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!
Southampton to: Newbury and Back
Approx 110 Miles. Some good coutry A Road twisties, steep hills and some good fast stuff. From Millbrook Roundabout, Southampton, take the M271 (worst road in Britain?) it's typical ripply concrete but its fast and fairly straight so makes a good warm up, but thankfully its short, it crosses the M27 at a large traffic light controlled r/about, at the end of the second bit bear left onto the A27. A nice stretch into Romsey, (can get busy). At Romsey head onto the A3057, a good twisty road but with a couple of 30 mph villages but good scenery and some great bends, (surface is OK).
Through Stockbridge and on towards Andover, again some villages but good fun and some fast sweepers. At Andover go through the ring road and out onto the A343 through some nice Urban national speedlimit dual cariageway. (HIGHWAY CODE ANYONE?) Good fast road, twisty and some very steep hills, eventually after Highclere you hit the infamous Newbury bypass section of the A34 head north 1 junction, its all u need (or want) anyway its the best bit of the new road, fast and steep/twisty (mind the wobble boxes). Join the A4, towards Hungerford, this is the old London to Bristol Road and it shows, its usually very quiet (M4 is much faster direct). The great thing about this section is the width, its genuinely 3 proper lanes wide, but as a single carriageway A road its just sweet for bikes you just ride the middle lane if theres anyone to overtake. Super Fast.
At Hungerford take the A338 towards Salisbury, its pretty twisty to start with but speeds up when u hit the upgraded section at Burbage. Mind the speed cameras in some of the 40 mph villages but its mostly well signed, seen plod here too. Loads of sweepers and good elevation changes for Hampshire.
At the A303 go under and at the r/about turn left then first right (B3084) towards Grately 30 mph village, at the railway station bear left signed Romsey Avoiding Low bridge, unclassified road but fast if unsighted, TT stylee, shortcut to A343 at Middle Wallop, at A343 turn right then quickly left (historic signs for Danebury Hillfort) this is A SUPERB STRETCH of road, 2 esses, both faster than u think, so so so fast along here and very good viz, very quiet, but at the end BEWARE, a very dirty farm both sides of the road, followed by a sharp off camber right/left and then a sharp stop at at give way (nice one this) give way sign, 75 Metres ! steep down hill stop at a very fast, dual carriageway, downhill bend on the A30, cheers Highways agency! take it easy here. Turn left, steep downhill, pootle through Stockbridge, plod, CHOICE here:
1= straight over up the stockbridge downs (B3049) to Winchester (traffic in the city centre) back to Southampton on the M3 throught the new by pass (Twyford down) which is a fun stretch when its not rammed, includes the tightest angle of bend allowed on a motorway. (alledgedly). or
2 =Turn right retrace your route on the A3057 to Romsey & Southampton. Just out of Stockbridge is a sweet bend on a hill combo, after Kings Somborne u WILL get stuck behind a slow car/van/bus I always do and you can't see anything due to the twisties and hedges, but if you wait there is a mile long straight when you drop out of the hill at Lower Brook, the record so far is 11 cars despatched along here . Easy though cos theres a long left sweeper at the end into a 40 with a pub on one side with cagers pulling in and out. Our local run this is and I've seen rideouts leaving from the Texaco station at Hungerford on a Sunday all the way through to Romsey, nice one lads, safe and tidy from what I saw. Enjoy and respect the villagers.
Denbigh to: Cerrigydrudion
For the best mix of biking roads, incredible scenery and cack your pants laughs you really can't beat North Wales. Just go anywhere, and if your making the trip aim for Betws-y-Coed town centre and stop off at Dill's Diner to meet a like minded crowd. This road is not the fastest, but is almost guaranteed to be quiet even on bank holiday weekends and Sundays. It cuts across Denbigh Moor, past the Clocaenog forest and comes out on the A5 (which is ferkin amazing start to finish). The B4501 has some great bends, some well scary drops with sharp corners appearing from nowhere and, for the most part, excellent visibility. When you reach the A5, turn right towards Betws-y-Coed for a few miles until you see the left turn to Ysbyty Ifan. This is a lane for about 3-4 miles which goes through a small village then goes for 13 miles over more Moor's. You will find half a dozen points to get airborne on this road - it is spot on. You will come out near Trawsfynydd - if you go straight through and up the hill past the Slate Mine you will go over the Crimea Pass - another heart stopper. Yes, I binned my brand new CBR600 up here after only 2 weeks! This road brings you nicely into Betws-y-Coed, and you can head out in any direction for a good crack. The best thing about these roads(not the A5) is the lack of the boys in blue, so get out here and do it!!
Banbury to: Stratford on Avon
This road has a good mix of long straights, twisty bits and several drops and climbs. Not a great surface but that just adds to the excitment - about 28 miles in all and passed through some nice villages with decent pubs. From Banbury follow the signs for Stratford and beware of a couple of Gatsos until u get out of the town. 3-4 miles out of Banbury is Wroxton - keep you speed down (30mph) and stop for a pint or grub (there's a couple of places on the main road and a nice traditional pub in the village centre).Heading towards Edge Hill the road is good for 100+ but as you approach EH itself there are a couple of sharp twisty bends that can catch you out. Watch out for Volvos and Sunday drivers especially in summer. Going down Edge Hill fast is a challenge (hairpin) and if u do wring it's neck watch out for cars crossing over as you come out of the dip at the bottom. Great view over the countryside as u descend by the way.
Futher on towards Pillerton Priors it's twisty and fast. Just before u get there u can do a left on to the Fosse Way and head for Cirencester but that's another story. Cross the A429 (roundabout) and blast through more twisties followed by some sweepers with good overtaking opportunities. As you come into Stratford beware of plod and tourists. Head for the river and on Sunday you'll find a shed load of other bikers have a fag and a choc-ice. Stratford itself is full of the usual tourist tat so it's good to make loads of noise and generally play. There are tons of other good routes around the area and if you want to meet loads of other bikers on a Wednesday night head for the Watermans Arms on the A4177 at Hatton near Warwick (about 10 miles). Enjoy...
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