Titanic tales, majestic mountains and two cycling routes of unsurpassed beauty: it's the Giro d’Italia Gran Fondo Northern Ireland, and it's going to be unforgettable

The Giro d’Italia put Northern Ireland firmly on the cycling map. Now, the Giro d’Italia Gran Fondo will make sure it stays there. On 5 June, this renowned amateur sportive begins and a lasting cycling legacy will be born.

Starting and finishing at the iconic Titanic Belfast, the Gran Fondo’s two routes will take riders through the Mourne Mountains or along the shores of Strangford Lough. The full Giro experience is on offer here: closed roads, full support teams and even the chance to ride alongside a true cycling legend, 1987 Giro d’Italia champion (and Gran Fondo event ambassador) Stephen Roche.

Getting here is the easy part, whether you’re bringing your bike, your car, or just yourself. Discovering if you can meet the Gran Fondo challenge? That’s up to you.

Cycling's Golden Roads

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

Whether you’re taking on the Grand Fondo challenge or just enjoying the action, nothing beats seeing Ireland’s fairytale landscapes in person.

Follow the tough Mourne Route and for a thrilling ride through the towering peaks of the Mourne Mountains, past the glistening waters of Carlingford Lough. Alternatively take the gentler Strangford Route via County Down’s rolling hills. Stop for a breather to drink in the spellbinding views over Strangford Lough and the Ards Peninsula.

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

It’s not just the cycling that will set your blood pumping here. There are buzzing festivals, lively villages and warm welcomes from the locals along the way, too. And when the cycling is done, you’ll find yourself back in Belfast, ready to enjoy one of Europe’s most vibrant cities.

Top: Strangford Lough, County Down. Bottom left: Northern Ireland goes pink for the Giro. Bottom right: Giro d'Italia Grande Partenza, Belfast.

Mourne route 177km/110 miles

This epic route needs an epic location to start from. And it’s got one: Titanic Belfast. From here, the route sweeps south for 42km/26 miles, and then things start to get really interesting. We’re heading into Northern Ireland’s largest mountain range, the Mournes, where riders will be challenged by five tough climbs. There’s a brief respite as you pass through Castlewellan before a final climb up Monte Slieve Croob and a gradual descent into Belfast.

Strangford route 58km/36 miles

Beginning at Titanic Belfast, the second route is more suited to novices. Even so, riders will hit the first of two climbs within 6km/3.7 miles as they tackle Monte Braniel. The route makes the most of the varied County Down landscape, with stunning views over Strangford Lough, before it passes through the historic town of Comber. Just one last climb of the day left; Monte Moneyreagh. After that, it’s a descent all the way back to Belfast.

The After Party

You’ve done it. You’ve conquered your chosen Gran Fondo route, achieved your personal goal and you should be feeling pretty proud of yourself. So what’s on offer now for exhausted but exhilarated riders as they return to Belfast city? How about a party that continues the Italian theme of the day? Maybe a gourmet pasta party? With wine? And a medal for the finishers? Done, done and done. The Gran Fondo looks after its own... and you've earned it.

Road trips to remember

Stunning journeys that take in incredible sights and magnificent landscapes

Why Northern Ireland?

What is it about Northern Ireland that attracted the attention of one of the cycling world’s greatest road races in the Giro D’Italia? If we’re honest, it wasn’t just one thing, it was many. Take the Mourne Mountains – steeped in myth, they harken back to a fairytale Ireland but their popularity with outdoors enthusiasts keeps them very much in the present.

In fact, Northern Ireland’s exceptional landscapes are so cinematic that HBO was drawn to make it one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones. And then there’s Belfast; an exciting city known for its thriving foodie scene as much as its Titanic history. That’s Northern Ireland in a nutshell – a land of legends.

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, tt 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.

Planning and booking

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From the Causeway Coast to the Game of Thrones, there are lots more exciting routes to explore in Ireland.

Getting Around

There are many ways of getting from A to B in Ireland. We’ve got all the information you need to plan your trip.