Posted on September 12, 2014 @ 1:04 PM in
Eternal adventure seeker and sports enthusiast, Andrea Harrower recently decided to take on the mighty Mourne Wall. Here’s her story…
(NB: Undertaking such a challenge should not be done so lightly and training and preparation is key. It is not advised that this challenge be attempted without proper planning and consideration and with the correct provision of food and water).
The last day of freedom before school drop offs/pick ups/extra curricular activities dawned bright and a planned “me time” run in a local forest, then became a planned wee run in the Mournes….which by halfway through the 30min drive to the majestic Kingdom of Mourne became a madcap plan?! of running the entire Mourne Wall! Not a plan?! that I’d be encouraging many to do, unless they actually planned it!
The Mourne Wall was constructed to enclose a reservoir's catchment area in the Mourne Mountains. It was built between 1904 and 1922 by the Belfast Water Commissioners to enclose the water catchment in the Mournes. The wall was crafted from natural granite stone using traditional dry stone walling techniques. On average the wall is about 1.5 metres high, and 0.8-0.9 metres thick. It is 22 miles (35 km) long and passes over 15 mountains. So yes, it is not something to be taken lightly without adequate preparation and provisions !!!! NB do as I say, not as I do!
Walkers generally complete the Mourne Wall over the course of 2 days, camping about halfway around the route, and reports are that anybody attempting to complete the wall in 1 day, does so in about 12-13 hours. Setting off at around 10am in an anticlockwise direction from Silent Valley car park, with the aim of walking the inclines and running the flats and down hills, I was reckoning about 8 hours. A far cry from the wee forest run I was planning before the madcap plan took hold!
The wall immediately climbs up Moolieve, to Wee Binnian and Binnian on an easy-to-follow narrow path, and from the very start the views are spectacular. The descent from Binnian to Annalong Wood is on rugged and rocky terrain, with stunning views of the wall and ensuing summits rising up above the far side of the trees.
The section through Annalong Wood is testing – heavy undergrowth, brambles, rocks, bore holes and river crossings! - but then an easy path resumes via Rocky Mountain and the whole way across the Bog of Donard (guess why it’s called that???) and up to the summit of Slieve Donard.
By this stage I had been going 2hr50min and bounced down the descent to the saddle with Slieve Commedagh in less than 10mins. I felt invigorated and full of energy!...or was that just because I’d eaten 1 of my 3 chocolate bars (NB do not attempt this with such meagre supplies! If I’d planned this at all, I’d have had a full blown picnic with me….not to mention way more than an insufficient 1 litre of water) at the top of Donard?!
Up Commedagh and running along the wall on a long, gradual descent across Slieve Corragh and Slievenaglogh, the vista ahead is breathtaking and not only can you see the Mourne Wall snake its way in the distance over peaks to come, but you can see it weaving its way around behind you from where you have come. The ascent up Slieve Bearnagh is a challenging one, as is its descent to Slieve Meelmore – but sure scrambling gives you an upper body workout!
Psychologically, once you’ve done Slieve Meelbeg, then you think you’re pretty much home – as all the biggest summits are behind you. Oh how wrong can you be?! Not even my 2nd chocolate bar of 3 on Meelbeg could spur me through this final section. Yes….it had happened….you know that saying “hit the wall”?!...well, having hit the Mourne Wall lastmin.com with insufficient provisions, I had hit the wall figuratively. So, what do endurance athletes do in such situations? Start talking to yourself like a nutter, using any mantras and methods necessary to keep moving forward!
The section from Slieve Loughshannagh via Carn and Muck was a total slog through boggy, marshy terrain – ending with a slow, sharp, heather-ridden descent down Muck and through further no-mans-land until crossing over Banns Road and ascending the final summit, Slievenaglogh (yip! there are 2 of them along the Mourne Wall!).
With the allure of the final summit, and devouring the 1 final chocolate bar, you’d think that energy levels would be restored. Nope! That final wee summit felt like Everest surely feels. And then, the final straw, just when you’ve crested the top and think all you have to do is drop down to the finish at Silent Valley – the wall sweeps you totally the opposite direction! Sure, what’s an extra 2 miles?!
With aching knees, hammered feet, bruised legs….and so the list goes on…I finally ended up back at the car after 7hrs10min. I hadn’t felt this shattered since doing the Himalaya 100 in 2010, but couldn’t help but think that if I’d had proper food and water then I probably wouldn’t have felt so bad.
No matter what though, the journey reinforced what an exceptionally beautiful area the Kingdom of Mourne is. There is spectacular scenery, varied terrain, diverse flora and fauna around not only the summits themselves, but the low lying foothills too.
Whether you’re going 22 miles, or 2 miles, you can’t help but be in the Mournes and feel lucky to be alive. . . even when you feel nearly dead! En route I saw only 2 sets of people, the 2nd set being after 5hrs and in my lengthy slog through the last section. I saw 2 women hikers approaching from the opposite direction, and was unsure I could even muster a “hello”. However, I did, and not only that…I even managed to make 1 of them crease up in laughter when she asked me, “How far have you come?”. I told her I’d started in Silent Valley and would be back in Silent Valley in a couple of hours. She asked, “Did you start yesterday?”. I replied, “No, I started just 5 hours ago” and she was astounded. Her hilarity was when I then added, “Sure, the Mourne Wall is 22 miles – that’s not even a marathon” !
Anyone out there wanting a marathon route?......hit the wall!
Posted on September 4, 2014 @ 1:18 PM in
Looking for a fun filled family day out with the kids during September? Get Outdoors Weekend 2014 promises not to disappoint! You will be spoilt for choice with over 80 FREE outdoor activities across Northern Ireland and a choice of 7 Family Multi Activity Days. The fun really needn’t stop now school has started!
Colin Glen Forest Park Family Fun Day, Sat 20th Sept, Colin Glen Forest Park;
Enjoy family fun in Belfast and get to try a whole range of outdoor activities including low ropes and archery. Some activities require pre-booking.
Get Outdoors at the Autumn Fair, Sat 20th & Sun 21st Sept, Botanic Gardens;
Celebrate the changing season with a weekend of food, flowers and family fun. Free activities including a climbing wall and archery sessions will be on offer during the festivities. Just turn up on the day!
Gortin Glens Forest Park Family Activity Day, Sat 20th & Sun 21st Sept;
Come to Gortin Glens Forest Park near Omagh and enjoy a host of outdoor activities sure to enthuse the whole family. Activities include archery, climbing and laser clay pigeon shooting. Some activities require pre-booking.
Free Entry into Castle Ward, Sat 20th Sept, Castle Ward;
Enjoy free entry to this beautiful country estate and explore a network of more than 34kms of walking, cycling and horse riding trails. This is a turn up on the day event.
Ring of Gullion Get Outdoors Extravaganza, Sat 20th Sept, Slieve Gullion Forest Park;
Bushcraft, climbing tower, archery, hill walking and more...it’s all happening at Slieve Gullion for the fantastic Get Outdoors Extravaganza! Some activities require pre-booking.
Taste the Outdoors Family Fun Day, Sun 21st Sept, Beech Hill Country House Hotel;
Get Outdoors with a range of different outdoor activities for all the family including a scavenger hunt, mountain biking and wild cooking. Some activities require pre-booking.
Get Outdoors in Fermanagh Family Fun Day, Sat 20th Sept, Castle Archdale;
Experience the great outdoors with free activities including climbing, canoeing as well as guided cycling and walks. Some activities require pre-booking.
To find out more information on all these great activity events and how you can take part in a FREE event near you vist Get Outdoors Weekend!
Posted on August 25, 2014 @ 3:40 PM in
The North Coast is most famous for one thing (no I’m not thinking of Barry’s amusements or Morellis ice-cream although both strong contenders!); it’s all in the name, of course I’m talking about the fabulous coastline! With sea stack cliffs, historic castles, beautiful beaches and a famous geological phenomenom there are lots of impressive sights to behold in this part of the world. With so much to see the best view is definitely from the water as I would soon find out on my trip with Portrush Sea Tours who offer exhilarating tours of the famous coastline by boat.
Window wipers on I began my journey from Belfast to the North Coast one not so sunny Saturday excited for my tour on the ‘high seas’. Heading up ahead of schedule I made time for an obligatory ‘99’ (it’s never too early for ice-cream) just in time for the sun to come out, and for me to enjoy the views from Portrush East Strand.
Conveniently located right on the North Pier (next to Ramore Wine Bar a great place for a bite of lunch, dinner or a drink or two after) it was easy to find Portrush Sea Tours shop. It was here I met Crawford and Pearl; Mr and Mrs Portrush Sea Tours - a dynamic duo and our skipper and tour guide for the morning. After a friendly welcome and a cup of coffee everyone was soon assembled eager to get aboard. Kitted out with life jackets, Crawford gave a safety briefing and we hopped on the Stormforce 11, a fast RIB (rigid inflatable boat) which would treat us to some exciting speeds at the same time remaining very comfortable and stable on the water. With a cover for the boat allowing us to still have full view there was no need to let the threat of rain put a dampner on the day and more importantly us! All aboard, as no one else seemed to be fighting for it I was straight up the front beside the captain.
The captain doing what he does best; a famous face hidden within the Skerries
Pearl explained the plan for the tour and give us a rough run down of what we would be seeing then with a whir of the engine we were off leaving the harbour behind us as Crawford got the tunes going. Passing the impressive Ramore Head our next stop was the Skerries; a small group of islands scattered just off the Portrush coast, formed from cooled volcanic lava. Pearls knowledge of the area was fantastic and both she and Crawford had a great awareness of the wildlife pointing out Iderback ducks and grey seals which I would have missed. Pearl had plenty of fascinating facts about this particular spot including famous faces hidden within the rocks, tails of freedom fighters and the secret of how the rabbits got to the skerries! Sorry guys my lips are sealed – you’ll just have to go on the tour to find out.
Pearl telling us some interesting facts about the area
Accelerating along the water with the sea air in our hair we headed to Portballintrae harbour also known as the fictional town of Lordsport in the television series Game of Thrones. After admiring the distinctive white church high above us on the headland more impressive sites awaited us in the form of Dunluce Castle and the White Rocks. Perched right on the edge of basalt cliffs, towering above us Dunluce Castle was a particular highlight for me. It was amazing to stare up at the mighty structure from the sea and take it in from an entirely new and impressive perspective. Built on the site of an ancient Irish fort, the Scottish style castle was occupied by the MacDonnells of Antrim and the MacDonalds of Dunnyveg, Scotland, providing no shortage of fascinating history for Pearl to share with us including tales of the kitchen which fell into the sea in 1690 and the ghosts that were left behind.
The awesome views continued as we zoomed beside the White Rocks stretching from Dunluce Castle to East Strand, an impressive array of limestone cliffs with caves and arches only accessible from the sea – something I would have never knew existed or have been able to witness from dry land. After waving at a group coasteering; jumping from the cliffs and exploring the caves, we headed back towards Portrush to take in the sandy beaches and impressive dunes.
Born and bred in the North Coast Crawford and Pearls passion for the area really came through as they shared local knowledge, history and folklore helping to bring each location to life ensuring everyone was entertained both kids and adults throughout. After taking in all the sites it was then time for Crawford to show us what the Storm Force could really do as he told us to hold on tight and notched up the speed for a fantastic spin which got everyone’s heart racing and the adults onboard fighting the kids for a coveted place at the back!
Crawford and I back on dry land
After a few laps at speed and skimming through the waves it was time to head back with the hour having flown in. Once back everyone was raving about the trip keen to find out when they could go again. We had experienced the Bay to Bay Sea Tour however other trips include the Giant’s Causeway tour and Rathlin Island tour as well as the opportunity to go further afield to the Scottish islands of Juraand Islay so there was plenty of reason for everyone to come back for more. It was a fantastic experience made all the better by Crawford and Pearls welcoming and friendly nature with everyone learning a lot and getting to experience never before seen views of the coast. Whether you are a regular visitor to this part of the world or are here for the first time I would definitely recommend this trip as I know Crawford and Pearl will guarantee you won’t be disappointed! You don’t just have to take my word for it however, as theTripadvisor reviews speak for themselves.
Portrush Sea Tours
Bay to Bay Sea Tour (approx 1 hour)
Cost per person: £20
Know someone who might like to give this a go? You can purchase this and other tours online from the OutdoorNI.com Gift Voucher page.
Posted on August 21, 2014 @ 10:19 AM in
From splashing good fun in the water to knee trembling heights there are lots of action packed activities taking place during the August Bank Holiday Weekend 2014, ideal for those looking to make the most of the last weekend of summer with friends or family before school starts back!
August Bank Holiday Family Fun
This bank holiday weekend will not disappoint when it comes to fun-filled, action-packed activities to keep the kids entertained!
Belfast is a great location to start the fun. Visit Mobile Team Adventure at Shaw's Bridge, just a short drive from the city centre where you can enjoy a morning out on the water during a family canoe/ kayak open session. Later in the afternoon, why not hire bikes and hit the family friendly mountain bike trails in Barnett Demesne.
Ever thought about spending your bank holiday weekend in a Jungle? Now you can during a Family Fun Day at the Jungle NI. Find your inner Robin Hood during an archery session, scale the climbing wall or experience the thrill of speeding along on two wheels on one of JungleNI’s segways!
For those with kids aged 12 years and up seeking the adrenaline rush of something a bit more adventurous then Family Coasteering with Clearsky Adventure Centre is the ideal family activity. Supervised by experienced instructors, dive right into this action packed activity as you walk, scramble, jump and sometimes crawl along the Strangford coastline.
August Bank Holiday Adventures With Your Mates
Its a long awaited three days of work! So grab a couple of mates and head to on of the many great action packed activities sure to get your adrenaline pumping!
Whether you are new to surfing and keen to catch your first wave or if you are a seasoned pro, enjoy a ladies only day out on the waves during Northern Ireland's Roxy Ladies Surf Day on Sat 23rd and Sun 24th Aug at East Strand Watersports Centre, Portrush. Take part in a 1 hour surf lesson followed by a 1 hour Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) and on board yoga session.
Join Simply Sea Kayak for a half day Introduction to Sea Kayaking course on Sat 23rd or Sun 24th Aug. Aimed at newcomers to the world of paddle sport. This is a fun and informative session out on the water which can be enjoyed individually or with friends.
Get competitive as your time yourself against the clock to navigate the obstacle course and race through the forest trails during the Segway Off-Road Experience with Segway NI.
Check out OutdoorNI Fun with Friends for even more fantastic activities!
Exam Results Gift Ideas
A fantastic reward for a job well done! OutdoorNI have a number of exciting Gift Vouchers for you to choose from to reward the hard work put in by all those who have got or are waiting on exam results.
Learn to Surf with expert instruction from Long Line Surf School. Learn the basics needed catch your first wave! All equipment is provided during this 2.5 hour lesson so all you have to do is turn up and enjoy the surf!
Share the driver's seat with 2 friends during an Off-road Driving Taster Experience with Todd’s Leap as you conquer the muddy climbs, drops & hazards of an exhilarating 8 mile off road course guided by a qualified instructor. Finish the day being driven round the course at Rally Competition speed! With no age restrictions or need for a driving licence for this experience everyone can have a go.
Experience the Tarzan Tree Top Adventure Taster Session at The Jungle NI. Take on 12 challenging elements set at varying heights above the ground, some up to 70ft high, concluding in spectacular fashion with the exhilarating 200m zipline and gravity-defying Power Fan Drop.
Have a great August Bank Holiday Weekend 2014!
Posted on July 24, 2014 @ 11:39 AM in
With so many fantastic glamping sites just across the border, Northern Ireland is a must visit this summer for your chance to get away from it all without breaking the bank. Whether you want to roadtrip towards an action packed weekend with your mates or enjoy a family short break in the outdoors with some added comfort Northern Ireland is the place to be. From the stunning coastline of the North Coast, to the famous lakelands of Fermanagh, beautiful beaches, sunsets and stargazing await you on your glamping adventure!
‘Glamping’ or glamorous camping combines all the fun of camping with some of the amenities of a home so you can enjoy the tranquility of the outdoors with the added bonus of staying dry. Give yourself more time to relax and enjoy the fantastic outdoor activities Northern Ireland has to offer.
With lots of outdoor activity providers located beside the glamping sites adventure will be right on your doorstep so you can have a hassle free break and make it as action packed or as chilled out as you want. Here are some of our top suggestions of glamping spots in Northern Ireland.
Glamping in Strangford
These four eco friendly continental camping pods can be found tucked away in the stunning 820 acre demesne of Castle Ward. Offering standard and family camping these pods are ideal for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle. Just outside your doorstop you will have over 12km of off road cycling and walking trails to explore. Take advantage of onsite activity provider Clearsky’s package which includes glamping with bike hire and archery or canoe hire so you can explore the trails and tour round some of the film locations for Game of Thrones.
Glamping in Co. Fermanagh
Trannish Island is a great base for those on an adventure break following the Lough Erne Canoe Trail. With a cosy wood burning stove, camping platforms to sleep on, toilets and solar powered showers, the Bothy avoids the hassle of carrying and setting up tents. Only accessible by canoe you are definitely in for a wild experience and with the opportunity to book the Bothy for exclusive use you can even have the entire island to yourself – eat your heart out Richard Branson!
Situated just a paddle away is Ireland’s largest multi-activity centre; Share Discovery Village, where you can hire a range of canoes or kayaks to access the island or take part in one of their many exciting outdoor activities available throughout the year.
Glamping in Co. Derry~Londonderry
Ever wondered what it would be like to camp out in a Jungle?! Kick back, relax and enjoy the benefits of your very own Glamping pod and outdoor patio area equipped with a camp fire and picnic benches within the grounds of JungleNI. Each pod has access to its own BBQ area as well as having electric heating and is double glazed ensuring you are kept cosy no matter what the weather! These purpose built huts sleep up to 8 people. If you really want to ‘Glamp’ it up after a day of outdoor activities roll downhill in the Zorbs or take on the Jungle's treetop High Ropes course before unwinding in the outdoor hot tub!
Enjoy staying in one of Carrowmena’s eco friendly ‘Camping Cocoons’ ideal for those looking to get away from it all. Located in the Binevanagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty you can relax in the tranquility of the outdoors. Each Cocoon sleeps up to 6 people with discounts available for those taking part in the centres outdoor activities including canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing and orienteering.
Camping Pods, Benone Tourist Complex, Benone
These custom made lodges are fully insulated and can sleep up to 6 people. Also included is a kettle, heater, lighting and each lodge has its own picnic table. Just a short walk from the campsite is Benone Beach which hosts a number of action packed outdoor activities. How about taking a surf lesson or hiring a surf board from Long Line Surf School? You can also give Stand up Paddleboaring (SUP) a go with Long Line Water Trails. For those looking to stay on dry land why not explore the beach on a Segway with Segway Express?
Glamping in the North Coast
Enjoy the stunning coastal scenery of the North Coast like never before by taking part in one of the many outdoor activities in the area. Catch a wave with Troggs Surf School in Portrush, go kayaking along the coast with Simply Sea Kayak, take a leap from the cliffs coasteering with Xplore Outdoors or try scuba diving with Aquaholics. For those keen to see this area of Outstanding Natural Beauty from a different angle book onto a sea safari with Aquaholics departing from Portstewart harbour or hop aboard Portrush Sea Tour’s boat for trips departing daily from Portrush harbour.
Just a short drive away from all of the above activities, sit out under the stars outside your very own camping cabin or alternatively enjoy all the comforts of Ireland’s first Geo Dome!
Hit the Road
Create your own adventure with Bunk Campers whose campervan rental service is ideal for couples, families and groups of friends looking for an action packed, enjoyable short break experience. Most vans come with fully functional heating, cooking facilities, iPod connectivity, and converted bed space.
With the freedom of four wheels to take you anywhere for an adventure check out our top tips for activities in the North Coast and Mournes.
So what are you waiting for?! Happy Glamping!