Bikepacking Northern Ireland: Ferries, mountains and Giant’s Causeway

Cycling YouTuber Katie Kookaburra headed over the Irish Sea to climb the mountains and explore the beautiful coastlines that Northern Ireland has to offer. Katie shares her experiences of her latest adventure with us in ‘bikepacking in Northern Ireland: ferries, mountains, and the Giants Causeway’.

The effort it took to take this shot…

Cycling YouTuber Katie Kookaburra has done a fair few kms this year on bikepacking adventures. Here she shares her latest jaunt which took her and four friends across the Irish Sea to experience what Northern Irleand has to offer.

There’s nothing I love more than travelling with my bike and riding new roads. But of course, with Covid-19 scuppering a lot of travel plans, I decided to venture a little closer to home.

I’ve ridden in Ireland and was blown away with its the scenery, climbs and downright gorgeous roads but I hadn’t ever been to Northern Ireland. So, I packed my Endurance SL up again (I had recently used this same set up to ride Manchester to Paris ) and headed to the ferry in Liverpool.

The most scenic £1 ferry in Northern Ireland.

The first part of the trip was pretty easy – a 65km ride west to Liverpool from Manchester. I and four friends jumped onto the ferry and headed to Belfast. It was an 8-hour journey and for £90 return was a pretty cheap way to travel with a bike. Although the crates the bikes were transported in looked like a contraption built in the 1950s. If I was to do it again I would definitely take some padding to protect my frame.

Belfast – Downpatrick 95km

After a nice kip in my sleeping bag underneath a table on the ship, we arrived in a grey and drizzly Belfast. After the long trips we had recently done (Manchester to London then on to do London to Paris the following day) this trip was going to be a steady one. No huge kms, no mega climbing days, just steady. This was made pretty obvious from the get-go as we spent a good three hours in Wetherspoons plotting our first days’ route.

We actually bumped into a lovely local chap named Paul who watched my YouTube videos. He noticed my Ribble bike while I was in a Tesco (getting my second breakfast). Paul gave us a cracking coastal route taking in Newtownards, Portaferry (where we caught a £1 ferry crossing) and headed to the beautiful Rossglass beach which was pretty much where we ended the first day.

T-shirt ride kind of day

The full route is here if you want more detail or want to ride the route yourself.

Downpatrick – Pomeroy 150km

We then decided to ride through the Mourne hills with a pretty spectacular mountain. It was a pretty steady climb to be fair. It was later in the day when we encountered the short and steep variety of climbs which were a lot less kind on the legs.

Welcome to Northern Irleand

Our route took us northwest through some stunning country lanes and a few gravel paths here and there. I should add that these weren’t planned but all add to the adventure, right? Although the ‘adventure’ wasn’t as much fun for my friend Greg as this was the start of a series of five punctures. This was down to using tyres a tad too worn though to be fair – not the gravelly terrain. There’s always one isn’t there that sees that canvas on the tyre and insists ‘there are at least a few thousand km left in these’. He’s ordered a new set now.

This was a steady 150km ride and all in dry and sunny conditions. It was such a perfect ride in stunning conditions. We all had the waterproofs packed. But we did eventually have to make use of them.

Stopping off for a little food break, we pulled out some leftover spuds we had cooked the night before. But as we went to take a bite they resembled more of a cricket ball than a soft jacket spud. It had come up in conversation earlier in the ride that I had a handy bowling arm at school.

It was at this point that the others challenged me to put it to the test – with the rock hard potato. So, we put our bikes down on a quiet side road and off we went into our little cricket session. Seems my memory of my bowling skills were as good as my jacket potato cooking skills. We must have been there messing around, bowling and batting (I say ‘batting’ it was a makeshift bat from a piece of wood we found at the side of the road) for a good half-hour. That’s what these types of trip are all about – having fun with your mates.

Mountains.

To Giant’s Causeway.

So after our potato cricket, we headed to the most famous landmark in Northern Ireland. And it was stunning. So stunning in fact we went there twice. We rode the 85km from Pomeroy up to Portrush and headed over just as the sun was setting. It was such a perfect evening we were expecting loads of people walking over the unique shaped rocks. But luckily there were only a handful of people there. It was definitely a highlight of the trip and I would recommend riding down to see it late at night or early in the morning. We got up at 4.30am the following day to go visit it again. This time we had it all to ourselves. Well, until a filming company came and turfed us off it.

The struggle is real… climbing on rocks in cleats.

The rest of the day we followed the eastern coastline taking in some epic short and sharp climbs. We also encountered a whole a flock of sheep running at us head-on, which reminded us just how much we were in the depths of the countryside.

Then the rain came. It lashed it down for a good three hours but strangely as we headed back to the start location of Belfast the rain made the ride that much more memorable. Looking out at the stunning coastline and riding through torrential rain just sticks in your head. Yes, we had soggy feet, sopping hair and were covered in dirt from the road, but it’s all an adventure.

This is the exact reason I love bikepacking – you get to see all of these amazing places in all weathers, making memories with your buddies. Knowing I rode from my front door to these stunning spots across in Northern Ireland (albeit with a little help from a ferry) just does it for me. It makes me want to do it all again. To ride more kms, to see more coastlines, and to climb more mountains. We are already planning the next one…


Click HERE to watch a video of the trip.


To look at the bike in more detail click HERE.

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