Dublin to Belfast & Even More Cycling Weekend Ideas!


Forgot to take my camera

After quite an intense training run in the Pentlands on Saturday, in preparation for the Hodgo this weekend, I whooshed over on the ferry and train to visit Ray. So speedy was the journey that I arrived in time for Sunday dinner (a delicious Mexican treat, thanks Breda!). After dinner, Ray and I headed into Dublin for a few jars. We arrived back at his flat in the small hours and continued resolving all the worlds problems. Then I had a very comfy sleep on an inflatable bed in the lounge.

I pedalled off on the bike in the morning, as Ray walked to work, with a steadily worsening headache. I followed the N1 to Swords, Balgriggan, Drogheda and Dundalk, along relatively uninspiring A-roads, with every lamppost bedecked with Yes or No posters for the upcoming referendum on Europe. Then I went in search of a ferry, cycling around some delightful hills south of Carlingford and beside Carlingford Lough. I didn't manage to find a ferry across the lough (and so missed out on the Mourne Mountains which looked great across the water). Instead I headed towards Newry and on the way found a windy picnic area where I put on all my clothes, cooked up some rice and veg, and once it got dark slithered into my sleeping bag and slept.

Newry turns out to be quite a big town and I managed to score a cooked breakfast in a greasy spoon and use up the last of my Euros (despite being back in Northern Ireland). Also it is the start of the Newry Canal Path, which in turn is part of the terrific NCN9 which I followed all the way to Belfast. In Belfast, a quick look at the time revealed I was not going to catch my ferry unless I sped up a bit. I achieved this (with a little help from NI Railways) and tucked in to a fish and chips supper on the ferry, washed down with a bottle of Grolsh and Charlies Angels in the video room.

Even More Cycling Weekend Ideas (especially good for encroaching winter)

1. Giant's Causeway
I was keen to visit Ray in Dublin, but from a cycling point of view I think riding out to the Giant's Causeway would make a better weekend trip. You could follow the coast on the way out and return via Randalstown, Lough Neagh and Belfast.

2. Loch Katerine
A beautiful spot ideal for a day trip (perhaps get the paddle steamer on the way out then cycle back) or a longer outing. Maybe a good trip could be to start in Callendar and follow NCN7 to Brig O'Turk, cycle around the loch and off past Stronachlachar and along Loch Arklet to Loch Lomond. Most bikes should be ok (tourers and MTBs but racers might struggle) to cycle along the West Highland Way up to Crainlarich. Then a section on the dreaded A82 (or you could attempt to use the dismantled railway) to rejoin the NCN7 at Glen Ogle and follow it back to Callendar. Previous Post.

3. Loch Lubnaig
If you fancy a short and sweet day trip, a nice section of NCN7 is alongside Loch Lubnaig between Callendar and Strathyre. Callendar is quite an easy place to spend time and money eating in cafes and browsing shops. Strathyre has a more streamlined set of amenities but at a push one of the pubs will knock you up a bowl of soup. Previous Post.

4. Aberfeldy and Loch Tay
This was a fun weekend tour. I headed up the A823 through Dunfermline, past Knockhill and then past Creiff and the pretty Sma Glen. There is a land rover track from Newton Bridge that looks a bit tasty (NN873318) that will land you up on the south side of Loch Tay. Also, I have it on a reliable authority (Nick) that the road up through Glen Quiach is offers great scenery, but involves quite a climb. I opted to continue along the A826 to Aberfeldy which was fairly dull. There are campsites, hostels, bunkhouses and B&Bs in Aberfeldy but if its the weekend of the Highland Games book in advance or you might end up at a stag-do.
The NCN7 can be followed along the south side of Loch Tay (a lovely bit of road) and then past Killin and back to the central belt via Callendar. If your heading back into Edinburgh either follow one or other of the Round-the-Forth routes (NCN76 they are south and north of the Forth) or get the train back from Stirling. Quite long days of cycling so you may prefer to string this out over three days. Previous Post.

5. Union Canal
Get the train to Glasgow and cycle home along the Union canal. This is manageable in a summers day but after autumn it would be worth having lights. We gave up at Linlithgow and got the train home when I did this last winter on a very miserable and wet day, dark and wet trumps cycling bliss for some. There are a few pubs, and the Falkirk Wheel, along the way to cheer you up. Another option would be to cycle out on NCN75 via Bathgate and Airdrie and stay the night with a friend in Glasgow or in a hostel.

Check out more cycling ideas here and here.

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