Sunday, March 13, 2011

Zoo to Zoo, Via Everywhere

Starting from the Zoo at 08:30 am on Friday 11 March, our plan was to basically explore as much of the off-road stuff around Belfast that we could before tea-time.

The route we took is here - bits of it I am sketchy on precise route, through all the singletracky stuff, as we were back and forth and all over the place.

A great day’s fun, well over 50km, but no speed records were broken.  It was like the tortoise and the hare, except the hare was run over and killed on the road by a truck and replaced by another tortoise. 
The tortoise and the tortoise, Cave Hill, just before we finished.

We parked on the entrance drive at the Belfast Zoo, fixed the puncture we'd got with the bike on the roof(!) hopped across the main road, turned left then immediately right opposite Pizza Hut and nipped down through Valley Park down to the Valley Leisure Centre. 
Entrance to Valley Park, just down from the NI Hospice building
A quick skite round the old BMX track down in the corner below Valley Leisure Centre, we headed to the main road again and across it down Glas-na-Braden Glen.  
Super winding singletrack on Glas-Na-Braden Glen took us along the river all the way down to the Shore Road.  To get this singletrack rather than the tarmac path, you need to turn right just after you enter the glen and go down a set of steps made out of breezeblocks.
Across the Shore Road, under the railway bridge, and out onto the cycle path alongside the M2 motorway, all the way into town, through Clarendon Dock and the city centre.  
The Big Fish; in front of one of Belfast's most recognisable landmarks
We followed the Lagan cycle route down to Ormeau Park, and headed in for a quick blast round the XMTB singletrack, which was great fun but pretty darn slippery!  A great spot for more proper trails to be considered.
We had a great chat with a very nice old fellow on a Dawes Super Galaxy, who stopped to give his assistance when we were fixing a puncture. He then proceeded to tell us of the folly of standard bicycles, the wisdom of the recumbent, and of his many biking adventures in 'Deutschland'.
The view from Belvoir.  Yep, we're going back over all that later.
We headed on down the Lagan (on the other side of the river than shown on map), and rattled round Belvoir and the Real Cycles built trails.
The Real Cycles log-ride - slippery, but still doable!
Stopping off in the Lock-keepers Inn, we enjoyed some great breakfast and plenty of banter with occasional adventure racing foes Craig and Joe, who joined us for refreshments.  Full of bacon, eggs, toast, coffee, muffins and a sneaky Star Bar, all of which took us about an hour, we stopped in with the folks from CAAN at Barnett's Demesne to say hello and congratulate them on their great work on MTB trail development, and were given a guided tour of the fantastic facilities at the Befast Activity Centre.  From there, it was out to the bumps, jumps and berms at Mary Peters track, then we headed out to Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park for another snuffle around the trails.
Tayto across the world - the Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, The Eiffel Tower, and of course Tesco in Dunmurry
From Dunmurry, we lit for Colin Glen along the road; Colin Glen is brilliant!  It’s a winding tarmac path climb which turns to rough stone then singletrack, but along sections of it right beside the river there is singletrack snaking parallel to the main path.  When you get under the road bridge then up to a long set of wooden steps, go up the steps.  The other way looks tempting, but it peters out and you will end up clambering around in the muck and branches and having to ford the river a couple of times and scrabble through a quarry (which is the way we went, clearly!)
Popping out the top of Colin Glen, we then went up the road to Divis & Black Mountain, just climbing on the tarmac, stopping off briefly with the lads building the extension to the Black Mountain boardwalk, who were doing all the joinery out of the rain, in the National Trust shed at the Divis car park.
Hard at work, helping to extend the boardwalk on Black Mountain
The fruits of our labour - not bad for an afternoon's work.
The snow was just starting to fall properly, so we didn’t hang about on Divis & Black and we took the rough stone path back over towards Cave Hill, passing through Wolf Hill Quarry and going over the top of Squire’s Hill on the way.
Onto Cave Hill via the Upper Hightown Road car park, the legs were starting to hurt on the final steep climb, and we were mighty glad to reach the summit, as the weather was now descending into farce.

It was on the summit that we met Elise, a very nice young lady from Boston, MA, who was out enjoying the Irish weather (it was sleeting hard at this point!) and looking for hike recommendations.  We had a good chat and a laugh and then bade her farewell in the sleet and snow.  Rather than hooking round to the right and down Cave Hill, we stayed left, down the wooden steps, and took the trails round towards the zoo again, which were fantastic fun and very slippery.  We had to hop over one fence, then had a nice grassy path to a stile, which dropped us right back to the car again on the zoo driveway – perfect!


Enda said...

Looks like a great route for a sunny day :)

TeamPurple said...

Did the zoo actually notice that 2 of the inmates had escaped for the day?

Tango and Cash said...

We prefer to think of ourselves as "residents", thank you very much!!

Elise said...

Hey fellas, it's Elise! Hiked the scenic route in Glen Arriff today. Gorgeous snow covered mountains, waterfalls galore from the heavy rains, and bright green mossy trees made it an unforgettable hike. Thanks so much for the rec!

boardwalk said...

lads must say enjoyed the crack, hope you enjoyed your tea. tom the boss says the next time you call he will have richtea biscuits for ya,s. the board walk free labour crew

Tango and Cash said...

Thanks for posting, folks. Great to meet you on the day, and maybe our paths will cross again. Happy trails!