From Bushmills to Benone
This well-marked coastal cycle journey officially begins at the famous Giant’s Causeway, just outside Bushmills in County Londonderry. The North Atlantic Coast section of the National Cycle Network Route 93 then runs beside the sea for some 32 km (20 mi) to Castlerock.
Bushmills is the first town along the way, after following the tracks of Northern Ireland’s only heritage steam railway. Beware – before continuing along the cycleway it’s very tempting to visit the famous distillery and take a glass or two of the finest Irish whiskey. Providing the hospitality doesn’t get out of hand, the resumed ride passes Dunluce Castle, where the limestone cliffs of the White Rocks end in a dark basalt outcrop crowned by this ancient castle joined to the mainland by an arched walkway, beneath which lies Mermaid’s Cave.
It’s hard not to pause at either Portrush (built out on the peninsula of Ramore Head) or nearby Portstewart (with the wonderful long beach of Portstewart Strand). These two coastal resorts enjoy wonderful natural settings and have a full range of facilities. From Portstewart Route 93 drops down to the large, bustling town of Coleraine at the mouth of the River Bann. There’s no avoiding the crowded streets, because this is the first point at which it’s possible to cross the impressively wide river, but that’s no bad thing – the town has a fine central square.
After Coleraine, the cycleway follows the river to the seaside village of Castlerock. The North Atlantic Coast section actually ends here, as Route 93 turns away from the sea towards Limavady, so many cyclists simply return to their start point along the main A2 coast road. However, before doing that it’s worth going on through Downhill to Benone Strand, one of the longest beaches in Northern Ireland.
WHEN TO GO:
May to September
TIME IT TAKES:
A leisurely three hours end to end.
The Giant’s Causeway itself – the amazing grouping of interlocking basalt columns that are one of Ireland’s most famous (and impressive) natural features.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Bushmills is the world’s oldest legal distillery, founded under licence from King James l in 1608