Southwest of Dublin and southeast of Shannon, the Ballyhoura Trails Mountain Bike Centre provides access to numerous mountain bike loops totalling about 96km. It is considered the largest trail network in Ireland. There are steep climbs through dense forest, and rolling winding singletrack. The one-way loops are waymarked with color codes signs, and the loops are stacked such that one loop leads to the next.
The 51km Castlepook Loop is the ultimate loop of the Ballyhoura trails, being the longest and most demanding. It goes right to the southern fringes of the forest and presents you with the biggest climbs and most rewarding descents. Be prepared!
There is car park and trailhead for these trails is located 2 kms south of Ardpatrick village in County Limerick off the R512 road.
To reach the Ballyhoura Trails Mountain Bike Centre from Limerick, take the N20 south through Charleville and continue 2kms further on to Ballyhea. Turn left just after Ballyhea church and drive for 10kms to reach Ardpatrick village. Turn right and continue for 2.5 kms. Take the turn to the right, signposted Ballyhoura Forest, the car park is 1km up this road. From Dublin: take the M7 south to Limerick and join N20. From Shannon: take the N18 south to Limerick and join N20. From Cork: take the N20 to Mallow, follow the N72, signposted Waterford through the town, shortly outside the town rake a left onto the N73 signposted Mitchelstown, travel for approx. 13 km, turn left onto a minor road, signposted Ardpatrick. The car park is approx. 10km up this road. Alternatively, from Cork, take the M8 as far as exit 13, signposted Mitchelstown. Continue onto the Mitchelstown bypass, take the 2nd exit at the 3rd roundabout, signposted Kildorrery, in Kildorrery village take a right onto the R512, continue on approx. 11.5km, the turnoff for the carpark will be on your left.
The Castlepook Loop is the longest and by far the most demanding ride in the Ballyhouras and is most definitely not for the faint hearted or the unfit. Essentially you follow the Streamhill Loop as far as Waypoint 7 from where you follow the Red waymarkers in a long loop before rejoining the Streamhill Loop for the return leg.
This Loop includes the longest and steepest descent in the forest as well as the longest climb and the singletrack is both technical and narrow with very variable surfaces including loose gravel, rocks, mud, roots and water. The
singletrack trails also feature numerous very tight turns, features such as small rock steps and elevated timber boardwalk sections.
This Loop accesses some very high ground and is exposed to bad weather so make sure that both you and your bike are well prepared.
Overall, Castlepook Loop is the 11th most popular mountain bike trail of all 14 mountain biking rides in Ireland.