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Enjoy a golden moment on this quiet valley route

This scenic cycle route winds through the ancient valleys and heights of the Sperrins in Co Tyrone, taking in some of Northern Ireland’s most spectacular vistas.

Cyclists keen to get away from it all can explore the breathtaking Glenelly and Owenkillew Valleys, wheeling through the dramatic Barnes Gap and into the wilds of Sawelabeg and Doraville on a 31-mile circular route. Best of all, the routes are relatively quiet, with little traffic.


Gortin is an ideal starting point for the route, although it can also be started from Plumbridge by following Sawel Cycle Route 2 from the village to Barnes Gap. Both villages are accessible by Ulsterbus services.

Leaving from Gortin, take the B48 towards Plumbridge and turn right just after crossing the Owenkillew River into the Owenkillew Valley following National Route 95 (the entire route is way-marked Sperrins Route 1).

Follow this road until Scotch Town, keeping the meandering Owenkillew River on your right. In Scotch Town turn right at the crossroads as signposted and continue along this road, tracing the path of the river through Glenhull until you reach a crossroads. Here turn left to follow the route or alternatively a quick detour could take you to the Aghascrebagh Standing Stone — the only known example of an Ogham inscription in Co Tyrone.

Returning to the route, a couple of miles along the road turn left at another crossroads and you should find yourself approaching a T-junction farther along.

Turning left here and then taking the first right will bring you up to the climb into the wilds of Doraville. Towards the end of the ascent the road will take you through Glenlark Forest where Lough Lark can be spotted through the trees as you descend again into Sawelabeg.

From here the road twists round into the Glenelly Valley and you can follow this through, taking time to enjoy the impressive views over the river. Follow the B47 for a few miles and possibly steer off-track to visit the village of Cranagh.

The route turns left dropping down into the valley bottom over the river before rising again and turning right back along the side of the valley. As the hills subside on your left you’ll pass through Barnes Gap, a glacial meltwater feature linking the Glenelly and Owenkillew valleys.

Go straight through the crossroads and the route turns right onto a small road that takes you around Craignamaddy Hill. Continue on to the right at the end of this road and follow this until you come to a junction marked with National Route 92 signs. Turn left here to make your way back towards Gortin.

The Backdrop

Gortin, meaning ‘the little field’, is a bustling, pretty village at the foot of the Gortin Glens. It is an ideal starting point for this route.

Head into the Owenkillew Valley and look out for the gold mine that lies opposite the bridge at Glenlark in the townland of Curraghinalt. It was here that a significant find of gold was made in the early 1980s.

The Glenelly Valley is the longest valley in the Sperrins and has a majestic mountain range formed approximately 500 million years ago. The Glenelly River is an excellent salmon and trout fishery and is home to many otters and kingfishers. Buzzards are often seen soaring above high ground in the Sperrins.

The dramatic Barnes Gap (Barnes is Irish for gap) links the Owenkillew to the Glenelly Valley. It is an excellent example of a glacial overflow channel cut by meltwater from the retreating ice.

Further information

For further information, 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: The Gold Cycle Route. Area: The Sperrins. Nearest big town to start point: Gortin, County Tyrone. Distance: 31 miles, circular route. Terrain: Mainly quiet country roads with little to no traffic and some steep climbs. Access Restrictions: May encounter moderate traffic on B roads. Publications: Sperrins Cycle Routes — Laminated Route Cards — Route No. 1. The Sperrins Region Cycle Route Map is available from the Sustrans shop|(sustransshop.co.uk). Refreshments: Public houses en route near Scotch Town, Glenhull and Cranagh; refreshments and toilet facilities available in Gortin. Cycle Developed By: Sustrans and Sperrins Tourism. Map: Sheet 12 and 13 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

Belfast Telegraph