Throughout 2020, we’ve brought you the TomTom Amazing Britain series, a collection of stunning rides from across the UK and Ireland that celebrate the very best our shores have to offer.
Each carefully crafted route sought to show you the best roads and most dramatic landscapes in the region’s they passed through, as well as identifying a selection of fascinating, quirky, awe-inspiring, and sometimes downright ridiculous places to stop and explore along the way.
The aim was to provide you with a series of routes that offered as much excitement out of the saddle as they did in it, and we’re pretty proud of the job we did.
However, part of this series, we also asked you to get involved, calling on ABR readers to submit your own routes showcasing the Amazing Britain that you know and love. We received some cracking entries and it was a hard task choosing a winner.
But the crown had to go to someone, and adventure biker Paul Browne certainly earned it with his brilliant two-day motorcycle route around Northern Ireland. It provides a fantastic mix of superb roads, stunning scenery, and interesting places to see along the way. Paul has won himself a new TomTom Rider 550. So, without further ado, let’s check out his route.
Titanic Quarter, Belfast
We begin in Belfast, a city bursting with art, culture, nightlife, and history, making it the perfect place to spend an evening before hitting the road next day. Handily, the city is also served by a ferry port, with regular services running to and from Scotland and England if you’re travelling from either country.
The ride itself begins in the Titanic Quarter. Named after one of the city’s most famous exports, it is now the site of a large-scale waterfront regeneration project and is most notably home to the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction which celebrates the city’s boat-building history.
Gobbins Cliff Path
Leaving Belfast behind, we head north while keeping the waves of the Irish sea on our right as we head towards the Gobbins Cliff Path, which is advertised locally as the most dramatic walk in Europe. It’s hard to disagree.
At times, it is fixed directly to the face of the Gobbins Cliffs, hanging above the choppy waters below. It crosses bridges, windows in the rock, and even dips below sea level through a tunnel.
The walk itself takes around three hours, but if you don’t have the time to spare, I’d recommend taking at least a few minutes to enjoy the ocean views before getting back on your bike.
Antrim Coast Road
On our way to the next stop we’ll take the A2, also known as the Antrim Coast Road. This marvel of engineering scythes its way through bare rocky headlands and sweeps its way along the coast providing panoramic views that will have you pulling over for countless photo stops.
Originally the site of a fort which housed local clan warriors, the views from Torr Head are so far-reaching that, during medieval times, the viewpoint was used to signal Scottish clans across the Irish Sea.
More recently, Torr Head has been used to direct shipping and is also popular with tourists looking soak up incredible views. Happily for us on two wheels, the road leading up to the viewpoint is a great ride.
Game of Thrones locations
Dark Hedges near Stranocum
Fans of the hit US TV series Game of Thrones may already know that the north coast of Northern Ireland was used as the setting for many of the show’s most iconic scenes. Popular sites include Ballintoy Harbour, the vast Portstewart Strand beach, and the eerie Dark Hedges near Stranocum.
However, even if you’re not a fan of Game of Thrones, it’s certainly worth checking out some of the sites from the show because its location scouts did a fantastic job in hunting down some of the most alluring and atmospheric sights in this part of Northern Ireland.
Moving on, Paul’s route takes us to the Giant’s Causeway. This magnificent natural phenomenon was created as a result of a volcanic eruption more than 40,000 years ago which formed over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. The results is a breathtaking natural wonder which attracts thousands of people from around the world each year.
With photos snapped, we jump back on the bikes and continue along the coast in the direction of a famous location in the world of motorcycle racing.
Portrush/Portstewart and the NW200 circuit
Stopping off at the small towns of Portrush and Portstewart, we have the opportunity to ride sections of the famous NW200 street racing circuit as we head west.
The triangular nine-mile street course between Portrush, Coleraine, and Portstewart, hosts an annual racing event that attracts up to 200,000 spectators each May. While we take the route at a more sedate pace than the leather-clad racers, who can hit speeds of 200mph, there’s no denying the thrill of riding the NW200.
As we reach the end of our first day on the road, we arrive at Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second largest city, which also serves as our stopping place for the night.
Of particular interest are the city’s 17th century walls which make Londonderry the only intact walled city in Ireland. Historically Londonderry has never been breached, despite being laid siege to three times, giving it the nickname The Maiden City.
I’d recommend heading over to the harbour and enjoying a beer or two, you’ve earned it.
Lough Navar forest
The following morning we head south, looping around the south-west tip of the vast Lough Erne before riding on a scenic seven-mile forest drive through Lough Navar Forest.
Covering ten square miles of coniferous forest, native woodland, and open water, the forest is a stunning natural feature that captures the mystical nature of the Irish countryside.
Keep an eye out for viewpoints along the way, which provide staggering views of Lough Erne and the surrounding scenery.
Moving back to the shores of the vast Lough Erne, we follow the A46 in the direction of Enniskillen town for a spot of lunch and a cup of something warm and caffeinated.
Before swinging your leg back over the saddle of your motorcycle, be sure to check out Enniskillen Castle. Originally built in the 16th century, it is still intact and is open to visitors, should you have the time.
The smallest city in Ireland and Northern Ireland, Armagh is the ecclesiastical capital for both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland.
As such, it’s home to two spectacular cathedrals, although both are, somewhat confusingly, named after St Patrick. Save the hassle of discovering which is which by visiting both.
Heading south-east, we rejoin the east coast of Northern Ireland at the Carlingford lough. It’s a vast glacial fjord, one of only three on the island of Ireland, and forms part of the border between Northern Ireland to the north and Ireland to the south.
As we turn north for the final push back in the direction of Belfast, we take the Mourne Coastal Route. It’s another must-ride road, with the looming Mourne Mountains ever-present on our left and the crashing waves of the Irish Sea to our right.
With the Mourne Mountains behind us, we hop on to the Strangford ferry, which takes us across the Strangford Lough and onto the Ards Peninsula.
Taking just eight minutes, the ferry, saves you a 47-mile detour road around the vast lough. Interestingly the ferry is actually run at a loss, but it’s convenience as a vital transport link is seen as worth the cost.
Ards/North Down coast
Finally, before returning to Belfast and the end of our route, we travel the length of the North Down coast on the Ards Peninsula. Home to quaint villages, a variety of abbeys and castles, and even the island of Ireland’s most easterly point, it’s a pleasant end to a fantastic route.
With that ends a memorable TomTom Amazing Britain route, and a worthy winner of the contest. While we’ve chosen to cover the route in two days, but if you have the time, making it a three day route would give you the time needed to explore the stops along the way in more depth.
Ride this two-day motorcycle route in Northern Ireland for yourself
Plug these waypoints into your SatNav to follow, as near as dammit, the ABR and TomTom Amazing Britain Northern Ireland route. It’s also available to download as a gpx. file so that you can stick it straight into your device without the hassle of thumbing in a new stop every so often.
Simply head here and your download will be waiting for you.