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 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
Posted on January 13, 2014 @ 12:12 PM in
Rusty Surginor, a keen climber and outdoor enthuasist, had been competing in a climbing competition and unfortunately injured himself. Whilst recovering at home he started to think about what he could do with the days off work and this is where the plans for his adventure across Ireland on a bike started...in Rusty's own words "They say when one door closes another opens: this time they were right..."
I had always been drawn to the idea of crossing Ireland unsupported: either by foot or by bike. Usually the plan would be outlined to non cyclists or hikers a half an hour before closing time in a pub or at a wedding. The fantasy fuelled by the warm glow of enthusiasm brought on by whiskey and usually received with polite expressions of disinterest. Hikers and cyclists know the look. The one when we know that whomever we’re talking to just doesn’t get “it”. Ask anyone to explain precisely what “it” is and they’ll usually fail. But we still know what “it” is. We still take to the roads and hills and know when we’ve found “it”. I was determined not to waste my days off and so dusted off the pipe dream and made the plan.
The simple plan consisted of cycling coast to coast across Ireland and bivying along the way. 113 miles across the top of Ireland in as little time as possible. I had done no cycling preparations prior to setting off but the excitement had already took me and there was no stopping me now. Kit packed and with a few crude directions on my iPhone I mounted the borrowed racing bike and set off on a rainy Monday through heavy Belfast traffic.
The incline to get out of the valley of Belfast was a shock to the system however after 30mins or so I found myself looking down over the city and heading towards Antrim. The lack of traffic and green fields of the 7 mile straight soothing my cluttered mind and as the endorphins kicked in I felt the thrill of this new adventure take told.
My bike was kindly loaned by fellow Hikers blog member Oisin and perfect for the job. Originally I had thought of using my own mountain bike. A few hours into the journey I realised that this would have been disastrous. I settled into the rhythm of the road quite well. Stopping here and there at garages and shops to fill up on high sugar snacks. My marathon experience taught me that running low on fuel could end any such trip quite quickly. Hitting the wall when the body’s glycogen reserves are depleted brings the body and mind to some strange places. The will starts to dwindle and excuses come to mind as to why you should stop. Failure stalks you in the form of rationalising to yourself why you should stop. In any endurance event learning how to avoid listening to these thoughts is key. I was able to avoid alot of this by keeping fuelled up.
The first days cycling brought me to Plumb Bridge. Just the other side of the Sperrin Mountain range. A lack of any form of rational planning meant that I had accidentally plotted by route directly over the Sperrins. Much of the route was therefore uphill and the Sperrins for all their beauty took an astonishing toll the first day. As daylight faded and I limped into the town of Plumb Bridge in search of food and a spot to make camp I was utterly exhausted but still extremely pleased.
After a quick meal, several pints in the local pub and a hearty sleep I was back on the road before sunrise the second morning and surprisingly enthusiastic as I knew I would arrive that day. I can only describe the excitement like that of a child on Christmas Eve.
As I cycled on the Sun came up and brought with it warmth and the knowledge that I would be in a warm bed that very evening. Crossing the boarder at Strabane I cycled for hours across hills, endless fields and small towns. Letting my thoughts wonder. Content and happy in the rhythm of life on the road. Deeply meditative. The experience was very like walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Soaking in the silence and the scenery.
Reaching the County of Donegal I was impressed deeply by some of the stunning landscape. The barren but beautiful hills of Donegal reminded me that I was near my destination and I actually found myself slowing down to enjoy the cycle. Knowing that by afternoon the dream would be over and I’d have arrived.
I was pleased to see the yellow directional markers on the Bluestack Way in Donegal. The yellow markers are the same as the ones used on the Camino and part of me was pleased to see the tradition being continued with the Bluestack Hiking trail in Donegal. As I pumped the pedals for a sprint finish into Ardara town I felt ecstatic. I felt like I’d just won the Tour de France! Exhausted but happy I climbed off for a well earned pint of Guinness.
The cycle in total took me a day and a half. Respectable enough however without a rucksack I’d imagine it could be done in a day with some training. Importantly though the experience reinforced the joy one can get from jumping in and going for those expeditions that we all have in mind. To go for it, not over think it and let the adventure carry you!
For more inspiring blogs on a variety of outdoor activities from Rusty and others please visit www.hikersblog.co.uk