The Giant’s Causeway and many other famous sights of Northern Ireland will be on display in May this year when the Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia takes place in Belfast. Cycling in this part of the world is so spectacular that riders simply find the clothing required to take on the conditions, and then off they set. Here’s where they go…
Ride #1 – Ballymoney to Belfast
The Causeway Coast via the Game of Thrones and a Glen…Your start point is Ballymoney Station which has regular rail service from Belfast Central Station. From Ballymoney go north and you are quickly on the Giro route. In front of you spectacular views over the North Atlantic open out. As you hit the coast road, away to your left is the world famous Royal Portrush Golf Course. But you’re heading right, to the east, so put your clubs away. You’re a cyclist, not a golfer.
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Ride #2 – The Coleraine Loop
“The Bishop’s Road….some great riding.” If you have a spare day on Northern Ireland’s north coast then this ride comes highly recommended. As I sat in the bar of the Causeway Hotel I got talking to a couple celebrating their anniversary. When they knew the reason for my stay they started to tell me of all the great places to see that lie slightly off the Giro route. “Ah, you have to talk about the Bishop’s Road,” they insisted. “Now, that’s some great riding.” I’m always one to do as I’m told, so here you go: the Bishop’s Road.
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Ride #3 – Brendan’s Hilly One
Escape to the hills…It is easy to escape the hustle and bustle of Belfast. Within a matter of minutes you can leave urban life well and truly behind and get out into the rolling hills and spectacular countryside that surround the city. This routes takes you on a loop south, into the hills of County Down. After heading south-west from Belfast’s House of Sport, passing the Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, famous for its rose garden, you’ve quickly left the noise of Belfast’s traffic behind.
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Ride #4 – Brendan’s Flatter One
To Finn McCool’s piece of handiwork…I asked Brendan for a flat route out and back from the city and this is it. Glance at the profile and it looks like a New York skyline. Not exactly flat. But then there is little terrain around Belfast that is. This is about as level as you can get. You head west out of Belfast towards the city of Lisburn on the river Laggan. It’s busy here, you’re on main roads and the cars hurtle by so care is needed. In the suburb of Dunmurry you’ll pass the old factory of the Delorean, the car made famous in Back to the Future (not that there is much left of the factory now) before eventually finding smaller roads where the traffic quietens down.
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A quick glance at his collection of images from a recent visit is enough to spell out something obvious: this looks like a great place to visit.
Here is a small gallery of photos from the weekend from locations we’ll tell you more about in the next issue, due out in the first week of March.
Click the photo of nature’s pavé, the Giant’s Causeway (below) for a quick slideshow.