This cycle tour in the northwest corner of Ireland takes you through the magnificent regions of the Sperrins and Donegal. Cycling in the Sperrins is the perfect way to explore this most scenic and historic of regions. Forest parks criss-crossed with nature trails, abundant wildlife, forest lakes, shady glens, nature reserves, ancient ruins and leafy lanes are just a taste of what’s on offer. Designated an area of natural outstanding beauty, the small and quiet nature of the roads that thread their way through the heather clad hills are perfect for exploring by bicycle.
By contrast exploring by bicycle the rugged Donegal coast that has been shaped over thousands of years by the relentless action of the mighty Atlantic Ocean is a must. Its southern shoreline, etched with a multitude of beautiful bays and glorious sandy beaches is watched over by the foreboding beauty of the Blue Stack Mountains.
Majestic headlands, spectacular scenery and breathtaking natural beauty aptly describe Donegal and the Sperrins. Areas where the culture is interwoven in the fabric of their societies and where the visitor is guaranteed a warm welcome from a people blessed with a character that ensures you will always enjoy the craic.
Day 1 - Arrival Day
Arrive in Strabane and check into your accommodation. You will be met by an Irish Cycle Tours representative who will fit you out with your bicycles and provide you with your information pack. This contains your itinerary for the week with named accommodation, route notes, maps and general information of the area.
Day 2 – today you have a choice of two routes:
Strabane – Londonderry – Strabane Loop: today’s distance 35mls / 56km Today you are on the National Cycle Network for most of the route threading your way along small country roads to the city of Derry. Here you will have the opportunity to explore this historical city and if you wish a guide can be arranged to show you around many of the fascinating areas including the famous walls. On the return journey to Strabane we cross the Foyle River and again keep to small backroads.
The Sperrins Loop :today’s distance 42 mls / 67km This cycle route takes you through the scenic heartland of the Sperrins. Following a way marked cycle way you venture on quiet country roads that thread their way through the glens and valleys of this most picturesque of regions. The route allows you to explore the many visitor attraction and sites of interest along the way. The Ulster History Park just outside Gortin, the award winning Ulster American Folk Park and Stewart’s Castle in the village of Newtownstewart to name but a few. If you want to spend time at particular locations the route can be shortened at various points.
Day 3 - Strabane to Killeter : today’s distance 31mls / 50km
Today’s route takes you to Sion Mills a village rich in architectural heritage from churches, an old flax mill and one and two storey cottages that housed the mill workers. From here you cycle along quiet roads to the village of Ardstraw which is set amid beautiful countryside on the banks of the River Derg. Cycling on you pick up the National Cycle Network as you head for the busy market town of Castlederg. Traditionally this town was a traveller’s stop along the ancient pilgrimage route to Station Island on Lough Derg. The town boasts ancient ruins, monastic settlements and as the stories go has connections to Davy Crockett “King of the Wild Frontier” and Joe Sheridan the creator of Irish Coffee. Today’s cycle finishes just outside the village of Killeter also situated along the pilgrimage trail an area rich in Christian heritage. Just along the road from Killeter is the Magherakeel Historical Site with its holy well, lime kilm and ruins of an early settlement church.
From Killeter you have a choice of routes and overnight stops. You can either cycle from Killeter to Ballyshannon and overnight in Ballyshannon and the next day move on to Donegal town for another overnight or go directly to Donegal town for a two night stopover. On your day off you have the chance of resting or exploring the hinterland of Donegal town. The decision of what route to select can be made at the time of booking.
Day 4 - Killeter to Ballyshannon : today’s distance 33 mls / 53km
Today’s cycle continues on quiet roads passing close to the shores Lough Derg and the opportunity of visiting the Retreat Centre on Station Island. From here you come to the village of Pettigo and then on to Belleek a village made famous all over the world for its fine pottery. From Belleek it’s a lovely five-mile run along the shores of Assaroe Lake to Ballyshannon and your stopover for the evening.
Day 5 - Ballyshannon to Donegal Town / Barnesmore Gap : today’s distance 26mls / 41km
From Ballyshannon we quickly get on to small backroads close to the coast which has many excellent viewing points of Donegal’s rugged coastline and the Atlantic Ocean. Cycling on you come to Rossnowlagh, named The Heavenly Cove and is regarded as the most scenic and dramatic beaches in the entire northwest. If you have brought your swimming costume you might fancy a dip. Also at Rossnowlagh is a Franciscan Abbey where visitors are very welcome to walk in the beautiful laid out gardens or relax with a cup of tea in the tearoom. From here you cycle inland to Donegal town passing the villages of Ballintra, Bridgetown and Laghy. Donegal town has many attractions; from the Donegal Bay Waterbus, Donegal Castle, the ruins of an ancient Franciscan monastery founded in 1474 named Abbey of the Four Masters to the hand woven Donegal tweeds. The final section of today’s cycle takes you on the scenic route to Lough Eske and Barnesmore Gap with the magnificent Bluestack Mountains in the background.
Alternative route for days 4 and 5 - Killeter to Donegal Town / Barnesmore Gap : today’s distance 29 mls / 46km
Today’s cycle takes you directly to Donegal Town where you have a two-night stopover. The first few miles are on flat country roads followed by a gentle climb that offers wonderful views over the Donegal countryside. At the top the route continues on a small backroads with the highlight of cycling for ten miles over beautiful heather clad moorlands and forested areas. You very soon arrive in Donegal Town, which has many attractions. The Donegal Bay Waterbus, Donegal Castle, the ruins of an ancient Franciscan monastery founded in 1474 named Abbey of the Four Masters to the hand woven Donegal tweeds. The final section of today’s cycle takes you on the scenic route to Lough Eske and Barnesmore Gap with the magnificent Bluestack Mountains in the background.
Day 6 - Donegal town to Glenties : today’s distance 38 mls / 60km
Returning to Donegal town you head off on meandering backroads to the villages of Mountcharles and Inver before heading inland to the town of Ardara. From here you cycle to Naran and Portnoo a seaside village that has majestic views of the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful golden beaches. There is also an island of the beach, Inishkeel that can be reached at low tide. The views from Portnoo of the rugged headland are typical of a lot of the coastline in the northwest region of Donegal. Cycling on your next town is Glenties and your stopover for the evening.
Day 7 - Glenties to Strabane : today’s distance 37 mls / 59km
Your final day’s cycle heads you for Ballybofey on a picturesque road with open moorland and the awe-inspiring Bluestack Mountains in the background. From Ballybofey it is only a few miles back to Strabane and your final night’s accommodations.
The above cycle details are a guideline and all distances may vary according to your chosen route.
Easy Easy/Moderate Moderate