Discover NI offers the ultimate Northern Ireland hiking and cycling routes for 2022
The best type of exercise is one you enjoy and thanks to Northern Ireland’s spectacular scenery, getting active in 2022 has never looked better.
From nature reserves and mountain peaks to coniferous forests and ancient shores, there are a range of epic routes and trails to enjoy some invigorating exercise along.
Discover NI has compiled a list of routes to help you cycle and walk your way to your New Year’s resolutions.
Murlough National Nature Reserve, Newcastle, Co Down
At the edge of Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains, the Murlough National Nature Reserve is a fragile 6,000 year-old sand dune system, owned by the National Trust.
The Murlough Nature Reserve North Point trail (3 miles) is a circular walk that takes you through the reserve’s full range of scenery and habitats, with the majestic Mourne Mountains as a beautiful backdrop. The walk provides opportunity to see a wide variety of wildlife, including the 22 butterfly species that live within the reserve.
If you’re looking for a slightly shorter walk, there are two points (4 and 9) where you can easily cut back to the start.
Sperrin Mountains, County Tyrone
The Sperrin Mountains, taken from the old Irish word ‘speirín’ meaning ‘little pinnacle’, are an area of unspoilt natural beauty and one of the largest upland areas in Northern Ireland.
Whether you’re into exhilarating mountain walks or gentle strolls, the Sperrins has all of your tastes covered. There are a range of long walks to try like Robbers Table (8.1 miles), an excellent off-road hill walk opening up views of the Bluestack and High Sperrin Mountain ranges. On a clear day, expect views for miles. Along the way, there are picnic tables to take a well-earned rest at.
Alternatively, try a shorter walk like Lough Fea (2.6 miles). Set against a backdrop of wild scenic mountains, this idyllic lakeside trail provides a mix of calming waters and panoramic views.
Along the Davagh Forest mountain bike trails in the heart of the Sperrins, you can follow gentle trails with the family or as a beginner or descend faster trails if you’re a more experienced rider.
Castle Archdale Forest, Co Fermanagh
Castle Archdale Forest is a 520 hectare mixed broadleaved and coniferous lowland forest located on the eastern shores of Lower Lough Erne. The forest is a richly varied one in terms of views and features ruined castles, WWII docks & buildings, ancient woodland and views over Lower Lough Erne to White Island, Davy`s Island and more.
The Woodland Riverside Walk (0.5 miles) is a red waymarked circular which meanders along the course of a woodland river.
Alternatively, hop on your bike, starting from the marina in Castle Archdale Country Park, then follow the arrows through the secluded forest for a gentle 6 mile ride. The Old Castle is roughly halfway and a unique spot to grab yourself a quick breather. The return leg hugs the shore of Lower Lough Erne where you get panoramic views across to Davy’s Island and White Island.
Gosford Forest Park, Co Armagh
Located beside the town of Markethill, Gosford Forest Park has 240 hectares of diverse woodland and open parkland to explore by foot or bike.
The Gosford Family Cycle Trail (4 miles) is ideal for cyclists with basic off-road skills and combines forest roads with sections of single track. The trail directs you through an archway at the old gatehouses before heading towards the arboretum.
Once out of the arboretum, cross Castle Avenue which leads to the privately owned Gosford Castle. On the final leg of the journey, the deer park and rare breed enclosures add some interest to your cycle, before arriving back at the car park for a well-earned rest.
Garvagh Forest, County Derry
Covering 200 hectares, Garvagh forest is situated on the Western outskirts of Garvagh, with ancient trees, wildlife and an actual pyramid, created as a burial chamber for Lord Garvagh but never used.
Whether you’re out for a leisurely cycle with the whole family or are a more experienced rider that craves adventure, all routes promise captivating sights at every twist and turn. The Green Multi-use Trail (0.8 miles) is a circular route, which is close to the car park, catering for family cyclists and less experienced riders.
If you’re looking for a longer cycle, the Blue Trail (1.7 miles) is a network of trails, catering for beginners and intermediate mountain bikers. Or if you’re more experienced, check out the Red Trail (2.9 miles), which uses the start of the blue trail before peeling off to complete a loop which circumnavigates the northwestern end of the forest, followed by a southern return loop back to the trail head.
Glens of Antrim, Co Antrim
For those looking for a challenge, the Causeway Coast & Glens area is popular for its spectacular scenery, quiet trails, demanding climbs and exhilarating descents. The route (46 miles) begins at Ballycastle with the roads rising into steep glen country before becoming gentler once the top of the Antrim plateau is reached.
Cycling east from Ballycastle into Ballypatrick Forest is a relatively challenging ride but the roads are quiet and the scenery marvellously forested. Look out for the Vanishing Lake which is signposted and close by the roadside. The descent into Cushendun provides miles of downhill freewheeling – check your brakes before travelling.
The twin villages of Cushendun and Cushendall nestle into the hilly coastline and provide good provisioning stops before you climb back into the heart of the Antrim Glens from Cushendall to Armoy. Look out for fairy mounds and hills – ancient neolithic burial grounds, sometimes topped with a perfectly round copse of trees.
Discover Northern Ireland has a range of experiences that will allow you to truly Embrace our Giant Spirit and make memories. For more inspiration visit: www.discovernorthernireland.com
Always follow current COVID-19 travel advice and guidelines before planning and while visiting. Visit www.nidirect.gov.uk and check that the provider has been accredited with the “We’re Good to Go” industry standard.
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