Welcome to Northern Ireland's Outdoor Adventure Blog. This blog will keep readers up to speed with all things ‘adventure’ in Northern Ireland this year. The OutdoorNI team will be posting up new and exciting information on the best ways to get out and enjoy the Northern Irish countryside whilst industry professionals will be letting us into their tips of the trade in order to get the best from Northern Ireland’s ultimate activity playground!

This blog is packed full of useful information for everybody looking to take part in outdoor activities from the hardcore adrenaline junkie to those simply looking for some fun ideas for all the family.

This outdoor adventure blog will cover a range of land, water and air based activities such as caving, coasteering, hover crafting, zorbing, surfing, sky diving and many more. You can also find more activity specific information by visiting the other three blog sections on cycling, canoeing and walking.

2018 MountainBikeNI Awards

Posted on January 30, 2019 @ 6:23 PM in Mountainbiking

The MountainBikeNI Awards, sponsored by Chain Reaction Cycles, are a great time of year where we can celebrate the very best of mountain-biking in Northern Ireland. Drum-roll please…here’s your 2018 Winners! 

 

Upcoming Trail Centre Winner: Gortin Forest Mountain Bike Trail Centre

Runner-up: Garvagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails

We’re as excited as everyone else at the prospect of the construction of new MTB Trails in Northern Ireland, so both these nominees are winners in our book. The people’s vote however landed behind the upcoming mountain bike trails in Gortin, Co. Tyrone. We’ll hopefully have plenty more news on both these trail centres soon! In the meantime, check out the other MTB trails across Northern Ireland: www.mountainbikeni.com/

 

 

Favourite Mountain Bike Trail Centre: Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails

Taking in 42% of the vote, Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails came out clear favourite here. Just look at that view – it’s not named Kodak Corner for nothing! 27km of red trail and 19km of black plus purpose-built two downhill trails make this consistently one of the top mountain bike centres in Ireland.

 


Favourite Mountain Bike Trail Section: Stream Trail, Davagh Forest  

A fast, flowy, and extremely fun section of trail, with plenty of berms and a few rock gardens thrown in, it’s not hard to see why the Stream Trail picked up its first ever MountainBikeNI Award – this trail section is definitely worth checking out. Big props to Davagh Forest!

Two sections of Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails fought it out for second-place, with Home Run receiving 127 votes and Batt out of Hell 126 votes. Trail sections at Castlewellan, Davagh and Rostrevor all received more than 25% of the vote each, showing just how much variety there is for mountain-biking in Northern Ireland.

 


Squad Leader of the Year: Andy Coburn   

 

Andy is a familiar face to mountain bikers all over Northern Ireland. A personal trainer at Positive-Attitude by Andy Coburn, he is a firm believer in the mental health benefits of mountain biking as well as the physical ones. Andy wanted to thank everyone that voted for him, earning him a nice little £50 voucher from sponsors Chain Reaction Cycles. He also asked us to remind everyone that he’s 40, so it’s not just a sport for the young ones!

 


Favourite Trailhead Provider: East Coast Adventure, Rostrevor

Taking first place in the ‘Favourite Trailhead Provider’ category is East Coast Adventure Centre, the official trailhead providers at Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails. They provide an uplift service (with free banter on the road up!)  as well as providing mountain bike lessons to people of all ages; it’s great to see them receive the recognition they deserve! Shoutout to Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan and Outdoor Concepts, Davagh Forest who received 35% and 21% of the vote respectively.

 

 

Favourite MTB-Friendly Café Winner: Urban Café, Castlewellan

Runner-up: Synge & Byrne, Rostrevor

Only two votes separated the top two spots here: in second-place we have Synge and Byrne at Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails , and our winner for ‘Favourite MTB-Friendly Café’ is…Urban Café in Castlewellan. No wonder Urban Café kept on to its top spot – this spot is a haven for mountain-bikers visiting Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails to rest up and grab a cuppa after a manic day out on the trails. I think we can agree on something – these are two top-class cafes for mountain-bikers in Northern Ireland.

 


Favourite Spot for an Apres-Ride Pint: Kilbroney Bar and Restaurant

Some call this the most important category in the MountainBikeNI Awards – while we don’t know about that, we do know Kilbroney Bar and Restaurant truly deserve this award. Well done to all the team there (congratulate them next time you’re in)!

 


Best MTB Event of 2018: Red Bull Foxhunt, Rostrevor

The chaos and craziness of the Red Bull Foxhunt, held at Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails, ensured it took top spot again as the ‘Best MTB Event of the year’. The Foxhunt was among a number of top-class mountain biking events held in Northern Ireland in 2018, with other events like the Davagh Enduro and the Psycle 24 Hour Endurance Event, Castlewellan also having massive turnouts. It’s fantastic that Northern Ireland is able to host such a great range of events for every level of mountain biker and that they continue to be so popular.

 


Favourite MTB-Friendly Accommodation: Kilbroney Caravan Park, Rostrevor

Coming in at top spot in the ‘Favourite MTB-Friendly Accommodation’, we have a new winner this year: Kilbroney Caravan Park, Rostrevor. The Park is situated in a stunning location, where mountain, sea and valley meet to create some scenic wonderland. Overlooking Carlingford Lough, the Park boasts 97 acres of beautiful parkland nestled within the shadow of Slieve Martin and the Mourne Mountains.

 

A special shout out also to the winner of the Garmin VivoSmart Heart Rate and GPS Monitor from Chain Reaction Cycles, Siobhan McGrath and thanks again to everyone that voted in the 2018 MountainBikeNI Awards.

Latest comment posted by Steven Kyle on February 15, 2019 @ 10:29 AM

Excited about the two new upcoming trails at Gortin & Garvagh, anyone know when these will be open? Read more >

Dominic Lyttle
Dominic Lyttle  Assistant Marketing Officer

Dominic has recently joined the ORNI team following completion of a MSc in Marketing from Queen’s University Belfast.

In his spare time, Dominic enjoys trekking, travelling to new and exciting places, and playing basketball, alongside drinking far too much coffee!

Meet The WalkNI Award Winners

Posted on January 21, 2019 @ 4:04 PM in Walking

Northern Ireland’s Favourite Walking Destinations have been officially named in the 2018 WalkNI Awards.

WalkNI Awards 2018

The Mourne Mountains and Causeway Coast & Glens stole the show in the 2018 WalkNI Awards as they picked up a host of accolades, including ‘Favourite Walking Destination of 2018’ and ‘Favourite Place to walk your dog’.

Highlighting the very best of walking in Northern Ireland, the WalkNI Awards allow the public to vote for their favourite walking destinations across the country. Featuring some new categories this year including ‘Favourite place to walk your dog’ and ‘Favourite place to watch a sunrise/sunset’, the Awards proved more popular than ever, with over 1,700 votes cast via WalkNI.com. We highly recommend adding these walks and locations to your must explore bucket list for 2019.

Mourne Mountains

‘Favourite Walking Destination’

The Mourne Mountains won the coveted title of the nations 'Favourite Walking Destination' in this years Awards. From summit views to rambles around the foothills and lowland forests, it is unsuprising as to why this location came out on top. Explore this area for yourself by checking out our Walker's Guide to the Mournes.

Mournes by Hibernia Landscapes

‘Favourite Place to watch a sunrise/sunset’

This new category in this year's awards was competitively fought by some of our favourite photographers in Northern Ireland. 'Golden Hour' in the Mourne Mountains was voted walkers favourite location and beautifully captured by Hibernia Landscapes

Moonlit Walk Cancer Focus

‘Best Charity Walk of 2018’

Voted 'Best Charity Walk of 2018' in this new category, Cancer Focus Moonlit Walk’s came out ontop. These Moonlit walks which reward walkers with spectacular panoramic views of the twinkling street lights of Newcastle Co. Down and Belfast, Co. Antrim from the top of Slieve Donard and Cave Hill in North Belfast. Check out the Cancer Focus NI Facebook page for details of their next Moonlit walk.

Mourne International Walking Festival

‘Favourite Walking Festival / Event’

The Mourne International Walking Festival held onto their title of 'Favourite Walking Festival / Event' in this year's awards. Taking place annually in the Mourne Mountains this festival is an unmissible date in hillwalkers diaries both nationally and internationally. Offering walkers a range of fantastic walks and a lively social scene its easy to see why this walking festival is so popular. Keep up to date with this and other walking festivals on WalkNI.

White Park Bay Beach

‘Favourite Place to walk on the Causeway Coast’

White Park Bay came out on top in this hotly contested category. This spectacular sandy beach under the care of the National Trust forms a white arc between two headlands on the Causeway Coast. It's secluded location means that even on a busy day you can find a place to enjoy one of the most natural coastlines in Northern Ireland. A great walk the whole family can enjoy, this locaion is fossil rich with archaeolical evidence everywhere.

Slieve Donard

‘Favourite Summit in the Mournes’

Slieve Donard Northern Ireland's highest mountain was awarded the title of walkers 'Favourite Summit in the Mournes'. There are a number of ways you can reach the summit of Donard. Check out the Slieve Donard via The Glen River Trail or Slieve Donard via Bloody Bridge Trail.

Meelmore Lodge Cafe

'Favourite Walker Friendly Coffee Shop’

Where better to stop after a busy day of exploring the Mourne Mountains than Meelmore Lodge Café?! The ideal start and finish point, Meelmore Lodge offers a large car park, camping area and tempting menu of warm drinks and delicious food options.

Murlough National Nature Reserve

‘Favourite Nature Reserve’

A firm favourite with walkers Murlough National Nature Reserve has once again claimed the title of 'Favourite Nature Reserve' in Northern Ireland. This fragile 6000 year old sand dune system owned by the National Trust was Ireland’s first Nature Reserve. This location boasts an extensive range of habitats to discover including linen-rich hollows, gorse and bracken scrub, and woodland.

Benone Strand

‘Favourite Place to walk your dog’

In another competitive new category in the 2018 awards, dog walkers voted Benone Strand as their favourite location to walk with their dog. Forming one of Ireland's longest beaches this location affords spectacular views along the North Coast, to Inishowen in Donegal and to Scotland. Please note seasonal dog free zones.

The Giant's Lair

‘Favourite Family Friendly Walk’

The Giant’s Lair woodland walk explores Hawthorn Hill Nature Reserve within Slieve Gullion Forest Park. On this trail inspired by legend and mythical folklore, a magical living storybook is brought to life through a trail of intertwined fairy houses and arts features creating a childhood land with dragons, giants and fairies.

Visit WalkNI.com for more information on walking routes throughout Northern Ireland including the winning trails, upcoming walking festivals, events and downloadable walk guides.

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Officer & Active Clubs Coordinator for Walking

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She oversees the marketing and communication on WalkNI, OutdoorNI and Walking in Your Community Project. Most recently she has been working with Parkrun Ireland & UK to introduce the 'Walk @ parkrun' initiative.

5 Festive MTB Treats

Posted on December 18, 2018 @ 3:19 PM in Mountainbiking

1. Sign up for the Christmas Trail Quest at Castlewellan Forest Park


This fun yet challenging quest takes you around the Castlewellan MTB trails, alongside the stunning scenery of the surrounding Castlewellan Forest Park. The quest will give you the opportunity to test your MTB skills, as well as planning, navigation, and teamwork.

A 2-hour maximum event, the Quest is suitable for Novice and Experienced cyclists alike, and you can enter as a Solo rider or a Team of any number (including families).

Find out more about this event here, and you can book online by following this link: bit.ly/ChristmasTrailQuest

Essential details:

  • Friday 28th December 2018; 10:00-13.00
  • £10/£7 advanced booking online only - ***closing date extended to 5pm on the 27th December*** - PLEASE NOTE PRE-BOOKING IS REQUIRED THIS YEAR

For friends not questing (your team support), whilst not out and about spectating, the Life Adventure centre will be open with fire roaring and both fresh coffee and free Wifi flowing!

As a Quest participant you'll also get complimentary use of the trailside centre with changing/hot showers and access to the cosy coffee dock with free Wifi.

 

2. Visit a new trail centre this Winter

Why not visit a new MTB trail centre that you’ve never been to before this Winter in Northern Ireland? Whether it’s one of the national trail centres like Rostrevor, regional centres such as Blessingbourne, or a local MTB facility like Tollymore, there’s plenty of mountain-biking opportunities to explore in Northern Ireland.

There’s also two brand new trails in Gosford Forest Park that are officially opening to the public in January 2019. Start the New Year off by exploring two brand new trails. Discover the wider Gosford Forest by following the Green or Blue graded family mountain bike trails, including optional technical sections, a Skills Loop and a Pump track.

Check out the trails here!

 

3. Ride out with the squad to the local

Meet up with friends that are home for Christmas or maybe take a friend out to the trails that hasn’t mountain-biked before – then treat yourselves to a few après-ride pints and well well-deserved grub. Remember that the trails are 100% free to use, and you can check trail conditions before you go on MountainBikeNI.com

MountainBikeNI has a range of suggestions for food and drink options available here that are close to the three National MTB trail centres in Northern Ireland: Davagh, Rostrevor, and Castlewellan, alongside suggestions for accommodation if you want to stay over close to the trails.

 

4. Vote in the MountainBikeNI Awards

The MountainBikeNI Awards celebrate the very best of Mountain Biking in Northern Ireland.  This year, MountainBikeNI has teamed up with official sponsors Chain Reaction Cycles to showcase all things great about Mountain Biking in Northern Ireland. 

This year we have also included two brand new categories; “Best Squad Leader" which recognises the person in your group always hounding friends to get out on the bike; and “Trail Centre You’re Most Looking Forward to Riding”. 

Vote here for your favourite MTB trail sections, favourite MTB cafes and accommodation, best MTB event of 2018 and more to be in with a chance of winning a Garmin VivoSmart Heart Rate and GPS Activity Tracker.

Voting closes at 11.59pm on Sunday 6th January.

Good luck to everyone nominated!

 

5. Enter MountainBikeNI’s competition to win this amazing prize!

Win 3 Top Prizes from Chain Reaction Cycles! Fill in your details here to be in with a chance of winning a Muc-Off Premium 3 Step Valet Kit; a LifeLine Pavo 2000L Front Light, and a LifeLine Aero Beam 25 Lumen Rear Light.

The winner will be selected on Monday 14th January at 12pm and will be contacted via email.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Meet the Sponsor: Decathlon, Belfast

Posted on December 18, 2018 @ 11:34 AM in CyclingLocal Outdoors

In the first of a series of upcoming interviews with our event sponsors, we sit down with the main event sponsor of the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive – Decathlon Belfast. These interviews are intended to help put a ‘face’ to the often-corporate branding, so that our participants know about the strong connection our sponsors have to cycling and the Sportive World.

For Week 1, we sat down with Lee Aston, Belfast Cycles Department Manager from the store.

 

Hi Lee, thanks for speaking to us! Would you mind telling us a bit about your role at Decathlon?

Hi Ethan. So, my role in Decathlon Belfast is that of the Cycles Department Manager. I've been working in the Belfast store for over 2 years now and have a keen interest in most forms of cycling, mostly road and MTB. My role varies from day to day - one day I could be building the countless number of bikes we get into store on a daily basis (especially now at Christmas time when building and selling never stops) or it could be dealing with customers wanting a cycle scheme which is run through their work place and helping them find the perfect bike. I also help out with the different store events we have and sometimes get to take part in them myself. So yeah, my day to day is never really the same if I'm honest.

Some of Decathlon Belfast's impressive cycling stock

 

Sounds ideal for knowing about all things to do with a Sportive! What impressed yourselves about the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive / prompted you to get involved with it?

What doesn't impress me is the better question! After taking part in the event last year, all be it a bit wet at the start, it was easy to see why it is so popular. The location, the people, how it's set up and the excellent food stops and service stations along the way make it extremely appealing to us as a store. In store we have a large range of road bikes which suit a lot of those who take part in sportives and there is no better way to let people know we have these bikes than sponsor this massive event and spread the brand to all those who take part.

 

Decathlon Belfast are offering an Early Bird Offer – could you tell us a bit about it?

The Early Bird Offer consists of a brake and gear adjustment and a tyre and bolt check. Perfect to get the competitors bikes in tip top shape for whichever of the 4 routes they decide to take on. 

 

What else might people be interested in picking up when they call in store?

Within Decathlon Belfast we have over 70 different sports under one roof, from cycling to hiking to horse riding; we cover all areas. While customers are in buying their cycling essentials for the event like energy gels, co2 canisters and tool kits they may be able to try out a new sport they have never thought about previously. As our moto goes, ‘Decathlon makes sport accessible for the many.’ 

If you're stocking up on your gels, co2 cannisters or multi-tools, Decathlon is the place to go.

 

Have you taken part in the event yourself? If so, what was your favourite part?

Yes I took part in the event last year for the first time. I did the 35mile route and it was outstanding. My favourite part of it was the coast road going towards Bushmills as the views were just excellent (especially once the rain stopped!)

 

One of our photographer's snapped Lee during his route! 

 

Finally, Decathlon Belfast are also providing mechanical support at next year’s event. What does this involve for yourselves?

This will involve myself and the team helping fix punctures, provide gear tune ups and bolt checks along with any other quick fixes we can do there and then to help competitors. We will be on the road in 3 different vehicles along with our support at the event HQ, so nobody has to worry if you get stuck half way round!

 

     

You'll see plenty of Decathlon vans on the day as they respond to any problems riders may have on the course.

 

Thanks for speaking to us Lee! People can find the Decathlon Belfast store on Facebook.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

RNLI: Stay Safe In Your Kayak

Posted on December 17, 2018 @ 1:04 PM in Canoeing

RNLI Lifeboats has been proactively engaging with CanoeNI.com to share some basic top tips and kit recommendations to help paddlers stay safe whilst enjoying their paddling experience.

Whilst the RNLI recognises many paddlers undertake plenty of training and ensure they carry all the relevant safety equipment, there has also been a significant increase in more casual users taking up the sport.

In addition to providing further information within this website, CanoeNI will be distributing copies of the ‘RNLI Sea Kayaking Safety Pack’ within all mail ordered copies of the Strangford Lough Canoe Trail Guide.

 

RNLI Sea Kayaking Safety Pack

 

How to stay safe

  • Always carry a means of calling for help and keep it within reach: If it can't be reached in an emergency, it's no help.
  • Wear a personal flotation device
  • Check the weather and tides.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you'll be back.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions and your trip.
  • Get some training: Contact your local canoe club and look for coaching sessions run by Canoe Association of Northern Ireland

Further information is available at RNLI.org/kayaking

 

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Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

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