Welcome to our cycling Blog. Whether you are a cycling enthusiast or complete beginner, looking for ideas for the family or planning trips with friends this blog will aim to provide you with up-to-date, relevant information on cycling in Northern Ireland. CycleNI.com staff will be keeping you in touch with local events and new routes whilst industry experts will be revealing their secrets on everything from bicycle maintenance to hidden gems for cyclists of all abilities to explore.
For your definitive guide to cycling in Northern Ireland visit www.cycleni.com
Posted on October 2, 2014 @ 11:58 AM in
CycleNI.com brings you the ten most popular routes on its website. These routes are based on what routes our visitors are viewing the most. There is a mixture of short, long, on road and off road routes so there should be something to suit everyone!
1) Comber Greenway
The Comber Greenway is the most popular route on our website and is a 7 mile traffic free path of the National Cycle Network which follows the old Belfast to Comber railway line. The traffic free walking and cycling route begins at Dee Street in East Belfast close to the Harland and Wolff shipyard. From the Holywood Arches to Dundonald the Greenway provides a tranquil green corridor through East Belfast with points of interest along the way including the CS Lewis Statue, views of the Harland & Wolff Cranes, Parliament Buildings at Stormont and the Belfast Hills.
2) Lagan and Lough Cycle Way
The Lagan and Lough Cycle Way on National Cycle Network Route number 93 and 9 is a 21 mile mostly traffic-free cycle and walking route connecting Lisburn, Belfast and Jordanstown. The route is suitable for cyclists of all ages and abilities and passes along the waterside of the Lagan Towpath and Belfast Lough.
3) Newry Canal Towpath
Similar to the Lagan and Lough Cycle Way, this very popular, traffic free route runs from Portadown to Newry and totals 20 miles in length. The route follows the towpath on the western bank of the Newry Canal.
4) Belfast Lough
This traffic free flat section of the National Cycle Network along the shoreline of Belfast Lough takes in views of a truly historic shipyard. The 7 mile route runs on a path parallel to the motorway where you can observe the birds of Belfast Lough from special bird watching hides. The cycle lanes then take you through Duncrue Industrial Estate and onto Clarendon Dock where new businesses thrive alongside the old dry docks, where ships were once repaired. On arrival in Belfast, visit the Lagan Weir and learn about the history of the river Lagan and the Titanic.
5) Loughshore Trail
The Loughshore Trail is a unique 113 mile on road cycleway, not only because it circumnavigates Lough Neagh but because it uses quiet country lanes and consists of mainly flat terrain. As well as providing breathtaking views, the trail also incorporates over 30 major sites of interest including marinas, nature reserves, parks and sites of archaeological interest.
6) Giant’s Causeway to Benone
For a stunning cycle ride along the North Coast, follow National Cycle Network Route 93 between the Giants Causeway in the east and Benone in the west. This 22 mile on and off road route passes through the resort towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock. Significant stretches of the route are along traffic-free paths.
7) Ballyshannon to Larne
Often listed in the world's top 10 road trips, the Antrim Coast is unrivalled in terms of attractions and scenery. Throw in the Sperrins, an Ancient Walled City and Atlantic beaches and you've got an unbeatable cycling holiday. The complete route is 281 miles in length along mostly minor country roads with varying degrees of cycling difficulty. Whether completed in its entirety or in smaller sections every cyclist will enjoy a truly spectacular experience.
8) Kingfisher Trail
The Kingfisher Trail has been named after the kingfisher, a bird long associated with the lakes, fishing and the tranquillity of the rural setting. This is a beautiful rural area of quiet country roads well suited to cycling as there is very little traffic. This 230 mile trail was the first mapped and signed long distance cycle route in Ireland and is still regarded as one of the most enjoyable.
9) Strangford Lough Cycle Trail
Cycle through St. Patrick’s country and explore one of Europe’s richest wildlife habitats, Strangford Lough, on this 82 mile on road route. It is managed by the National Trust and is a haven for marine life, butterflies and wild flowers. The route which is linked from Belfast by the traffic-free Comber Greenway meanders along the shores of the Ards Peninsula and Strangford Lough along minor roads with all the scenery and wildlife right at your wheels.
10) Craigavon Lakes Mountain Bike Trail
This 6.5mile family mountain bike trail meanders through broadleaf woodlands, wildflower meadows and along the lake shoreline. The majority of the trail is purpose built singletrack linked with some wider tarmac sections meaning it is both challenging and scenic. The trail is suitable for all cyclists with basic off-road riding skills.
Why not experience some of these routes for yourself? Even if you don’t have a bike there is further information on each route page about bike hire and don’t forget to check out the facilities section for the nearest coffee shops too!
Posted on July 8, 2014 @ 12:52 PM in
No more teachers and no more books can only mean one thing...school is out for summer! If you are trying to plan a few day trips away with the kids, the team at CycleNI.com has selected a few of their favorite off road routes perfect for a great family day out.
So if your little ones have been watching any of the Tour de France Grand Depart on the tv over the past few days and want to become the next Chris Froome then pack the bikes into the car, choose a destination from one of the family friendly routes below and off you go!
1) Comber Greenway
The Comber Greenway is one of the most popular traffic free cycling routes in Northern Ireland. Starting in Comber, join the greenway just off the A22 and cycle to Dundonald which is approximately 3-4miles in length. At Dundonald, leave the Comber Greenway at access point 15 and continue up the Comber Road (please note this road can be busy) towards Belfast where you will find an award winning café called Nosh that serves up many delights.
2) Lagan and Lough Cycle Way
Another favorite with many cyclists is the Lagan and Lough Cycle Way. Starting at Stranmillis (just beside Cutters Wharf) the towpath follows a flat wide path and if you cycle towards Shaw’s Bridge, which is approximately 3 miles away, you will come across the Lock Keepers Cottage where you can stop for a bite to eat. If you’d prefer to stop in Stranmillis after your return journey, a new bicycle themed coffee shop called ‘5A Lockview Road’ has just opened on Lockview Road which has some amazing reviews!
3) Newry Canal
Similar to the Lagan and Lough Cycle Way, this very popular, traffic free towpath runs from Portadown to Newry and totals 20 miles in length. Start at Scarva and follow the towpath in the direction of Newry, enjoying the stunning views over Acton Lake before reaching Poyntzpass, this section is approximately 3 miles long. Refreshments are available in Poyntzpass but if you return to Scarva, a fine favorite with many cyclists is the highly acclaimed Tea Rooms in Scarva Visitor Centre.
4) Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails
One of Northern Ireland's most famous lakes, a stunning Victorian Castle, incredible panoramic views and lots of different cycling trails is what is to be expected at Castlewellan. Castlewellan Forest Park’s green and blue mountain bike trails are suitable for families with the green trail being the easier of the two and are both around 2.5 miles in length. Urban Coffee, located on Castlewellan’s main street offers friendly service, excellent food at reasonable prices and amazing coffee!
5) Castle Ward Farm Trail
This 2.5mile cycle route will take you through stunning woodland and farmland as well as past the 15th century Audley's Castle. After your bike ride relax with a cup of coffee or refuel with a bite to eat in the onsite café which serves light lunches, delicious homemade cakes and excellent coffee.
6) Blessingbourne Mountain Bike Trails
Located on a private estate in the picturesque Clogher Valley, this unique trail centre caters for cyclists of all ages and abilities with a range of wide flowing blue trails (2.5miles) perfect for families and a pump track where the kids can really test their bike skills. At weekends, a pop-up Pedal Stop Coffee Cabin opens serving coffee and divine homemade cakes. A great place to refuel, warm-up or just relax and enjoy the views.
For a full list of off road cycling routes in Northern Ireland please visit CycleNI.com
Posted on May 20, 2014 @ 4:49 PM in
The people of Northern Ireland, cycling fans and non cycling fans, really stepped up to the mark in supporting the Giro d’Italia when it came to visit our shores at the start of this month. Hopefully this race, the second largest cycle race in the world, will have rubbed off on a few folk encouraging them to either dust down their bikes or make a trip to a local bike shop.
If you are one of them, below are some routes along the Causeway Coast, an area used for the second day of the race, plus suggested pit stops along the way to truly whet your appetite!
One Day Cycling Routes
If you want to experience the scenery and soak up the atmosphere of the Causeway Coast with your family by bike this short cycle route is ideal. The route connects Castlerock village with Downhill Forest and predominantly follows traffic-free sections of National Cycle Network. Enjoy stunning coastal scenery and magnificent views towards Donegal, as well as viewing two of the tallest Sitka Spruce trees in Ireland, known by some locals as ‘Laurel & Hardy’. Once arriving back in Castlerock via the same route, Crusoes Coffee Shop offer great coffee and freshly prepared food. They also have a children’s area, complete with jigsaws books and drawing paper to keep the kids entertained.
For those that really want to experience the freedom of cycling on the road and clock up some miles here are some fantastic routes well worth giving a go!
This circular route links the coastal resort town of Ballycastle to the Giant's Causeway using the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route returning via Bushmills and the country roads of North Antrim, which are signed as part of the National Cycle Network 93. If you’re feeling the need to reenergise, a great coffee stop at around the half way point is in Bushmills at the Copper Kettle where you will always be welcomed with a friendly smile.
For a stunning cycle ride along the North Coast, follow NCN Route 93 between the Giant’s Causeway in the east and Benone in the west, passing through the resort towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock. Significant stretches of the route are along traffic-free paths. At Downhill follow the main Coast Road to Ballymaclary House Tea Rooms, a family run tea room offering light lunches, snacks, and afternoon tea with a range of home baked delights and with a total of 42 miles in the legs once you’ve returned to the Giant’s Causeway via the same route there’ll be no need to feel guilty about indulging in a bun or two.
- Bushmills to Cushendall to Bushmills – 60miles
From Bushmills, follow the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route, passing the Giant’s Causeway to the coastal resort town of Ballycastle. From Ballycastle follow Section 9 of the ‘Ballyshannon to Larne’ cycle route to Cushendall, where a well earned bite to eat can be enjoyed at Upstairs at Joe’s Restaurant and Bar. On the return leg of the journey from Cushendall head back towards Ballycastle via the A2 for a taste of different scenery amongst the Glens of Antrim. Once in Ballycastle follow the Staid Road back to Bushmills.
Two Day Cycling Routes
This circular route follows one of the official routes of the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive, a road cycling non competitive event held every September. If you want to be amazed with the breathtaking rugged coastline and the romantic landscape of the glens then this is the cycle for you. This route can be broken up in a number of different ways but we have suggested on Day 1 you start in Glenarm, cycle the Coast Road to Ballycastle (30miles) and stay in the Marine Hotel, situated on the sea front in Ballycastle, that evening. Day 2 is a longer journey as you make your way through the Glens of Antrim, finishing in Glenarm (49 miles).
To celebrate the Giro d'Italia coming to Northern Ireland, a local Bike Tour Company Belfast City Bike Tours, have put together a 2 day self guided tour of Stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia race route with an overnight bed and breakfast stop at Cushendall. On the morning of the cycle you pick up your bikes in Belfast and travel by train to join the official Giro Stage 2 Race Route at Ballymoney. You then cycle to the spectacular Causeway Coast passing close to Dunluce Castle, the World Heritage site at the Giant’s Causeway, the Game of Thrones film setting at Ballintoy Harbour, the daring Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the majestic Fair Head before returning to Belfast through the stunning Glens of Antrim and past the historic castle at Carrickfergus. The tour involves around 45 miles of cycling on both days which can be shortened or extended to suit you. The tour costs £95pp which includes bike rental, mechanical back-up, route maps and bed and breakfast accommodation. The tour providers can also provide panniers or transport your luggage for an additional cost.
For more information on cycling routes in Northern Ireland, both on and off road, as well as a list of cycling events please visit CycleNI.com
Posted on April 29, 2014 @ 2:45 PM in
With the Giro d’Italia coming to Northern Ireland next week the whole country is turning pink and getting out on their bikes. If the Giro has inspired you to get out cycling, CycleNI.com has picked out a few of their favourite routes to suit a range of abilities, both on and off road.
- Lagan Towpath & Barnett Demesne Mountain Bike Trail – Cycle from Shaw’s Bridge along the green and blue trails of the new mountain bike trails, finishing off with a short cycle along the Lagan Towpath (total amount of cycling is around 5 miles) to the Lough Keepers Cottage for a well earned coffee and one of their gigantic tray bakes!
- Giant's Causeway to Benone (22miles) - For a stunning road cycle along the North Coast, follow National Cycle Network Route 93 between the Giants Causeway in the east and Benone in the west, passing through the resort towns of Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock.
- Newry Canal Towpath – This very popular, traffic free towpath runs from Portadown to Newry, is 20 miles in length and follows the Western bank of the Newry Canal. Sections of the towpath can be cycled if you don’t want to cycle the full 20 miles.
- Newry to Slieve Gullion Courtyard – This 10 mile route starts on road in Newry and connects with the Newry Canal Cycle Trail. Once outside Newry it follows minor country roads passing by historic places, archaeological monuments and stunning scenery within the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Once at Slieve Gullion be sure to call into the Grounded Coffee Shop in the courtyard to taste one of their many delights.
Co. Derry ~ Londonderry
- Beech Hill – Enjoy up to 3 miles of cycling in the historic grounds of Beech Hill Country House Hotel exploring the connections the site has with World War II. Finish off the day with a visit to the Ardmore Restaurant located within the grounds of the hotel.
- Downhill to Magilligan Point – A 13 mile road route offering some of the best kept secret views on the North Coast. On National Cycle Network 93 from Downhill Estate via Bishop's Road and onto the Martello Tower at Magilligan Point and the mouth of Lough Foyle.
- Comber Greenway - The Comber Greenway is a 7 mile traffic free section of the National Cycle Network which follows the old Belfast - Comber Railway line and is very popular with walkers and cyclists.
- Castle Ward Boundary Trail – The Castle Ward Boundary Trail is just over 8 miles in length and follows the boundary of the estate. It combines multi use trials with some swooping singletrack to get the fun going. After your bike ride relax with a cup of coffee or refuel with a bite to eat in the stableyard tea-room.
- Crom Estate – Saddle up for this 3.5 mile trail at Crom Estate and discover one of Ireland's most important Nature Conservation areas passing through ancient oak woodland with views of Upper Lough Erne. Don’t miss the Crom Tea House, where it was once customary for the family of the estate to take refreshments.
- Kingfisher Trail - The Kingfisher Trail has been named after the kingfisher, a bird long associated with the lakes, fishing and the tranquillity of the rural setting. This is a beautiful rural area of quiet country roads well suited to cycling as there is very little traffic. This 230 mile trail was the first mapped and signed long distance cycle route in Ireland and is still regarded as one of the most enjoyable.
- Blessingbourne Mountain Bike Trails and Pump Track - Located on a private estate in the picturesque Clogher Valley, this unique trail centre caters for mountain bikers of all ages and abilities with a range of wide flowing blue trails, perfect for families and more technical red trails suitable for more experienced riders.
- Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trail - The Davagh Forest Trails are located in the stunning Sperrin Mountains and offer exciting cross-country mountain bike trails with a number of hair raising rock features thrown in for good measure. With the choice of gentler green & blue circular trails, Davagh Forest should suit all abilities.
For even more routes and also to see what events are happening around the Giro coming to Northern Ireland please visit CycleNI.com
Posted on February 20, 2014 @ 4:11 PM in
I’m in my early sixties, suffer from Fibromyalgia and have only been cycling for just about four years. I seen the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive advertised on Facebook and Cycle NI and thought now there’s a challenge that could be worth going for.
There are three routes to select from 57km which covers the Causeway Coast, 126km which covers the Glens and the Antrim Coast and the 182km the Giant Killer. As you can guess I selected the shorter route (35 miles in old money). Basically there is a route to suit all abilities from those like myself to those who want an even bigger challenge, to club cyclists who really want to test themselves against their mates and the route.
There was plenty of pre event information from the event organisers, keeping us up to date with details on training advice, lists of B & B, parking on the day etc. For those who had booked early Chain Reaction Cycles provided a free Race Pack worth over £12.00, nice touch and very useful.
I prefer to stay in a local B&B over the full event weekend so that I’m able to soak up the atmosphere, camaraderie and craic in and around the town the evenings before and after the ride. It also allowed me the meet the event organisers, complete my registration, collect my cycling jersey and have a quiet meal in one of the many bars & restaurants in Ballycastle. Not to late a night mind, there’s work to be done in the morning.
Even though on the morning of the event there was howling wind and rain, the music still pumped from the Event HQ to all parts of the town, the place was electric. With some nerves in my head and legs it was great to meet other cyclists some who were feeling much the same. Cyclists regardless to their age, size or ability are all one big family, advice and support is freely given and encouragement offered. You need to remind yourself that this is not a race although not everyone sees it that way, there is also a healthy competitive edge to this kind of event.
The riders eagerly waiting to do the 57km route where standing over all different types of bikes before we were called to the start line. After a safety briefing everyone sets off as the timing chips switch on as we cross the start line. Even at this early stage the craic and banter is mighty, everyone encouraging each other. The route was very well marshalled and the signage was clear for all to see. It was good to see signs to warn motorists that a cycle ride was in progress. It’s not long before you get the old legs into a rhythm and you pair of with cyclists of similar abilities as yourself. For me it was a steady average pace of 15 mph, what a wonderful way to view the amazing scenery along the beautiful North Antrim Coast which would have been even more scenic on a better day.
I have travelled these road so many times by car but you really don’t see the half of it. Every dip, every rise and every bend on the journey brought yet new panoramic views, oh what a wonderful country we have. The rolling hills took us along the coast road past Ballintoy, the Giant’s Causeway and in to Bushmills (no time to stop for a wee dram) where a few miles beyond we reached the feed station. It was a most welcome sight not just because the legs where starting to burn and the energy levels were running low but I was able to get one of Chain Reaction Cycles roving mechanic’s to twig the gears on my bike. The feed station was just about the right distance in to the ride and there was ample supply of bars, cakes, sweets, bananas and fluid all served up by very friendly staff. After a few minutes of rest, refuelling and both giving and receiving encouragement it was time to get going again.
Ah sure it’s only 14 miles to the finish someone said and she was right. More beautiful scenery all around us as we cycled up hill and down dale through the “Dark Hedges” and through Glentaisie one of the Nine Glens of Antrim on our way back to Ballycastle and the finish.
We arrived back to cheers and claps from our loved ones and the organisers, what a welcome...I felt I had just won the Giro. I know it wasn’t quite the Giro however I had completed my own personal challenge and when the going got tough it was good to know I had the support of other cyclists who helped me ride through the pain barrier and in to Ballycastle. On crossing the finishing line we received a Goody Bag full of yes you guessed it GOODIES. After a tiring day in the saddle it was a welcome treat to receive a warm bowl of spicy pasta, tea, coffee and energy bars all dished out with a smile and a well done. It was lovely to sit down with other competitors and chat about the day’s event and how each rider had made it through the day. The fellowship among the entire cyclist community regardless of their achievements was clear for all to see. (The time it took me to complete the course will remain my secret). It was time to head back to Colliers Hall B & B for a soothing shower and a few hours recovery, before heading out for a wee post event night on the town.
The taxi arrived at 7.30pm and we were safely driven to O’Connor’s Bar for the post event party. We arrived early and had time to sample some fine food and drinks in very warm and comfortable surroundings. Many other cyclists, their family and friends had the same thought so the craic that had started many hours earlier just continued. The party was a wonderful way to chat with the event organisers, fellow participants and wind down. During the evening a prize draw took place with many wonderful gifts on offer. I was lucky enough to win a voucher for a meal for two in O’Connor’s Bar. It was used a few weeks later on my next visit to Ballycastle.
So what can I say about The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive? The event is open to all cyclists, of all abilities, ages and genders. The scenery is breath-taking, the route is well signed posted and marshalled, the food and feed stations are great, the goody bag is worth a few quid and the hot food at the finish was worth going the extra mile. I could go on and on enough to say it’s an excellent event, very well organised and I’ve already booked to do it all again in September 2014, bring it on!
I was delighted to learn that the event was awarded as “Leisure Event of the Year” for 2013. CONGRATULATIONS everyone.
Finally I would like to say a big thank you to the event organisers, their sponsors and everyone associated with such a wonderful event. See you all again in September!
The 2014 event will take place on Saturday 13th September and again starts and finishes in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim with an entrance fee of £35. For more information and to book online please visit the event website - www.giantscausewaycoastsportive.com