A hilly tour through County Down

May 2002
110 km

I moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland in July 2001 to start work in a computer company. The rest of that year was spent on a damaged leg. I thought Ireland was easy and my first tour was a pretty serious tour through the Mourne Mountains and the hills of County Down (see own tour). I was unprepared and suffered pretty heavy during that tour. I also learned the lesson and put myself through a pretty hard training regime. I was still not in good shape when I asked my friends in Belfast for advice of an easy, long tour. They told me to go for this tour. The weather forecast was good and I was keen to get on the bike again.

The tour started again with a kilometre of cycling from my home down to the main train station in Belfast where I boarded the inter-city train to Dublin. Almost a habit, this....
There was some rain in the air (the weather forecast was wrong), but I still jumped off the train at Newry and took the road down the hill to Newry town. This border town was severely hit by bombs and terror during The Troubles. I like Newry. It is a busy town with a sad past and hopefully a prosperous future.
I turned my attention to the flat road along the fjord called Carlingford Lough. The fifteen kilometres long road along this 100 meters narrow fjord took me to Warrenpoint. Halfway down the road, I stopped at the place of the notorious Warrenpoint Massacre where 18 soldiers lost their lives in 1979. Not that I want to declare any sympathy for either the catholic or the protestant side of the conflict........ but 18 lost lives is an atrocity by all moral standards. I have written more about this in my Belfast tour feature (see link to the left). This was a bit of a haunting place and it sent come chills down my spine.
I also found out that the batteries in my camera was dead. I also forgot to buy new batteries until I reached Newcastle and my brain kicked into gear again. Far too late ! But the memories from this tour will always remain and I will try to describe it as good as I can by words.

The road out the loch was dead flat and I eventually reached important Warrenpoint and it's port down at the sea. This town is for me associated with some horrific incidents during The Troubles and maybe that colours my views on this place. But Warrentpoint is a really beautiful place. The views towards the Mourne Mountains and the sea is brilliant. The same goes for the seafront.
The road followed the sea for some kilometres before it started to rise up to a plateau. The road then went through some forest and along some farmfields before it opened up with some superb views towards the coast. My body was not feeling right and I was struggling a lot on this pretty undulating road. I reached the small village Kilkeel down at the seafront. It was a nice village. I stopped for some water before I continued towards Newcastle. The views towards Mourne Mountains was also brilliant from this village and I took it in. I was still not feeling well on this pretty undulating road over this plateau in the shadows of the Mourne Mountains and my tempo was grinding to an almost standstill. It was also raining and I therefore decided to stop for a healthy lunch in Annalong. That almost one hour long break did me a lot of good and I felt pretty good on the road along the sea in to Newcastle. The road was pitched onto a vertical mountainside, dropping down from the Mourne Mountains. The views towards Newcastle was also encouraging and inspiring.
Newcastle is a nice seaside resort with some beaches and nice shops. I finally managed to get the batteries for the camera. The rain stopped and I was feeling pretty good. I was also eager to do some serious cycling. I got my speed up over the flat plains and along the sand-dunes outside Newcastle.

The Mourne Mountains from the coastal road north of Newcastle.

The views back towards the Mourne Mountains was brilliant. I soon passed the the world famous Royal County Down golf course on my way towards Downpatrick. I stopped there for some water before I continued towards Comber along the very scenic Strangford Lough. It is a pity I did not see much of it due to the road taking a more inland approach over some farmlands.

The road between Downpatrick and Comber, two kilometres outside Downpatrick.

I got some very bad experiences with the hills of County Down the month before during my crossing from Newcastle to Belfast (see the Mourne tour). I was therefore apprehensive, to say at least. I did not have to worry. The cycling was flat and pretty technical at places over some small hills. The climbs was OK and the cycling was top rate. The twenty kilometres past and through Killyleagh to Comber was over far too soon. This is without any doubts the best and easiest road between Newcastle and Belfast. I was feeling great.
From Comber, I took the road past Dundonald back to Belfast. The road was pretty much flat, but the traffic was heavy. I finally reached my flat after a very nice tour up the coast from Newry.

This is the best tour in the Mourne and County Down area. The cycling is not too difficult and hilly. It is also very technical between Newcastle and Belfast (in other words; fun !). I now understand why it is so popular among the cyclists in Belfast.

This is a superb tour.