Jonathan Hobbs writes the Northern Ireland Greenways blog. A commuter cyclist for almost 15 years, he started the blog to raise awareness of almost 600 miles of former railways which have the potential to be redeveloped as greenway paths.
Asked to name Northern Ireland's five best cycle paths, he recommends...
The Comber Greenway is less than 10 years old in its current form, but has become a cherished green corridor into Belfast. Built on the trackbed of the old Belfast and County Down Railway, the 12km path weaves from Hollywood Arches past the vibrant shops of Ballyhackamore, across Dundonald and into the countryside. At the far end Comber has seen a greenway boost, with cafes and restaurants enjoying a constant stream of two-wheeled travellers.
Newtownabbey Way and Loughshore Path
This 17km route is a great option for a day's family cycle. From Belfast city centre head northwards through the Port of Belfast along the National Cycle Network. At Duncrue a traffic-free path opens up beside the M2 and M5 motorway. Turn your attention the other way and you'll see the harbour open out into Belfast Lough. Ride straight ride on through Hazelbank Park and cross into Whiteabbey which brings you to the Newtownabbey Way which opened just two years ago. The marvellous Bleach Green viaduct towers above as you pass though forests, fields and into Monkstown.
One of Northern Ireland's best known off-road paths is a stunning 20km inter-city route linking Belfast with Lisburn. From Belfast city centre follow the Laganside path to the Ormeau Road and the Stranmillis Embankment. The Lagan winds its way though hilly countryside, disused canal locks and skites the edge of Belvoir Forest Park.
Stretching 32km between Portadown and Newry, the pathway closely follows the almost 300-year-old (now disused) canal. You can reach both ends of the canalway by train, making it fantastic for a day trip. From Portadown you can spot old canal locks, enjoy the wildlife and watch for signs of the former railway to Armagh. Plans are in place to link the canal path into a Great Eastern Greenway stretching down Carlingford Lough to Dundalk and beyond.
The 3.5km Waterside Greenway opened last year, running from the Foyle Bridge to the north down to the Peace Bridge by the Guildhall. It's impressive to see the urban renewal on the Waterside banks placing cycling and walking at its heart, and across the bridge new riverfront cycling space has reshaped Queen's Quay. Derry is now a good base for cycling adventures. 15km of urban cycle paths and 60km of quiet, shared routes link to the longer Faughan Valley Cycleway, the scenic Foyle Valley Greenway along the former Great Northern Railway line, and the 55km Inis Eoghain Cycleway into Donegal and back.
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