Ballinastoe is a 14km trail and takes about 1.5 - 2hrs. The descents are gentle winding single track. The return loop uses both fire road and single track. If you are used to mountain biking you will have no problems here. The terrain is a combination of granite rock and hardcore, forest floor and boards. Speed is regulated by strategically placed rocks and switch backs along the way so it is a very safe trail. Recent harvesting along the route has resulted in some exposed tree stumps along the way. It would be advisable to have them ground down.
Each single trail section here has a slightly different flavour. Some sections are rocky with gentle uphill which interrupts your natural progression along the route. Other sections are sheltered forest paths which are relatively flat. Whilst one particular descent runs seamlessly along and includes some berms and gentle twisting single track. The bends along this stretch send you into a thoughtless trance. All you feel is the trail as your speed gradually increases and slows effortlessly.
The trail drains very well for the most part but there are patchy sections of mud at the top of the trail. The fastest stretch of downhill is becoming cut up in places and this is likely to have a negative effect on what is otherwise the most enjoyable section of the trail. In more recent times the trail has become more and more worn and is more heavy going and tiring to cycle as a result.
Which bike to use.
Any type of mountain bike will work well here. Full suspension is an advantage purely because it is a very stoney trail which is hard going. Full Suspension would reduce some of the vibration, thereby leaving you less tired. For tyres I use DMR Moto's and I find that on gravel type trails over boulders they are super grippy and fast rolling.
The facilities at Ballinastoe are bad. There is free car parking which is usually full at the weekends. The nearest toilet facilities are in Kilmacanogue which is about a 15 minutes drive from the car park. Signage is not good. The trail is marked but does not allow for people that may want to return early to the car park. Also we believe that the posts should be numbered and referenced on a map.
There is accommodation in close proximity to the trail but it has not yet been vetted for mountain bike suitability.
Ballinastoe is situated in North Wicklow and offers some great views of Lough Tay which can be seen if a slight detour is taken at the top of the trail. It is also near to Roundwood, the highest village in Ireland, which has some nice pubs and restaurants. Be sure to visit Avoca hand weavers in Kilmacanogue, for the best in Irish crafts, knitwear and food.
Southbound from the M50 continue on and join the M11-N11 take the exit at Kilmacanogue. Join the R755 (Calary Hill) towards Roundwood. You will pass the Sugarloaf mountain on your left. After about 10 km., Take a right on to the R759 (Sally Gap Road) to the next junction. Turn right here and follow this road for 2 km. The trail and lower car park is on your left. Driving time from Kilmacanogue is about 15min.