Ireland – The “Burren”

Ireland-Dani copy

Ireland the Emerald Isle

Ireland is often referred to as the Emerald Isle – rolling hills and vales of green. Yet, one of the places we visit on our bike tour is not so green. It’s called the “Burren” (pronounced “burn”) and comes from the Irish word “Boíreann,” which means a stony or rocky place. The Burren consists of 125 square miles and stretches across northern Clare from the Atlantic coast to Kinvara in County Galway. It is an area with a unique striated limestone landscape that was formed 320 million years ago under ancient seas before it was forced high and dry by a geological disturbance and subsequently shaped by ice, hard weather and humans.

Bill Reuther King of the Hill Burren 2

The Burren

The Burren is internationally famous for its landscape and flora. It has a colorful diversity of flowering plants living together within one ecosystem – arctic and alpine plants living side by side with Mediterranean plants; lime-loving and acid-loving plants growing adjacent to one another; woodland plants growing out in the open with no trees to provide shade.

Burren-Flowers

Fairy Foxglove (Erinus alpinus) on the Burren

And all of these plants survive in a land that appears to be composed entirely of rock. We not only get to cycle through this area on our bike tour, we also enjoy a nature walk through the Burren with local guide Shane Connolly, so we’re able to get a wonderful up-close look at this very special place.

In addition to the beautiful landscape and flora, the Burren is also known for its many megalithic tombs. These tombs indicate that people have been living there for more than 5000 years. One of the most famous megalithic tombs is the Poulnabrone Dolmen. This dolmen dates back to around 2500 BC.

Poulnabrone Dolmen

Poulnabrone Dolmen

(Dolmen means table, which is what a dolmen looks like. There is a large capstone on two or three standing stones.)

There is so much to see and do in the Burren and its surrounding villages – Ballyvaughan, Kinvara, Corofin, Kilfenora and Lisdoonvarna. We also make sure to visit the Cliffs of Moher and also Doolin, renowned worldwide as the traditional music capital of Ireland.

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Cliffs of Moher

Maybe next year you can come with us on one of our bike tours and experience all that Ireland has to offer!

For more information, please feel free to give Discovery Bicycle Tours a call at 800-257-2226 or email info@discoverybicycletours.com

 

 

 

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Autumn in Vermont

Autumn-Blog-Photo-7Autumn in Vermont is full of brilliant, intense, dazzling color. Have you experienced it? Of course, all of New England has colorful fall leaves. Yet, Vermont’s fall colors somehow seem to top them all. We are fortunate to have a large number of sugar maples (which also makes us the lucky recipients of maple syrup – also known as liquid gold up here.) Now, it’s a beautiful state to begin with. But when you throw in hillsides bursting with color, even folks who have lived here all of their lives will exclaim how gorgeous it is. In fact, they become tourists in their own state!Autumn-Blog-Photo-1 It’s a wonderful transformation. Fall foliage doesn’t happen one day, or one week for that matter. It’s a lovely, slow transition that has beauty every step of the way. It starts in different parts of the state at different times. For instance, the leaves in the Northeast Kingdom might be at “peak,” when they’re only just beginning to change along the Connecticut River Valley. For me, it’s a somewhat bittersweet time of year. I love watching those first leaves just starting to change. The air is getting cooler. The mornings downright chilly! The distant smell of wood smoke letting you know that someone has decided to get the chill off that morning, and then the day warms up perfectly so you can be outside enjoying the beauty. Autumn-Blog-Photo-6Before you know it, those trees with just a few colorful leaves then brighten up. More leaves are now yellow and orange instead of green. Another week may go by and before you know it, the roads, the yards and the hillsides are all ablaze in full yellow, orange and red splendor. Bright colors are set against a bluebird sky – sunshine setting all ablaze with color. It’s pretty darn amazing. The bittersweet part? Autumn in Vermont doesn’t last forever! Autumn-Blog-Photo-4And once that beautiful fall foliage has left us, it’s about six months before we see new spring growth again. Winter is gorgeous, of course, and the skiing is wonderful. There is just something magical about fall foliage in Vermont. Treat yourself, and come join us this year for autumn in Vermont!  

Autumn-Blog-Photo-2The technical stuff: The trees “know” about getting ready for winter when the days get shorter and shorter. Since there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis during winter, the trees rest and live off of the food they stored during the summer. As they begin to shut down their summer food-making, the green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves, and we begin to see the yellow, orange and red colors. These colors have been in the leaves all along, but during the summer they are covered by the green chlorophyll.

Discovery Bicycle Tours: If you’d like to experience Vermont’s fall foliage by bicycle, please give us a call at 800-257-2226 or visit us online at www.discoverybicycletours.com.  We’d love to have you join us on tour! For more information, you can also follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest.

Autumn Blog Photo 5

 

 

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Lighthouses of Maine

When you think of images of Maine, what comes to mind? Fresh seafood? Rocky Shores? Seagulls? When I think of Maine, I think of lighthouses. In fact, Maine is commonly referred to as The Lighthouse State. There are 65 historical lighthouses still standing and spread out along 5,000 miles of coastline, inlets and islands. Imagine sailing in unfamiliar waters with the help of only a chart and compass. These lighthouses have been instrumental in guiding sailors and fishermen safely back into harbor for hundreds of years.

Bass-Harbor-Head-LighthouseWe are fortunate to have the opportunity to visit two lighthouses on our Coast of Maine tour. One of them is the cliffside Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse that marks the entrance to Bass Harbor on the southwestern side of Mount Desert Island. The lighthouse was built of brick in 1858 and was not automated until 1974.  Now, the lighthouse lens has a range of 15 miles. There is still a keeper’s house there that remains in its original form, with the exception of a 10-foot section that was added in 1900. The keeper’s house currently serves as a full-time residence for a U.S. Coast Guard family. Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, and is one of the most photographed lighthouses in New England. It is easily accessible by bicycle and is in a stunning cliffside location. There are a few different vantage points, one of which you can get by venturing down the cliff staircase for an ocean level view.

HockamockThe second lighthouse we have an opportunity to see is located on Swan’s Island. Swan’s Island is about six miles off shore from Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park and is accessed by a ferry ride. The Burnt Coat Harbor Light Station was built in 1872. It’s also referred to as the Swan’s Island Lighthouse or the Hockamock Head Lighthouse. Until 1974 the lighthouse was operated manually. The lighthouse keeper kept the light shining, and the family lived in the keeper’s house. Burnt Coat Harbor was a busy commercial harbor famous for mackerel fishing, and the lighthouse beacon guided schooners and smaller boats safely into the harbor. Burnt Coat Harbor Light Station is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

So if you are interested in lighthouses perched on rocky shores, beautiful seaside cycling, fresh lobster and other seafood, and exploring the lovely carriage roads in Acadia, come with us and visit Maine!

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We value the word “yes” above all others

Welcome to our 40th year of leading bike tours!

Larry and Dawn for Catalog3Dawn and I think we have the best job on earth and not just because we get to ride our bikes and explore all sorts of new and exotic places (although that’s a pretty nice benefit), but also because we get to enjoy running a business that has been built and prospered around a set of family values and a shared community approach that makes working here a pleasure.

We continue to encourage a culture that values substance over flash, where our focus is on the individual guest’s experience rather than a preset “one-sized-fits-all” formula, and where each of us who works here has an equal and powerful voice in what we do and how we do it.

We are all about treating everyone personally (no voice mail menus await you when you call). Instead Heather, Tina, Pam, Dawn or I will pick up the phone with a full desire to please, to answer your questions and to work with you to create the best experience. And if you have a special request, or perhaps want more detailed information on a tour, just ask for Dawn or me. We are always directly accessible and happy to talk with you personally. You will find at Discovery Bicycle Tours we value the word “yes” above all others.

As many of you know, we are no longer the small, regional company we were 25 years ago (when we bought “Bike Vermont” from Bob McElwain), and yet our essential values and sense of community have not changed. We care about you as an individual, and we feel we make you an essential promise to give you the best tour experience possible. We know that a great trip to a wonderful place, with great food, spectacular scenery, superb accommodations and the best of guides, can be wonderful fun. But in the right hands, with the right company, it can even be a life-enhancing experience. The experience of a lifetime. And helping you have that experience is what we are all about.

Larry and Dawn Niles

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Discovery Bicycle Tours 2015 Magellan Award Winner!

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2015 TRAVEL WEEKLY MAGELLAN AWARDS WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Secaucus, NJ (September 09, 2015) – Travel Weekly announced the winners of The 2015 Magellan Awards. With entries from across the U.S. and around the world, the Magellan Award winners represent the best in the travel industry and salute the outstanding travel professionals behind it all.

The Magellan awards is the premier awards program honoring a broad range of industry segments including Hotels and Resorts, Travel Destinations, Cruise Lines, Online Travel Services, Airlines and Airports, Travel Agents and Agencies, Tour Operators and Car Rental Companies, the Magellan is the award to win if you are in the business of travel.

“The creativity that travel industry marketers and designers display to inspire travel and enhance the travel experience continues to impress our expert judges and readers,” said Arnie Weissmann, editor in chief of Travel Weekly. “This year’s winners continue to raise the bar, establishing themselves as not just the most talented and creative people in the travel industry but among the most creative and talented of any industry.”

The Magellan Awards are judged and overseen by a one-of-a-kind panel of top travel professionals representing the best names and most accomplished leaders from the industry.   In determining winners, entries do not compete with one another, instead they are judged against a standard of excellence based on the long experience of Travel Weekly. To uphold this high standard of excellence, a category may have multiple winners, or may have no winners at all.

For a complete list of winners, please visit www.travelweeklyawards.com.

About Travel Weekly (www.travelweekly.com)

Travel Weekly, the national newspaper of the travel industry, is the most influential provider of news, research, opinion and analysis to the North American travel trade marketplace. In addition to a weekly print publication, TravelWeekly.com, updated several times daily, is the most-visited industry website. Travel Weekly is a division of Secaucus, New Jersey-based Northstar Travel Media, the largest travel business-to-business travel publisher in the world.

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Enter to Win a $10,000 Dream Trip!

Enter to Win a $10,000 Dream Vacation!

Enter to Win a $10,000 Dream Vacation!

Voting is now open for Travel + Leisure’s 2015 World’s Best Awards!

Cast your vote for your favorite travel experiences and enter to win a $10,000 dream trip to the destination of your choice, plus additional prizes, courtesy of Travel + Leisure Magazine!

Discovery Bicycle Tours is a big fan of Travel + Leisure Magazine’s prestigious “World’s Best Awards.” If you vote now, you’ll be entered into their giveaway for a chance to win a $10,000 dream trip to the destination of your choice!

Voting is easy. You do not need to be a T + L subscriber, and you don’t have to purchase anything. Just submit your vote by March 2, 2015 to be entered to win! It’s quick and easy – just choose the “Tour Operators and Safari Outfitters” category and answer a few questions.

Good luck and please share with your friends!

Yes, I’d like to win a $10,000 Dream Trip!

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A Typical Day of Touring with Discovery Bicycle Tours

A gorgeous day of cycling on our Cape Cod/Martha's Vineyard tour.

A gorgeous day of cycling on our Cape Cod/Martha’s Vineyard tour.

Every day on a Discovery Bicycle Tour is full of beautiful cycling and memorable experiences. We want all that you’ve ever imagined about a bicycle adventure to come true. With that being said, you might be wondering what a typical day on tour is actually like.

We start each day with a delicious breakfast around 8 AM. (Indeed, we believe our culinary experiences are a very important part of each tour!)

Are you an early bird? No worries! Coffee and tea are always available, and more often than not, one of your tour leaders would be delighted to head out with you for a pre-breakfast ride!

After breakfast, your tour leaders will give you their “map rap” where they will take the opportunity to talk with you about the route, what the day looks like and interesting places to stop. (Our 39 years of experience give us a huge advantage here – we know where to ride and all the hidden nooks and crannies, side roads and unique experiences that are available).  They’ll answer any questions you may have about the route, your bike, where we’ll have lunch, the weather etc… They are also very happy to give you cycling tips throughout your tour and will give you great tips on such things as how and when  to shift your bike, how to happily ride up (and down) hills, the most efficient way to pedal, and numerous other helpful suggestions.

Soon we are all on our bikes and head out generally between 9:00 and 9:30 AM. We encourage you to bike at a pace that is comfortable for you. We don’t ride as a group! Everyone has been given a set of maps and directions, so if you feel like stopping at any point, that’s great! There is so much to see!

Each day consists of a standard route, as well as optional mileages for those who feel like riding more. On the flip side, if you’ve had enough after riding 5, 10, 15 miles, that also is fine. The tour leaders are always in contact with you, and they can give you a ride in our van (which is also a traveling snack bar if you need an energy boost, bike shop in case you get a flat tire, and water stop to make sure your water bottle is never empty). We often meet up again for lunch, usually around 12:30-1:00 PM, at a wonderful, scenic picnic location or perhaps a local general store. After lunch, we hop on our bikes again for the afternoon ride.

Every day on tour consists of (always optional) opportunities for activities, guided tours and cultural visits, as well as vineyards for some great wine tastings and perhaps a stop at a local microbrewery.

Most folks are getting back to the inn between 3 PM and 5 PM, depending on how far (and at what pace) you’ve chosen to ride that day. A lot of folks like to take advantage of the amenities at the different inns, such as hot tubs, golf, hiking, or maybe just relaxing and “watching the pass”. Others will have chosen to ride some of the optional miles and might be getting back a bit later. At any rate, there’s always time for a shower, maybe a pre-dinner walk or cocktail, and then around 7:00 PM we have a very well-earned and delicious dinner after a great day of cycling!

Enjoy a nice soak after a day of cycling!

Enjoy a nice soak after a day of cycling!

Around 9:30 PM to 10:30 PM folks usually decide to “call it a day” and head to their room for the evening. And what could be better after a great bike ride, and a relaxing delicious dinner, than ending your day in the warm comfort of a room at one of our carefully selected inns.

 

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