Looking for somewhere new for your next mountain bike trip? Why not consider Northern Ireland? It's easily accessible from the UK by Ferry, and its three national trail centres, Castlewellan, Rostrevor and Davagh Forest, offer some of the finest riding in the country.
The three centres have undergone some serious development in recent years, and they offer a wealth of trails for mountain bikers of all abilities. The area's compact geometry means that you can easily pack in more than 110km of trails in a two- or three-day trip. There's also the regional trail centres in Blessingbourne and Barnett Demesne and plenty of MTB-friendly places to sleep and eat near to all the trail centres, as well as trail head bike hire at all the centres.
Have a look at the videos below to see Northern Ireland's national trail centres in all their glory.
Video: Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails
The Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails are the most popular in Northern Ireland, and when you consider the variety of trails it’s easy to see why. The Forest Park is just minutes from the lively village of Castlewellan, with the Mourne Mountains providing an incredible backdrop.
This welcoming trail centre boasts a range of green, blue and red trails (with black options), each offering their own level of adventure. For seasoned mountain bikers looking for technically challenging, lightning-quick singletrack, Castlewellan will hit the spot.
- Trail stats: Green 4km, Blue 4.5km, Red 19km (including black options)
- Trailhead bike hire:Life Adventure Centre - from £20
Video: Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails
The Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails are located on the shores of Carlingford Lough and offer some of the most exhilarating mountain biking in all of Ireland. Rostrevor is a big day out on the bike, but whether you make use of Northern Ireland’s only bespoke uplift service or rely on pedal-power, you will be rewarded with stunning coastal views and mind-blowing singletrack descents.
When you add two purpose-built downhill trails to the mix, there’s no denying that Rostrevor is a mountain biker’s heaven!
- Trail stats: Red 27km, Black 19km, Downhill x 2
- Trailhead bike hire:East Coast Adventure - £20
Davagh Forest Trails are a bit more off the beaten track, in the heart of the Sperrin Mountains. This pocket rocket of a trail centre is packed full of high-octane singletrack and some hair-raising rock drops.
Younger or less experienced riders can enjoy Davagh’s green and blue trails, if it’s adrenaline you’re after then Davagh Forest’s red trail will deliver this in spades.
- Trail stats: Green 3km, Blue 7.5km, Red 18km
- Trailhead bike hire:Outdoor Concepts - from £20
"There genuinely aren't that many places on earth that can boast such a diversity of riding in such a small area as Northern Ireland. The scenery is incredible too and there are plenty of hospitality jewels to be found along the way." Ric McLaughlin, mountain bike journalist
How to get there
You can fly to Belfast from most UK cities but travelling by car makes a lot more sense because of the amount of stuff you can bring with you and the amount of Guinness, Tayto crisps and Club Rock Shandy fizzy pop you can bring home. Stena Line have daily sailings from Cairnryan right into the heart of Belfast city centre. A £12 upgrade to Stena Plus gets you access to their lounge complete with WiFI, free food and drinks (soft and alcoholic) and comfortable seating.
MountainBikeNI.com: The organising body of mountain biking in Northern Ireland, this is your number one website for planning any roadtrip to the province.
Ireland.com: More general tourism information for your trip and loads of useful guidance on how the make the most of your holiday to Northern Ireland.