Cycling from Belfast to Lough Neagh
Making a return to Northern Ireland for just £5...
After our memorable 2014 cycle tour along the Causeway Cycle Route to Portrush following the Giro d’Italia with my fellow cycling weekend adventurer – Scott, I had been looking for an excuse to get back over to the province with my bike again as Northern Ireland is one of the best places to ride in the British Isles.
Amazingly, Stena Line pulled out one of the best travel deals of 2017 and was offering £5 each way sailings on their Liverpool to Belfast route for ALL departures! This was an incredible deal and one that had to be taken advantage of.
I emailed Scott a copy of my £10 return ticket and asked him to 'get involved'. We decided to ride to Lough Neagh which is the UK’s largest freshwater lake and spend time exploring the city of Belfast on our bikes.
After spending the past couple of months focusing on my house move, it felt great to be back where I belong - 'on tour'.
Cycling through Northern Irish history...
I have been to Belfast a couple of times before and have always found Irish history fascinating. After the long, hard years of the ‘Troubles’ and post-industrial decline, the city has reinvented itself as a tourism hub and one of the main draws is the ‘Black Taxi’ tours that go around parts of the city that were previously no-go areas for decades such as the Falls and Shankhill Roads.
This blog isn’t the place to be going into the politics of Ireland nor to offer an opinion, but I’ve always been interested in the significance of flags, political murals, the 'Peace Wall' and the cultural differences on both sides of the Unionist/Republican divide.
Following the Lagan and Lough Cycle Path...
After a short ride around Belfast city centre, we picked up the excellent 21-mile Lagan and Lough Cycle Way from Belfast City Centre to Lisburn. This is a flat and smooth cycle path that is ideal for all types of bikes alongside the River Lagan.
We arrived in Lisburn a couple of hours from leaving the ferry and had breakfast (apple pancakes and a double espresso) outside a very retro supermarket called ‘Green’s Food Fayre’ that harked back to the shop styles of the nineties.
Lisburn will be remembered for me as a place showing a stark and unexpected reminder of Northern Ireland’s past in the centre of the city. There is a large and controversial memorial statue dedicated to the soldiers that have served in the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) since 1970.
I would normally associate war memorials with the World Wars, but seeing a 19ft high soldier carrying a modern assault weapon was a bit surreal. If anything, this shows how recent the ‘Troubles’ were and how little I k