A20 Strangford Lough, Co. Down to: Bishopscourt / Sunflower races ?
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.
Hockliffe to: Luton
Start this ride at Wheels International in Hockliffe, north of Dunstable. It's a mix of scenery and great scratching. Turn right out of the bike shop and right again at the lights for a nice fast windy road to Woburn. Once there turn right into woburn Park and stick to the limit through the grounds (watch for cattle grids). Come out the other end into some great twisty country lane with excellent visibility (possibly some deer/horses on this stretch). You will come to a fork in the road after a couple of miles, Take the right fork to Tingrith (You can go left if you want some suicidal tight hilly bends, This will take you to Flitwick but you wont want to stay there for long :-) Once in Tingrith keep bearing right until you come under the M1 to the A6120 Go straight across this rd and keep bearing left towards Sharpenhoe. Eventually you will reach the A6 which is as fast as you want South towards Luton. The whole journey has virtually no traffic or gatzo's and the roads are old but great through a mix of fields and woodland. I've done this route in the wet and dry with no problems. Turn back to Hockliffe and you can have a hot choccy or coffe and a fag in the bike shop while deciding on your next dream machine Or turn off the A6 into Barton le-clay and take the astounding Hexton road to Hitchin which has been beautifully re-surfaced just for your pleasure.
Mablethorpe to: Cleethorpes & back
Not very long but nice & twisty through a couple of villages,not many cars & no speed traps, (at least not on last trip). When you arrive in Cleethorpes find the A46 out towards Lincoln, you will come accross the A18, turn left towards Louth (another nice road) this will eventually bring you out on the A16 at Ludborough, turn right towards Louth and go round the by-pass and either take the A16 down towards Skegness for fast sweeping bends or go straight on round the by-pass and take the A157 back towards Maltby Le Marsh & Mablethorpe for another tight & twisty road.
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!
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