Posted on February 20, 2014 @ 4:11 PM in
I’m in my early sixties, suffer from Fibromyalgia and have only been cycling for just about four years. I seen the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive advertised on Facebook and Cycle NI and thought now there’s a challenge that could be worth going for.
There are three routes to select from 57km which covers the Causeway Coast, 126km which covers the Glens and the Antrim Coast and the 182km the Giant Killer. As you can guess I selected the shorter route (35 miles in old money). Basically there is a route to suit all abilities from those like myself to those who want an even bigger challenge, to club cyclists who really want to test themselves against their mates and the route.
There was plenty of pre event information from the event organisers, keeping us up to date with details on training advice, lists of B & B, parking on the day etc. For those who had booked early Chain Reaction Cycles provided a free Race Pack worth over £12.00, nice touch and very useful.
I prefer to stay in a local B&B over the full event weekend so that I’m able to soak up the atmosphere, camaraderie and craic in and around the town the evenings before and after the ride. It also allowed me the meet the event organisers, complete my registration, collect my cycling jersey and have a quiet meal in one of the many bars & restaurants in Ballycastle. Not to late a night mind, there’s work to be done in the morning.
Even though on the morning of the event there was howling wind and rain, the music still pumped from the Event HQ to all parts of the town, the place was electric. With some nerves in my head and legs it was great to meet other cyclists some who were feeling much the same. Cyclists regardless to their age, size or ability are all one big family, advice and support is freely given and encouragement offered. You need to remind yourself that this is not a race although not everyone sees it that way, there is also a healthy competitive edge to this kind of event.
The riders eagerly waiting to do the 57km route where standing over all different types of bikes before we were called to the start line. After a safety briefing everyone sets off as the timing chips switch on as we cross the start line. Even at this early stage the craic and banter is mighty, everyone encouraging each other. The route was very well marshalled and the signage was clear for all to see. It was good to see signs to warn motorists that a cycle ride was in progress. It’s not long before you get the old legs into a rhythm and you pair of with cyclists of similar abilities as yourself. For me it was a steady average pace of 15 mph, what a wonderful way to view the amazing scenery along the beautiful North Antrim Coast which would have been even more scenic on a better day.
I have travelled these road so many times by car but you really don’t see the half of it. Every dip, every rise and every bend on the journey brought yet new panoramic views, oh what a wonderful country we have. The rolling hills took us along the coast road past Ballintoy, the Giant’s Causeway and in to Bushmills (no time to stop for a wee dram) where a few miles beyond we reached the feed station. It was a most welcome sight not just because the legs where starting to burn and the energy levels were running low but I was able to get one of Chain Reaction Cycles roving mechanic’s to twig the gears on my bike. The feed station was just about the right distance in to the ride and there was ample supply of bars, cakes, sweets, bananas and fluid all served up by very friendly staff. After a few minutes of rest, refuelling and both giving and receiving encouragement it was time to get going again.
Ah sure it’s only 14 miles to the finish someone said and she was right. More beautiful scenery all around us as we cycled up hill and down dale through the “Dark Hedges” and through Glentaisie one of the Nine Glens of Antrim on our way back to Ballycastle and the finish.
We arrived back to cheers and claps from our loved ones and the organisers, what a welcome...I felt I had just won the Giro. I know it wasn’t quite the Giro however I had completed my own personal challenge and when the going got tough it was good to know I had the support of other cyclists who helped me ride through the pain barrier and in to Ballycastle. On crossing the finishing line we received a Goody Bag full of yes you guessed it GOODIES. After a tiring day in the saddle it was a welcome treat to receive a warm bowl of spicy pasta, tea, coffee and energy bars all dished out with a smile and a well done. It was lovely to sit down with other competitors and chat about the day’s event and how each rider had made it through the day. The fellowship among the entire cyclist community regardless of their achievements was clear for all to see. (The time it took me to complete the course will remain my secret). It was time to head back to Colliers Hall B & B for a soothing shower and a few hours recovery, before heading out for a wee post event night on the town.
The taxi arrived at 7.30pm and we were safely driven to O’Connor’s Bar for the post event party. We arrived early and had time to sample some fine food and drinks in very warm and comfortable surroundings. Many other cyclists, their family and friends had the same thought so the craic that had started many hours earlier just continued. The party was a wonderful way to chat with the event organisers, fellow participants and wind down. During the evening a prize draw took place with many wonderful gifts on offer. I was lucky enough to win a voucher for a meal for two in O’Connor’s Bar. It was used a few weeks later on my next visit to Ballycastle.
So what can I say about The Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive? The event is open to all cyclists, of all abilities, ages and genders. The scenery is breath-taking, the route is well signed posted and marshalled, the food and feed stations are great, the goody bag is worth a few quid and the hot food at the finish was worth going the extra mile. I could go on and on enough to say it’s an excellent event, very well organised and I’ve already booked to do it all again in September 2014, bring it on!
I was delighted to learn that the event was awarded as “Leisure Event of the Year” for 2013. CONGRATULATIONS everyone.
Finally I would like to say a big thank you to the event organisers, their sponsors and everyone associated with such a wonderful event. See you all again in September!
The 2014 event will take place on Saturday 13th September and again starts and finishes in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim with an entrance fee of £35. For more information and to book online please visit the event website - www.giantscausewaycoastsportive.com
Posted on February 9, 2014 @ 6:20 PM in
Be original this Valentine’s Day and do something completely different! There are loads of great romantic adventures to be had throughout Northern Ireland for you and your partner to enjoy on the most loved up day of the year.
Here are just a few unique ways to spend this February 14th:
1. Valentine’s Day Canoedle Couples Retreat, Mobile Team Adventure, Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast, 13th, 14th & 15th February
Take a romantic and relaxing paddle on the picturesque River Lagan from Shaw's Bridge. All equipment will be provided and instruction given at the start of the session before you paddle off together for some alone time on the water with a little romantic hamper for you both to enjoy. At only £39 per couple this is a great way to do something different without breaking the bank.
2. Love Bug, Jungle NI, Moneymore, Co. Derry~Londonderry, 14th February
Glide off into the forest together on segways, play at being Tarzan and Jane on the tree top adventure course, or take aim (not at each other!) on a clay pigeon shooting session. All couples will also receive a free bottle of bubbly, bag of marsh mallows to use in the BBQ hut and a choice of either a romantic boat ride or gentle stroll with a lovely llama – it’s sure to be unforgettable!
3. Couples DIY adventure rental, Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan, Co. Down, 14th, 15th & 16th February
Take adventure of this couples canoe rental offer and spend some time together paddling on Castlewellan lake or take it up a gear and hire mountain bikes to hit the trails. Complimentary hot chocolate and treats will be included to sweeten up your session.
4. Valentine’s Full Moon Paddle, Far and Wild, River Roe/Mussenden, Co. Derry~Londonderry, 14th February
Moonlight always makes for a special time in the outdoors- making it the perfect time for a romantic night time paddle. Overseen by your guides you will share a kayak and float gently down the River Roe under the mighty Binevenagh mountain and starry sky.
5. Love on the Lough, Share Discovery Village, Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, 14th February
Enjoy a romantic paddle around Enniskillen together and release a Chinese lantern into the skies as you sip complimentary “bubbly” under the full moon whilst taking in views of the town at dusk.
6. Take the Leap for Love, Wild Geese Skydiving Centre, Garvagh, Co. Derry/Londonderry, 15th February
Boycott the traditional Valentine's gift and opt for something much more imaginative this year by jumping out of an airplane at 15,000ft! Take the plunge with your loved one, get your blood pumping and your heart racing; there is plenty at Skydive Wild Geese to fulfill your desires...
Surfing is a great sport to try together and with these fantastic offers Valentines is the perfect time to hit the waves.
7. 1/3 off Couples Surfing Sessions, Long Line Surf School, Benone Beach, Co. Derry~Londonderry, 14th, 15th & 16th February
Long Line have gotten into the Valentine's spirit and are offering a third off their couples surfing lesson (£40 for two people, normally £60). Learn all the basic skills needed to paddle, pop up and surf the waves right to the 7 mile stretch of sandy shore.
8. Romantic Surfing Getaway, Alive Surf School, Portrush West Strand, Co. Antrim, 15th February
Enjoy a morning or afternoon surf session and for extra brownie points turn it into a weekend break on the North Coast. A stroll along the beach, a beautiful meal and somewhere to get away for the night the guys at Alive will be happy to help organise your romantic getaway so you can impress your other half without the stress.
9. Valentines Surf & Treatment, Troggs Surf School, Portrush East Strand, Co. Antrim, 15th & 16th February
The perfect combination of action and relaxation; enjoy a surf lesson before indulging in a 30 minute treatment at Aura Skin Care Centre. Choose between a pedicure, mini facial, salt scrub or back massage which will be just what you need after some fun on the water.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Posted on February 7, 2014 @ 3:24 PM in
Enter WalkNI.com’s competition to be included in the draw to win a £200 voucher to spend online at Zalando.
Zalando, an online fashion boutique stocking over 1,500 luxury and high street products, has an extensive outdoor section full of outdoor gear from top brands such as The North Face, Berghaus, Jack Wolfskin, Craghoppers, Haglofs, Mountain Hardwear, Regatta and Salomon.
With so much to choose from what are you waiting for?! Simply visit the WalkNI.com Competition Page to enter.
Posted on February 5, 2014 @ 5:12 PM in
With Valentine’s Day just over a week away it’s time to think beyond the clichéd gifts and surprise your other half with something a bit different. Chocolates will get eaten; champagne will be drunk but the memory and laughs of doing something together is sure to last a lot longer. Whether you are a thrill-seeking couple or simply looking to do something different together an OutdoorNI.com Gift Experience is the perfect Valentine’s Day present and with all vouchers valid for ten months, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be the only day you enjoy a little romance.
Gift Vouchers are posted first class delivery the next day but if you’ve left it to the last minute don’t panic you will receive an e-voucher which you can print as soon as you have purchased your voucher online with the hard copy to follow in the post.
Here are just a few of our top Valentine’s Gifts for Two that are sure to get you some brownie points:
Segway Beach Tour, Segway Express, Benone Beach, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Enjoy a Segway tour around the beautiful surroundings of the Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demense or take a glide down Benone Strand beach before heading back home across the boardwalks. A unique activity in a romantic setting!
Couples Pod Camping Adventure Package, Clearsky Adventure Centre, Castle Ward, Co. Down
A minibreak with a difference spend the night under the stars in quirky camping pods. With bike hire included it will then be time to hit the trails at Castle Ward, the fun doesn’t stop there however as the voucher also includes an archery or canoeing session.
Rathlin Island Sea Tour for Two, Portrush Sea Tours, Portrush, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Enjoy a fantastic boat tour around the fabulous North Coast and Rathlin Island as you take in the sights from the sea including the Giant’s Causeway, the Skerries, the historic Dunluce Castle and much more!
Adventure for Two, Four Elements Adventure, Tyrone & Fermanagh
Experience 3 hours of adventure together! You’ll get to choose between a private session of kayaking, canoeing, gorgewalking, coasteering, bushcraft, surfing, rock climbing, orienteering, archery or hill walking. With no need to choose your activity until booking you won’t run the risk of getting it wrong!
Coasteering for Couples, Ardclinis, North Coast
Not for the faint hearted this is one experience they’ll never forget! A cliff jumping, sea swimming and rock scrambling session that is guaranteed not to be boring.
Sunset Sail, Causeway Coast Sailing, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
The perfect way to see the Causeway coast in all its glory. Sit back, relax and enjoy a complementary glass of wine as you watch the sun set from your very own yacht – it doesn’t get much more romantic than this…
Couples Adventure Blast, Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan, Co. Down
With the opportunity to choose between a 1.5 hour session of canoeing, kayaking, archery or rock climbing you are sure to have an adventure that you will both love.
Sea Kayaking for Couples, Simply Sea Kayak, North Coast
Take a romantic trip along the coast in a single sea kayak or cruise down the River Bann as a couple in tandem. This Intro to Sea Kayak session is sure to give you a great taste for what this ever popular activity is all about! After a short skills session in sheltered waters you will embark on a short journey sampling the delights the North coast has to offer.
Try a Dive in the Sea for Two, Aquaholics, Portstewart, Co. Derry~Londonderry
You don’t have to go on a romantic holiday to Mauritius to experience scuba diving.This three hour session includes a safety briefing and instruction from a fully qualified PADI instructor and is sure to be one experience you will never forget!
High Tea at Sea, Clearsky Adventure Centre, Strangford, Co. Down
An afternoon tea with a difference. See the sights of Strangford Lough onboard the Strangford Sea Safari’s speed boat before stopping at a beautiful spot to enjoy tea and homemade scones!