Tracing the Giro d’Italia route in 3 days

Giro D'Italia Itinerary Map
Giro D'Italia Itinerary Map

Following in the tracks of over 200 of the world’s best cyclists, this route takes in iconic monuments, coastal wonders and even some Titanic attractions along the way.

Starting in the bustling city of Belfast, this year’s Giro d’Italia will curve across Northern Ireland through a cluster of contrasting landscapes and dramatic ruins. From Cushendall to Carrickfergus, there’s no shortage of natural splendours or cultural curiosities on this route.

Saunter through botanic gardens, sample Irish whiskies and delve into coastal caves. You’ll learn about the Titanic, experience ancient walled cities and end it all with some serious stargazing.

For more information about driving routes on the island of Ireland, click here.

Day 1

Belfast time trials: 17.2 miles (21.7km)/20 minutes at 30mph

Titanic Belfast to Stormont Parliament Buildings 

Your tailored route starts where the opening Team Time Trial launches: the Titanic Quarter. It’s here that you’ll find Titanic Belfast, a commemorative visitor attraction and monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage. Pass beneath the shadows of two iconic shipyard cranes, known locally as Samson and Goliath, before heading south and turning onto Newtownards Road. 

Brightly painted public murals jump out from the walls here, including colourful tributes to Titanic and Narnia, which are both firmly rooted in local culture. The trail then turns toward the Parliament Buildings, Stormont, a political hub and lavish estate. Perched on top of the mile-long Prince of Wales Avenue, the building is framed by lush parklands and commanding city views.

Stormont to Belfast City Hall 

Leaving behind the proud grandeur of Stormont, trace the route as it moves back into the city centre and passes over Queen’s Bridge. Opened in 1849 by Queen Victoria herself, it’s one of eight bridges that cross over the River Lagan. After that, follow the route south to Ormeau Road and Ormeau Park, a horticultural haven and one of the biggest parks in Belfast. 

Our next stop is Stranmillis in the Queen’s Quarter. Home to Queen’s University, this cultural hot spot is brimming with attractions such as the Botanic Gardens and Ulster Museum, where you’ll discover dinosaurs and come fact to face with an Egyptian Mummy. From Stranmillis, we loop north to where Stage One of the Team Time Trials draw to a close: Belfast City Hall.

Titanic Belfast

More than an impressive visitor attraction, Titanic Belfast is a towering monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage. Part exhibition, part interactive learning experience, this dramatic landmark is the perfect introduction to this historic capital.

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Day 2

Belfast to Belfast via the Causeway Coastal Route: 135.4 miles (218km)/4 hours 30 minutes at 30mph

Titanic Belfast to Ballymena 

Our second day sets off once again from Titanic Belfast. Heading north along the Antrim Road, look out for the romantic Belfast Castle, on the slopes of the commanding Cavehill, thought to have been the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. From this imposing basaltic hill, spectacular views of the Mourne Mountains and even parts of Scotland can be seen. It’s a stone’s throw from here to the Belfast Zoological Gardens, where red-backed bearded saki monkeys, Sumatran tigers and tree-kangaroos bask beneath the Antrim sun. 

Moving on through Antrim town, the route edges along the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles, and past the 400-year-old Antrim Castle Gardens. From this historical gem, the route presses on to the bustling town of Ballymena.

Ballymena to Cushendall 

At Ballymena, you can clamber up Slemish Mountain, the heather-laden slopes where St Patrick is said to have tended sheep as a slave, or visit countless crumbling ruins that dot the landscape. Heading further north, you’ll reach the conservation village of Bushmills. The Old Bushmills Distillery is the oldest working distillery in Ireland, opened in 1608, and is a popular stop for those looking to sample some fine Irish whiskey, known here as uisce beatha (“water of life”). This charming town acts as a gateway to the Giant’s Causeway, our next stop. 

The Giant’s Causeway is an iconic landmark that sits at the tip of Ireland. This incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises 40,000 hexagonal columns that sweep out into the sea. Legend has it that it was created by warring giants, but science puts it down to volcanic activity about 60 million years ago. Either way, it’s a must-see. As the route sweeps past, watch out for the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge – a chasm-crossing bridge with exhilarating views – before riding the coastline down to Cushendall.

Slemish Mountain

Slemish Mountain, the legendary first known Irish home of St Patrick, is located in County Antrim. The mountain is actually the core of an extinct volcano, jutting about 1,500 feet (437 metres) into the sky.

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Cushendall to Carrickfergus 

Used as a filming location for the fantasy television show, Game of Thrones, Cushendall is a lovely little village in the heart of the Glens of Antrim. Ramble along the beach, take in the river or check out the timeworn monuments that this picturesque town boasts. From Cushendall, set a course south along the Causeway Coastal Route to one of Antrim’s oldest seaports and market towns: Larne. This is where you’ll find the Carnfunnock Country Park, a dense woodland with pristine gardens and walking trails. 

Leaving Larne behind you, pass through the rugged splendor of Whitehead, a seaside sanctum, and onto the walled town of Carrickfergus. Situated on the shores of Belfast Lough, this ancient Norman citadel boasts historic monuments such as Carrickfergus Castle. With this 800-year old monument in your rear-view mirror, move south and back into Belfast, where our second day comes to an end.

Day 3

Armagh to Dublin: 116.2 miles (187km)/2 hours 19 minutes at 30mph

Armagh to Newtownhamilton 

Moving from Belfast to the neighboring County Armagh, 64 miles away, and following in the wake of the Giro cyclists, day three of our itinerary begins in Ireland’s ecclesiastical capital: Armagh city. As well as being famous for having two breathtaking cathedrals named after Saint Patrick, the city sways to an easygoing beat with relaxed pubs, cafés, restaurants and lovely gardens and parks. 

Turn east now and onto Richhill in County Armagh’s famous apple-growing region. As well as endless blooming orchards, you’ll find the 17th-century Richhill Castle and Loughgall Country Park. Afterwards, head south towards the small, rural village of Newtownhamilton.

Newtownhamilton to Dublin 

Newtownhamilton is the highest point on the route as it passes through Fews Forest. This 1,000-hectare forest is blanketed with conifers, and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area. Once you’ve soaked up the scenic wonders of Few Forest, journey down through Forkhill and the rugged hills of the Ring of Gullionand on past Dundalk to the pretty, medieval County Louth village of Castlebellingham.

The journey from Drogheda to Dublin is marked by its exceptional archeological history. Here, the route passes close to some of the island’s most spine-tingling archeological sites, including the auspicious Newgrange. This passage tomb pre-dates both Stonehenge and the Pyramids at Giza, and is one of the finest examples of its kind in all of Europe.

The east coast shows off its beauty at Skerries, Malahide and Portmarnock – famed for their wide sweeping beaches before the final showstopper of Dublin. Here, you can enjoy the atmosphere of Ireland’s capital to the full, with wonderful traditional pubs, cobbled streets, a great music scene and historic architecture. It’s a city you won’t want to leave. 

Navan Fort

One of the most ancient historical sites in Ireland, Navan Fort is a huge earthwork monument that sits on top of a grassy drumlin. Once a pagan sanctuary, the structure appears throughout early Irish mythological tales, and boasts panoramic views of Armagh.

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