Noelle RohanMark RuddsMickey Regan
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Enjoying Northern Ireland's Canoe Trails

Posted on November 26, 2015 @ 4:06 PM in Canoeing

Northern Ireland was the first country in Europe to develop official canoe trails. has been delighted with the success of these trails as not only have they won awards – most importantly they have attracted people from all over the world.

Each trail has its own section on with trail guides, camping details, accommodation, canoe hire etc.

But how do you make Northern Ireland your ultimate canoeing experience?

How you venture out onto the canoe trails obviously depends on your canoeing ability but don’t worry there are plenty of options:

Learn from the best…

Learning to Canoe on Lough Neagh

If you are interested in getting out and enjoying the canoe trails but don’t know one end of a canoe from the other then why not take some lessons.  Northern Ireland has a great range of canoeing providers who can teach you all the necessary skills so you can make the most of future canoeing adventures.  Even if you want to just have a go before embarking on a course then why not check out our calendar of canoeing events  which can give you that perfect introduction.

Follow the leader…

Canoeing on Lower Bann Canoe Trail

If you don’t have the time for lessons or you’re just mad keen to get out there then why not sign up for a guided trip.  This option allows you to combine the local knowledge and safety provided by a qualified guide.  These trips can be booked by individuals joining together as a group or why not get your friends or family together.  Quite often these trips involve a night camping under the stars. Check out our range of guided trips

Just add water…

Camping on Lough Erne Canoe Trail

Maybe you already know how to canoe but don’t want the hassle of organising the trip.  Then contact a canoeing provider who can arrange an itinerary, rent equipment, drop off and collection.  All you have to do is turn up and start your adventure. The majority of providers will ask for a minimum British Canoe Union Three Star Award (or equivalent) for the craft you wish to hire.  Alternatively many will carry out a short pre-hire practical test.

Go it alone…

Kayaking on Strangford Lough

If you’ve got the knowledge and the gear then will provide all the information you need to plan your trip.  Each trail also has its own waterproof guide which can be ordered free online.

With so many options available why not explore one of our canoe trails this year. Each canoe trail is unique and will allow you explore a different part of Northern Ireland’s spectacular countryside.

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..

Christmas Gift Ideas for Couples

Posted on November 25, 2015 @ 12:16 PM in Adventure

If you’re tired of dealing with frustrated shop assistants, crowds of hurried shoppers and spending hours of your precious time searching for a parking space, you have come to the right place! Here at we have tonnes of gift ideas for couples so you can get double the presents sorted in one go.  Give your parents, inlaws or other half a memorable experience to share this Christmas...

Couples Thrill Seeking Experience, Todds Leap, Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone
Get behind the wheel of a landrover for an off road driving experience and find out who is the better driver, fly high on Ireland's longest zip line and travel around the off road course on a Hill Rally.

Stand up Paddle Boarding Session for 2, Long Line, Benone, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Learn the basics of Stand Up Paddle Boarding together before taking a tour along the remote parts of the idyllic River Roe.

Island Explorer for 2, Mobile Team Adventure, Strangford, Co. Down
The perfect getaway for any couple, take a guided kayaking trip along the stunning Strangford Lough stopping to visit the oyster farm and Ballydorn Lighthouse Ship.

Couples Mourne Foods & Films Cycle Trail, Enniskeen Country House Hotel, Newcastle, Co. Down
With the Mourne Mountains as its backdrop, this trail pairs up gentle cycling, stunning scenery, simply delicious artisan food, and the famous filming locations in the regions beautiful Shimna Valley. Devised by the Enniskeen Country House Hotel this trail showcases the wonderful artisan food in this area  of Northern Ireland. 

Half Day Sailing, Causeway Coast Sailing, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
You are sure to love learning the ropes of sailing with some hands on experience or simply relax and enjoy the scenic Causeway Coast as you skipper sets sail. 

Couples Pod Camping Adventure Package, Clearsky Adventure Centre, Castle Ward, Co. Down
Set in the heart of the spectacular Castle Ward Estate, they will spend the night in a quirky heated camping pod, before exploring the mountain bike trails and having a go at either archery or canoeing.

Rathlin Island Sea Tour for two, Portrush Sea Tours, Portrush, Co. Antrim
A fantastic boat tour around the fabulous North Coast and Rathlin Island. Experience the North Coast from a whole new perspective taking in spectacular sights from the sea including the Giant’s Causeway, the Skerries, the historic Dunluce Castle and much more! 

Couples Mountain Bike & Kayaking Experience, Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan, Co. Down
Enjoy some quality time together! Hit the trails on a mountain bike and explore some of the green, blue and red grade trails before heading out in a kayak or canoe for a relaxing paddle on the lake. 

For even more Gift Experiences for couples check out

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.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Men

Posted on November 20, 2015 @ 1:19 PM in Adventure

We don't know about you, but here at we find buying gifts for men much more difficult than buying for the women in our families. To lend you a helping hand we've gathered together some of our favourite Christmas Gift Experiences for Men so all you have to do is browse, select, purchase and enjoy seeing the smile on his face on Christmas Day!

Gifts For Your Dad/ Grandad

Should you stick to the annual tie? Will he want more socks? Be brave and break the habit!

Zorbing Northern Ireland

Extreme Downhill Zorbing, The JungleNI, Moneymore, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Send him rolling down a purpose-built run inside a giant inflatable 3 meter ball at speeds of over 20mph. A fantastic adrenaline fuelled ride that is guaranteed to leave him buzzing!   

Half Day Sailing, Causeway Coast Sailing, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
There perfect gift for your dad and grandad to enjoy some quality time together. They are sure to love learning the ropes of sailing with some hands on experience or simply relax and enjoy the scenic Causeway Coast. With room for up to 3 people who knows he may even bring you!

Gifts For Your Husband/Boyfriend

Turn finding something to suit your man's taste from an impossible task to a fun expedition.

Mountain Biking Northern Ireland

Tandem Skydive, Skydive Wild Geese, Garvagh, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Give him the freedom of the skies as he has the chance to experience a freefall from 13,000ft, all while securely attached to an experienced instructor.

Mountain Bike Rental Package, Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan, Co. Down
Send him off for a morning/ afternoon to explore the Castlewellan mountain bike trails. Kitted out with everything needed to get started on the trails including a Vitus hard tail mountain bike and helmet. Whatever his ability, once kitted out he will have 3 hours to enjoy 27.5km of green, blue and red grade trails ( options).  

Gifts For Your Brother

Set sibling rivalry aside and make sure you find the right gift for him this Christmas! If he's the outdoors type get him doing something different this year

Surfing Northern Ireland

Surf Lesson, Troggs Surf School, Portrush, Co. Antirm
He is sure to have a blast learning all the basic skills needed to paddle, pop up and surf the waves right to the shore. 

North Coast Sea Kayaking, Simply Sea Kayak, Co. Antrim
A fantastic opportunity for him to explore the iconic North Coast Sea Kayaking Trail. This truly unique experience includes a skills session and guided paddle, taking in stunning views and exploring locations only accessible by kayak!

Gifts For Your Son

Got the gadgets sorted but looking for something a little different for your son this Christmas?

Off Road Driving Northern Ireland

Off Road Driving Experience, Todds Leap, Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone
The perfect gift for a son who thinks he's a bit of a boy racer. Conquer muddy climbs, drops & hazards along the 8 mile off-road driving course, all before being taken across a stage of the course at rally competition speed (up to 70mph!)

Try a Drive, Aquaholics Dive Centre & Sea Safari's, Portstewart, Co. Antrim
This is one gift that won't be forgotten about! He is sure to love exploring the underwater world with Aquaholics discovering a whole other side to the North Coast. 

For even more Gift Experiences for him check out

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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.

The Best Mountain Bike Trails in Ireland

Posted on November 19, 2015 @ 12:26 PM in Mountainbiking

With over three million pounds invested in mountain biking over the last five years and plans in place for even more trail centre developments in the future, Northern Ireland is widely regarded as one of the most exciting mountain bike destinations in Europe.  

Best Mountain Bike Trails in Ireland

The country currently boasts three National Trail Centres in Rostrevor, Castlewellan and Davagh Forest as well as three Regional Trail Centres in Blessingbourne, Castle Ward and Barnett Demesne.

Northern Ireland already enjoys an unparalleled reputation for world class hospitality and when you consider that these mountain bike trail centres are all within 90 minutes’ drive of each other… well you’ve got yourself a ready-made road trip destination.

To make life even easier, has put together some more information on six of the best mountain bike trails in Ireland as well as our top picks of great places to eat, drink and stay near the trails.  


Davagh Forest Trails

Best Mountain Bike Trails in Ireland

The Davagh Forest Trails are quite often described as Northern Ireland’s surprise package! Located way off the beaten track, in the heart of the Sperrin Mountains, this pocket rocket of a trail centre is packed full of high-octane singletrack not to mention some hair-raising rock features you’ll never forget. Younger and less experienced riders can enjoy Davagh’s green and blue trails however if it’s adrenaline you’re after then Davagh Forest’s red trail will deliver this in abundance! 

Eat: The Apparo | Drink: The Shepherd's Rest | Stay: Pollan Rua Cottage & Barn

Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails

Best Mountain Bike Trails in Ireland

The Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails are located on the shores of Carlingford Lough and offer some of the most exhilarating mountain biking in all of Ireland. There’s no question Rostrevor is a big day out on the bike however whether you make use of Northern Ireland’s only bespoke uplift service or rely on pedal-power alone, you will be rewarded with stunning coastal views and simply mind-blowing sections of singletrack descents. If Downhill is your game then both of Rostrevor's purpose-built DH trails will surely hit the spot! 

Eat: The Old School House | Drink: The Kilbroney Bar | Stay: Rostrevor Holidays

Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails

Best Mountain Bike Trails in Ireland

The Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails are the most popular trails in Northern Ireland (according to electronic visitor counters) and when you consider the variety on offer, under the incredible backdrop of the Mourne Mountains, it’s very easy to see why. Located just minutes from the lively village of Castlewellan, this welcoming trail centre boasts of range of green, blue and red trails (including black options) each offering their own level of adventure. Seasoned mountain bikers will love the flow of Castlewellan's iconic red trail. 

Eat: Mourne Seafood Bar | Drink: Maginns of Castlewellan | Stay: The Kings Inn



Best Mountain Bike Trails in Ireland

Blessingbourne Trails

Blessingbourne was Northern Ireland's first purpose-built mountain bike trail centre however with an additional phase II developed in late 2014 the estate now offers a 4km blue trail, 8km red trail and pump track. A new coffee cabin also recently opened at the trailhead (seasonal) making this family-friendly trail centre a firm favourite amongst visiting mountain bikers and locals alike. Bike hire available all year round. 

Eat: Pinochos | Drink: The Valley Hotel | Stay: Blessingbourne Courtyard Apartments 

Barnett Demesne Trails & Jumps Park

Located on the banks of the River Lagan in South Belfast, this compact trail centre would be a unique addition to your next 'city break' in Belfast. Starting from the Mary Peters Athletics Track, the main blue trail is approx. 4km in length with a number of red options on offer if you fancy a bit more adrenaline. The Jumps Park has now also been resurfaced making this superb MTB/BMX facility ridable all year round.  

Eat: Lough Keeper's Inn | Drink: Cutters WharfStay: Ramada Plaza, Shaws Bridge

Castle Ward Trails 

If you are looking for an easy going 'family-friendly' trail centre with incredible coastal views then head straight for Castle Ward on the shores of Strangford Lough. This regional trail centre boasts a 13km blue loop, the 'Boundary Trail', which takes in best that this National Trust estate has to offer. Game of Thrones fans should not miss the unique 'Winterfell Cycle Tour' offered by Clearsky Adventure Centre.

Eat: Coach House Cafe | Drink: The Cuan, StrangfordStay: Castle Ward Camping Pods 


Visit for up-to-date trail conditions as well as information on the latest news and events taking place on Northern Ireland's official mountain bike trails this year! 

Latest comment posted by manny on August 30, 2016 @ 10:23 PM

The best option for families with younger children and first time mountain bikers is the Mineral Railway Trail, which heads north from the Tamar Trails Centre for 2km or south for 3km. The trail ... Read more >

Chris Armstrong
Chris Armstrong  Mountain Bike Officer

Chris looks after all things mountain biking in Northern Ireland's a tough job but someone's gotta do it!

30 Hours Biking in Northern Ireland

Posted on November 13, 2015 @ 12:20 PM in Mountainbiking

Most of the time, if you’re like us, ideas for that next big adventure will pop into your head at random moments often set off by the tiniest flicker of thought as you go about everyday life. In our experience the majority of these flickers rarely make it to and almost never make it past the ‘idea stage’. Instead they are safely filed away under ‘could have/would have/should have’.  

Sometimes though, one of these flickers blossoms into a fully-fledged idea which actually sticks and before you know it, you’re knee deep in tomato juice hurling rotten fruit at a group of Spanish students on the streets of a Valencian village with over 20,000 other like-minded souls! Let’s call these ideas ‘crackers’ and yes my Scottish friends we have a cracker for you!!

30 Hours in Northern Ireland

P&O Ferries is offering a Special 30 Hour Return crossing from Cairnryan to Larne for one car and three people from £145 return from now until 17th December 2015. Now maths was never my strongest subject but even I can work out that that’s less than £50 per person!

So Scotland, the challenge …we dusted off our trusty road atlas this afternoon and reckon it’s feasible to hit each of Northern Ireland’s National Trail Centres as well as Belfast’s urban trails and jumps park in under 30 hours no problem. In fact, we think you would still have time for a pint or two along the way!

Davagh Forest

Always keen to encourage adventures a.k.a. live our dreams through other people, the team at have scribed what we believe to be the World’s Greatest 30 Hour Mountain Bike Itinerary (to Northern Ireland)!

Day One

10:30 – Ferry departs from Cairnryan to Larne

12:30 – Arrive @ Larne & Drive to Davagh Forest (60 miles)

14:00 – Ride the Davagh Forest Trails

16:30 – Drive to Castlewellan (70 miles)

18:00 – Dinner

20:00 – Ride the Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails (Night Ride)

22:00 – A few sociable pints

Pints Castlewellan

Day Two

08:00 – Breakfast

08:30 – Drive to Rostrevor (20 miles)

09:00 – Ride the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails

12:00 – Drive to Belfast (40 miles)

13:00 – Ride the Barnett Demesne Trails & Jumps Park

14:30 – Drive to Larne (30 miles)

15:30 – Arrive @ Ferry Terminal 

16:30 – Ferry departs from Larne to Cairnryan

Kodak Corner Rostrevor

So that’s two ferry journeys, under six hours driving and nine hours out on the bike, yes NINE hours of superb riding in the UK’s must visit mountain bike destination of 2015! 

Go on …Seize the Day!!  

Chris Armstrong
Chris Armstrong  Mountain Bike Officer

Chris looks after all things mountain biking in Northern Ireland's a tough job but someone's gotta do it!

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