Published: 8th DECEMBER 2015

Long distance rides in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

Explore beautiful scenery by bike with these long-distance rides in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. From ancient castles to stunning coastlines, you'll be in awe.

Rossnowlagh beach in Nothern Ireland along NCN

1. Belfast to Ballyshannon

Ireland's first coast to coast route begins in Whiteabbey following a largely traffic-free route to Lisburn.

Travel up to Belfast Lough, the birthplace of the Titanic, as you follow the River Lagan into the heart of the beautiful city itself.

Towpaths lead you onto Lisburn, where quiet roads take you to Oxford Island on the shores of Lough Neagh.

From here, the route travels along a traffic-free path along the Newry Canal and into the cathedral city of Armagh.

Leaving Armagh, travel to the market towns of Dungannon and Cookstown.

The route then passes over the remote Sperrin mountains and stone age alignments such as those at Beaghmore, then onto Omagh through quiet roads to Enniskillen and on towards Ballyshannon and the Atlantic Ocean.


2. Belfast to Newcastle

The Belfast to Newcastle Coastal Route links Belfast, Comber, Downpatrick and Newcastle.

On the way, you'll explore a variety of landscapes along quiet country roads, with some traffic-free sections.

The section between Belfast's Titanic Quarter development in particular is a beautiful greenway.

The route skirts Strangford Lough, an area of outstanding natural beauty in County Down, Northern Ireland.

The water is packed with interesting and unique wildlife to spot all year round, and the woodland and farmland are perfect for forgetting the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.


3. Kingfisher Trail

The Kingfisher Cycle Trail was the first long-distance cycle trail in Ireland.

It follows minor country roads through the border counties of Fermanagh, Leitrim, Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, travelling through countryside dotted with rivers and loughs (lakes).

The many attractions en route include the Lough Scur Dolmen, Castle Coole and the Marble Arch Caves.

The route is split into two major loops which meet on an east-west trajectory between Belcoo and Florence Court, Drumcard (south of Enniskillen).

The route is fairly flat with gently undulating hills, and follows beautiful quiet country roads which are well-suited to cycling.

It's named after the kingfisher due to its long associations with the lakes, fishing and the tranquility of the rural surrounds.

The Kingfisher Trail is suitable for all levels of cycling, from seasoned cyclists to family groups. The figure of eight alignment lends itself to either a long holiday or completing shorter loops.

4. Loughshore Trail

The Loughshore Trail consists mainly of quiet, virtually traffic-free minor roads and lanes.

Touching the lough shore on many occasions, you'll pass small beaches overlooking the vastness of water.

The route has many attractions, including the 1,000-year-old Celtic high cross at Ardboe, the grounds of Clotworthy House and the spectacular railway viaduct at Randalstown.

There's also an option to continue north from Toome to Portglenone to take in the smaller Lough Beg.

5. North West Trail

The North West Trail is a 78.5-mile cycle route through counties Donegal, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Leitrim, and Sligo in the North West of Ireland.

The route travels through a wide variety of scenic landscapes, following quiet country roads with some traffic-free sections in mostly urban areas.

You can enjoy dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean, with scenic cycling in remote uplands and rural villages passing through the main towns of Enniskillen, Sligo, Donegal, Lifford, Strabane and Omagh.


6. Strangford Lough Cycle Trail

The Strangford Lough Cycle Trail is a 100-mile circular route starting and finishing at Ards.

Mainly on-road with signs, the long-distance route features traffic-free sections in Newtownards, Downpatrick and Comber.

It's used by residents for commuting as well as leisure cyclists and visitors to the County Down area.

On the route, you'll pass by Delamont Country Park, Inch Abbey, Downpatrick St Patrick Centre, Exploris, Portaferry, Scrabo Tower, Newtownards, Castle Espie and Nendrum.

Along the way, you can enjoy stunning scenic views of Strangford Lough, the Irish Seacoast and the Mourne Mountains.

A mile-long section of path on the National Trust property at Strangford Avenue also allows walkers and cyclists to access the Castle Ward Estate. 


7. Mid-Ulster Cycle Route

This fantastic route takes you from Tynan to the shore of Lough Neagh, before veering west to Fermanagh and finishing at the border in Pettigo.

You'll pass through Dungannon en route, which has a fantastic 70-acre park centred around an idyllic still-water lake.

The route will also take you through Newtownstewart and the Sperrin Mountains.

Before finishing in Pettigo, you'll travel past Lough Derg.

The Lough covers 2,200 acres and is best known for St Patrick's Purgatory, an ancient site of pilgrimage on Station Island within the lake. 


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