Explore the Strule Valley and its hinterland in this cycle route, which follows the National Cycle Network.
The route will take you through idyllic villages, skirting wildflower meadows and bluebell woods and winding along fast-flowing rivers in the west of Co Tyrone.
En route you will pass through the beautiful villages of Newtownstewart, Gortin, Plumbridge and Sion Mills.
There are several possible starting points to this cycle route, but it is advised to cycle the hillier eastern side of the route first so that the return journey is along the flat of the valley — so starting from Sion Mills it is best to go clockwise around the route, whereas from Newtownstewart or Gortin an anticlockwise route may be more suitable. All three villages are accessible by Ulsterbus services.
Parking is available in Gortin Glens Forest Park. From the car park follow the signs for the exit, turn right onto the Glenpark Road and climb up alongside Mullaghcarn with the forest on your left, where in spring you will be able to take in the pleasant views of a bluebell-covered hillside.
As you begin to descend away from the forest you will see a signpost for Gortin Lakes (another suitable starting point). Here turn right and climb up over the hill to enjoy the fast descent down into Gortin. Slow down as you approach the B46 and take care as you turn left into the tranquil little village of Gortin.
Then turn right onto the B48 marked as National Route 95, turning off after the bridge at the first right and taking a quick successive left onto a quieter road that’ll carry on up towards Slievemore hill. Steer left at the T-junction and before rejoining the B48, turn right onto a country road that will bring you towards Plumbridge.
Follow the Route 3 signposting through Plumbridge closely as, with five options, a wrong turn could quite easily be made.
Once through Plumbridge, turn left down into the valley next to the Glenelly River. From here there are a series of twists and turns, with Route 3 signposting at every junction, taking you up over Shannony Bridge and via Ligfordrum Woods and Skinboy Wood towards Sion Mills.
After passing Skinboy Wood, turn left at the crossroads and you will come to another crossroads. Here you can turn left to continue the cycle or go straight ahead and cross the River Mourne on the swinging bridge to take you into Sion Mills for a rest and some refreshments.
After turning left at the two crossroads, you will be on a road marked with National Route 92 signposts. Follow this path straight through Douglas Bridge and continue until the B165 that will take you down into Newtownstewart by using the underpass to avoid crossing the busy A5.
From here it is possible to take National Route 95 towards Gortin to make a shorter loop, or to carry on with the Strule Valley loop by following the National Route 92 signs that will run alongside the Strule River on Carrigans Road opposite the A5. You can cross the river at an old bridge along the way in order to stop at the Mellon Country Inn or for a visit to the Ulster American Folk Park.
After passing the turn-off for the bridge, take the third turn on the left off Route 92 and track the Route 3 signs through a series of connecting roads. This should take you finally via the Castleroddy Road onto the Lisnaharney Road.
Turn right down this and enjoy your final downhill straight as you approach the B48 (Glenpark Road) taking you back into the Gortin Glens — a short way away from the bottom of the Lisnaharney Road is the entrance to the Forest Park.
For further information on cycling or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) at 028 9030 3930 or cycleni.com.
CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN 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: Strule Valley Cycle Route.
Area: The Sperrins.
Nearest big town to start point: Gortin, Co Tyrone .
Distance: 37 miles, Circular Route.
Terrain: A mix of B roads and quiet country roads with an off-road alternative route through the Gortin Glens for the more adventurous cyclist. Some steep climbs.
Access Restrictions: May encounter moderate traffic on B roads — take care at junctions. The remainder of the route is on mostly quiet country roads.
Refreshments: Toilet facilities and perfect sites for a picnic are provided in the Gortin Glens Forest Park and at the striking Gortin Lakes.
Publications: Sperrins Cycle Routes – Laminated Route Cards – Route No 3. Sperrins Region Cycle Route Map available from the Sustrans shop: www.sustransshop.co.uk
Cycle Developed By: Sustrans and Sperrins Tourism and maintained by Omagh and Strabane District Councils.
Map: Sheet 12 and 13 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk)