Stunningly picturesque in places, Tollymore Forest is an absolute gem for all the family but look closely and you’ll also find some incredible trails strewn with gaps, drops and off-camber roots.
Tollymore Forest is located just above Bryansford. The main entrance is on the Newcastle side of the village and there is plenty of parking and some toilets if you pay the entrance fee. For more immediate access to the trails you can continue towards Hilltown and park at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre where there is free parking, hoses and coffee and brownies on sale.
Please note: If parking at Tollymore Centre spaces are limited. Bikers should park on the gravel area and the concreted area should be kept free for people using the centre itself.
There is more free parking in the small car park just above Tollymore Centre, 50 metres up the Kilcoo road, opposite Moneyscalp Forest.
There’s a short skills loop at Tollymore Centre with a few corners, drops and fun features. It’s OK for a warm up whilst your mate is finding his missing shoe but not a lot more. There’s 1km of trail on both sides of the entrance road.
Constantly evolving and growing thanks to the work of some very dedicated builders, Tollymore is ideal for riders of all abilities, although a decent standard of fitness is required. Families can enjoy the fire roads and gain some great views of the Mournes from the boundary trail and if you have non-biking family then the play park and the river walks near the main car park can entertain kids for hours.
Tollymore Forest has a lovely friendly feel to it with many ornate bridges and features and two conjoining rivers that run through its length. Trails wise it has some gems with the majority winding down from the summits of New Park and the Drinns, the two hills that make up the bulk of the elevation. Finding many of them is pretty simple, just make your way up the fire roads on the two hills and keep your eyes peeled left and right. As ever though having a guide is the only guaranteed way to link them all together and not miss the best bits.
If you’re handy with a map then the Mournes 1:25,000 has Tollymore Forest included. Blow it up big and use it to navigate the main tracks but none of the fun stuff is marked because it doesn’t officially exist.
New Park (the right-hand hill when viewed from the main road) has the easiest to locate trails. Ride to the top and you’ll see plenty to get you going. Trails on the Drinns are better hidden.
For the Strava heads out there, you can use the app to locate some trailheads but beware, wind-blown trees and extensive felling at the top of the Drinns have destroyed many older trails.
Tollymore drains remarkably well and even following heavy rainfall the trails often stay in decent condition so it’s a good choice when the forecast is gloomy.
Please avoid the track directly adjacent to the river as this is where most walkers go and it’s pretty narrow. There’s loads of riding all over the forest so to keep relationships friendly stay up in the higher parts.
Tollymore has hosted numerous XC races and has also been the site for the Irish National Cyclocross Champs and it’s possible to find some entertaining sections of singletrack from the previous courses near the river at the very bottom end of the forest.
If you head right to the bottom forest boundary (on the concrete road beyond Ivy Bridge) you’ll find the very end of the trails from the Drinns on your right. It’s a long push up but is a handy way to locate this particular network.
With a bit of easy navigation on the Mournes 1:25,000, you can make the short and boggy trip across to Donard Forest.
If you pay into the Forest Park then you can get hold of the map of the walking trails and mark the riding on it as you find it.
Fit beginners who are happy to cruise fire roads in beautiful surroundings, intermediate standard riders who enjoy natural singletrack and expert riders who like things rooty, rutted and steep in places.
Ian bases much of his coaching here, give him a shout to arrange a session to push your riding to the next level.
Most Suitable Bike?
Anything up to 160mm of travel is perfect. I wouldn’t bother bringing the DH bike unless you like spending 98% of your day pushing but each to their own!
Newcastle is a handful of miles away with plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants. There is also lots of local accommodation.
Tollymore National Outdoor Centre has hoses for cleaning bikes, a coffee machine and brownies/flapjacks for sale (ask at reception). Please respect paying users of the centre by not taking up all the parking and avoid arrest by not stripping off in the car park. People in the higher bedrooms and groups on the high-ropes course can see it all!
And a Disclaimer
These trail guides are personal opinions only and as such are entirely subjective. Other people will disagree but this is what we think. We’re experienced riders and we know what we like. The guides are written to be factual to a point but are obviously influenced by our viewpoints, if you want clarification on anything then contact us.
Please don’t come crying to us if you get lost, hurt or chased by angry landowners when taking cheeky shortcuts. Many of the forest trails don’t officially exist, there is no trail map apart from the trail centres and so you need to exercise care.
Stick to the advice laid out above, be sensible and you’ll have an amazing time discovering the stunning Northern Ireland mountain bike trails. Ignore the advice and just like anywhere in the World you may end up in big trouble. You have been duly warned.
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