Best trails centres in Northern Ireland

What the riding's like, who it's suitable for and how to get there

It's not difficult to see why we all love purpose-built trail centres so much; they're rideable whatever the weather, easily accessible throughout the UK and offer a good range of riding for different levels of ability.

Whether you're looking for a short, post-ride venue close to home or some technical riding at the weekend followed by a nice bit of cake, this guide will help you work out what's near you and what should be next on your trail centre tick list.

The trail centre network in Northern Ireland is growing, and while there are three main centres you need to check out, there are a growing number of regional and local centres that are worth a visit too.

The majority of the main centres have great facilities, including bike shops for those last minute repairs and spares, trail hubs with cafes, car parks. toilets and sometimes even showers.

So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or are just starting out in the wonderful world of mountain biking, you can discover some of the best places to go and ride your bike. Happy trails!

Davagh Forest

Davagh Forest has a swooping trail network and several rock features to explore
Davagh Forest has a swooping trail network and several rock features to explore

Northern Ireland has a growing network of trail centres, and Davagh Forest is one of the best.

There’s a gentle green, a twisty blue and a rocky red trail, plus a skills area with green to red-graded features and a pump track. Davagh may be out in the sticks but it’s well worth a visit, offering spades of flow on naturally sculpted trails.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 1/3
  • Intermediate: 2/3
  • Advanced: 3/3

The trails

Green trail (3km): Perfect for families and beginners, the green trail combines wide forests roads with gentle, winding singletrack that will give you a good feel for your bike and help you progress up to those blue trails.

Blue trail (7.5km): Fast and flowy, the blue trail has a quick ascent and an even quicker descent, complete with some great rock sections that are at the more technical end of the spectrum when ridden at speed.

Red trail (16km): A long steady climb takes you up the slopes of Beleevnamore Mountain before the trail splits into two options for the rock-slab-ridden descent. It’s easy to loop back around and try the other option too.

Skills loop and pump track: Warm up here before you head out onto the trails. Ideal for beginners and experts alike.

How to get there

Davagh is six miles from Cookstown, off the A505.

  • Grid ref: NV 83096 47209
  • Postcode: BT79 8JH

More info and facilities

Rostrevor

A long climb reveals some stunning views and exhilarating descents
A long climb reveals some stunning views and exhilarating descents

Rostrevor opened in 2013 and is located on the scenic banks of Carlingford Loch in the Kilbroney Forest Park. There’s a great mix of trails here, albeit with nothing suitable for beginner mountain bikers.

If you want to make a whole weekend of riding you can also visit the Castlewellan, Davagh Forest and Three Rock trail centres, which are all within a couple of hours’ drive.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 0/3
  • Intermediate: 2/3
  • Advanced: 2/3

The trails

Red (27km): The red climb is a real lungbuster, eventually taking you up to somewhere near 400m above sea level, but the trail uses the hillside beautifully. You must stop at Kodak Corner for a photo on the way up. There are a series of exciting downhill sections, including some North Shore woodwork, before the trail turns and heads back to the car park through the valley.

Black (19km): This follows the red route to the summit of Slievemartin and around Slievebane before splitting off and sending you into some heart-racing singletrack, including sections such as Boulderdash with sharp rocks and wheel-grabbing holes.

Mega Mission (1.8km): Air merchants will love this DH track because it’s packed with big jumps.

On The Pulse (1.3km): A more technical DH line with boulder fields, drop-offs and gaps.

How to get there

Rostrevor is on the east coast of Northern Ireland, about an hour from Belfast.

  • Grid ref: J1 56191
  • Postcode: BT34 3AA

More info and facilities

Castlewellan

There are several trails winding their way around the trail head at Castlewellan, a popular and therefore easy-to-find tourist attraction on Northern Ireland's east coast.

From a family-friendly green to techy blacks, there's something for everyone in the scenic wooded landscape. The trail network here is supported by Northern Ireland's very own Chain Reaction Cycles.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 3/3
  • Intermediate: 2/3
  • Advanced: 2/3

The trails

Green (4km): Great for families and kids, and more of a general cycling trail than a specific mountain bike trail, this skirts the edge of a beautiful lake and is more or less flat.

Blue (4.5km): Following near the edge of the lake shore, and taking in some of the green route, the blue trail is ideal for beginners and those wanting a gentle introduction to mountain biking. It flows through the woodland on winding singletrack, with a few rollers thrown in to add an edge of adventure.

Red (19km): Starting off on the best bits of the blue trail, the red takes you off on an adventure through the Castlewellan grounds, with a steady climb providing a descent that's worth it. The red also gives access to the black downhill trails, and you can loop them together for a longer ride or session the downhills.

Dolly's Chute, black option: A short but fun downhill that's accessed off the main red trail at the far end of the lake to the trail head.

The Great Escarpe, black option: You can do the red descent, but if you'd made it this far around why not try the black, or loop back around to give it a go?

How to get there

Located just 30 minutes from Belfast, Castlewellan Forest Park is clearly signposted from the Castlewellan Main Street, at the end of a forest road.

  • Postcode: BT31 9BU

More info and facilities

Honourable mentions

Barnett Demesne jump park

Get your jumping skills up to scratch at Ireland's first purpose-built jump park, which features six lines with tabletops and hip jumps — perfect for building up your skills!

Located on the outskirts of Belfast, it's in easy reach of the city and perfect for a visit on the way to or from the other trail centres in Northern Ireland.

There are also short green, blue and red trails if you'd rather spin your legs

More info:www.mountainbikeni.com

Castle Ward trails

The most family-focussed trail centre listed here, with plenty of green trails and a blue route to get the kids started, but nothing more technical for experienced riders.

Located in the National Trust-owned Castle Ward, there are plenty of facilities including bike hire, toilets, car parking, bike wash, cafe and changing facilities.

There is an admission charge: adults are £7.75, children are £3.75 and a family is £19, but these charges are waived if you hire a bike.

More info:www.mountainbikeni.com

Updated December 2017

Mountain Biking UK

Mountain Biking UK (MBUK) Magazine
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  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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