Get Out More Cycling!
Despite the gradual changing of the weather and the onset of darker evenings, the importance of getting out and moving only grows. We’re here to provide the cyclists amongst you (or anyone interested in trying out cycling!) with a few options for where to take the bike.
A route filled with scenic highlights that are easy to miss in the area, the Omagh Riverside Path to Gortnagarn takes in favourite local spots like Lover’s Retreat, cycling along the Camowen River and gradually working your way into the lower foothills of the Sperrins, with some off road sections and then longer on road bits.
At 5.5 miles, you’ll ease your way through most of the cycle before eventually starting to climb as you leave Omagh. When you approach Gortnagarn you have the option of a great local restaurant (check opening hours) or a short detour to the Ulster American Folk Park which is nearby. For the more adventurous cyclists, you can continue to follow the main Gortin road towards Gortin Glen Forest Park.
The Glenullin Valley may not be one of the best-known scenery points in Northern Ireland but that only cements its role as a hidden gem. This looped route is one for more experienced riders given its substantial 16.9 mile length and one or two more technical challenges. That said, the payoff is substantial right from the start.
Garvagh Forest is one of the most popular in the area and from there the route (which is completely waymarked as Route 11) takes you past the Errigal Old Church and souterrain, as well as Errigal Glen. You’ll also get to enjoy the breath-taking scenery of the Glenullin. One particular highlight is the Legavannon Pot – a glacial meltwater feature which is the result of the last Ice Age.
Starting inland at the ECOS Millennium Environmental Centre – somewhere to have fun exploring the natural world and discover how we use it before you begin your cycle – this 17 mile route leaves Ballymena and passes through Broughshane and Buckna before descending towards the Irish Sea via Glenarm, one of the nine Glens of Antrim.
It is this descent that is oft quoted as a favourite amongst cyclists, as the climb of the previous miles pays off in epic views of the coast racing towards you, all whilst under the watchful gaze of Slemish.
The Derrytransa Loop is a fantastic way to experience the UK an Ireland’s largest lake, beginning at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre. The landscape takes in lakelands, the urban area of Craigavon, parkland and grassland, giving a thorough feel for the area and this distinctive part of Northern Ireland’s environmental makeup.
You’ll also pass the Oxford Island Nature Reserve whilst cycling along the Lough’s shoreline. The designation of ‘National Nature Reserve’ is an important one, reflective of the diversity and local importance of habitats such as reed beds, open water, wildlife ponds, forests and wildflower meadows – all of which you’ll find on your route.
Crom is an oasis of calm set amidst the stunning backdrop of the National Trust Estate. At only 4 miles this route is ideal for children as well as adults and bike hire is available from the estate. Cycling around the Estate provides the opportunity to spend more time taking in the sights. Animal lovers can expect to see red squirrels, as well as during this autumn period, hundreds of varieties of migrant birds. Please note there is a charge to use the trails on a National Trust site, unless you already have membership.
Co. Down is famous for the epic Mourne mountain ranges and vibrant mountain bike scene, but we thought we’d finish with our shorter route at Castle Ward, located just north of Strangford. Similar to Crom, Castle Ward is a National Trust site and therefore you can expect the stunning scenery synonymous with similar locations around Northern Ireland.
The Shore Trail is one of many in Castle Ward, and is considered a multi-use trail and has a smooth consistent surface with no physical barriers meaning it should be suitable for many people with physical disabilities.
The 1.4 mile route is linear and follows the farm yard to Audley’s Quay, which you then return from.