Dromara, County Down to: Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland
Last of my favourite routes, though not the least! Challenging B roads with poor surfaces in places esp. nr. Slieve Croob Essential: * Ireland North Ordanance Survey Holiday Map 1:250,000 #1. (1 + 4 miles) (or better) Nice to have: **Mourne Country Outdoor Persuits Map 1:25,000 (2.5 = Mile) . Pillion or other biker(s) to argue about the route! Routefinding will be the problem until you've done this before, or unless you can get a reasonable map. -
Start off from Dromara village (* 328, 349) in County Down. To get there,from Belfast M1 West to Sprucefield, A1 South following Dublin signs until Dromore. At Dromore take the first exit left, down a hill to a petrol station and immediately left to go due East in the Ballynahinch direction. Continue down this road for roughly 4 miles until you come to some angled cross-roads, there is a grey-painted house at the junction, with a kind of green in front of it, railings and an old cottages on the right, and a stand of big old trees, the settlement is called Ballykeel on the map. Turn right for Dromara (South).
On a clear day you should see your first destination, the 523 meter hill, Slieve Croob. Carry on down this road,a wonderful pegscraper on the sharp righthand corner at the bottom (opposing traffic notwithstanding). Unless you enjoy your beef incredibly fresh, watch out for cows crossing in 1/2 mile. Ride through Dromara and straight out the other side (great Fish & Chips incidentally). (from the Ballynahinch direction, follow signs for Dromore and then Dromara. Turn left when you reach the T junction at the end, in Dromara.) Keep going. S-Bend over a humpback bridge is a signal to gas it for a few yards afterwards, followed by a sharp left, and sweepers that open up, toclose down again (left) as you come into the village of Minnis.
Easy , now turn first left over the obvious bridge by a telephone box well before you get to the church. This narrow road carries straight on, weaving a little as it passes some cottages, until heading straight up the side of Slieve Croob. It IS straight here, but I'll bet there's a sheep or goat with your name on it waiting for you to wear it alive or dead like a jumper here if you go totally radge . Further up, the road narrows and theres some challenging bends before you get to the car park for the footpath to Slieve Croob. If you need a break you can stop here, and on a good day have views all the way over Belfast with the Antrim hills in the far distance, and Lough Neah on your left. Loose asphalt demands care unless you enjoy picking your bike off the ground (he said knowingly). Further up the road you come to a T-junction, take the left, downhill.Pass a junction to your right and you come to a sharp 'S' with dodgy road surface.When the road straightens our head accross the moorland for the trees. Speed could cause you to leave the saddle or become mildly airborne. Sharp left bend under the trees. Carry on down the hill. Some way over the brow, with a line of trees on your left, slow down for a lefthander. You're taking an immediate right (past a newish house at the bottom of a slope) for the obvious gap in the hills on your right. The surface here is cack, andthe junction doubles back on itself and is steep.
Easy! Reversing this junction is nigh on impossible due to the surface and angle - a bike has been dropped here for that reason. This road is almost single track with a disconcerting strip of grass down the middle in parts. Gulp. Most of the surface is OK unless its covered in tractors, tourists from the nearby lodge, or cattle, though. Enjoy. Up anddown, quite a few narrow bends. Emerge grinning at the end of the road, a T-junction, over the other side of the hills, as the road broadens out noticably. Left, and down the hill, towards the Mournes on the far horizon. Keep going down hill and eventually over some crossroads - the road ahead seems to go straight through someone's farm! Follow the bends up the hill and through the woods. As you keep going up the hill you come to a junction with a steeper gradient to the right which is overhung with trees (is that like a hangover?). Again, someone has thoughtfully carpeted the centre line with grass, occasionally also with leaves and maybe some ice. Yum yum. This road eventually deposits you at a T-junction. Left, down the hill a few yards to another 'T', and then right down the hill. Horses use this stretch of road and may try and cut off your exit - watch for ka ka and novice riders who would love to dive onto your bike for a lift. Follow the road up to a T-junction. Right into Castlewellan. Up the hill and through the town. After much shops, a mini-roundabout is a signal to turn left, with a pub on your right and petrol station on your left. Out of the built-up area, the road is wide and mostly straight.This is the A50 to Newcastle.
Just over a mile, and you come to an obvious staggered junction with white line boxes, and a filter to turn right. Take the right turn to Bryansford ( **346 333) the B180, also signposted (I think) to Hilltown. Carry on up through Byansford and past Tollymore Forest Park with views between the trees of the Mournes on your left. Roadsigns moot the possibility of wildlife encounters, but not Volvos reversing from farms into your path. Ignore any such provocation. Keep going out of the trees, (past a turn to Kilcoo on your right) thence second on your left, maybe signposted Spelga / Kilkeel. Or maybe not. Take this lefthand turn and head for the heart of the Mournes.The map says this is the C132. Yeah, right. You're following the banks of the Shimna river into the mountains. Keep on past the pine trees before Fafanny Dam / reservoir (Ger-Granville!) under the shadow of Butter Mountain. (is this like the EEC Butter Mountain ? Hmm ?).
Crack throttle as necessary. Geddup that hill, avoiding Sunday motorists looking at scenery and trying to smear you into it.The road levels out, and starts to descend Crocknafeola Woods and ultimately Kilkeel to the South. But I've a better idea for you! And this is the real point of the trip. Turn right (B27) (towards Hilltown), almost back on yorrself, towards the woods and Spelga dam / reservoir. In good weather a van provides icecream, tea, coffee snacks ?.So if you're itchin' for a break best take it now. Bikers with custom bikes and horns glued to open-faced helments might like to stop off at the Slievenamuck woods by the Reservoir, for a quick pagan ritual or maybe sandwiches. Next is not for pussies, the inexperienced or severely myopic without rectifying opthalmic attention. Head down the Selga Pass. If you crash here, you will sculpt your own tombstone from the surrounding landscape before you stop. There are some severe changes of direction, and a steep S-Bend half way down , most bends suffering from an alarmingly tightening radius which can leave the unwary stranded in the wrong gutter. As the severtiy of the pass lessens, so the bends open up before on more tightening line on a lefthander. By the time you get to the bottom your eyes will be extruded on stalks out of your helmet like a couple of cartoon boiled eggs. Great. When you start leaving the hills with Hen Mountain on your left, I take itas a good opportunity to stop, and clean the old soiled leathers. Crackin' Grommet-cheese. Because its time to turn around and go back UP the pass. The extra weight over the driving wheel here means that one could if one were inclined (ha!ha!) lean off the bike for extra traction with much more impunity. Those with aforesaid Viking-Biking helmets will recognise the return journey as Valhalla. Now, Clive, you're just going to have to do this all over again....
When you get back to the T-junction act the top past Selga dam, you haveseveral choices. Turn right is commendable if you want to take a left after a 3.1/4 miles downhill run, singposted Silent Valley, and ultimately on to Newcastle. Returning (left) in the direction you have come (north) offers other tasty morsels. Run down past Fafanny Dam (no, I can't believe it either) past an obvious left turn brings you almost unexpectedly to a X-roads. Take the narrow road to your right under the foot of Slieve Meelmore, along the other side of the Shimna river this time. Some low-speed peg scrapers. Watch for armchair hikers in cars who will probably scowl at you. There are several public car parks on this road, and people do just pull out. Eventually come to a wild and narrow switchback over a bridge. At the T-junction turn right and back to Bryansford. When you get to Tollymore Forest Park, and Bryansford (avoiding aforesaid Volvo driver again), you can if you want turn right towards Newcastle. There's a Caf' on your left if you're with your well-behave girlfriend. If not you can huff and puff about the exhorbitant cost of entry into Tollymore Forest Park (on your right) for motorcyclists, the take advantage of dirt-cheap but basic cooking in the Caf' there. Bargain. As for the rest of it, well, Write to the Site and suggest a route home! Butyou may well be caught by the lure of the Dromara Hills from the other direction, and the prospect of those bends coming DOWN from Slieve Croob!!! Arooobah!
Welwyn Gdn City to: Harlow
As you leave Welwyn drop down on to the B1000 (via Panahanger golf course)and turn right at the bottom,then give it some,but beware of the small exit on left (village idiots) easy as you pass some cottages on right then settle in for the corkscrew, a left/right/left taken at about 85-90 (kph Mr plod honest)on the R1 its lovely and smooth good surface,beware of damp patches after rain.Then its a nice 1 1/2 miles between trees (watch for cars pulling out on right at works exit)respect the speed limits (almost).Come to the roundabout and turn right then at the next turn left,on to the main A414 head into Hertford and watch for the sneaky photographer set up in the pedestrian island just before the railway arch,straight over the round about and launch a minger off the crest under the arch,Wey hey ! then its through the towns dual carriage-way (nice when its quiet) follow the A414 out of town and up to the A10 cross over, all the way round (slippy when damp(BP garage)but nice Knee down in the dry)and take the last exit off(after A10 slip)wait until you pass the left turn for the rugby club and then give it some more,take the right at 130 and then set yourself up for the left at about 90ish,take a late apex to give yourself a good view around (met a Volvo doing a three pointer here ?)under the A10 and then steady until the roundabout.
From here you have a choice,I am not that keen on the straights,but comming off the roundabout on the A414 I usually go for it,to time myself until the foot bridge(best yet 163)just a quarter of a mile from the roundabout !!Then its back off,or on, depending on how you like it,until you get to the Harlow roundabout,where you can carry on til Sawbridgeworth,nice bends for 4/5 miles,or into doughnut city. Going back to the other choice you could have,you can take the second exit at the roundabout and head for Stansted Abbotts,watch the surface,some form of cobbles but as you leave the town Shell grip is laid down on a nice left and then a splendid right up hill and leaving it in third hoist another minger as you crest (at about 120 (R1s only).Follow this road through to the level crossing into Roydon(30 please)and then left for Harlow,or right for Epping grn(more on that the next time. Just a tip guys expect the worst,plan for it and ride safe
Hertford to: Welwyn Garden City
Well what can you say from the minute you get onto the A414 at the Dusty Miller (Harlow end) and crank it open for a dream 5 miles of fast sweeping duel all the way to the roundabout at Stansted Abbotts, you're in a heap of trouble! cos they have just stuck up x2 50 mph speed cameras within 300 yards of each other cos all the berks in cars kept hitting each other and killing themselves at the cross the road junction to Hunsdon. When you continue along the A414 to Hertford you will be amazed at the sheer exhilaration of a full open throttle just past the newish Lancaster Merc dealer, down the hill to the next roundabout, along the straight to the next, hop across and then a sweeping right and left to the next roundabout, across, under the bridge, across the next roundabout, quick acceleration to 40mph as pold will be filming you at the junction, carry on past them a two fingered wave will do and then thrash it to the next roundabout, hop across and then climb up through the gears to full thrash for 3 miles and then smile. If you managed this then your a genious as Hertford is full of little shits being dropped off by mothers and therefore you have no chance. But try a late or early one and you will ENJOY!
Redhill to: Box Hill, Reigate
So, here's the route - to be performed early on a Sunday morning. Get on the A23 going south. Go through Redhill and down on to Crawley. Go round the Crawley GP circuit (2 - starts at Gatwick, 150mph+ speed all the way now, until number 8). This turns into the M23, follow this and go back to the A23.
Hammer on down the A23 to the Haywards Heath exit, and turn right onto the A272 (towards Cowfold). Carry on until you get to the A24. When you get to the A24, head south (towards Worthing) until you get to the Washington Roundabout(A283). Turn right towards Storrington. At Storrington, you reach an Esso garage. At the Esso, turn left onto the B2139 towards Amberley and Houghton. This is a long country road, with three whoops fairly well spaced out. One of them you have to be careful on, but we never remember which one. I think it's the second, nasty right afterwards! Take it a bit easier down this road the first time, there's a couple of nasty surprises. At the end of the B2139, you've got Arundel Castle on your left (can't see it though). There's a tea caravan here, but it doesn't open until 9 in the morning - wait until Rykers. Turn right onto the A29 (heading north). A29 all the way to the A24, look out for the GATSO at Billingshurst. It's pointing the other way (at least it normally is), so do wheelies at high speed. A24 towards Dorking, watch out for loads of GATSOs (and hairdryers in the silly season), and on to Box Hill. Stop at Rykers for a Bacon roll and clean out your undies. To view a map of the route visit the homepage for the breakfast club - http://www.netkonect.co.uk/t/timbuktu/brkfst.htm
You will find mirth and merryment within.....
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