Published: 8th DECEMBER 2015

Long distance rides in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

What better way to explore the beautiful scenery of Northern Ireland than by bike. From ancient castles to stunning coastline you'll be in awe.

Rossnowlagh beach in Nothern Ireland along NCN

1. Ballyshannon to Ballycastle

Starting in Ireland at the Atlantic coast, this route heads inland from Ballyshannon, over the border towards Lough Erne. Crisscrossing the border on quiet roads to Pettigo, then a choice of routes: north to Newtonstewart; south via Omagh and Enniskillen.

Up to Derry, with superb views of the River Foyle and riverside traffic-free routes in and out of the city. Discover fine north coast beaches near to Castlerock, then onto Coleraine, Portrush and Ballycastle. Points of interest include Enniskillen Castle, Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Irish Whisky Distillery.

2. Belfast to Ballyshannon

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

From Armagh, you 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.

3. Kingfisher Trail

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

Split into two major loops which meet on an east-west trajectory between Belcoo and Florence Court, Drumcard (south of Enniskillen) and named after the kingfisher due to its long associations with the lakes, fishing and the tranquillity of the particular rural surrounds, the route's setting using beautiful quiet country roads is well suited to cycling and the route is fairly flat with some gently undulating hills.

It is suitable for all levels of cycling from seasoned cyclists to family groups. The 'figure of 8' 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 with short stretches of traffic-free. Touching the lough shore on many occasions, cyclists 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 is an option to continue north from Toome to Portglenone to take in the smaller Lough Beg.

5. The Sperrins Region

The Sperrins Region is an area of outstanding natural beauty, which is located in the west of Northern Ireland. It stretches from the Donegal border in the west to Lough Neagh in the east and the Atlantic shores in the north.

 The natural asset of the mountain range mixed with the unspoilt landscape of winding rivers, sun swept valleys, natural forests and scenic lakes all translate into a region recognised as one of the most idyllic geographical areas of rural Ireland.

Discover this unique landscape, rich in natural and archaeological heritage as well as folklore as you cycle.

6. The North West Trail

The North West Trail is a 326km circular 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, utilising quiet country roads with some traffic-free sections in mostly urban areas.

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

7. Strangford Lough Cycle Trail

Route 99 is a 100-mile circular route from Ards to Ards. Designed to be used in sections by residents and to attract leisure cyclists and visitors to the County Down area, the long-distance on-road signed route features traffic-free sections in Newtownards, Downpatrick and Comber.

The route passes by Delamont Country Park, Inch Abbey, Downpatrick St Patrick Centre, Exploris, Portaferry, Scrabo Tower, Newtownards, Castle Espie and Nendrum with stunning scenic views of Strangford Lough, the Irish Seacoast and the Mourne Mountains en route. A 1.5km section of an existing path on the National Trust property at Strangford Avenue was upgraded to allow walkers and cyclists to access the Castle Ward Estate. 

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