Carlingford Century

Carlingford and the Cooley Peninsula is an area in the Republic of Ireland that has been on my Radar to Cycle for quite some time. So when I saw on the Phoenix Cycling Club message board that the B1 group were planning a 100 mile Cycle up through County Down to catch the new Ferry service across Carlingford Lough in to County Louth, stop for lunch in Carlingford and Cycle back to Belfast, I decided to join them. The B1 group is a faster paced group than what I normally ride with so I hoped they would choose a flat route to give me a fighting chance.

Saturday Morning started off cold, very chilly indeed and I started to question my Clothing choice but I knew the day would warm up as the Morning progressed so I opted to push on along the Knock road to the House of Sport gathering point, rather than turn back and grab another layer. As I arrived at the HoS there was a small gathering from VC Glendale Cycling Club just about to set off. I was the first Phoenix member there but soon enough I was joined by the others and we rolled out along the Malone road through Drumbeg and in to Lisburn.

From Lisburn it was the traditional route up the Ballynahinch road to Annahilt. There was more climbing as we made our way up through Kinallen then across the Gall Bog road and on to Katesbridge in beaut Sunshine.

Leaving Katesbridge we made our way across to Rathfriland and the short but steep, painful climb up in to the town. As per usual I was last to the top, my climbing speed is woeful. Everyone was in agreement that it never gets any easier! Descending down the other side of the Hill and turning right in to the Hilltown road for a quick nature stop at the public loos before the long uphill drag known as the Reed Hall Climb.

The scenery was stunning in the Autumn sunshine but I could not take time to enjoy it as I was again losing time to the group as they all were climbing a lot faster than myself. Eventually I reached the summit and had a nice fast, solo, descent all the way down to Rostrevor where we all regrouped for the final push to catch the Ferry.

We wanted to catch the 11am Sailing and had only 20 minutes to achieve that goal so the pace was ramped up considerably pushing out the Shore road and Killowen road then finally along the Greencastle road arriving at the Ferry with just one minute to spare, phew!

Carlingford Lough was lovely and calm, the Sun was shining, the Sky was Blue, the Mourne Mountains on one side and the Cooley Mountains on the other side, a picture perfect moment. If only this wee Country had this kind of Weather more frequently. A relatively expensive fee of three pounds and fifty pence got us across to the other side at Greenore and then just a short four mile spin round to Carlingford and a leisurely lunch and rehydration. We abandoned all our Bicycles outside the local Garda station.

Rested and suitably refreshed it was time to get going again. We set off from Carlingford along the R173 through Omeath with scenic views across Carlingford Lough and made very rapid progress to Newry. A short spin up to the Five Ways roundabout and then on to the Poyntzpass road where we picked up a tailwind and made the most of it keeping up a strong pace through Poyntzpass to Scarva then Gilford. Having not eaten and drank enough all Morning I was struggling to stay with the group and along the long uphill drag to Lurgan I got spat out the back riding solo to Lurgan where the group waited for me.

From Lurgan it was a easier spin down through Dollingstown and Magheralin to Moira and a quick stop at a Petrol station to gulp down a Sugar drink to reenergise the Legs but the lack of fuelling all ride could not be undone that easily and again I got spat out the back on the spin from Moira to Lisburn. I was now on my own so opted to take a quick rest in Wallace Park before continuing on through Dunmurry to Finaghy then up the Malone road through Stranmillis and home for a Leg cramp filled rest.

A fantastic day on the Bike with County Down revelling in her finest. A long ride at a fast pace, equally rewarding as it was tiring. Below is a short video I made of our day in the Saddle.

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