The Dromore Loop via the Dromara Hills
Former Ulster & Ireland Rugby International
Why This Trip?
My favourite route is through the Dromara hills on the edge of the Mourne Mountains. I love this one, it’s got everything: two great climbs, super views, really nice coffee stops and a spin along Newcastle’s beautiful promenade where you can stop and take in the sea air or if you like a swim, a dip in the Irish sea.
Need to Know More?
The Dromore Loop via the Dromara Hills
Route Rating ➤ Challenging
Distance ➤ 74 km
Climbing ➤ 1,070 meters
Starting in Dromore village square, you can park your car just off the main street where there is no controlled parking. Graham’s newsagents is a good spot to start as we usually finish here and enjoy one of their famous homemade ice creams – you’ll deserve it after this spin!
From Dromore village square, cycle up Lower Mount street passing the impressive ancient Motte and Bailey, and head straight onto the Ballynahinch road. The road is fast and undulating for a couple of miles before taking a right turn at Leapogues Road towards Dromara Village. The Village Grill on the left entering the village is one of my coffee stops, usually on route home if I need a caffeine boost.
By this point you may notice that there isn’t much flat road about these parts and when you arrive at Dromara main street it’s a right turn towards Rathfriland. Just outside Dromara village you come across the hamlet of Finnis. Cycling over the small stone bridge you immediately turn left onto Dree hill. The first climb of the day. Dree hill is 2 tough miles of climbing. The hill is commonly known as the “mineshaft” by local riders and is my favourite climb in the province – pure class!
At the top you have a viewing point at the Slieve Croob car park, it’s worth taking a short walk off the bike for a breather and to enjoy the amazing views across Co. Down.
At the end of Dree hill turn left for the long descent down the Clonvaraghan road before turning right onto the A25 Ardnebannon towards Castlewellan. Just before Castlewellan, we peel off the A25 onto the Dundrinne road in the direction of Newcastle.
This wee loop from the turn off at Mill Hill adds about 9 miles to the route but on a fine day and with a small backpack for the towel and speedos, a swim in Newcastle adds to a good day out. Best place for a dip is by the harbour to avoid sand in your shoes! Alternatively Newcastle is a fine coffee / lunch stop.
We exit Newcastle on a gradual climb on the main Castlewellan road. Castlewellan Village (26.5 miles) has the Urban café, which serves up really healthy food to power your legs on the return back home.
The next 10 miles are a real test. Leaving Castlewellan heading towards Banbridge, we take a right off the Bann road onto the Leitrim road. Continuing straight onto the Dromara road we reach the Slievnaboley road before heading up the “Windy Gap”. This is the 2nd big climb of the day with great views at the top of the surrounding Mourne Mountains.
After the Windy Gap we’re heading off on the final leg. The descent down the far side of the Windy Gap is short and steep. Be careful not to miss the right turn onto the Carrigagh road, and right again on the Finnis road. Another short climb awaits you as you head back up Slieve Croob before taking a left turn back onto Dree Hill just over the summit. The descent down Dree Hill is very fast on this side of Slieve Croob and I’ve reached speeds close to 50mph on previous descents. Dropping down Dree hill you’ll soon be in Finnis and on the return route home to Dromore.
Rolling back into Dromore with heavy legs, it just might be time for that home-made ice-cream from Grahams in the village square. You’ll have eared it for sure!
If these climbs, Dree Hill and Windy Gap, were in France, there would be a few switchbacks for sure, but we don’t do many switchbacks in Ireland!