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Titanic tales, a Giant’s Causeway, St Patrick’s city, myth-filled County Louth, and Georgian Dublin: there’s drama in store when you follow the roads of the Giro d’Italia’s Grande Partenza (Big Start)

It’s been going since 1909. It consists of 22 teams, almost 200 riders and hundreds of support staff. It’s the Giro d’Italia, and in May 2014 it was thousands of miles from home for its famous Grande Partenza (Big Start).

The three stages took in Belfast city, the Causeway Coastal Route in County Antrim, Armagh city, Dundalk in County Louth, and the coastal roads to Dublin city. It passed by landscapes built by giants, carved out by oceans and haunted by saints and scholars. During the Giro d’Italia, the roads were lined with supporters… but now that everyone has gone home, they’re free and easy to travel.

And the good news is that these roads are custom-made to explore, and getting here is hassle-free whether you’re bringing your bike, your car, or just yourself.

Cycling's Golden Roads

Get ready for a cycling adventure of a lifetime on the island of Ireland

Watching the Giro d’Italia on television was an exhilarating experience, but nothing can beat seeing Ireland’s fairy-tale landscapes in person.

Why not enjoy for yourself the spectacular Causeway Coastal Route? You can cycle past the historic Carrickfergus Castle near Belfast, and through tree-lined Armagh city. It’s not just the cycling that will set your blood pumping, there are great festivals, lovely villages and very friendly locals along the way, too.

The roads around this part of the world are custom-made for journeys into landscapes built by giants, tamed by oceans and adored by millions through the centuries.

The route of the Giro passed close to some of the most iconic sights in Europe – we’re talking Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway, historic Armagh city, the medieval town of Carlingford and Georgian Dublin.

It was three days of epic cycling around some of the world’s most epic scenery, with a side order of culture. Only question we have is: what’s stopping you trying it out for yourself?

Top: The Causeway Coast. Bottom left: Molly Malone statue, Dublin city. Bottom right: Cycling in Ballintoy.

Follow the Route: Stage 1

This renowned race needed a pretty special location to start off, and so it kicked off at Titanic Belfast. From here, the 21.7km Team Time Trial swept towards the elegant Parliament Buildings at Stormont, via some clues to the city’s Narnia literary heritage. They didn't stop at sleepy Ormeau Park, but you can, before you finish up outside the marble majesty of Belfast City Hall.

Follow the Route: Stage 2

Beginning at Titanic Belfast, you’ll soon be moving from one giant to another. Via the quizzically shaped Cave Hill, head past Ballymena and the Old Bushmills Distillery before hitting the coast at the Giant’s Causeway. From this volcanic landscape sweep past the postcard town of Cushendall and the market town of Larne, wave hello to Carrickfergus Castle before you’re on the road back to Belfast.

Follow the Route: Stage 3

The third stage of the race needed another monumental starting point, and it had one: St Patrick’s city of Armagh. From here, the history kept on coming as the route passed through the medieval towns of Castlebellingham and Carlingford, through the town of Drogheda, with an incredible hinterland that is home to ancient archaeological sites, and on to Dublin – a prestigious UNESCO City of Literature.

Road trips to remember

Stunning journeys that take in incredible sights and magnificent landscapes

Why Ireland?

What is it about this island on the very edge of Europe that attracted the attention of one of the cycling world’s greatest road races? If we’re honest, it wasn’t just one thing, it was many. Take the Causeway Coastal Route – it harkens back to mythical Ireland and ancient volcanic eruptions, but those craggy cliffs, tight corners and sweeping scenery keep it very much in the present. 

Northern Ireland’s exceptional landscapes are so cinematic that HBO was drawn to make it one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones. While if you head up to the nine Glens of Antrim, you might find a legend or myth for every blade of grass in the ground. 

And then there’s the Boyne Valley, where history comes thick and fast with high kings, high crosses and passage tombs that predate the pyramids. Not forgetting, of course, the lively city of Dublin with its cosy pub corners, chatty locals and a world-famous literary legacy. This is the stuff memories are made of.

Good to know

  • Roads on the island of Ireland are easy to follow, and well signposted. Speed limits are listed as miles per hour in Northern Ireland, and kilometres per hour in the Republic of Ireland.
  • Think you could take the pace of a three-day cycling race across Northern Ireland? The Curadmir Ulster Cycle will put you through your paces...
  • Look up at the hilltops around Dundalk and you’ll spy the intriguing 13th-century Castle Roche…legend has it that owner Lady Rohesia de Verdun promised her hand in marriage to the castle architect. But she turned him down, so he threw her from what is now known as the "Murder Window".
  • Head for Drogheda, County Louth, and pop into St Peter’s Church to view St Oliver Plunkett’s head....yes, you read that right!
  • The Boyne Valley along the Armagh to Dublin stage is home to Newgrange, one of Ireland’s most important Neolithic monuments. This haunting passage tomb dates back to 3200BC and is older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids at Giza.
  • Along the coastal road to Dublin are pretty little fishing towns and villages: plan for pitstops at Carlingford on the Cooley Peninsula, at the epic Laytown Strand (it holds beach horse racing every September), Skerries’ long sandy beach and Howth, where you can walk the summit or take a cruise around the bay.
  • The Giro passed through counties Antrim, Armagh, Louth, Meath and Dublin during its time in the island of Ireland, visiting the cities of Belfast, Armagh and Dublin along the way. There are plenty of quirky towns and villages along the route to explore for yourself. Or why not embark on a different adventure with one of our cycle routes?
  • Check our our great offers to get you all around Northern Ireland, Louth and Dublin.

Planning and booking

If you're thinking about exploring the scenery and landscapes that the Giro d'Italia will travel through, then we have you covered with a tailor-made itinerary


Like the sound of that? There are lots more exciting routes from the Causeway Coast to the Game of Thrones, just waiting to be explored.  

Getting Around

There are many ways of getting from a to b in Ireland, and we’ve got all the information you need.