First riders sail along Belfast's new Maritime Heritage Trail

The new 7km city centre route launched last weekend on the eve of Bike Week with an inaugural ride from the starting point in CS Lewis Square to the Sailortown district, which also boasts strong connections to Belfast's ship-building past

Cycling UK partnered with local community organisations Eastside Partnership, the Maritime Trust and Sailortown Regeneration to create the trail and capture stories of how the people of Belfast have been shaped by the landscape around them.

Representatives of many of those organisations joined Cycling UK for the first inaugural ride of the trail. Around 15 riders completed the journey, which takes in the Maritime Mile and iconic Belfast landmarks like the Harland and Wolff cranes, the Titanic Museum and HMS Caroline, before crossing the Lagan to finish at St Joseph's Church in Sailortown. 

The trail was developed as part of Cycling UK's Routes and Roots project and is one of 29 projects supported by The Community Heritage Fund, which The National Lottery Heritage Fund is delivering on behalf of the Department for Communities to help people in Northern Ireland connect with their local heritage. 

Cycling UK's engagement officer for Northern Ireland, Josh Murray said: "It has taken a lot of hard work to bring forward this trail and to be ready to launch it in time for visitors and local people to be able to ride through Belfast's history as summer arrives and coronavirus restrictions begin to be lifted. 

"Everyone enjoyed riding the route and finding out more about shipbuilding and the lives of the shipyard workforce, many of whom would have originally travelled to work by bicycle in the first part of the 20th century. We are grateful to all our partners who have helped us to research the route and the stories of the people and the past."

I loved cycling along the Maritime Trail. It’s a side of Belfast that isn’t normally linked with cycling, but the views and history on offer was fantastic

Peter McReynolds, East Belfast councillor

Among those who joined the ride was Cllr Peter McReynolds (Alliance Party representing East Belfast) who was impressed with the new route which he said showed Belfast from a new perspective. "I loved cycling along the Maritime Trail. It’s a side of Belfast that isn’t normally linked with cycling, but the views and history on offer was fantastic. I am really looking forward to getting over again with friends and family, and spending time at some of the local hospitality businesses there. It's a great way to get out, be active and see Belfast from a new perspective," he said. 

Current travel guidance in Northern Ireland advises people to "think about walking or cycling for all or part of your journey, if you can" as some coronavirus restrictions are lifted, as this can be a quicker means of travel than public transport or private vehicles. 

You can download a GPX file of the route, as well as explore how this area used to look a century ago with an interactive map created by Queen's University Heritage Hub.