Mourne Route Elevation Gain 2405m
The 2016 Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia saw thousands of cyclists tackling some of the most historic and iconic climbs in Northern Ireland. Fully closed roads made the event a truly once in a lifetime experience for all participants.
Upon starting at the iconic seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont Estate you will leave the city on the rolling and twisting roads of County Down to guide you towards to mountain roads that will greet you after 42km. First up is the steep Monte Dree Hill, which has the ancient Slieve Croob as a backdrop. This is a designated area of natural beauty with the source of the River Lagan starting as a stream from the top of this mountain and running all the way to Belfast Lough. After the country lanes and smooth twisting roads descending off your first climb, you will begin your passage through towns and villages such as the hilltop towns of Rathfriland and Hilltown as you head closer to the biggest mountain range in Northern Ireland, the Mourne Mountains. You will ride up the gradual climb of Monte Leitrim Hill with the beautiful Carlingford Lough in the background with its high mountain slopes surrounding this exceptional sea inlet.
Once over Monte Leitrim you will ride further into the Mourne Mountains where you will be at the foot of the jewel of the Gran Fondo Northern Ireland, the climb of Monte Spelga Dam. The steep switchbacks and the high peaks will greet your entrance to this climb which will see you hit the “roof” of the Gran Fondo with the highest elevation for the route at its peak. Views across Co. Down to Co. Armagh is both breathtaking and spectacular with one of Northern Ireland’s largest reservoirs in sight once you hit the top of the mountain. You will stay in the Mourne Mountains as you descend alongside Tollymore Forest Park and into the village of Bryansford before starting the homeward trip and the last challenges that await you.
Passing through Castlewellan with its wide main street which runs through two main squares lined with chestnut trees, the fast descent out of the town will be a nice reprieve before you begin the last climb of the day to Monte Slieve Croob. This long climb will once again take you to a peak that will pass through the ancient hills. Folklore tells that 12 kings are buried at the top of the mountain. You will be greeted at the top with views to Lough Neagh and many of Northern Ireland’s counties and towns.
Your last leg home will pass through Dromara town and into Saintfield on rolling roads before the gradual descending through Moneyreagh and into the historical town of Comber. The final leg of your Gran Fondo will provide you with stunning hilltop views of Stormont House as you begin the homeward journey through Dundonald and back through the famous gates and onto Prince of Wales Avenue with just one last effort that will see you across the finish line and secure that Gran Fondo medal. What an achievement! You can now relax and swap tales of your journey with fellow travellers at the post-event pasta party!
Mourne Route GPX File
Strangford Route Elevation Gain 612m
The 58km route will prove challenging and enjoyable for all levels of cycling enthusiasts. If you are new to cycling events or want to set yourself a personal challenge to help boost your fitness and experience that “Giro feeling,” then this route is for you.
Leaving the iconic start at the Stormont Estate, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, you will ride 58km of rolling roads with a single categorised climb. The first challenge of the day will take place within the first 6km when you will tackle Monte Braniel. A gradual climb that will give you beautiful views of the city and across Belfast Lough once you reach the top. Completing the first real challenge of the day will set you up for a beautiful ride on the rolling roads around some of Co. Down’s villages with the beauty of Strangford Lough to keep you company for much of this route. The lough is almost totally enclosed by the Ards Peninsula. The main body of the lough has at least seventy islands along with many islets, bays, coves, headlands and mudflats that you will pass during your ride. It is a conservation area and its abundant wildlife is recognised internationally.
Once leaving the Peninsula you will pass through the historic town of Comber before heading for the final leg of your Gran Fondo which will take you through Dundonald where you will be able to pick out the imposing Stormont House on the hilltop as you continue your homeward journey which will have reached it finale as you cross the famous gates onto Prince of Wales Avenue with just a final push to reach the reward of the finish line. Presented with your Gran Fondo medal, the perfect way to finish your ride with satisfaction and pride in your performance. Time for some post-ride pasta!
Strangford Route GPX File