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Grand North of Ireland Self-Guided

Grand North of Ireland Self-Guided

Ireland Flag Ireland

  • Region Region North of Ireland
  • Tour Type Tour Type Self Guided (Open Departure)
  • Duration Duration 13 days
  • Bike Type Bike Types Road, Hybrid, Touring & e-bike

Core Route

396 Miles
2 (Moderate) Difficulty Level: 2 (Moderate)
Average Distance per Day: 33 mi
0 396 mi
Average Elevation Gain per Day: 1458 mi
0 17500 mi

Extended Route

490 Miles
2 (Moderate) Difficulty Level: 2 (Moderate)
Average Distance per Day: 70 mi
0 100 mi
Average Elevation Gain per Day: 1000 mi
0 1500 mi
April - October from
£1175
Next Steps

This is a comprehensive tour of the North of Ireland region. We have tailored the best cycle routes in Northern Ireland, you will take in the Bann Valley, the Sperrins, the Causeway Coast, the Antrim Plateau, the Glens of Antrim, the Antrim Coast Road, Belfast, the Mournes, the Ards Peninsula and St Patrick’s Country.

Our grand tour of Northern Ireland can start in either Belfast or Moira, your first ride takes you to Rostrevor. This route is on quiet, rural roads in County Down and partially along the old Newry Canal on a cycle path past the village of Scarva. This route is an ideal chance to get acquainted with your bike away from any traffic.

From Rostrevor you then climb through the Mourne Mountains to the picturesque Spelga Pass, where you drop down to the seaside town of Newcastle. From there you head along the coastline around Dundrum Bay to Strangford for a two-night stopover. The loop route explores St Patrick’s Country and the southern end of the Ards Peninsula. Your journey from Strangford takes you through both rolling County Down drumlins and coastal cycling routes to your accommodation near Comber. Nendrum Monastic Site is worth a visit from here. From Comber you can take the greenway all the way into the capital city of Belfast. There is plenty to see and do in Belfast, but we’ll provide you with loop options should you want them.

From Belfast you will get a transfer to Antrim, where you begin to explore the alluring Causeway Coast. Your ride from Antrim is through rural farmland and small towns such as Toome and Portglenone, before settling in Aghadowey. From this point on you are never far from the stunning, world famous coastline. You first visit Bushmills for a two-night stay, where you will get a chance to visit the mystical Giants’ Causeway, as well as Dunluce Castle and the ancient Bushmills Distillery. From Bushmills you continue round the coastline to the seaside resort town of Ballycastle. There are several more ‘must see’ attractions en route, including Carrick-a- Rede Rope bridge, Ballintoy Harbour and Kilbane Castle. Much of this coastline has been used in recent years for the filming of hit tv series Game of Thrones. From Ballycastle you can then do the challenging, but thoroughly worthwhile extension to Torr Head, before hugging the coastline around to Cushendall. You also have the opportunity to visit the beautiful Glenarriff Forest Park. The last leg of a memorable tour is a gentle, flat ride into the heart of Belfast, via Carrickfergus Castle.

Highlights

  • The award-winning Belfast City

  • Gortin Lakes

  • Binevenagh Plateau

  • Mussenden Temple

  • The Giant’s Causeway

  • Dunluce Castle

  • Bushmills Distillery

  • The Antrim Coast Road

  • The Silent Valley

  • Tollymore Forest Park

  • Castleward House

  • Dundrum Castle

  • Nendrum Monastic Site

Day 1

Arrive in Belfast or Moira as preferred or what fits best with your inward travel plans. Full tour briefing and bike fitting will take place early next morning at your Moira accommodation at a pre-arranged time. If you decide to stay in Belfast you have the option to add a day either at the start or the end of your tour to see some of Belfast famous attractions. If you stay in Belfast you will have to transfer to Moira by train for the morning briefing.

2

Moira to Rostrevor - (Core Route 41 miles Ascent 1879 feet) Today is rural cycling taking in the County Down countryside along quiet country. Part of the route takes you on the 200-year-old Newry Canal on a cycle path past the village of Scrava which has an interesting visitors centre, Historical Newry, the combined Port and Resort town of Warrenpoint and on to Rostrevor a lively village on the coast nestling in the foothills of the Mourne mountains. Along the way stop to see St Bagnenal’s Castle and Museum in Newry and Narrow Water’s Castle between Newry and Warrenpoint

Moira Rostrevor elv

3

Rostrevor to Newcastle - (Core Route 27 miles Ascent 2342 feet) Leaving Rostrevor you will cycle through the stunning Mourne mountains to the picturesque resort town of Newcastle and the home of Royal County Down Golf regularity listed in the world’s top ten. Along the way you have the opportunity to stop at Hilltown, the Spelga and Silent Valley dams and the forest park at Tollymore. It’s a day for the camera.

Rostrevoe newcastle elv

4

Newcastle to Strangford - (Loop ride 34 miles Ascent 887 feet) Back to coastal cycling as the route meanders through the villages of Dundrum with its historical castle, architecturally interesting Killlough, the fishing village of Ardglass and into the beautiful loughside village of Strangford your home for the next two days and a chance to really unpack.

Newcastle strangford elv

5

Strangford - Strangford (core Route 32 miles Ascent 887 feet) This is a day of options. Choose between crossing Strangford Lough on a quaint ferry and exploring the Ards Peninsula or a shorter loop to a stately home at Castleward. The day offers attractions such as Exploris marine park, Mount Stewart and Casleward stately homes leisurely cycling or some lovely walks if you prefer. This is real Game of Thrones territory for those who follow the TV series.

Stranford loop elv

6

Strangford to Comber - (core Route 39 miles Ascent 1455 feet) On the move again, starting westwards towards the Historical town of Downpatrick, the focal point for St Patrick with his grave at Down Cathedral, Down Museum and the St Patrick centre all clustered together in the town centre. Your journey takes through both rolling County Down drumlins and Coastal cycling routes to your accommodation near Comber. Nendrum Monastic Site is worth a visit.

Strangford Comber elv

7

Comber to Belfast - (Core Route 13 miles Ascent 688 feet) You can cycle all the way to Belfast on the core Route which is mostly a dedicated Greenway cycling path. This short ride allows you to have some extra time in Belfast to see its many attractions including the world-renowned Titanic Experience which is on your way into the centre of Belfast. In Belfast, we can arrange a cycling option along the picturesque River Lagan Tow path.

Comber Belfast elv

8

Transfer to Antrim to start cycling Antrim to Aghadowey - (Core Route 42 miles Ascent 1259 feet) Today is rural cycling taking in the distinctive and charming Northern Irish countryside along quiet country roads as you meander alongside the British Isles biggest inland Lough (lake) and through the River Bann valley towards your next stop at Aghadowey. On the way, you pass the through typical Irish towns of Antrim, Toome and Portglenone. The full route is a comfortable 43 miles long but if that is a bit challenging on your first day we have shorter options available.

Antrim Aghadowey Elv

9

Aghadowey to Bushmills - (Core Route 36 miles Ascent 1134 feet) From your rural overnight accommodation, you continue to the county town of Coleraine before heading West towards Mussenden Demesne and the Bishops palace catching your first sight of the world-famous Causeway Coast which won’t be far from you until you return to Belfast at the end of your trip. Here we offer a loop extension to your core route over the very scenic Binevenagh Plateau. You return to Coleraine and follow the route East through the coastal resort towns of Portstewart and Portrush passing by the world class Royal Portrush Golf Links and the historical cliff clinging Dunluce Castle and into Bushmills where you stay overnight

Aghadowey Bushmills elv

10

Bushmills to Bushmills - (Loop ride 30 miles Ascent 979 feet) A rest day, if you like, as there is a lot to see in Bushmills. The Giants Causeway and the Bushmills distillery are the highlights. We recommend the Coastal walk from the Giants Causeway which is a great walk with spectacular views. If the bike calls, we have a rural cycling route nearby the River Bush which takes in the unique Dark Hedges made famous by the TV series “Game of Thrones” We find that about 50% of our cyclists are big fans and if you are there are several other famous G.O.T iconic places on this tour which we pass. If you are not they are all in beautiful locations.

Bushmills loop elv

11

Bushmills to Ballycastle - (core Route 15 miles Ascent 1032 feet) Short core ride along the Causeway Coastal Route but lots to see. Some people do the short route and spend time at the attractions, namely Carrick-a- Rede Rope bridge, Ballintoy Harbour and Kilbane Castle. Some people leave early visit the attractions and arrive in Ballycastle early where they either decide to visit Rathlin island (famous for its Puffin colony) or just chill out in Ballycastle. Some people when they get to Ballycastle decide to go on and do the spectacular but challenging, in parts, Torr Head loop. All of them report back that they have had a great day. It’s an infinitely flexible day.

Bushmiklls ballycastle elv

12

Ballycastle to Cushendall -(core Route 36 miles Ascent 2390 feet) Today’s core route takes you through the heart of the Antrim Glens, experiencing an everchanging vista that at times leaves you feeling alone and as one with nature. Even the sheep seem surprised to see you as they wonder freely on what they clearly see as their roads The route takes you back by the Glenarriff Forest park where you can take a break and do one of their marked walks. Options abound today as you can alternatively choose to descend back to the coast through Glenann or Glendun and go to your destination Cushendall via Cushendun.

Ballycastle Cushendall Elv

13

Cushendall to Belfast - (Core Route 50 miles Ascent 1796 feet) You can cycle all the way to Belfast on the core Route which follows the Coastal route to Larne and then via Carrickfergus and Whiteabbey to your last night’s accommodation. Some people jump on a train with their bikes at Larne or Carrickfergus in order to arrive a bit earlier. Scenic villages, a great juxtaposition of sea and coast, and some interesting Castles all add up to make this a memorable last day. There is a very spectacular Cliffside guided walk recently reopened at the Gobbins on Islandmagee. This needs to be booked well in advance so if this of interest let us know at your booking stage.

Cushendall to Belfast elv

Route Map

Accommodation

The standard accommodations for this region's self-guided itineraries are guesthouses and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs). Generally, these have between 4 and 10 guest rooms and the owners/providers live on the premises. In almost all cases the bathroom facilities are ensuite (self-contained within the room), and the room facilities usually include a television and tea/coffee making facilities. There is a communal reading / television lounge. Small family run hotels are also used in a few locations. The providers are excellent sources of local information.

Breakfast is always included. Most guesthouses do not offer an evening meal.

When you book a tour, your pre-trip planner will have more details about the specific facilities and services provided by the accommodations.

Examples of our guesthouses in this region include;

Getting there

From Belfast International Airport, Ulsterbus operates a frequent service to Belfast Europa Bus Station (45 minutes). A taxi is the other (less economical) alternative. This larger airport is where most international flights arrive.

From Belfast City Airport, Ulsterbus operates a frequent service to Belfast Europa Bus Station (15 minutes). Again, a very short taxi ride is the alternative. This airport, very close to the city centre, typically serves domestic flights, although an increasing number of European routes are being added.

From Dublin Airport, both Bus Eireann and Aircoach operate a frequent service to Belfast Europa Bus Station. Alternatively take a Dublin Bus Airlink Service to Dublin Connolly Station and a NIR or Irish Rail Enterprise train service to Belfast Central Station.


Climate

Ireland's climate is surprisingly mild given its northern location. This is mainly due to the warming effects of the Gulf Stream which brings warm waters up to Western Europe from the more tropical Atlantic zones.

Temperamental is a fitting description of Ireland's weather. It can be very unpredictable! The old adage that it is possible to experience four seasons in one day is close to the truth. During the summertime, the warmest months tend to be July and August, when average temperatures during the day can range from 15ºC to 20ºC. A hot day in summertime could produce temperatures of 22ºC to 24ºC and on rare occasions can exceed 30ºC.

The best time to travel to Ireland for an outdoor trip such as a bicycle tour is from the beginning of May to the end of September. April and October are also possible, but the chances of encountering inclement weather increase. Towards the end of October the days are significantly shorter.

Traditionally May can provide some of the best weather days of the season. The last two weeks in June have the longest days of the year.

July and August are peak travel season for Ireland. The first weekend in August (a public holiday weekend) is the busiest of the season. School holidays are from the end of June until the end of August.

The latter half of September sees the change to autumn colours.

Core Tour Cost £1175
Luggage Transfers £460 (for two people)
Hybrid Bike Rental £195
Touring Bike Rental £205
Road Bike Rental £245
E-Bike Rental £315
Single Supplement £440


£1175 per person sharing, to include;

  • 13 nights' accommodation with breakfast
  • Pre-Trip Information Booklet and Planner
  • On call telephone support
  • All mapping, routes and cue sheets with gpx tracks
  • Meet, greet and bike fitting


Luggage transfer charges are calculated as follows:

The standard charge is based on one or two riders. A couple would therefore share the luggage transfer costs. There is then a small additional fee for the third and each additional person.
For example:

  • Total cost for one or two riders = 460 (230 per person based on two people sharing)
  • Total cost for three riders = 460 + 30= 490 (163 per person)
  • Total cost for four riders = 460 + 30+ 30 = 520 (130 per person)

Note that the more riders in the group, the less expensive are the luggage transfers per rider

Please note that whilst we will try our best to provide you with the exact bike as listed below, due to availability or sizing issues we may not always be able to. The bike you will receive will be of a very similar spec and always in very good condition.

Trek FX hybrid

  • 5 frame sizes
  • FX Alpha Gold Aluminium
  • FX Alloy fork
  • 27 speed

Bring your own saddle and/or pedals if you wish and we will fit them to the bike. (You must be able to remove them yourself at the end of your trip).

Fitted with: Rear rack; platform pedals, bottle cage, fenders (mudguards)

Equipment provided: Handlebar bag; map case; spare tube; puncture repair kit; lock; mini pump; multitool.

Available on request: Panniers, helmet, odomoter, gps unit

Ridgeback Panorama Touring Bike

  • Full shimano drive
  • Disc brakes
  • Full length mudguards
  • 27 Speed.

Bring your own saddle and/or pedals if you wish and we will fit them to the bike. (You must be able to remove them yourself at the end of your trip)

Fitted with: Rear rack; platform pedals, bottle cage, fenders (mudguards)

Equipment provided: Handlebar bag; map case; spare tube; puncture repair kit; lock; mini pump; multitool.

Available on request: Panniers, helmet, odomoter, gps unit

Fuji Sportif Road Bike

  • A2-SL double-butted alloy frame
  • Shimano Sora 2x9 components
  • Vittoria Zaffiro 700x30c tires

Bring your own saddle and/or pedals if you wish and we will fit them to the bike. (You must be able to remove them yourself at the end of your trip)

Fitted with: Platform pedals, bottle cage,

Equipment provided: map case; spare tube; puncture repair kit; lock; mini pump; multitool, frame bag

Available on request: Panniers, helmet, odomoter, gps unit

Fuji E-Traverse E-Bike

  • Suntour NEX disc fork
  • Bafang H400 rear hub motor
  • Bafang 5 mode LED display w/walk assist
  • Shimano Gearing

Bring your own saddle and/or pedals if you wish and we will fit them to the bike. (You must be able to remove them yourself at the end of your trip).

Fitted with: Rear rack; platform pedals, bottle cage, fenders (mudguards)

Equipment provided: Handlebar bag; map case; spare tube; puncture repair kit; lock; mini pump; multitool.

Available on request: Panniers, helmet, odomoter, gps unit

Next Steps

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