Routes and Roots: Q&A

Cycling is a great way to connect with a place and bring to life local heritage and history. Cycling UK, supported by the National Lottery Community Heritage Fund, is working with community organisations and Belfast residents to create a trail that explores how Belfast’s maritime heritage has shaped this area of the city today

What is the aim of the Routes and Roots project?

We want to engage Belfast residents and visitors with the heritage of the city in an active way, and create a route to connect the communities of Eastside and Sailortown to each other.

Our aim for the project is to encourage as many people as possible to take part in the journey, take in what the area has to offer in terms of landmarks and features, but also learn about what these places used to look like and the people who used to live and work there. 

How did the project come about?

Inspired by Cycling UK’s Tales of the Trails project in the Welsh Valleys, Cycling UK’s engagement officer for Northern Ireland Josh Murray wanted to do something similar. He spotted that the National Lottery Community Heritage Fund NI was open for applications, and got chatting with Keith Lilley at Queens Heritage Hub, as well as receiving some great ideas from Cycling UK members.

The idea they kept coming back to was the thought of creating a trail to bring the ship building area of East Belfast together with Sailortown, where dockers and their families would have lived - and so the Maritime Heritage Trail was born.

Black and white photo of a ship in a graving dock in Belfast

Is this a brand new cycle trail?

The project does not involve constructing new trails, but links together existing cycle infrastructure including the Comber Greenway and the Maritime Mile to visit well-known landmarks and lesser-known interesting places.

What is the route like and where does it go?

The Maritime Heritage Trail uses a mix of traffic-free cycle paths and quiet streets. At just under 7km it is achievable to explore on foot as well as by bike, and packs a lot of fascinating places into a relatively short distance.

Who is involved?

We have been grateful to be able to partner with several brilliant community organisations: Eastside Partnership, Sailortown Regeneration and Maritime Trust. The enthusiasm of these people to share their history and stories has really brought the project to life.

The Community Heritage Fund is being distributed by The National Lottery Heritage Fund on behalf of the Department for Communities.

How will the project continue in the future?

Cycling UK is providing ride leader training to our partner organisations, to enable them to guide people along the trail, as well as having maps and online guides available for people to enjoy the route themselves.

When can I go and ride it?

The route will be available at the end of May, with route map leaflets, a short film exploring the stories of the places the trail passes through, and an interactive map tour.

We are hoping to hold a launch ride at the end of May, Covid-19 restrictions permitting.