The Legend of #BostonDon

Posted on October 26, 2017 @ 12:26 PM in Mountainbiking

The Red Bull Foxhunt is a special event for many reasons. The mass DH start. The epic views of Rostrevor. But for one rider, a several thousand mile round trip resulted in a life changing experience. Almost every rider that took part in the Foxhunt got chatting to this man from Boston, including ourselves. We caught up with the legend of #BostonDon a few weeks after the madness of the Foxhunt.

Hi Don! Thanks for chatting to us. Ah, should we call you BostonDon or just Don?

Hi Ethan, thank you for reaching out. It was a great pleasure to meet you up at the Red Bull Foxhunt at the notorious bridge. You can call me whatever is easiest to remember, so I am thinking BostonDon fits. I work as a bartender and server back home and my coworkers and regulars have started calling me BostonDon.

Great! So first question we have then is, how did you hear about the Red Bull Foxhunt?

So, I bought my first mountain bike a year ago April, and I started soaking up the scene by going to websites and following riders like Brendan Fairclough because I ride a SCOTT Genius 720 Plus. I was following the World Cup Downhill series, and started knowing more riders. Well the season was over, and the Red Bull Foxhunt took place. I happened to watch the highlight video and it was amazing. I said to myself if I can get into that race I am going to Ireland to race it. It was part of my “Live Life” mantra that I started to follow about 2 years ago.

Did you have any impression of the mountain bike scene in Northern Ireland before you came here?

I had no idea about how important mountain bike riding was to the people here. I had posted on the Red Bull Foxhunt Facebook page and people reached out with advice, suggestions and offers to show me around. That blew me away. 

What was your first impression of the trails when you arrived at Rostrevor?

I got to Rostrevor on Friday morning and parked my rental. What is funny is that I parked next to Jimmy Mac’s van. He and his buddies looked like they just got back from practice. So, being me, I started chatting to them. I mentioned I came over from the States just for the race. They were surprised. I am putting my bike together, getting pumped to check out the course. On the shuttle up I met some guys that were willing to show me the trails. I about s**t my pants. I hadn’t ridden a bike park all year and I was freaked out. I slid out and crashed two times on my first run. I was thinking what the hell did I get myself into. I came all this way and I am over my head. I met a local kid, and a guy originally from Ireland, but was home from Australia for his Dad’s birthday. His name was “Irish Stu” and I laughed as I thought that was great. His real name is Stuart Gamble. The kid showed us the ropes, and we sessioned some areas. Oh my God did it help me riding with the both of them. 

We met you on the Sunday as you made the climb to the start of the Foxhunt. Aside from chatting to everybody, what were you feeling?

I came to Ireland to be a sponge and soak up everything I could experience. I did not expect all the hiking we had to do to get to the top of the mountain. I was tired haha. I was just so excited to be there, and scared of what was ahead. I didn’t do any practice on the top half as I wanted to conserve whatever energy I had left. I didn’t do my homework. I should have watched more videos. The energy of all the riders was awesome!

You became arguably even more famous when you were photographed taking a pretty gnarly spill. What happened? 

I am not really a jumper. I used to jump when I raced BMX as a teenager, and I was out of it for a long time. I picked up BMX again at 30 years old. I was getting ready to ride some Nationals and I broke my collarbone. I then broke it again a year later in CA while getting ready to race a National. It is surgically repaired. So I have been taking it easy jumping. During my timed run on Saturday I went through that jump section pretty well. So race day I go through the first 4 jumps, kinda scrubbing my speed. That last jump I hit, and the lip just popped up my rear tire and my butt hit it, then forcing me forward and over the bars.

'Wow, I got this, just gotta lean back a little.'                    'It's okay, I can still pull it back...'

'I feel it may be too late.'                                                   Brace for impact.

Oof.                                                                                       Where's my bike going?'

Spectators reacting to the spill.                                           Everything is going everywhere.

Pictures kindly supplied by Colin McIlhagger

Thankfully no one ran me over. I got up, gathered my bike and everyone was yelling to get off the course. The medic asked if I was ok, and I said yes. I had hit the ground with the chin guard of my full face helmet. I likely suffered a concussion, but I didn’t want to be pulled from the race. The medic told me to take some time. I see like 20-30 riders zooming by. I wanted to finish the race, and beat people haha. So after awhile I said, “I am going!” The medic replied, “Are you sure?” I looked for a spot and said “yes” and got back on the course.

Did you get riding any of the other mountain bike trails in Northern Ireland? If so, where and what did you think of them?

I was lucky enough to have a guy named Bernard McClure from Belfast reach out before the Foxhunt and said he would show me around if I wanted. In fact, he and his wife were in Massachusetts about a week or so before the race. We tried to meet up, but my work schedule didn’t mesh with their travel schedule. So after the Foxhunt I met him and his friend Martin and rode at Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails. That was such a beautiful mountain bike trail system. It was a lot of fun. Especially after the craziness of the Foxhunt.

We did about 9 miles of casual riding. I then met up with Cregar Elliot who I had met during the Foxhunt and did a night ride with him and his buddies on the Tuesday after the race. It was a fun ride, but my bike wasn’t shifting properly and it was scary as hell. I had brought my lights over, but the single track trails had black nothingness, and off camber roots and rocks that freaked me out. I cannot wait to go back and ride that place in the daylight.

What was the highlight of your trip here?

The entire trip was a life changing experience for me. I have so many new friends that have been so incredibly friendly and helpful. It was my first time in Ireland, and I didn’t do any tourist type things and I had the best time. The highlight was the Red Bull Foxhunt. What was crazy to me is that I wanted to take part in this crazy race and have fun, but I never expected to be so welcomed by all the people who were there. During my timed run people were yelling “Go BostonDon” in several sections, the same during the race. 

What was cool is that I went to Mont-Sainte-Anne in Quebec to check out the World Cup Downhill race. I saw Gee at an afterparty and I asked him if he was doing the Hunt this year. He had broken his pelvis earlier in the season and I hadn’t heard any news. He told me that he had just gotten the dates, and asked if I was going to be there. I told him that he would see me. I told him to remember #BostonDon.

I saw him on Saturday and he said “Do I know you from somewhere?” I reminded him of that story, and he laughed. At the top right before the race both he and Loic Bruni saw me and said “Hey, BostonDon” it was wild.

Gee Atherton was one of several big names that appeared to take part in the Red Bull Foxhunt, including (above) Loic Bruni and Rob Warner.

Can we expect to see the return of #BostonDon? What else have you got planned?

The entire weekend was amazing. So, I will be back at the Red Bull Foxhunt 2018. I was sitting in a hotel room on Tuesday after the race and I decided to capitalise on this surprise of what happened after I introduced myself as BostonDon. I just wanted to be remembered, and it was catchy obviously! So, I bought the domains BostonDon.com, BostonDonMTB.com, and a friend suggested yesterday thelegendofbostondon.com so I bought it haha.

I was thinking I could sell t-shirts, stickers, and someone suggested jerseys to raise money for my trip next year. I will be starting a YouTube channel that will highlight my mountain bike experiences. The last year I have been trying to figure out how to make a living mountain biking and this could be it. We will see. I want to travel the world making new friends while mountain biking. My website will be up soon. I have reached out to friends to see if we can come up with a logo.

You can follow BostonDon's adventures on any of the websites listed or via his Facebook page. If you have an idea for his logo, send it to info@MountainBikeNI

For interviews with the biggest names at the Foxhunt, including Rob Warner, Colin Ross, Loic Bruni and champion rider Kelan Grant, check out our YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Latest comment posted by Jake Terrell on November 16, 2017 @ 6:44 AM

Woahh! Nice article, I would love if you send me email whenever you have new articles . Jake Terrell | activitylife.info Read more >

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Northern Ireland's Walking Wonders

Posted on October 12, 2017 @ 11:00 AM in Walking

Northern Ireland is renowned worldwide for its lush emerald green landscape and spectacular rugged coastline (much of which has featured in Game of Thrones). However, we want to share with you some locations you may not have uncovered yet with our handpicked selection of walks we believe are sure to leave you in awe and wonder, whether they are natural, historic, manmade or full of wildlife.


Natural Wonders

From striking granite tors to rushing waterfalls and volcanic landscapes these walks are full of natural wonder.

Bearnagh and Meelmore

Bearnagh & Meelmore, The Mourne Mountains, Co. Down, 6 mile circular route
One of the most distinctive mountains in the Mournes, Slieve Bearnagh (739m) is renowned for the granite tors on its summit. Slieve Meelmore (704m) is also included in this walk, creating a circuit with superb views on a good day stretching as far as the Sperrins, Lough Neagh and Strangford Lough. Image (left) credit: David Doyle Photography

Cranny Falls

Cranny Falls, Carnlough, Co. Antrim, 1.2 mile linear (one way) route
Just a stone's throw from the scenic Causeway Coastal Route, this lovely walk along the old railway line to the limestone quarry offers fantastic views of Carnlough Bay. A short walk from the quarry through the nature reserve will lead you to the beautiful Cranny Falls cascading over the rocks into the tranquil pool below. 
Image (right) credit: Steven Hanna Photography

Glenariff

Glenariff Nature Reserve Waterfalls Walk, Glenariff, Co. Antrim, 1.5 mile circular route
Glenariff, meaning ‘Queen of the Glens’, is widely regarded as the most beautiful and striking of the 9 Glens of Antrim. Boasting rich woodland and steep glacial features, the crowning glory has to be the impressive double-drop of the Ess-na-Larach Waterfall one of the many dramatic waterfalls that punctuate the deep sided gorge of the Glenariff Glen Nature Reserve. The waterfalls provide a distinctive atmospheric noise to any walker who chooses to explore this stunning part of Northern Ireland.

Slieve Gullion

Slieve Gullion, Forkhill, Co. Armagh, 9.5 miles circular
Centred on the craggy heather covered hills of the Ring of Gullion (AONB) a circular ring dyke volcano that erupted over 50 million years ago, Slieve Gullion rises to 573m and is the centrepiece of this volcanic landscape. . It has a rich association with Irish myth & legend. In one tale, Finn McCool was bewitched by Miluchra on the summit of Slieve Gullion at the Lough of the Calliagh Bhirra and to this day the superstition survives that if you bathe in the lough your hair will turn white. The walk begins in in the forest park following a forest road uphill to provide great views of the Ring Dyke.

Manmade Wonders

There are many manmade wonders that you need to see to believe, discover trainquil surroundings in a mountain top location.

Reservoir Views

Reservoir Views, Annalong, Co. Down, 9.3 miles linear (one way)
Tucked into the spectacular Mourne Mountains you will find the tranquil waters of the Silent Valley and Ben Crom Reservoirs. Supplying Belfast with piped water the walk here links the south Mournes to Newcastle via Slieve Binnian, Slievemalagan and the Glen River. Impressive views of Slient Valley Reservoir can be enjoyed from Slieve Binnian and of Ben Crom Reservoir from Slievelamagan. A tough but rewarding walk in the high Mournes.
Image (right) credit: David Doyle Photography

Historic Wonders

Discover the ancient past of Northern Ireland explore castle ruins, 18th Century towers and follow the trail of a historical railway.

Tully Castle Loughshore Walk

Tully Castle Loughshore Walk, Derrygonnelly, Co. Fermanagh, 1.2 miles circular
This charming walk takes in the grounds of Tully Castle with commanding views of the castle ruins and the surrounding countryside. Located on a small headland jutting into the Lower Lough Erne this fortified house and bawn built during the plantation era in the early 17th century is sure to impress. The path goes around the headland through deep woodland with a delightful mixture of broadleaved trees dominated by ash and beech. The undergrowth glows a vibrant green with mosses, lichen, wood sorrel, orchids, blue bells and ferns carpeting the ground in different seasons. 
Images credit: Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

Heritage Railway

Heritage Railway Path, Portballintrae, Co. Antrim, 1.5 miles circular
Following the Bushmills Heritage Railway famous for the world's first commercially run 'hydro-electric' powered tram system this walk takes in stunning coastal scenery against the backdrop of the River Bush, Runkerry Strand and the Giant's Causeway. This walk can easily be extended to provide coastal off-road access to the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland's only World Heritage Site.

Springhill

Springhill House Sawpit Hill Walk, Moneymore, Co. Derry~Londonderry, 1.1 miles (circular)
Take a stroll through the beautiful grounds of Springhill Estate. A location steeped in history, the Sawpit Walk takes you through the woodland to an 18th Century corn mill tower. From here take a moment to enjoy the view down the beautiful avenue of Beech trees, where on a clear day you can see the Sperrin Mountains and Slieve Gallion.

Wildlife Wonders

Amazing places to discover wildlife including migrating Brent Geese and Red Squirrels.

Lough Foyle Trail

Lough Foyle Trail, Limavady, Co. Derry~Londonderry, 10.4 miles linear (one way)
A sheltered haven on the Atlantic coast, a refuge for sailors, wintering birds, breeding seals and walkers. This is a flat, off-road walk and the expanse of Lough Foyle can be viewed on the other side of the sea wall. Depending on tide levels, you will see various waders and wildfowl (including Brent Geese in winter) feeding on the mudflats at the river mouth. 

Castle Archdale

Castle Archdale Tom's Island Walk, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh, 1.8 miles circular 
The mixed 520 hectare broadleaved and coniferous lowland forest in Castle Archdale located on the eastern shores of Lower Lough Erne is a forest richly varied in terms of views, features and includes ruined castles, WWII docks & buildings, ancient woodland and views over the Lough a number of Islands. On a walk through the forest keep a watchful eye (and ear) out for the rustling and quick dash of Red Squirrels overhead. 
Image (left) credit: Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

Kiltonga Nature Reserve

Kiltonga Nature Reserve, Newtownards, Co. Down, 0.6 miles circular
This short accessible lakeside pathway is ideal for those wishing to take a closer look at swans, mallards, little grebe, moorhens and coots from the observation area.

Share with us your favourite walks to share in future blogs using #WalkNI on social media.

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.

Top Places to Spot Red Squirrels

Posted on October 4, 2017 @ 3:16 PM in Walking

With their reddish-brown fur and love of nuts, red squirrels are among our best loved woodland animals. The only species of squirrel native to the UK, they are most commonly found in woodlands, particularly coniferous.  As they gather up extra food in the Autumn months, prime spotting times are morning and late afternoon when they are most active.  An elusive animal, they spend much of their time in the tree canopy so be sure to keep an eye out above!

To increase your chances of spotting a red squirrel on your next walk, we have put together a list of the top places to spot them this autumn:

Co. Antrim

Glenariff Forest Park 

Cregagh Wood 

Straidkilly 

Co. Down

Mount Stewart 

Tollymore Forest Park 

Kilbroney Forest Park 

Co. Fermanagh

Castle Archdale Country Park 

Ely Lodge 

Florence Court 

Co. Tyrone

Gortin Glen Forest Park 

Co. Armagh

Slieve Gullion 

Since the introduction of grey squirrels in the 1870s, numbers in the UK have fallen dramatically. There are currently seven squirrel action groups in Northern Ireland with the aim of protecting and helping to maintain the population of red squirrels.  If you’d like to join a group or report a red squirrel sighting make sure to get in touch! Details of all groups can be found at https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/red-squirrel-groups-northern-ireland

Latest comment posted by Brendan on October 19, 2017 @ 2:13 PM

Hi Sarah Nice one. One wee point. Grey squirrels were introduced to this country in 1911, one hundred years before you joined Outdoor Recreation. They can't swim across the sea from either ... Read more >

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

Northern Ireland's Outdoor Adventure Blog outdoorni.com walkni.com cycleni.com canoeni.com