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.

Former Irish Downhill Champion Visits Davagh and Blessingbourne

Posted on July 17, 2017 @ 6:41 PM in Mountainbiking

Newry-based mountain biking legend Glyn O'Brien and fellow advenuterer wife Catherine took a trip to west to Blessingbourne Estate and Davagh Forest recently to visit the mountain bike trails on offer there.

Blessingbourne Estate

On a typically damp summer evening we made our way to the beautiful Blessingbourne Estate, in Fivemiletown, Co.Tyrone.

The trailhead at Blessingbourne Estate MTB Trails.

The rain certainly hadn't dampened anyone's spirits as the estate was buzzing with families arriving to stay in the fabulous 5 star self-catering accommodation. After a warm welcome from Colleen & Nick, we ventured out on the trails, neither of us having been to Blessingbourne since the recent extension.

 

OB2!

We both had forgotten how much fun could be had on some of the original features such as the Crocodiles back and Snakes trail. From winding boardwalks, flowing berms and skinny log rides to challenging rock drop-off options alongside the main trail, Blessingbourne really has something for everyone.

 

A different view of the Blessingbourne trails with my big head stuck in the middle of it! 


Cato keeping focused on the Crocodile's Back

We were reminded what a fun, family-friendly venue it really is - and so much craic for grown ups too! We even enjoyed a game of table tennis and swing ball after our ride!

 

Davagh Forest

Next day we arrived at Davagh Forest, situated in Co Tyrone. We noticed that a fabulous new play park had been added since our last visit. Despite the poor weather the trails were busy with riders of all ages.

 

There's something pretty magical about Davagh Forest.

The notorious "Widow Maker" climb never seems to get any easier but the laborious climb is well-rewarded with the sweepy descents of 'Big Wig Jig' and 'Run Ragley Run'.

 

Encouragement for the Widowmaker!

Every time we go to Davagh we always find a new treasure on the trails - with many variations for riders of all abilities. This time was no exception. Although we love the notorious features such as Boundary rock and Wolfs Hill there are many other rocky outcrops to play on along the way.

 

Tearing down one of Davagh's finest trails on a slightly damp summers day. I reckon its better when its wet anyway! 

The newer 'Stream trail' is riding like a dream - always a fast few minutes of whoopy fun!

Of course we couldn't leave Davagh without calling into The Sheperds Rest, a family-run bar located just 10minutes from the trail head. We were welcomed in our muddy gear and sat beside a warm fire with a pint of Guinness and a hearty post-ride meal. The pub has been in the family since the 1930s and we enjoyed a bit of a history lesson from Colin the owner.

 

We definitely earned these pints.

All in all we had a super weekend re-discovering some of the fun to be had in our local trail centres, and we hope to visit again very soon! Returning home from 3 weeks racing and riding in Europe it was refreshing to be reminded of the fantastic trail centres and facilities we have on our own doorstep!

For information on the MTB Trails at Blessingbourne Estate or Davagh Forest visit MountainBikeNI.com. Glyn is the founder of FirstTracksMTB.com - who offer coaching in mountain biking and run the much loved Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup.

Glyn O'Brien
Glyn O'Brien  Professional Mountain Biker

Glyn has a career spanning over 30 years on 2 wheels – from BMX, Moto X and DH. Some of his career highlights include 3rd Redbull Rampage, 2nd Masters Worlds Champs and Irish DH Champion. Glyn’s passion for riding remains as strong as ever and he wants to instill his experience and
enthusiasm into the rest of the team.

Photo Blog of Davagh Forest and Blessingbourne Estate

Posted on June 27, 2017 @ 5:01 PM in Mountainbiking

Can't keep up #bluetrail #6yearold #blessingbournemountainbikingtrails #blessingbourne #merida #bigtrail800

A post shared by Trigger (@run_trigger_run) on Dec 31, 2016 at 8:42am PST

 

We love seeing you all hitting the trails around Northern Ireland. Be sure and tag us @MountainBikeNI, #davaghrocks and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Walk Where You’ve Never Walked Before

Posted on June 19, 2017 @ 3:37 PM in AdventureWalking

For those in search of an epic Instagram photo or somewhere new to walk this summer, we share some exciting new trails which have opened in the spectacular Causeway Coast & Glens. Your chance to enjoy previously inaccessible spectacular views near Ballycastle and Cushendun, Co. Antrim this summer. 

Fairhead
Fairhead Northern Ireland

Those who come to explore the new trails at Fairhead are in for a treat this summer, with over 13 miles of trails to discover, you can expect stunning coastal views towards Ballycastle, Rathlin Island and the picturesque Murlough Bay from this ruggedly beautiful, wild and remote location.

Local myth states that it was at the iconic cliffs of Fairhead above the famous Sea of Moyle where the Children of Lir, were put under an evil spell, transforming them into swans to spend 900 years in exile from humanity. Composed of a rock called dolerite, the great cliffs of Fairhead were born out of volcanic activity some 60 million years ago. The upper half of the cliff is formed of gigantic columns which are up to 12 metres in diameter, some of which are separated from the rest of the cliff but still stand, despite their precarious nature.

The walks begin from a farm car park clearly signposted off the Fairhead Rd. With a range of walks to choose from ranging from 1.5 to 3.4 miles (all offering spectacular clifftop views) these fully waymarked trails are named according to their Irish placenames. Several interpretative panels are dotted along the routes to provide you with more information on the history and geology of the area. Choose between 5 routes

  • Lough Dubh Walk (Red Route) 1.5 mile
  • Casan an Loch Walk (Purple Route) 2.2 miles
  • An Belach Runda Walk (Green Route) 3.1 miles
  • Loch na Crannoige Walk (Blue Route) 3.3 miles
  • Murlough View Walk (Yellow Route) 2.9miles 

The walks are all interlinked meaning that you can return to the start at various points. Please be aware that sections of these walks are situated near a cliff edge and due care must be taken particularly during windy conditions and in poor visibility.  Weather conditions along the coast can change very quickly - so be prepared.  Although the walks are waymarked it is advised that you equip yourself with a map.  The walking routes pass through areas of open land and working farmland. Livestock may be present and ground conditions are often uneven, wet and mucky underfoot and as such walking boots are strongly recommended.  

Ronan's Way
Ronan's Way

Ronan's Way is a rare opportunity to access some of the most stunning scenery in the Glens of Antrim on foot. With over 8 miles of new trails developed this is a fantastic opportunity to experience the breathtaking scenery of the inspiring Glens landscape.  

The walks are located on the McAuley Farm, on a stretch of land in memory of Ronan McAuley, a true Glens man who had a dream that more people would explore and enjoy Glendun and the exquisite views of the land that he called home. A couple of benches situated along the routes mean you can sit back and admire the breathtaking views. The diversity of natural habitat (woodland, peatland, farmland and the river) in Glendun means that there is an abundance of wildlife to see. 

A truly inspiring landscape, there are four routes of varying lengths to explore each providing an opportunity to view across one of the nine Glens of Antrim and over the channel to the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. Located in a glen all of the walks have climbs, but the views are worth it! Walking boots are strongly recommended as the ground can become mucky underfoot. All walks begin at the carpark off the Glendun Rd where a trailhead panel and waymarker posts will direct you to the following walking routes;

  • Green Loop, 0.9 miles
  • Yellow Loop, 1.2 miles
  • Blue Loop, 2.3 miles
  • Red Loop, 3.4 miles

Those looking to extend their time walking in the Glens can visit the nearby Cregagh Wood; a short 0.9 mile woodland walk worth a visit. The wood's tranquil and peaceful surroundings make this location an excellent home for Red Squirrels who can often be spotted running from branch to branch.   

Waterfoot Beach Walk
Waterfoot Beach

For those who do love to be beside the seaside, the new 1.6 mile beach boardwalk at Waterfoot near Cushendun is well worth exploring on a sunny day. 

Depending on tide levels, you can take a walk back on the beach or retrace your steps along the coastal path when you reach the end of the route. With two playparks along the way for the kids to explore this is an ideal family walk this summer before tucking into a BBQ/ picnic on the beach and paddling in the sea.

The walk looks out towards Red Bay Castle which projects out onto the headland just north of Glenariff and passes species rich grasslands. Feel free to walk through the wildflower meadow where you can spot yellow-rattle flower and small copper butterfly.

Don't forget to share your photos with us on social media using #WalkNI.

Latest comment posted by Valerie campion on July 3, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

I am visiting the area in sept for a weekend of walking , I am looking forward to taking some of the above walks . The area looks spectatulor . Read more >

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

Size Isn't Everything

Posted on May 31, 2017 @ 6:30 PM in Mountainbiking

When thinking about where you’re going to spend those precious few hours on your bike during the week, there can be a temptation to go exclusively for the big names. Davagh Forest. Castlewellan MTB Trails. Rostrevor MTB Trails.

They are of course all outstanding trails and well worth a visit, but to keep to these three exclusively is to miss out on some of the other fantastic mountain bike experiences right at your doorstep in Northern Ireland.


Barnett Demesne

The idea that Barnett Demesne might not even be considered by some would be anathema to its many loyal riders. Located only four miles from the centre of Belfast, Barnett Demesne is located beside the Mary Peters track and boasts Ireland’s first official purpose-built jumps park! 

The trails

The trails themselves consist of 8.8km of green, blue and red lines, worked into a remarkably compact area. This lends to a quick course with sharp technical corners, some great boardwalks and rock sections, and a surprising number of climbs. All this is that bit more impressive when you consider that Barnett is tucked away in a relatively small bit of woodland, with walking trails on one side, sports pitches on the other and the river Lagan running through it.

 

What else is there to do?

Given the proximity to Belfast city centre, there’s no shortage of things to do in the area. In the immediate vicinity, that could mean taking the bike onto the towpath and cycling to a nearby cafes. Or you could head into town and visit any of the multitude of great restaurants, bars and music venues. 

 

Blessingbourne Estate

Blessingbourne is ideal for everyone, whether you’re a lone MTBer, going with the family or heading with a group of friends. In addition to the outstanding trails there, it has top class accommodation and plenty of resources on site to keep you entertained. In the last few months, it has won a multitude of awards including MountainBIkeNI’s “Best MTB Friendly Accommodation”, a “9.9” rating badge from Booking.com, and most recently, won the much coveted Accommodation of the Year award in the self catering section of the Tourism NI awards.

The Trails

Mountain bikers that ride Blessingbourne for the first time are usually surprised. In addition to the 12km of blue and red trails, it also packs a few orange features. Berms, log rides and rock drops abide and it makes for an incredibly pleasant mountain bike experience. In particular, Blessingbourne Mountain Bike Trails are ideal for the beginner. With bike hire available on site, the 12km gives a good test of endurance for the newer MTBer, with zero hill climbs. There is also a pump track on site.

What else is there to do?

We recommend renting one of the self catering cottages at Blessingbourne and making a trip out of it. Colleen and Nick who own the Estate are outstanding hosts and only too happy to help with anything during your stay. Enjoy the walking trails around the historic estate, bring the little ones to the play area, or head out and visit the nearby town of Fivemiletown.

Tollymore Skills Course

There have been loads of blogs about Tollymore Skills Course, but we thought it would be remiss to leave out here, largely because it’s so much fun! The guys at Tollymore accommodate for all levels, whether you're getting on your mountain bike for the first time - or a seasoned pro. Book a session with them on their website.

 

The Trails

The skills course at Tollymore has around 1.5km of singletrack trails, ideal for both complete beginners and those looking to brush up on their skills. With everything you could want to hone up on (rollers, table tops, rock sections, northshore etc), you can rest assured you’ll come away as a better mountain biker.

What else is there to do?

With both Castlewellan and Newcastle just a stone’s throw away, both towns are filled with loads of great activities and restaurants for visitors. Tollymore also runs courses on mountaineering, rock climbing and canoeing!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Get into Watersports with Get Wet NI this Summer

Posted on May 31, 2017 @ 12:22 PM in Adventure

Continue the fun out on the water through the summer months with Get Wet NI's Participation Events. Come and have a go at something new with your local watersports club, uncover a new passion or improve your skills and confidence.

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Down

Coastal Rowing Summer Sessions For Juniors, Portaferry Coastal Rowing Club, Strangford Lough, Sat 8th & Sun 9th July.  A fantastic opportunity for kids aged between 11 & 18 yrs to have a go at rowing on the Gilpin Skiff. Each session will be led by a qualified cox from Portaferry Coastal Rowing Club

Bright Night Sailing For JuniorsDonaghadee Sailing Club, Various dates throughout May, June & July. An opportunity for those aged between 8 & 17 yrs old to get out on the water and learn some of the basics of sailing while having great fun with like-minded juniors.

Dinghy Ducks Sailing Programme, East Down Yacht Club, Downpatrick, Various dates throughout May & June. Get out on the water and learn to sail a Dinghy during these popular Friday night training sessions ideal for individuals, families and groups of friends.

Learn to Waterski/ Wakeboard with the experts, Meteor Water Ski Club, Various dates throughout May, June & July. Learn to ski on a beautiful picturesque lake. An adrenaline fuelled session with expert coaches. 

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Antrim

Go Rowing With Lagan Curraghs, Lagan Curraghs, River Lagan, Belfast, Various Dates throughout May, June & July.  Experience rowing a traditional currach on the River Lagan and Belfast Lough. Learn basic rowing techniques and try your hand on the steering oar.

4 Week Rowing Course for Beginners, Lagan Scullers, River Lagan, Belfast, 4 week course with various start dates from May to October. This four week course for beginners is aimed at improving your basic rowing skills and confidence in a fun and safe way.

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Fermanagh

Sunset Paddle, Share Discovery Village, Lisnaskea, Fri 2nd June. Sunset Paddles are an excellent way to be introduced to the sport of canoeing. You don’t need to have any previous canoeing experience, specialist kit or skills…just come and have a go!

Recreational Paddle, Erne Paddlers, Castle Archdale, Sun 4th June. A great way to see and experience the beautiful vistas and ancient sites of Lough Erne. Joine Erne Paddlers and explore some hidden gems only accessible by boat including.

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Armagh

Learn To Sail Beginners Sessions, Craigavon Watersports Centre, Various dates throughout May, June, July, August & September. Learn how to confidently sail in sheltered waters. This first step session is aimed at beginners and is an ideal way to learn the basics of sailing.

Canoe & Kayak Starter Sessions, Newry & Mourne Sea Kayak & Canoe Club, Camlough Lake, Sat 10th June. An ideal opportunity to get out on the water and try canoeing & kayaking with expert instructors.

Check out GetWetNI.com for even more fantastic events on offer throughout the Summer.

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

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