Ideal if you're going to the Bishopscourt races (and you should!) A20 Strangford Lough & Down Coast Circular, County Down Start this one anywhere, equal but different views if you reverse the route (almost prefer it.) Take the A20 south from Newtonards to Portaferry. Roads can be congested up to Greyabbey but open up along the Lough side (smell those sedentary depositis when the tide is out!). Some rolling hills towards Portaferry. Stop near the casellated ruin near Exploris which is up a slight hill from the (signposted) ferry if you like a visit the sealife museum there. Good caf1/ice cream dispensing. Take the ferry to Strangford (need some money but much cheaper for bikes). Even in the wet the open, chain-dragging ferry is reasonably safe with anti-slip paint. As the ferry jinks around you try and balance the ?bike. Bizzare or what ? Try this with some kind of overtall, top heavy trail bike with a full tank of fuel, but only if I1m watching please! Sorry. Get waived off the ferry, and take the first signposted turn left to Ardglass (A2), following the coastline South. As you emerge from Strangford you might see some seals basking in the shallows by a picnic / viewing spot. From here on the road is narrow and bendy but loadsafun. Pass via Ballyhornan to Ardglass. Great fish and chip shop (obvious). The B1 Downpatrick road on your right as you come in takes you to the Bishopscourt racetrack, home of the International Sunflower Trophy Races, close by. Excellent. This 3detour2 could be handy if the roads from Downpatrick are bunged. Through Ardglass keep going South to Killough, through Minerstown and past Tyrella Beach. There1s a pausing opportunity here too if you want axles buried in sand and to pay to park. Keep on the A2 and eventually over an old switchback railway bridge. Pass some weird winblasted stands of trees. Eventually you emerge on the main A24 Newcastle Belfast road. The possibilities are endless. North back to Belfast via Ballynahinch ? South to Newcastle and the Mournes ? The A25 to Downpatrick and the western shores of Strangford Lough through Killyleagh ? Or reverse the route ? Up to you but - enjoy.
If you're headed for the Northwest 2000 at Portrush this road's on your way from GB, particularly if you take the ferry across from Stranraer (Cairnrayan, nerby, actually sales into Larne). but if you're coming to Northern Ireland for any Roadraces, iuncluding the Sunflower, do this anyway - stay a little longer and you won't be disappointed with the roads! The route: the legendary A2 from Larne to Ballycastle via the Antrim Coast Road icluding the breathtaking scenic route over Torr Head from Cushenden. Smell the sea and seaweed! Best undertaken on a fine day wihtout a gale blowing in yer face! Head North from Larne,towards Glenarm. Watchout for suicidal Sunday drivers along the whole route! Narrow bridges in the cliffs best taken slowly. By Carlough hopefully the traffic thins out a bit - there aren't hugoe overtaking opportunities on this road but there are some good long straights if you're patient. Carry on North to Glenariff and then Cushendall, going inland slightly before turning East again to get to Cushenden. From here the roads amazinf up downs and switchbacks, but don't ride over the cliffs - the seas cold st this time of year. This is the full-on concentration bit, with no opportunities to go mad unless you're already certified - the surface is not quite up to it and a full-face Range Rover is waiting over the next brow to facilitate an unscheduled conference with sheep in ajoining fields. You can detour off the A2 if time and curiosity allow. Personally I like to press on (some very sudden bends as you cross Torr Head) through Ballycastle to pause at Ballintoy for very cheap food and cakes at the harbour - highly recommended but don't park your bike in the sea! And the route back. Well, the way you came, of course. If anything, its even more exciting coming back downhill. this was the first day's outing I had when I passed my test and bought a bike. I must've been totally barmy. But the views (if you get a chance!) on the way back more than make up for repeating the route. And then, you're just going to have to do it all over again, Clive....
This is THE great biking road for those of you returning from the North West 200 to the ferry at Larne. Although it has, I think been nominated in 1997, it is well worth reminding any UK riders of it. After the races, take the A2 for Bushmills, home of the famous whiskey, and then follow this road from Bushmills to Ballintoy, passing the world famous Giants Causeway on the way. Well worth a visit. The A2 leaves Ballintoy heading for Ballycastle and along the way you will see a sign for Torr Head. This is a coastal road, and while it affords great sea views, it is not really suitable for sports bikes as it is very narrow and steep in places. Probably better to stick with the main road, which crosses over some high ground before descending into the village of Cushendun. Over the mountain top you will see plenty of sheep grazing along the roadside, but worry not, they are well used to traffic and wont even turn their heads as you go zooming by! A good fast smooth road links Cushendun to the slightly larger Cushendal, and from here the best bit begins. Down along the coast with the mountains on your right and the Irish Sea on your left. Its smooth, fast and frantic. Through Glenariff, on to Carnlough, where you can grab some grub, and on through Glenarm and Ballygalley into Larne where the P&O ferry to Cairnryan awaits. For those of you taking the Stena ferry to Stranraer, it is probably best to take the A8 to Belfast. It is possible to carry on the A2 to Belfast, but it is quite built up, with lots of traffic and the possibility of speed traps. Probably better to take the A8 the 20 miles to Belfast, but keep a good eye out for police on this road, as it is the main route to Larne Harbour and the cops are on it regularily. Enjoy!
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