Cycle This Way: Take high road to Glenarm
This rural journey crosses the spectacular Antrim Plateau to the North Channel. Starting from the Ecos Centre in Ballymena, the route gradually ascends some 240 metres for the first 12 miles (19km) before dropping to sea level for the final 5 miles (8km) to arrive in Glenarm.
It follows mainly quiet minor roads over the plateau, but there are traffic-free paths within the parkland of the ecos Millennium Environmental Centre. The 3km to Broughshane is a marked on-road cycle path.
The trail is signposted and is part of Route 97 of the National Cycle Network (NCN) which meets Route 93 at the coast.
Ballymena is serviced by a rail link between Belfast and Londonderry which has facilities for carrying 4 bicycles, except before 9.30am Monday to Friday. For timetables visit: translink.co.uk or tel: 028 9066 6630. The ecos Centre is clearly signposted from the railway station and from the M2 motorway for those travelling by car.
From the Ecos Centre building, cross over the footbridge, turn right and follow the traffic-free path to the roundabout on the Broughshane Road.
At the roundabout, turn right and follow the designated cycle lane on the A42 into Broughshane.
At Rathkeel Road (SlemishTavern) in the village, turn right and then 100m later take a left onto the Carnalbanagh Road, passing by Houston's Mill. Continue for 1.5 miles (2km) and then take the first left onto the Buckna Road.
About 2 miles later (3km) and just opposite Buckna Presbyterian Church in the village, is a signpost for Slemish Mountain. It will be an uphill climb of about one and a half miles (2.4km) to get to the car park at the foot of Slemish but is worth the effort. You can walk to the top of this landmark volcanic plug which is 437m above sea level.
This section is not NCN signed, but it is signed for Slemish along The Cuttings, Carnalbanagh Road, Carnstroan Road and Carnstroan Lane so you can't go wrong. Follow the same roads back down again to rejoin the Ecos Cycle Trail in Buckna and turn right.
After about 400m, take the Kilnacolpagh Road on the right. Three miles (5km) later you meet a crossroads – go straight ahead and 4 miles (7km) later turn left at the T-junction. Notice the beautiful patchwork of traditional stone walls that mark out fields in this area. About 2 miles (3km) later at the next T-junction, turn right onto the B97.
From here, it is a 3 mile (5km) downhill into Glenarm village, with fantastic views overlooking the softly wooded Glenarm Glen.
At the next T-junction, turn right onto the Straidkilly Road and less than half a mile (1 km) later you meet Route 93 on the Antrim Coast Road and the village of Glenarm, passing the entrance into Glenarm Castle Walled Garden.
Ecos Millennium Environmental Centre is set in a developing 150 acre country park and nature reserve. The riverside paths provide an ideal opportunity for family groups to enjoy some traffic-free cycling in pleasant surroundings. For more information, visit ballymena.gov.uk/ecos.
Broughshane is known as the Garden Village of Ulster thanks to its summer floral displays.
Houston's Mill, Broughshane, was a derelict 18th century flax scutching mill which has been restored. The grounds have picnic tables, sites and services for motor homes. The National Cycle Network post is in the grounds.
Slemish Mountain is sited within an Environmental Sensitive Area (ESA) and the Antrim Coast and Glens AONB.
Glenarm is the oldest village in the Glens, dating back to 1100, and is a Conservation Area because of the number of listed buildings.
The famous Steenson's gold and silversmith jeweller's workshop is located in the heart of the village, and a first class marina is a welcome berth for people from all over the world.
The entrance into the walled garden of Glenarm Castle is close to the junction with the Antrim Coast Road on the right hand side as you approach the village of Glenarm. It dates from the 18th century and is one of Ireland's oldest walled gardens.
Since opening to the public in 2005, it has gone from strength to strength in horticultural excellence with beautiful orchards, water features and flowers. The garden is open from 10am until 5pm daily, except Sundays when it opens from 11am to 5pm. A Tea Room is open for light meals from May until the end of September. The Castle is the home of Randal the Viscount Dunluce and his wife Aurora (glenarmcas tle.com).
For further information on cycling or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation NI at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or cycleni.com.
Outdoor Recreation NI in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation NI and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.
Cycle Name: Ecos Cycle Trail
Area: Antrim Coast & Glens AONB
Nearest big town to start point: Ballymena
Distance: 17 miles, linear
Refreshments & Facilities: The Thatch Inn at Broughshane Glenarm Castle has a café at the walled garden. There are public toilets at Broughshane, Slemish mountain and Glenarm village.
Event: Get Outdoors Weekend 2013. On Saturday, September 21, Ballymena Borough Council are hosting a free Family Fun Day in the Ecos Centre. Bring your bike along and pedal the traffic free waymarked route before taking part in the family fun day. There will be archery, Nordic walking, park run, fly fishing, buggy walks and more. Register for your free place at getoutdoorsweek end.com.
Publications: Ecos Cycle Trail brochure is available from Ballymena Tourist Information Centre, tel: 028 2563 5900. For further information about the Larne area, ask for the Larne Visitor Guide or see larne.gov.uk
Cycle Developed By: Ballymena Borough Council, Larne Borough Council and Sustrans.
Map: Sheet 9 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series.