used in the 19th century to burn lime for farming and whitewashing houses.
After Killoteran, at the start of the second section of the Waterford Greenway, look out for Mount Congreve Gardens, one of the great gardens of the world.
You might want to detour and admire the world-class collection of azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons in late spring on this beautiful 18th-century Georgian estate.
Look out for the medieval ruins of a Norman Castle before the trail enters a shady woodland.
Shortly after, the ruins of 17th-century Kilmeaden Castle appear. Make sure and keep an eye out for Le Poer Castle. It was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell (a right aul boll*x) around 1850.
Parts of this section adjoin the heritage Waterford and Suir Valley Railway, a narrow-gauge railway which runs for 8.5km from the station at Kilmeadan to Gracedieu Junction and Bilberry Halt in Waterford.
If you are walking the Waterford Greenway in summer, you can hop aboard and enjoy the scenery from a restored carriage as you head back towards Waterford.
Part 3. Kilmeadan to Kilmacthomas (13.5km)
This section of the Waterford Greenway is a fair bit lengther that the two previous ones. On this stretch, you’ll encounter occasional ups and downs on a mostly flat surface.
You’re entering a more rural area of farming and livestock with an abundance of wildlife and birds.
You’ll see the tall chimney tower marking the site of Fairbrook Mill, an 18th-century factory that produced paper and later processed wool. You can also visit the gardens at Fairbrook House, if it tickles your fancy.
To the north, the dramatic peaks of the magnificent Comeragh Mountains will be visible in the distance.
The next historic site is the brick-built Kilmacthomas Workhouse, also known as the old Famine Workhouse. It was built in 1850 for the Poor Law Union and the site includes a chapel and fever hospital.
The buildings have since been re-purposed as a business center, design studio, and cafe. To the north of the workhouse, there’s a graveyard where the poor were laid to rest in unmarked graves.
Part 4. Kilmacthomas to Durrow (12km)
After passing the workhouse you’ll find plenty of opportunities for a rest and well-earned refreshments in Kilmacthomas. This lovely town marks the half-way point of the Waterford Greenway.
The village also offers some mighty views of the Kilmacthomas Viaduct. This stone viaduct was built in 1878 for the Great Southern and Western Railway. The eight lofty arches span the road and river.
As you continue to spin along the Waterford Greenway, you’ll pass close to the Cloughlowrish Stone, an enormous Ice Age “glacial erratic” which was carried downriver by a slow-moving glacier.
Local legend has it that you cannot tell a lie near the stone or it will split in two. Surprisingly, it’s still in one solid piece!
Continue through the scenic valleys with gentle inclines and seemingly never-ending views of the Comeragh Mountains. You’ll cross the Durrow Viaduct (built in 1878) over the River Tay shortly after passing the Ice Age boulder.
After that, you’ll come to the now-silent ruins of Durrow Station. This once-bustling hub is covered with ivy but you can still see the platform and waiting rooms.
One final point of interest is the red-roofed Durrow Dancehall. Although it’s now derelict, during the 1940s and 50s it was the centre of social entertainment as a dance hall. It was later used by coachbuilder Willie Cronin as a workshop.
Part 5. Durrow to Clonea Road (6km)
The Durrow to Clonea Road section kicks-off on flat surface and then hits a moderate decline towards Scartore. If you’re cycling, it’s a rare chance to pick up a decent bit of speed as you spin downhill.
Stop for a well-earned pint of Guinness (cycle responsibly…) or an ice cream at O’Mahony’s Pub and shop and raise a toast to the original railway workers served by this historic pub.
Owned and run by Tom and Helen O’Mahony, the pub has been in Tom’s family since it opened in 1860. There are many photographs on the walls charting the history of the former railway that you can have a nosey at.
The highlights of this section of the Waterford Greenway are the 400m-long Ballyvoyle Tunnel (constructed in 1878) and the historic Ballyvoyle Viaduct.
The Ballyvoyle Viaduct is an iconic monument on the Deise Greenway. Like the tunnel, it was built in 1878. It was blown up in 1922 during the Civil War, rebuilt in 1924 and now offers serene treetop views.
Breathe in the fresh sea air as you round the headland on the Copper Coast and soak up your first views of the lovely Clonea Strand.
Part 6. Clonea Road to Dungarvan (4km)
You’ve reached the last leg of the Waterford Greenway. Fair play to ya. This section takes you along the coast and is nice and flat.
Head through Abbeyside and look forward to your final destination – Dungarvan’s historic port.
The official end of the trail is in Walton Park, at the center of this lively seaside town. The park was named after a famous local physicist, Ernest Walton, who was known for splitting the atom.
Look out for the 13th century Dungarvan Castle, known locally as King John’s Castle. It was used as an RUC barracks from 1889 and was partially burnt down by Republicans during the War of Independence. It was later used as a Garda barracks and is now an OPW (Office of Public Works) heritage site.
Stroll around Dungarvan and admire the lovely St Augustine’s Church, which incorporates parts of the old abbey founded in 1290. Check out the market, Dungarvan Brewing Company, the old castle walls and the many independent eateries lining the quayside.
Davitt’s Quay is the perfect place to celebrate your journey’s end on the Waterford Greenway with a tasty bowl of seafood chowder, fish and chips or crab claws overlooking the colorful harbor.
Waterford Greenway Bike Hire
Don’t have access to your own bike? No hassl – there’s a heap of places to rent a bike on the Greenway.
There are two types to choose from:
1. Regular Bikes
Most bike hire companies serving the Waterford Greenway offer a full range of men’s, women’s and children’s bikes, including BMX and mountain bikes.
Some companies offer a drop-off and pick-up service. You can also enquire about trailer bikes and bike seats for kids
For something different, you can hire a scooter from the Green Scooter at The Workhouse in Kilmacthomas. There’s a full fleet of scooters complete with mounted cameras to record your ride along the Waterford Greenway.
2. Electric Bikes
E-bikes are an alternative way to explore the Waterford Greenway. These aerodynamic bikes are available from Spokes Cycles and Viking Bike Hire.
E-bikes are regular push bikes but they also have an electric motor, battery, and electric display. You need to pedal the bike and then engage the electric motor to assist.
These are ideal for those who want to cycle longer distances but need help.
Most e-bike rentals reach a top speed of 20mph without pedaling and the charge lasts 3.5 to 6 hours before the battery needs recharging.
Places to rent a bike on the Waterford Greenway
Now, here’s where things get a bit made. If you’re looking to rent a bike on the Waterford Greenway, you’ll have plenty of providers to choose from.
I’ll pop in the various providers below, but note that this isn’t an endorsement and I’m not vouching for any of them, as I haven’t used them personally. Now, you can rent two types of bikes:
1. Greenway Waterford Bike Hire
The Greenway Waterford Bike Hire at Gratton Quay in Waterford City stocks a wide range of adult and children’s bikes in the summer season. It is a subsidiary of the main Waterford bike hire located at the WIT Sports Arena in Waterford.
It also operates from the WIT Arena on the WIT complex. There is ample parking and customers can make use of the Greenway Shuttle Bus back to the depot from Dungarvan if they wish.
You can also hire bicycles from Greenway Waterford Bike Hire half-way along the Waterford Greenway at the Workhouse in Kilmacthomas. This depot is open daily all year round from 9 am.
2. Spokes Cycles
Spokes Cycles has a range of mountain, BMX, e-bikes and leisure bicycles for hire at Patrick Street, Waterford.
All sizes are available, including adults and kids bikes.
3. Viking Bike Hire
You’ll find Viking Bike Hire located on Parade Quay in Waterford City. Again, this provider also has a full range of bikes, including e-bikes, trailers and kiddie seats.
4. The Greenway Man
The Greenway Man at Durrow is next to the Shanacool Access Point and O’Mahony’s Pub.
Open daily, they also offer history and cycle tours.
5. Greenway Rent a Bike
Next up is the Greenway Rent a Bike. You’ll find these lads at Waveworld at Clonea Beach in Dungarvan.
6. Dungarvan Bike Hire
Next up is another one that’ll prove handy for those of you starting the cycle in Dungarvan.
You’ll find the Dungarvan Bike Hire Co on O’Connell St in Dungarvan.
7. Dungarvan Greenway Bike Hire
Another one for Dungarvan. Dungarvan Greenway Bike Hire can be found on Sexton Street in Dungarvan.
Waterford Greenway Shuttle Bus
OK – so this confused me quite a bit! I was under the impression that there was one shuttle bus serving the entire Greenway, but that isn’t the case.
Many bike-hire companies offer a shuttle service for those that rent a bike or a scooter from them.
For those who want to cycle or walk the whole length of the Waterford Greenway, this is a handy service as it brings you back to your starting point where your vehicle awaits.
I’m doing this cycle soon. A group of us are planning to stay in the city for a night, rent a bike there, cycle it in a day, and finish up in Dungarvan with a few celebratory pints.
We then plan on hopping on the Waterford Greenway shuttle bus provided by the crowd we’re renting the bike off and head back to the city for the night. A solid combo of exercise, sights and… pints!
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve tried to hit some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive around cycling the Waterford Greenway.
If you have a question that hasn’t been covered below, let me know in the comments section and I’ll get back to you.
What distance is the Waterford Greenway?
The greenway, in its entirety, is 46 glorious kilometers in length. Now, as mentioned above, you can enter via a number of different points, so if 46 km sounds like it’ll be too much for you, you can tackle it in chunks.
Can you walk the Waterford Greenway?
Yes! It’ll take you a lot longer to walk the route, but it’s absolutely possible. Many people tend to walk the Greenway over several days.
How long does Waterford Greenway take?
It depends. If you cycle the Greenway and don’t stop, you could do it in under 2 hours. If you make a day out of it (which you definitely should) and make a number of stops, it can take up to 7 or 8 hours.