Unlike when we planned our route through Burma, we knew going into this trip that there really was only one path forward. Whilst the lakes of Berlin at least provide us with some water to stare out at, it isn't the same as sitting by the ocean and watching the waves crash against the shore, and we've missed that experience. The coast of Northern Ireland is renowned for its beauty and stunning views, so we want to see as much of it as we can.
This means that we'll head northwest out of Belfast on Day 1 and keep the ocean to our immediate right, thanks to the Antrim Coast Road. With the exception of three days during which we'll be cutting through the middle of the country, this is what we'll see for the majority of our time here – although we'll be lucky if the weather's that clement.
Perhaps the biggest appeal of cycling through this small country is the diversity of its landscape. You can ride with the sea on one side, whilst the other is an ever-changing landscape of mountains, glens, cliffs, drumlins and various rock formations that roll into the distance forever. It can be an arresting sight to turn round a bend and suddenly come face to face with a sheer mountain face rising straight out of the sea, especially when you're faced with gale force winds and it's raining like you'll never know dryness again.
There are several online resources that have proven worthy as we've started to think about how we might want to do this. Outdoor NI is a good overall site for sportives/events/places that are bike-friendly, and Cycle NI has a fantastic interactive route planner that covers the National Cycle Network throughout the entire country.
We're planning to stay in Bed and Breakfast joints along the way, save for the start and end points in Belfast, because:
- These are plentiful enough throughout Northern Ireland that there's always one somewhere charming within a day's ride.
- They will offer us the opportunity to have a full Ulster Fry every single morning before we set off, which sets you up like nothing else for a hard day in the saddle. Burning one of these off every day is a major reason for the trip.
- Our daily budget of £150 per day should allow for decent accommodation, hearty meals three times a day, and some extra for incidentals and other expenses.
How are we getting our tandem there?
This month, Ryanair has released a new direct route from Berlin Schönefeld Airport to Belfast International Airport and we've jumped at the opportunity. Previously, the travel option with the least amount of faff was flying there with KLM via Amsterdam, which is more expensive and time-consuming.
Keep in mind that the Ryanair route goes only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, so plan accordingly if you're travelling from Berlin like us. And know that whilst the flight fare itself is intoxicatingly cheap, they will catch you on extras like sports equipment (£60 per piece one way) and checked baggages (variable depending on weight). We're minimising this by having the two bike boxes (unavoidable) and packing our 4 panniers together so that we're only technically taking one piece of checked luggage each. Little tricks like this will ultimately help you to save where you can.
Other than that, it's relatively straightforward.