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Tir Chonnail GAP does Rostrevor

Posted on April 30, 2018 @ 5:52 PM in Mountainbiking

When a group of 11 riders from Co. Donegal visited the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails we couldn't miss the opportunity to ask them about their MTB experience here in Northern Ireland. Cecilia Holden from Tir Chonnail GAP sent us this epic recounting of their adventure!

 

Very early Saturday morning, the Tir Chonnail GAP Cycling Club mountain bikers headed off to Rostrevor for a weekend of bikes, forests, mountains, trails, tents and craic. Our two team mums, Gerard and Antony promised us much. They and Rostrevor delivered.

We're a mixed bunch in every way: 10 lads, 1 lass, ranging in age from early 20s to the wrong side of 50; and in ability from national downhill contender to enthusiastic novice, with everything in between. We have roadies turned mountain bikers (otherwise known as cross-dressers), pure mountain bikers, enduro riders and “swapped my motorbike for something with pedals”

It was a 2 ½ hour journey, so we broke it up with a coffee stop and a 5 items for £1.99 fry, such good value that some of us had two! What goes in Rostrevor stays in Rostrevor, so I won't name Francis or John B.

 

As we drove through the gates, we'd already forgotten the long drive, and we were straight onto the trails. Our downhillers, Adam and Raymond, headed straight for the uplifts to maximise their riding time whilst the rest of us took on the Red trail.

“You'll be climbing for a while. It's a bit pedally” said Antony. Antony is from Yorkshire where understatement is a way of life. An hour later our legs were screaming, our Garmins were registering a paltry 7k and we were only part way up! But that didn't matter, we'd reached Kodak Corner, and an incredible view over Carlingford Lough and Rostrevor.

On went the climb, getting ever narrower and the turns tighter, with rock gardens and table tops aplenty, helping us forget the effort and definitely getting us warmed up for the downhill. Once in the forest, the fun really started. There are lots of regroup points along the way, which allow everyone to ride down at their own pace and get maximum enjoyment. We had so many spills along the way, we had to count both riders and bikes at each regroup. No injuries all day – well, except for one derailleur.

The forest section is incredible, and for a relative beginner, just awesome. You approach an obstacle thinking “How the flock am I going to get over that?” but you barely have time to celebrate making it before the next one is upon you and the next one and the next one. The boardwalks are something to behold, and are as jumpy and twisty-turny as the trails themselves; the tabletops are set up so everyone can get a bit of air; and a dropper post is essential for the many drop offs. Jaws sore with grinning, we all had a ball!

John B took a corner a wee bit too fast and become an impromptu tree hugger, Cess had a comfortable landing in a bog, and Frank's ribs shared an intimate moment with his handlebars. But it was Raymond who stole the show, performing an almost flawless Olympic gymnastics routine: maximum points for speed, height and grace on the jumps, then a dismount consisting of 3 consecutive somersaults on the bike before parting company with it and adding 2 forward rolls. He stood up and announced “I got that one wrong!”

Back at the centre, we had lunch and pitched our tents. This is where Antony and Gerard came into their own, unloading umpteen holdalls from the vans and quickly erecting gazebo, tents, windbreaks and plenty of chairs, and unpacking a kitchen, tables, many cool bags of beer and the biggest pot of curry you have ever seen – thanks to Mrs Gerard, Amanda. Luckily Hugh didn't need to unpack much, so put his locksmithing skills to great use instead. What goes in Rostrevor....how did you manage to lock yourself out Gerard?

Fed, watered, unpacked and raring to go again, we headed back to the trails. John L, Frank and Francis picked up the end of the Mega Mission and loved every second of their first go. “Savage!” screamed John at the top of his voice, grinning his head off!

 

Dermott decided to take a few snaps, which of course meant riding up - and down - faster than everyone else to find vantage points. Class job!

 

And soon it was time to eat again. What better way to round off the day than a wholesome hearty curry? Food tastes so much better outdoors! And a wander down the picturesque Fairy Glen into town to sample the offerings of the local hostelries.

Sunday morning came way too soon, and that meant more food. How Amanda knew we would need at least 5 sausages each is beyond me, but we were happily replete when we got back on the bikes. Antony had a cunning plan to cut out some of the legwork on the climbs, but it was a Yorkshire “some” and we still had a mighty fine workout. The Guinness was well and truly sweated out of us by the time we reached Kodak Corner. The sun shone for us Sunday, and the views were magnificent across all of the trails.

The uplift service is superb at Rostrevor. (It's run by East Coast Adventure) Adam has his first competition event next weekend, so took advantage to get as many runs in as he could. He and Raymond absolutely flew down the hills. There are a few crossover points on the trails, cleverly laid out to always have a down section crossing an up with the ups giving way. Some of us novices were therefore able to watch the experts coming down. And even the experts were all doing it at their own level. Some jumped the table tops, some rolled over them, each took a different route over the rocks, and many different angles were seen round the berms. Inspired, we carried on up the hills to do our own descents. We watched a father with his 2 sons, no more than 6 or 7, competent and confidently descending the On the Pulse DH Trail, and 3 young lads, not much older, excitedly comparing stories of their runs. Hugh, Antony and Gerard described their own runs as more sedate. If sedate means poised, balanced and in control, then yes I agree, but if it means slow and gentle, sorry boys, I'll have to show you sedate next time.

Several of us did the Red Run again and were pleasantly surprised at how much better we did on many of the obstacles. And also how many new ones there seemed to be. The obstacles on the forest section and the Home Run are literally non-stop, and you barely have time to register them. We rode the berms higher, there were fewer feet down in the rock gardens and many times we took the more adventurous line. The more you ride the trails at Rostrevor the more you discover, and the more you enjoy. We may have had 11 completely different levels of ability, but all 11 of us pushed our respective limits and so the buzz was the same for everyone.

And so the weekend finished. Another healthy feed at the Synge & Byrne Cafe and we were on our way, knowing we'd still be on a high 3 days later. The set up at Rostrevor is simply the best. Ability and fitness are no barriers to enjoyment. If you don't fancy the climbs, take the uplift; the trails are graded and divided into sections so you can find a trail that suits, and just skip the sections that don't. But my advice – don't skip any of the forest sections, they are just too good. And it’s worth the leg burn for the views alone.

11 happy campers will be back very soon.

Class photos © courtesy of Dermott Sweeney.

Not so class photos courtesy of the rest of us.

 

For more information on planning a MTB Trip to Northern Ireland, visit MountainBikeNI.com. You can also find information there on joining a local MTB Club!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Have a Go at Watersports for £10 or Less

Posted on April 24, 2018 @ 4:57 PM in AdventureCanoeing

Make a splash and try something new this May as part of Get Wet NI 2018. Clubs from across Northern Ireland are offering watersport sessions for just £10 or less on Sat 19th & Sun 20th May. With no experience necessary and all of the equipment provided, there has never been a better time to get out on the water!


Below are just a few thrilling events you can try:

For the Adrenaline Junkies

Learn to Waterski / Wakeboard with the Experts, Meteor Water Ski Club, Lough Henney, Bresagh Road, Sun 20th May
Guaranteed to get the heart pounding, try water skiing or wake boarding in a safe and controlled environment. 

Ladies Beginner Wakeboarding LessonsKnockbracken Reservoir, Carryduff, BT8 8BP, Sat 19th & Sun 20th May
Get into wakeboarding during a one on one coaching session which will soon have you gliding across the longest cable wakeboarding run in Ireland!

Fun with Friends

Rowing Taster SessionsRiver Lagan, Stranmillis Mooring Dock, Governors Bridge, Belfast, Sat 19th and Sun 20th May
Row a community-built traditional currach and see Belfast and the river Lagan from a different perspective. Suitable for all ages and abilities. This session will teach you basic rowing techniques and you'll try your hand at steering. 

Have a go Rowing in Kircubbin, Kircubbin Sailing Club, 106 Shore Road, Kircubbin, Sat 19th and Sun 20th May
Improve your fitness and have the option of participating as a rower, cox or support member.

Have a go Rowing in Dundrum, Dundrum Inner Bay, Slipway opposite Dundrum Inn, Sat 19th and Sun 20th May
Row with the current world champions and see if coastal rowing could be your thing.

Skiff Rowing for Beginners, Killyleagh at the Netwalk, Sun 20th May
A fun filled session with excellent coaching from experienced team members. This event is a fantastic opportunity to meet new friends while learning to row and exploring Strangford Lough. Everyone that enjoys this activity will have an opportunity to train for the Strangford Skiff Festival.

Try Rowing with Lagan Scullers Club, River Lagan, Lockview Road, Belfast, Sun 20th May
Rowing / sculling taster session for beginners, with some sessions specifically for women over 16 years old. Learn the basics of rowing indoors before taking to the water to see Belfast from the river.

A Family Day Out


Summer Splash Event For FamiliesCreggan Country Park, Westway, Derry, Sat 19th & Sun 20th May
This family fun event will involve canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding and a session on inflatables. It's a great opportunity to get everyone out on the water at a special half price rate.

Dip Your Toe – Have a Go, Lough Erne, Broadmeadow, Lakeland Forum Leisure Centre, Sat 19th May
Get your family (or some friends) together to join a crew of 10 to row through Enniskillen aboard this fascinating bronze age boat currach boat.

Free Taster Youth Rowing Sessions on Strangford Lough, Strangford Lough, Leaving from Cook Street, Portaferry, (located along shore road BT22 1LB), Sat 19th & Sun 20th May
Free rowing sessions for boys and girls aged 11 to 17 years old on Strangford Lough.

Push the Boat Out


Push the Boat Out – Try Free Sailing, Kayaking and Coastal Rowing, County Antrim Yacht Club, 1 Marine Parade, Whitehead, BT38 9QP, Sat 19th May
County Antrim Yacht Club's annual taster day. Try a range of watersports with experienced guides during 20-30 minute sessions. A family fun day will also be taking place, including face painting and a BBQ.

Push the Boat Out with Strangford Lough Yacht Club, Strangford Lough Yacht Club, Whiterock, Sun 20th May
A fun and sociable introduction to sailing with the option of a BBQ afterwards.

Push the Boat Out – Introduction to Dinghy and Cruiser Sailing, Carlingford Lough Yacht Club Killowen Point, Rostrevor, Sun 20th May
A great opportunity to take a dinghy or a yacht out for an afternoon! You can even take a spin in a RIB or have a go stand up paddleboarding.

Follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with what's happening across Northern Ireland's waterways or check out our website, GetWetNI.com

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Welcoming Synge and Byrne Café to Rostrevor MTB Trails

Posted on April 10, 2018 @ 10:53 AM in Mountainbiking

Rostrevor MTB Trails recently saw the opening of a new café at it's trailhead. Synge and Byrne is a well established chain across Northern Ireland, and their promise of awesome food, great coffee and outstanding customer service is already being well received by the MTB community. We spoke to Damien Garvey, Director / Pot Washer in Chief of Synge and Byrne about the nitty gritty of opening a cafe at a MTB Trailhead.  

 

Hi Damien, congrats on the new move and thanks for speaking to us! What do you think makes Kilbroney such an attractive place for a café like Synge and Byrne?

As a brand we are committed to Northern Ireland and the best it has to offer, providing healthy choices and engaging in a better working life - so Kilbroney and its world class MTB trails, amazing environment and what it gives to the community and visitors couldn’t sit better with the values of our brand. That and the numbers of thirsty and hungry visitors that arrive every day!

How aware were you of the MTB trails before the move?

Being a local business and the fact that one of the owners is a World Champion Level Iron Man competitor, biking and the local biking scene is quite high on our agenda, so we have been regular visitors to the trails in the winter months since (the café) opened….roadies during the dryer brighter months.

 

Mountain bikers have been known to enter a café with mud and rain dripping from them. Is that a pain or something to be embraced?

That was a frightening prospect at the beginning and we did worry about having some softer seating, but we have used fabrics that can deal with quite a high level of abuse. Besides, they might be a dirty bunch but they have great manners normally and so sit on the hard chairs when they are filthy... usually! So no issue really, every site has its particular challenges and a bit of dirt is fine as the dirty guys are usually the ones that are really hungry.

Have you or any of your staff been out on the MTB trails yet? If so, what did you / they think?

As we said we have been out on the trails a number of times and we have a semi-pro turning pro on our payroll, Jack Devlin and he thinks the trails are the best. If he isn't charming the customers in our Boucher Road branch he is shedding the trails in Rostrevor…. a man with his head screwed on!

 

What would you say is the perfect feed for a MTBer having just come in from taking on the 27km loop?

Definitely one of our Roast sandwich specials. Slow Honey Roast Ham, mustard mayo, rocket on a Corn Dolly award winning bap served up with Sweet potato fries, Zingy Slaw and Pesto Mayo Dipping Sauce... probably followed by a Serious coffee and some chocolate, homemade Caramel Square maybe. The best in the country, Fact!

 

What’s a healthy treat you’d suggest for mountain bikers?

I didn’t know mountain bikers did healthy I thought that was for the runners & roadies! On the occasion they are out with their other half and trying to impress I would say one of our “Bliss Balls” – vegan, Gluten Free, additive free, made locally buy the lovely Lisa and simply delicious washed down with one of our range of Green teas……and back the next day for the S&B Breakfast!!

 

Quick fire round:

Favourite film?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

 

TV show you’re currently into?

G.O.T……the only one and we get to watch them filming in the beautiful Mournes.

 

Favourite food?

Our own Caramel Squares…..that’s why we bike!

 

Favourite song at the minute?

BB King “Better not Look Down” (not current I know but on repeat in the store at the minute)

 

Worst injury you’ve picked up?

Thankfully just the nasty pussy scrapes and cuts that come with using your ass for brakes on tarmac while clad in Lycra only! One of the team has had the whole Airlift job for a broken leg while competing in the Cooley Thriller a couple of years ago….nasty!

 

Anything else you’d like to share with the MTB community?

Just that we have a café in Slieve Gullion Forest Park and although you have to get yourself to the top it is a real undiscovered gem that should not be missed. Although there are no structured MTB trails ther...yet!

 

Thanks for chatting to us Damien!

Synge and Byrne at Kilbroney are open 9am - 5pm daily. They also currently have cafés in Dungannon, Newtownabbey, Newry, Derry/Londonderry, Belfast and Slieve Gullion. Rigorous food sampling took place prior to this interview. It was delicious.

 

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Top Tips For Walking As A Family In Northern Ireland

Posted on April 9, 2018 @ 5:19 PM in Walking

We are spoilt for choice when it comes to picturesque walking locations in Northern Ireland. In this blog Kelly Hargie, author of 'Every Treasure', shares some of her tops tips for getting your family out exploring.

Family Friendly Walks Northern Ireland

My husband, Trevor, and I, along with our 3 boys aged 7, 9 and 12 go hiking most weekends and enjoy camping during school holidays. We love nothing more than exploring, the rich pickings that Northern Ireland has on offer and never cease to be amazed, by the unspoiled hidden gems and beautiful landscapes we get to savour as the seasons change.

We have been doing this ever since our children were very small, before the youngest could walk he came with us in a baby backpack carrier; and over the years, our out-and-about adventures have become the highlight of our week. With modern life being so busy with the work and school routine, we really look forward to this carved-out family time. There are places that we like to visit time and time again and walks that hold special memories for us.

Some things we have learned along the waybig

Planning an arduous hike up Slieve Bearnagh in the Mourne Mountains mid-winter with toddlers, is always going to be a little bit over-ambitious. It is important to plan-out journeys well in advance, keeping in mind the abilities of everyone in the group. Ultimately, hiking as a family is all about having fun and developing your child's love for walking! Sure, set goals once a bit of experience has been tucked under the belt, but be realistic and make sure everyone has a good time. 

small

While not thinking too big, it's also worth not thinking too small! Kids are way more capable than we sometimes give them credit for. It is our youngest child, or as we like to call him ‘our little mountain goat’ who is always the first to reach the top of a mountain and add his stone to the cairn. Challenges are good, it’s all about being sensible and planning well. 

Money

The joy of walking is that it costs virtually nothing, beyond the price of a pair of walking boots and a small picnic. At the end of a day of hiking in the Mournes, we often talk among ourselves about what a great day out we have had for less than £10. Many family-focused activities can end up costing parents a small fortune. Exploring a nature trail, splashing in muddy puddles and learning about the natural world with kids is satisfying in so many ways and doesn’t require re-mortgaging the house in the process.

Finding The Time

Not all outdoor expeditions need to be time-consuming. There are some quality walks that can be done in just a couple of hours. Again, it often comes down to the planning: put clothes out and prepare a picnic the night before, or go out for a walk in your local area to avoid long travel times. Whatever your time-frame, I guarantee that a journey into the wild is totally achievable!

equipment

As mentioned above, other than a decent pair of walking boots and some waterproof, warm and comfortable clothes, there’s not a whole lot more equipment required to go walking. Most routes around forests and parks are clearly marked out but should you need them maps can be downloaded from the internet too.

ducks

If we only went adventuring during good weather, life would be dull and cabin fever would most certainly ensue. It’s well-known and joked about that Northern Ireland often gets to experience all 4 seasons in a day. It is just as possible to walk in the colder winter months as it is in the bright days of spring and summer. Certainly, the number of daylight hours is fewer, but to be honest, some of the best adventures we have experienced as a family have been in the snow and rain! Is there anything better than arriving home after a strenuous, chilly walk to a warm house and hot chocolate? I think not.

Family Friendly Walks Northern Ireland

The Essentials 

So, you’re ready to get the family out-and-about exploring and savouring some quality time together, the next thing you want to know is what exactly do you need to bring?

Food, and plenty of it! If your kids are anything like mine they like to graze all day long. Bring snack-type foods that can be eaten on the go and that also have a decent amount of nutritional value. We like to bring hard-boiled eggs, lots of fruit and a few treats are usually worth packing for a bit of encouragement when little legs get tired. 

With our erratic weather and the fact that the top of a mountain can be very different from the bottom of a mountain, it is worth wearing layered clothing. Think base-layers, t-shirt, fleece and a waterproof. I would advise popping spare socks in the rucksack and keep a full set of spare clothes in the car. Hats, gloves and snoods are useful to have at hand as the wind can be strong even on a mild day. 

Toilet roll, carrier bags / a small spade are essential when trekking with children too. You know for sure that the moment you are deep in the woods or halfway up a mountain trail someone will need the loo! And usually when kids say they need to go, well, they really need to go! It is possible to discretely toilet in the wild like Bear Grylls.

Family Friendly Walks Northern Ireland

Use Your Imagination!

Hiking with the kids is a whole heap of fun, I love it more than anything. The pace can be slow, but there is so much to explore! Spend an entire day looking for fossils on the coast, studying bugs in the forest or foraging for leaves to use in a craft activity when you get home. Life is busy and learning to slow-down, breathe-deep and enjoy our beautiful countryside can be so beneficial. I’ve learned over the years of walking with my kids that it is in their favourite wild spaces that imagination comes alive. Play a made-up game, go off the beaten track, climb a tree, dance in the rain, jump in the mud. There is so much fun to be had if we allow kids to take the lead and set the tone.

As the good weather arrives, I hope that you are inspired to get out and about exploring the multitude of walks on offer in Northern Ireland. The benefits of a walk in the great outdoors cannot be counted or even at times put into words. Go for it; pull on your walking boots, pack up a few sandwiches and get out there and explore! I promise you will not be disappointed at what you discover!

Feeling inspired? Here are some Family Friendly Walks

Family Friendly Walks Northern Ireland

The Giant's LairSlieve Gullion, Co. Armagh (1 mile walk)
Capture the whole families imagination discovering a land with dragons, giants and fairies. At just over a mile with uphill sections there are lots of fairy houses and art features to explore on this very enjoyable and achievable walk.

Cranny Falls, Carnlough, Co. Antrim (2.4 mile walk)
With a fantastic eco-playpark at the beginning of the trail and a gentle incline to the waterfall it is well-worth a visit.

Hen Mountain, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down (5.9 miles walk)
A great little mountain for those wishing to start hiking in the Mournes. This walk is more suited to those with older children or with younger children in a backpack carrier.

Cave Hill, Belfast, Co. Antrim (4.5 mile walk)
A well-known and well-loved walk in the Belfast hills, it's a fun game trying to identify buildings from the top. Those with younger children or off-road buggies can explore the forest section below.

Gortin Lakes, Omagh, Co. Tyrone (0.6 mile walk)
This short off-road walk leads around Gortin Lakes with superb views of the Sperrins landscape. Just under a mile in length spend a couple of hours exploring and enjoy a picnic in the tranquil surroundings.

Tollymore Forest Park (River Trail), Bryansford, Co. Down (3 mile walk)
Journey into deep woods following the trail alongside the River Shimna before hopping over a set of stepping stones. Families with younger kids can explore shorter sections of this walk and the 'Big Deer' play area.

Castlewellan Forest Park, Castlewellan, Co. Down (Various walks of up to 3 miles)
There are lots of walks to enjoy in Castlewellan Forest Park. Families looking a challenge should explore the Slievenaslat Walk while those with buggies and younger children can explore the Lakeside Walk. Finish the day exploring  'Animal Wood' play area & Peace Maze. 

Whitepark Bay, Ballintoy, Co. Antrim (2.8 mile walk)
With archaeological evidence everywhere this is the ideal location to spend a few hours fossil hunting. This beach is also the ideal spot for a quiet picnic lunch. 

Discover more family friendly walks on WalkNI.com

Family Friendly Walks Northern Ireland

*Remember - take all of your rubbish home with you. Take a million and one pictures and wonderful memories home with you and leave behind nothing but footprints. It is also worth checking route descriptions beforehand if you are planning to take your dog. Some routes go through working farmland where dogs are not permitted.

Kelly Hargie
Kelly Hargie  Blogger (Every Treasure)

Kelly Hargie is a Belfast-based Mum of 3 adventurous boys. Her hobbies are reading, walking and eating good food. She blogs over at Every Treasure about the silver-lining moments to be found in the everyday and is passionate about authentic-living, simplicity and will always leave housework undone to go on an outdoor adventure.

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