Quiet country roads criss-cross the fertile landscape of the Bann Valley, with views towards the Bann corridor and beyond towards the Antrim Hills.
The Bann River is steeped in history dating back to Mesolithic times. From the village of Toome, the river flows into Lough Beg — a beautiful area that is rich in wildlife.
After Lough Beg, the Bann narrows at Newferry and acts for most of its length as the boundary between counties Londonderry and Antrim. On entering its last stretch towards the Atlantic Ocean, it passes through the town of Coleraine.
The busy rural market towns of Garvagh and Kilrea offer opportunities to explore local heritage and culture and enjoy traditional hospitality.
The starting point for this route is the main car park in Garvagh Forest, just off the town's Main Street (A29) on the southern outskirts of the town. Car parking is available in the forest car park.
Leave the car park and turn left along Garvagh Main Street, following the Route 12 signage (the entire route is waymarked ‘Route 12 — Sperrins Cycle Routes’). At the crossroads in the town centre, turn right on to Bridge Street and then after a short distance turn left on to Station Road.
Follow this road into the countryside and branch off left onto Ballyagan Road. On reaching the junction with Cullyrammer Road, turn left and proceed to the next T-junction. Turn right along Mullaghinch Road and then right again on to Moneydig Road. Keep on this road until reaching the outskirts of Kilrea.
When in Kilrea, head along Edenbane Road towards the town centre and turn off right on to Blackrock Road. Follow this undulating road towards Garvagh. At the small hamlet of Boveedy turn left on to Dullaghy Road and proceed along this road until reaching Grove Road. Turn left along Grove Road and then right on to Lisachrin Road.
Shortly after this, turn right on to Ballymenagh Road, a particularly quiet rural road commanding excellent views of the surrounding countryside. At the next T-junction turn left along Kurin Road and head back into Garvagh, finishing off at the starting point in the forest car park.
Kilrea, or ‘Cill Ria’ in Irish, meaning church on the hill, is a small village close to the boundary with Co Antrim. According to The Fairy Thorn, a book produced by Kilrea local historians, St Patrick visited the area in the 600s.
The settlement became a plantation town and grew substantially during that time. It is a preserved example of a plantation village, with long, straight roads from its centre-point at The Diamond. Kilrea was the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Mercers and sits high up the Bann Valley, enjoying a vantage point above the river.
Situated within the grounds of Garvagh High School, formerly the Canning Estate owned by Lord Garvagh, the small rural Garvagh Museum features displays of items from Stone Age through to recent times.
Open-air exhibits include a range of horse-drawn farming implements, while inside displays focus on life around the 19th to early 20th Century. Limited opening hours.
Moneydig Cairn, known locally as the Daff Stone, is a passage grave located in a field at Moneydig crossroads and is surrounded by a ring of trees. Approximately 14m in diameter, the cairn is still largely intact today.
Located on the outskirts of Kilrea, a private collection of traditional farming implements and various artefacts at Claragh Heritage Museum can be viewed by prior arrangement (for further details tel: 028 2954 0370).
Kilrea Old Church, which gives the town its name, stands on a height close to the town centre. Nearby is a ‘fairy thorn’ tree, protected from passing traffic by a specially-built wall and support.
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: Bann Valley Cycle Route.
Nearest big town to start point: Garvagh and Kilrea.
Distance: 16 miles circular.
Terrain and traffic: Route is on mostly quiet country roads, but with normal traffic conditions for small rural towns such as Garvagh and Kilrea.
Refreshments: Refreshments and toilet facilities available in Garvagh and Kilrea. Parking in Garvagh forest car park.
Publications: ‘Sperrins Cycle Routes Laminated Route Cards — Route No.12’, available from Coleraine Tourist Information Centre (tel: 028 7034 4723) Also downloadable from CycleNI.com.
Cycle Developed By: Sustrans and Sperrins Tourism.