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River deep, mountain high in the Sperrins

By Linda Stewart

Explore the riverside byways of Omagh as you make your way up into the foothills of the spectacular Sperrins, which overlook the town.

This range is one of Northern Ireland’s best-kept secrets — a series of mountains with high, rounded summits and lush pastoral valleys. Not only are the Sperrins designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but they also serve up a host of cycling opportunities on quiet, single-lane country roads.

As you cycle through this unique landscape, its rich natural archaeological heritage will unfold before your eyes.

Directions

This 5.5-mile, flat, linear cycle route sets off from Cranny playing fields in the Co Tyrone town of Omagh and uses a section of National Cycle Network 92 long-distance route.

Leaving Omagh, take the Campsie Road (B4) and follow this road as it becomes Hospital Road (B4). After about about a mile down this road, Cranny playing fields will be on your left.

Pedalling along the Camowen River, you pass through Lover's Retreat, an outstanding beauty spot where herons nest in summer and fish leap upstream to the Sperrins. Cycle over a small wooden bridge onto Privet Road, which crosses the busy A505.

Enter the leisure centre grounds and continue out of Omagh, alongside Grange Park. It's tranquil, leafy and very popular with walkers and local skaters.

The path continues off-road adjacent to the B48 all the way out to Gortnagarn in the foothills of the Sperrins. From here it's only a short distance to the Ulster American Folk Park, documenting Irish emigration and celebrating our Ulster American connections, and set within a unique village recreating 19th Century life.

From here you can retrace your tracks back to Omagh town, or the more adventurous can use this as a warm-up to a number of the Sperrins Cycle Routes.

The Backdrop

Around 17,280 people live in Omagh town which is now (with the exception of Londonderry) the second largest town in the west of Northern Ireland. It is the county town of Tyrone, having taken the title from Dungannon around 1768.

Located where the Camowen and Drumragh rivers come together to form the Strule, the town is said to owe its origins to an abbey founded in 792 AD. Following a long, and sometimes turbulent history, Omagh is now a recognised place of importance and influence as a major administrative and service centre for the region.

The Ulster American Folk Park is an outdoor museum telling the story of emigration to North America in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Old World and New World layout illustrate the various aspects of emigration life on both sides of the Atlantic.

Visitors to the museum can follow the emigrant trail, journeying through from the thatched cottages of Ulster, on board a full-scale emigrant sailing ship leading to the log cabins of the American Frontier — a perfect chance for a stop off on this unique cycle route.

Further information

For further information on cycling or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), tel: 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: Omagh Riverside Path to Gortnagarn.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty: The Sperrins.

Nearest town to start point: Omagh.

Distance: 5.5 miles.

Terrain: Mostly off-road along well-surfaced paths with some sections on public roads.

Refreshments: Available in Omagh. There is also car parking and a Tourist Information Centre.

Traffic: Most of this route is traffic-free.

Publications: This cycle route is part of the Ballycastle to Ballyshannon Route. This route map can be purchased in Omagh Tourist Information Centre or from sustransshop.co.uk.

Cycle Developed By: Sustrans and Omagh District Council.

Map: Sheets 12 and 13 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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