The Kingdom of Down in the North East of Ireland has a vast network of quiet minor roads which allows for a wide variety of scenic cycling routes. Outdoor Ireland North provides guided cycle tours from easy to moderate routes along the coast of Strangford Lough to the more challenging cycling tour of the High Mourne Mountain Circuit.
Cycling is an ideal way of exploring the historical heritage of Northern Ireland as well as enjoying the scenery on offer. The Kingdom of Mourne is in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
For group bookings all cycling tours can be tailor made to suit fitness levels and interests of the participants. Contact Loretto if you are interested in a customised programme.
The bike rides outlined below are a few examples of routes .
Sea and Seals
Ardilea Bridge – Tyrella – Minerstown – St John’s Point – Killough – Ardilea Bridge
Binoculars are useful for this journey that takes you along the coast south of Downpatrick returning via upland countryside providing plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife. Look out for the seals at Minerstown. Great views of the distant Mourne Mountains from the beach at Rosbeg. Visit the lighthouse at St John’s point.
Grade: Moderate: Distance 40km
St Patrick’s Country
Quoile – Saul – Slieve Patrick – Audley’s Castle – Strangford – Lough Money – Quoile
Starting from the nature reserve at Quoile the ride goes through Saul to Slieve Patrick, where it is said St Patrick first preached. Audley’s Castle is a 15th century tower with lovely views across Strangford Lough an important wildlife sanctuary. We linger for awhile in Strangford town before returning to Quoile via the attractive Lough Money.
Grade: Easy to Moderate: Distance 30km
Slieve Croob and Mourne Views
Castlewellan – Slieve Croob – Legananny Dolmen – Castlewellan
Starting from the market town of Castlewellan the route heads northwards climbing slowly towards the Slieve Croob hills. From the pass the view of the Mourne Mountains is magnificent and well worth the climb.
We visit the Legananny Dolmen on our return journey to Castlewellan. This is a fine example of a Portal Tomb from the neolithic period.
Grade: Hard: Distance 40km
High Mourne Circuit
Newcastle – Trassey – Spelga Dam – Silent Valley – Rourke’s Park – Annalong
A classic route for fit cyclists. The start of the ride involves a steady climb out of Newcastle. At Meelmore Lodge (Trassey) there is opportunity to stop for refreshments before tackling the mountain pass. Views along the way of Spelga Dam ringed with mountains help to distract from the effort required to reach the highest point. An exhilarating freewheeling downhill section follows with views ahead of the South Mourne coastline. Turning eastward we pass the Silent Valley and Rourke’s Park before finishing in Annalong, a former fishing port.
Grade: Hard : Distance 34km
Spelga resevoir – Foffanny – Tollymore – Lough Island Reavy – Newcastle
Starting high up in the Mourne Mountain Range this ride has plenty of downhill sections and a great ride for variety in scenery. The route takes you along small rural roads visiting one of the former great estates of the area.
Grade Easy – Moderate
Photo source: discoverireland.ie
Originally produced for outdoorirelandnorth.co.uk