Bear Grylls Island Survival Academy – it may hurt a little…

Posted on May 11, 2017 @ 3:17 PM in Adventure

Just as I was beginning my après lunch coffee in Belle Isle Castle’s Grand Hall a team of menacing uniformed figures marched in.  They were on a mission, their leader Will quickly briefed us on the afternoon ahead. In fact, he told us very little (a theme which would remain for most of the day), only to dress appropriately as we will get wet and dirty and to be in a Land Rover outside at 1400. They left to the sound of a pin dropping in the background...

We piled into the Land Rovers and raced off into the grounds of Belle Isle Estate before arriving on the shores of Upper Lough Erne.  Following more instructions from Will (again suitably brief), we were equipped with buoyancy aids and paddles before venturing out onto the Lough. Just as I was beginning to take delight in the peaceful tranquillity an orange smoke flare set off from an island begin us.

After landing our kayaks on mass at the wooded island, we followed Will and his brigade to a pre-prepared campsite. Heath (another man not to be messed with) further focused our minds as he instructed us on how to safely use a knife during the remainder of the day.  The term ‘triangle of death’ (the area between your two kneecaps and you know where) will remain with me for a while.

The first task was to prepare a warm drink with a spark, a tampon and a Kelly Kettle.  Although no Café Latte, we were able to fashion a nice cup of coffee. Will and Heath then demonstrated their soft side and passed around the Jaffa Cakes. Just one each, they didn’t want to spoil us.

We split up into groups and rotated through several different exercises.  During the first, Will provided detailed instruction on the dark arts of concealment before issuing some camouflage cream and netting.  He then gave us two minutes to hide in the undergrowth within 20 paces before he came to find us.  I am immediately ran over 40 paces away, frantically covering myself in netting, diving into the biggest bush I could find and then closing my eyes in the hope that this would further help prevent my capture – it didn’t!  

With Heath’s guidance, we then became trackers carefully following a trail of footprints through the forest.  We achieved our goal with 20 seconds to spare. My two-year-old doesn’t stand a chance the next time we play hide and seek.

Following a short exercise in shelter building we returned to camp to be greeted by Venison Hot Dogs – a magic combination. After which the competitive spirits were raised with a round of axe-throwing.

As we walked back to the kayaks, this previous group of strangers were laughing and sharing fond stories of an excellent adventure. As it turned out we didn’t quite have one foot into the luxurious Belle Isle Estate just yet. Somebody had stolen half of the kayaks.  Will and Heath looked slightly sheepish although no one dared make any accusations.

The newly bonded group worked together to construct a raft to bring the remaining party ashore. I overheard the instructors trading bets on the raft’s chances of success – our odds weren’t good!

However, the raft optimistically named ‘Titantic II’ defied the odds and we reached the shore successfully.

The Land Rovers whisked us back to the luxurious accommodation afforded throughout Belle Isle Castle and Cottages, before enjoying a delicious dinner in the Castle’s Grand Hall, produced using the finest local ingredients.

Belle Isle Estate is the exclusive destination of the Bear Grylls Island Survival Academy. For more information on tailored incentive and corporate experiences contact:

Belle Isle Estate  

+44 (0) 28 66 387231

Chris Scott was a guest at the official launch of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy at Belle Isle Castle and Private Island

Photos within this blog are kindly provided by Ken McBride Photography


Chris Scott
Chris Scott

Having 'retired' from competitive sailing he is trying to find something new to fill the void. Currently mixing it up with 10ks, trail running and adventures with his two year old son.

Get Wet With A Watersports Club Near You

Posted on May 9, 2017 @ 10:53 AM in Adventure

There are lots of exciting come and 'have a go' watersport sessions happening across Northern Irleand over the next couple of weeks for £10 or less as part of Get Wet NI 2017. With no experience necessary, all equipment provided and many of the activities suitable for individuals, families and groups of friends, there really is no excuse not to try something new out on the water this May!

Sailing Northern Ireland

Set Sail

Try Sailing Day, Lough Neagh Sailing Club, Craigavon, Co. Armagh, Sat 13th May
An introductory session aimed at providing a taste of sailing to beginners on the largest freshwater lake in NI.

Try Boating Session for people with DisabilitiesBelfast Lough Sailability, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, Sat 13th May
Come and have a go sailing in speciality boats for wheelchair users and those with limited mobility.

Sailing Taster at Cushendall, Cushendall Sailing & Boating Club, Co. Antrim, Sat 20th May
Set sail and learn the basics before taking the helm in the stunning setting of Cushendall.

Come & Try It Day, Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, Holywood, Co. Down, Sun 21st May
A day of fun on and off the water experiencing the excitement of sailing.

Womens Introduction to Dinghy Sailing , Newcastle Yacht Club, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
An opportunity for the ladies to try out sailing in picturesque Dundrum bay. 

Push The Boat Out Northern Ireland

Push The Boat Out & Try Something New

Introduction to Sailing, Canoeing & Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Holywood Yacht Club, Holywood, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
An action packed day of activities on the water inlcuding sailing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and driving a power-boat. Ideal for beginners and families, come along and give it a go.

Try Sailing & Kayaking, East Down Yacht Club, Downpatrick, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
Try sailing and kayaking at East Down Yacht Club in a variety of boats, no sailing experience needed. A fantastic opportunity to learn more about the sport, chat with members and feel the atmosphere of the club.

Try Sailing & Windsurfing Taster Day, Craigavon Watersports Centre, Sun 14th & Sun 21st May
Try the exciting sport of sailing and windsurfing with experienced instructors at Craigavon Lakes.

Diving Northern Ireland


Try Sub Aqua DivingLisburn Sub Aqua Club, Lisburn Swimming Pool, Co. Down, Thur 18th May
Experience the freedom of swimming underwater without needing to come up for air during this fun intro session. This pool based session is a low cost way to have a go at this truly unique experience.

Canoeing Northern Ireland


Come & Try It Canoe SessionsCounty Antrim Paddle Sports, Portglenone Marina, Co. Antrim, Sat 27th May
Learn the basics of canoeing before paddling upriver to Porglenone Forest. 

Sunset Paddle, Share Discovery Village, Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh, Wed 31st May & Fri 2nd June
An excellent introduction session to canoeing. Take in the spectacular scenery as you learn the basics or improve your skills at sunset with an expert team of instructors.

For more events check out

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 things to see at Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park

Posted on April 13, 2017 @ 9:32 AM in AdventureWalking

Discover Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park just a stones throw from Belfast City Centre. Donated to the people of Belfast in 1959 by Lady Dixon in memory of her late husband, Sir Thomas, the park covers more than 128 acres and boasts rolling meadows, woodland and gardens.

With 3 newly signed routes, a coffee shop full of delicious treats and fantastic playpark to explore we've picked out some of the top things to see during your visit. 

The International Rose GardenRoses Belfast

The International Rose Garden has made the park world famous, and contains over 20,000 blooms in the summer, the garden also displays the best of the roses from local breeders. Each year thousands of visitors enjoy the rose gardens and associated events during Rose Week in July. In addition, the garden has trial and display beds of cluster and large flowered, miniature, shrub and climbing roses as well as a Princess Diana memorial garden

The Japanese GardenJapanese Garden

The Japanese-style garden with water features for quiet contemplation is ideal for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the City.

Golden Crown FountainGolden Crown Fountain

Commissioned for the Queen's Golden Jubilee The Golden Crown Fountain is a hidden gem within the park for those exploring the newly signposted Garden Trail.

The Magnificent MeadowMeadow Trail

The newly signposted 1.78 mile meadow walking trail follows the parks perimeter and is perfect for those looking to enjoy the flora and fauna on offer in the magnificent meadows filled with orchids, peedweeks, clovers and hayrattle.

The Woodland
Woodland Walk

The new 1.93 mile woodland walking trail takes you through dense woodland before rewarding  you with a spectacular view over the entire park.

Wilmont House

In the mid-1800s, the estate was bought by the Bristow family. Wilmont House was built as the family home, designed by Thomas Jackson and completed in 1859. 

The park is also a great base for exploring Lagan Valley Regional Park if you want to keep exploring.

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.

Make A Splash for £10 or less!

Posted on March 30, 2017 @ 12:06 PM in AdventureCanoeing

Make a splash this may and 'Have a Go' at a range of watersports for as little as £10 or less over the Get Wet weekend on Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th May 2017.

Get Wet Northern ireland

Over 20 watersports clubs based all over Northern Ireland will be hosting the taster events to local people with no previous experience necessary. With activities including canoeing, sailing, waterskiing & wakeboarding, rowing, angling, stand up paddle boarding and diving, there has never been a better time to get on the water and get wet!

With so many fantastic events to choose from we have handpicked a few to help you get started!

For those who "cannot wake" to get out on the water

£10pp, Meteor Water Ski Club, Lough Henney, Co. Down, Sun 7th May
Experience the thrill of waterskiing/ wakeboarding on a beautiful lake, as you learn from expert coacges the tips and tricks needed to confidently get up on the water. 

Race a Skiff Boat down Strangford Lough

FREE, Killyleagh Coastal Rowing Club, Killyleagh, Co. Down, Sat 6th May
Challenge yourself to do something new this Spring and have a go rowing a Skiff with Killyleagh Coastal Rowing Club. Get fit, enjoy the scenery and have fun at this taster session. 

Bushcraft & Nature Canoe Paddle

£10pp, C3 Paddlers, Portadown Boat Club, Co. Armagh, Sun 7th May
Make the most of the great outdoors with this brilliant combination of canoeing and bushcraft. Gain a better understanding of nature's resources and how to use them with a paddle on a local waterway. 

Row Like A Dog

£30 per team, Row The Erne, Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, Sat 6th May
A fun Curragh Boat Race for any organisation/ group who would like to enter a team of 9 people. Come and have a go at coastal rowing with a competitive spirit! 

Get Wet Northern ireland

Give Rowing A Try

£2pp, City of Derry Boating Club, River Foyle, Co. Derry~Londonderry, Sat 6th & Sun 7th May
Enjoy an introductory rowing session on the River Foyle. Combining a mixture of indoor and outdoor skills sessions to develop posture, grip and boat handling skills so you can confidently row down river. 

Angling For Women

FREE, Omagh Anglers Association, Newtownstewart, Co. Tyrone, Sat 6th May
Have a go at flyfishing for trout on the River Strule. This fun intro session for women is a fantastic way to learn the basics.

Try Rowing with Lagan Scullers Club

£5pp, Lagan Scullers, Belfast, Co. Antrim, Sat 6th May
Feel the sleek boat glide through the water underneath you, and enjoy being part of a team learning new skills. See Belfast from the river!

May Splash Down- Stand Up Paddleboarding for Beginners

£5pp, Erne Paddlers, Castle Island Canoe Centre, Co. Fermanagh, Sat 6th May
You don't have to travel thousands of miles to try the most popular watersport in Hawaii. Learn to Stand up paddle board (SUP) taking in the beautiful scenery around Lough Erne.

With too many to mention make sure to visit for a full list of the events on offer in your local area.

These taster events are being offered as part of a wider campaign called Get Wet NI. This campaign is an ideal way for those with no background in watersports to learn the basics under the watchful eye of qualified instructors. The weekend of taster events will be closely by a series of training programmes for those looking to continue in their chosen sport. Visit or follow the Facebook Page so you don't miss out.

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.

What Women Really Want...For Christmas!

Posted on December 6, 2016 @ 12:56 PM in Adventure

Christmas shopping is hectic enough without having to guess what the special woman on your gift list wants this year. We've pulled together a list of our top Christmas gift ideas to help you find the perfect present to delight her when Christmas morning comes.

Christmas Shopping for Women

Tarzan Treetop Adventure Course, The JungleNI, Moneymore, Co. Derry~Londonderry
A chance for her to discover her inner Jane high as she negotiates through 50 challenges and obstacles up to 40ft high above the ground including zip lines, bridges, scramble nets and a death defying power-fan descent. 

Bay to Bay Sea Tour, Portrush Sea Tours, Portrush, Co. Antrim
A high speed boat tour along the spectacular Casueway Coastline. Join local experts aboard their high speed boat passing iconic locations inlcuding the Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle and the sea caves at Whiterocks. 

'Whirlpool Special' Sea Safari, Cleasky Adventure Centre, Strangford Lough, Co. Down
An exhilarating high speed boat tour of Strangford Lough passing Clough Rocks nature reserve, the lighthouse and the loughs infamous whirlpools. 

Zipline Adventure Pass, Todds Leap, Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone
Get ready to fly high across the valley over the forest and off road course below along Ireland's longest zipline. 

Christmas Shopping for Women

Try a Dive, Aquaholics, Portstewart, Co. Antrim
This is one experience that will never be forgotten as she discovers a whole other side of the North Coast under the watchful eye and instruction of an experienced coach. 

Forest Segways, The Jungle NI, Moneymore, Co. Derry~Londonderry
Roam through the forest on an off road Segway adventure.  These futuristic two wheeled machines are just as fun as they sound!

Canoeing Experience, Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan, Co. Down  
Enjoy some time together relaxing during a morning or afternoon's paddling session out on the beautiful Castlewellan Lake. 

Sailing on the Antrim Coast, Causeway Coast Sailing, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
Learn the ropes of sailing with some hands on experience or  simply relax and enjoy the scenic Antrim Coast. With room for up to three people they can even take friends or family along too!

Discover even more Christmas Gift Ideas for Women on OutdoorNI

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.

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