North West Trail
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As with all the long distance routes, it is advisable to purchase a detailed map of your route ...
As with all the long distance routes, it is advisable to purchase a detailed map of your route before setting out. A brief overview of the route is described below.
The most easterly point on the Trail is the town of Omagh, however it is possible to join this route from a number of locations.
From Sligo town in the Republic of Ireland, the trail meanders through ‘Yeats Country’ passing the poet’s grave in Drumcliffe. Pushing out towards the rugged coast road where you see gigantic breakers begin to gather momentum on their way through Donegal Bay, the route brings you to the beautiful Rossnowlagh beach.
From Donegal, the route continues east and gradually becomes flatter and more lush, passing the “Let the Dance Begin” sculpture as you arrive in Strabane, Co Tyrone. Townlands accompany each road name, ancient ’postcodes’ derived from Irish describe the very landscape you’re cycling through. Dixe Wills, travel journalist and author, rode the trail in early springtime and found it to be “perfect if you want to escape the crowds and confines of well worn tourist trails,” adding that “at times you’re the only thing moving through this silent, monumental landscape."
The Mourne and Strule rivers, in the foothills of the Sperrins, guide you past the Ulster American Folk Park into Omagh Town. Tyrone man and life-long cyclist, Declan McGrath knows the road very well. “It's a great stretch of cycling country,” he says, “It's flat and always quiet but the scenery just keeps rolling past all the way into Enniskillen.” From Ballinamallard you pass into the Fermanagh Lakelands where Enniskillen town itself is built on an island in Lough Erne. "You should definitely cycle through Florence Court Estate," Declan says, "The track is rough in parts but the setting is simply perfect." From here drop gears and climb up to the Marble Arch Caves for a tour through the subterranean caves and potholes. The final stretch of the route crosses briefly into Co Cavan, then rises and falls through the rolling Co Leitrim countryside and back to Sligo town.
Public roads: On Public Road
Getting to the start:
Sligo Town, County Leitrim, Republic of Ireland
Traffic: Route follows minor roads with traffic-free sections. Busy through major towns.