Make the Most of your Red Bull Foxhunt Experience

Posted on August 30, 2017 @ 6:26 PM in Mountainbiking

Every year thousands of people swarm to Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails around the beginning of October. What they witness is somewhere between an old fashioned Destruction Derby and a masterclass from some of the world's best mountain bikers - and they call it the Red Bull Fox Hunt.

This year will be the biggest yet. 450 hounds will compete to be the first rider down the mountain against not one, but THREE foxes. Gee Atherton, Loïc Bruni and Colin Ross. All three of these pros will be competing against the best of the Irish MTB scene, the weekend warriors and the hardcore competitors. Here are a few of our suggestions on how to make the most of the weekend.

  1. Ride the Trails Beforehand.

Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails are home to a whopping 27km of red cross country trails, 19km of exciting black trails and 2 purpose built downhill trails, which feature in the Fox Hunt. If you’re planning to take part, there are worse ways for warming up than actually trying out the trails you're going to be riding on. This also gives you a great chance to meet many of the local riders who likely have been competitors of the major event at some point in the last few years and exchange war stories about their various descents, glorious or otherwise.

You'll be amazed at the incredible scenery on offer on Rostrevor's cross country trails.

2. Stay Over and Find the Deals

Spending the weekend in Rostrevor or the surrounding area is a must to get the most out of the Red Bull Fox Hunt. The buzz is incredible and you never know who exactly you’ll run into at one of the local pubs (all the more so considering 2017’s line up!)

Stay local and make sure of the mountain biker friendly accommodation offers in the area. One great suggestion is to stay with East Coast Adventure right beside the trailhead. Their seriously cool Glamping Pods are available for £75 per night (sleeping up to 4) and you can also stay at their nearby hostel. In the evening time, local spots like The Rostrevor Inn and The Kilbroney Bar and Restaurant are well worth a visit and always happy to see muddy mountain bikers on site.

There are few things as rewarding as that Apres-ride pint

3. If You’re Taking Part – Bring Your GoPro

There’s no getting around it. We all love seeing our friend go head over bars (provided the bike is okay) when we’re out riding, and this event is no different. The epic, frantic mass start leads to some of the best footage that gets re-watched year round (“Wait to you see your man come in the side of him!”)

Not only that, but the view from the top of Kilbroney mountain is breathtaking. Tranquil and serene, and in complete contrast to the carnage that is about to unfold. That alone is well worth the footage.

It's also nice to be able to pinpoint the moment when Gee Atherton cycles over the top of you.

4. If You’re Spectating, Pick Your Spot Well

Decide what you’d like to see. There are several different spots along the route that are well worth choosing to stand, watch and shake your cowbells. The bridge at the top of the route requires a bit more time to get to, but you’ll be privy to the largest number of hounds colliding in one bright red clash of tires and carbon fibre. After that, the various twists and turns down to the Red Bull enclosure at the finish line are dotted everywhere with people. Along here you'll witness riders showcasing their skills as they seek out the quickest line through sharp turns and serious rock drops. Standing at the finish zone then will most obviously allow you to see the winner come over the ‘line’ first, usually followed by at least a couple of epic crash outs.

Those barriers are there for good reason.

  5. Send Us Your Pictures!

We’ll be Tweeting, Facebooking and 'Insta-ing' throughout the weekend. If you have a great image you’d like us to share with the wider MountainBikeNI community, send it to MountainBikeNI and we’ll post it!

'Those who are about to ride salute you.'

Registration has already sold out so we've no doubt the atmosphere is going to be just as electric as in previous years. With more hounds than ever registered and three of the world's best mountain bikers, this really is an event not to be missed.

 

For information on the Red Bull Foxhunt 2017, visit MountainBikeNI or the Red Bull Fox Hunt website. You can also find more information on the mountain bike trails in Northern Ireland on MountainBikeNI and keep up to date through our Facebook page. May the best Fox (or Hound!) win.

Latest comment posted by john on September 5, 2017 @ 11:53 AM

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Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Discover The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark- Our Top 10 Walks

Posted on August 14, 2017 @ 10:42 AM in AdventureWalking

The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark in Co. Fermanagh is well known for one of the finest show caves in Europe, but did you know there is more to this location than the caves?! The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark contains some of the finest landscapes in the north of Ireland with wonderful walkins in Fermanagh and Cavan ranging from rugged uplands, lakes and forests through to gently rolling drumlins. The landscapes represent a complex earth history dating back as far as 895 million years ago and can be explored on foot. Here are some of our must visit walks in the Co. Fermanagh region of the Geopark.

Walks under 5 milesBelmore Forest

Belmore Forest (Pollnagollum Cave Walk), 4.3 miles circular
This walk is located in the Boho-Belmore Mountain area, right in the heart of Fermanagh’s cave country. Beneath your feet lies an extensive maze of caves which attract cavers and potholers from far and wide to west Fermanagh. The most extraordinary feature on this route is Pollnagollum Cave, Irish for "Hole of the doves". The cave is fed by a waterfall toppling down from the top of a limstone cliff and is swollen to a torrent during harsh weather. Depending on the time of day and year keep a watchful eye out for bats and birds around the cave entrance.

Big Dog Forest

Big Dog Forest (Big Dog Walk) 2.5 miles circular
Cloaked largely with conifers, this beautiful short walk allows you to explore some of Fermanagh’s best upland landscapes. The forest is inhabited by wildlife as varied as red deer, herons and dragonflies. One of the highlights of this walk is the short but rewarding climb to the summit of Little Dog where you will be rewarded with 360 degree panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Castle Archdale Toms Island

Castle Archdale Forest (Toms Island Walk) 1.8 miles circular
Located on the eastern shores of Lower Lough Erne, this walk takes in many differing landscapes and offers something for everyone. The magestic Tom's Island boasts great views across the lough to White Island and Davy's Island. This trail also skirts around the shoreline offering a quite place for reflection. The forest is a richly varied one and features ruined Castles, WWII docks & buildings as well as ancient woodland. Be sure to pack a picnic and enjoy the panoramic views. 

Castle Caldwell

Castle Caldwell Forest (Rossergole Point Walk) 2.5 miles circular
Spectacular views await those who explore Castle Caldwell Forest. One of three routes this walk follows the lake and shore and takes in man-made and natural wonders, including a lime-kiln which hints at the association of the Caldwell estate with the nearby Belleek Pottery and the eerie ruins of Castle Caldwell.

Jetty Walk Ely Lodge

Ely Lodge Forest (Carrickreagh Jetty Walk) 1.3 miles linear (one way)
Sweeping up from the shores of Lower Lough Erne, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Ireland. Ely Lodge Forest is important nationally for its broadleaf woodland and biodiversity. Taking its name from the nearby Ely Lodge, one of two gate lodges that would have adorned the gates of the demesne of the Marquis of Ely, Nicholas Loftus, the Estate was the largest in Co. Fermagh during Victorian times. One of three routes in the forest, the blue waymarked route will take you on a path through a wooded landscape to Carrickreagh Jetty where on a calm day the mirror reflections on the lough are breathtaking.


Gortmaconnell Viewpoint Walk 1.2 miles linear (one way)
The summit of Gortmaconnell Rock can be reached by a short but rewarding climb contouring around the hill. The viewpoint offers wonderful 360 degree panoramic views of Cuilcagh Mountain, MacNean Valley and the Erne Lowlands. From here you can also see the Owenbrean River, which flows down from Cuilcagh Mountain before sinking underground, eventually reaching the Marble Arch Caves system.

Blackslee Waterfall

Lough Navar Forest (Blackslee Waterfall Walk) 4 miles circular
Lough Navar Forest is undoubtedly one of the jewels in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark. With 4 routes to choose from this walk along forest roads makes its way through the oldest part of Lough Navar Forest leading to the Blackslee Waterfall, where water cascades over a 20 metre cliff before continuing its journey down an undercut rocky gorge.

Walks over 5 milesCuilcagh Boardwalk

Culicagh Way (Legnabrocky Trail) 4.5 miles linear (one way)
Famous for its boardwalk and stairway to heaven, this route has been highly popular with walkers since it opened. This section of the greater 33km Cuilcagh Way meanders through one of the largest expanses of blanket bog in Northern Ireland. The trail follows quiet farmland track before traversing a wooden boardwalk that consists of a steady climb to the mountain face. Here a stepped boardwalk climbs through steep terrain and boulders fields before reaching the summit plateau. A rough mountain path negotiates the wild summit plateau for a few kilometres before reaching an ancient cairn. The imposing mountain flanks of Cuilcagh give this walk a very atmospheric feeling providing breathing views, the most impressive view is of Lough Atona, a lake nestled at the foot of the mountain which was carved out by the glacier during the last Ice Age approximately 13,000 years ago

Ballintempo Forest

Ballintempo Forest Aghanaglack Walk  7 miles circular
One of the largest sections of continuous forestry tracks in Northern Ireland, this forest is steeped in geology, local myths & wildlife; so there is something for everyone. The walk passes a classic Dual Court Tomb from the Neolithic period, an elevated site amongst the conifers, it was constructed when there were fewer surrounding trees, allowing for spectacular views across the area. As you walk, keep a look out for upland birds such as merlin and hen harrier, have a rest at the Brimstone Rock and take in stunning views of nearby Cuilcagh Mountain.

Carrigan Forest Lough Formal Walk

Carrigan Forest Lough Formal Walk 7 miles circular
This brisk walk is a chance to fill your lungs with mountain forest air while enjoying the views from the summit of Formal More. The route is almost all on forestry tracks with a short path through the heather. Spend some time taking in the views which include features of geological interest, you may be surprised at how much wildlife comes to you in this seemingly barren woodland. The most intriguing feature in the forest is Lough Formal, sitting at 240 metres above sea level this small mountain lake sits astride a fault (or crack) in the Earth`s crust.

Visit WalkNI for even more walks in the Geopark.

Latest comment posted by Ken Turkington on September 6, 2017 @ 10:15 PM

How do I get maps and exact locations of the various walks in the Marble Arch Geopark. Read more >

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.

2016's Queen of the Mountain

Posted on August 11, 2017 @ 3:14 PM in Cycling

One of the most iconic sportives in Northern Ireland, the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive takes place this year on Saturday 9th September with support from DiscoverNI. In the lead up to the event, participants eagerly train to be in with a chance of winning the specially timed segment up the infamous Torr Head. The fastest male earns the title of King of the Mountain and fastest female, Queen of the Mountain.

We caught up with the 2016 Queen of the Mountain, Claire Vernon, to hear her thoughts on the day. Claire is a keen cyclist from Belfast who rides with Phoenix Cycle Club. She flew up Torr Head’s QOM Segment in a seriously impressive 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Torr Head tops out at 1,210 feet with a gradient hitting over 20% in places and an average gradient of 8%.

I had originally planned to do the longer, more formidable route but due to last-minute social commitments (and since I sacrifice enough of my social life for cycling) I thought I’d forgo the 115 mile-route (what a martyr!) and do the 85-mile cycle instead.

Since I no longer had the challenge of completing the longest leg in one of the toughest sportives in the UK and Ireland, my sportive buddy had planted the idea in my head of completing the 85-mile route in under 5 hours. So, with that goal in mind, and charged with a healthy dose of competitive spirit (sure, it would be good if I managed the sub 5-hour target but it would be even better if I beat my friend to the finish line…), I set off like the hammers.

The first section is a bit of a blur as I hopped from group to group, depending on which one offered the best speed/shelter ratio. Unfortunately to meet my target I had to skip two of three feed stations. I opted for the middle one, where my sportive partner had allocated a strict 10-minute time limit to stuff a ham bap into my gob.

Knowing that Torr Head now awaited me, I was lucky enough to receive a tow along the coastal road by a strong two-man team putting in some kind of time trial-esque effort. I’m not quite sure why they chose to do this in the lead up to Torr Head, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.

For some reason I thought the QOM challenge was on the very first part of Torr Head, so I attacked the first steep, winding section until I felt sick. Eventually, after dodging cars, fellow cyclists and sheep, I saw a roadside marker indicating the actual start of the segment, about three quarters of the way along Torr Head, leaving me wondering “What kind of masochist decided to place it here?!”

 

Claire's winning Torr Head ascent captured by sportive photographer IndustryImage.

I really was truly spent by that stage, but I summoned some inner strength by recalling all those times I’d been charging up a hill on a training ride and someone shouted out their car window “Keep ‘er lit!” – which always gives me a little boost.

(Maybe during future Giant's Causeway Coast Sportives you could have a roadside speaker that blares out “Keep ‘er lit!” at participants?)

With legs burning and heart frantically beating, I finally trounced Northern Ireland’s most ball busting climb. After enjoying the thoroughly dissatisfying descent off Torr Head (a climb that deserves a much better descent), I rolled into Ballycastle, finishing under 5 hours and – more importantly – beating my friend by a good 5 minutes.

 

Claire collects her QOM Prize from Chain Reaction Cycles Belfast Flagship Store.

If you want a chance to tackle the event’s KOM / QOM segment on either the 85 or 115 mile route, you can register for the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive on the event website, and keep up to date with everything via our Facebook page. If you’re planning to earn the title, the time to beat for King of the Mountain is 6 minutes and 40 seconds; and 8 minutes 46 seconds for Queen of the Mountain. Learn more about the stunning Causeway Coast via Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

Claire Vernon
Claire Vernon  Cyclist and QOM at GCCS 2016

5 Things you didn't know about the Mourne Mountains

Posted on July 20, 2017 @ 4:25 PM in Walking

There is a saying "you learn something new everyday" and we did just that when we caught up with tour guide Peter Rafferety owner of Walkthemournes.com based in the beautiful Mourne Mountains. Peter really is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to interesting facts on this spectacular area and we couldn't wait to share with you these 5 interesting facts you may not have known about the Mournes. 

The Mourne Wall

Mourne Wall

You may find this hard to believe but this 22 mile long, 1.5m high and 0.8m thick wall, which took 18 years to build and crosses 15 mountains was constructed by hand! 

Built using classic dry stone wall techniques (no motar used!) and granite from local quarries, the wall which encloses 9,000 acres of mountainous terrain, was designed to keep farm animals away from the reservoirs and rivers. The wall passes the peak of each mountain except 'Rocky' where it skirts around the summit.

Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous Plants Northern Ireland

Believe it or not the Mournes has 2 types of carnivorous plant the 'Butterwort' and the 'Sudew', but don't panic contrary to what some people had heard, these plants do NOT! eat humans and the sheep are also safe.

As the soil where these plants grow is so poor in nutrients they catch small flies and the dreaded midge to provide their food. Not easily spotted by the untrained eye but the Walk The Mournes guides can usually find some depending on the time of year.

Smugglers
Smugglers Northern Ireland

The Mournes was once a hiding place for some infamous smugglers.You may have seen clues to this if you have been to Bloody Bridge Car Park. 'The Smugglers Head' sculpture by artist Ralf Sander was inspired by the smuggling activitiy that was rife in the Mournes in the 18th & 19th Centuries. 

Ships would dock in Newcastle at the foot of the Mountains with their illegal proudce including coffee, tea, silk, tobaccco and wine before trekking their way through the Mournes on horseback along the Brandy Pad which crosses the top of the two valleys. But did you know they had a secret cave to store and hide their goods from customs men? Peter has lots of stories of their escapades hiding from the customs men and will take you into the hidden 'Smugglers Cave' to see where they hid! Certainly not for those of a nervous disposition you will have the opportunity to enter the cave and crawl along a ledge to a small chamber (hopefully Peter remembers the torch!).

Stone Cutting

Mourne Granite

Most people as they walk through the Mournes think what they see in front of them is the way it was left after the last ice age 10,000 years ago but nothing could be further from the truth. 

The Mourne Men are famous the world over for their great skill in working with stone, a skill that is not just learnt but bred into them. 150 years ago hundreds of men and boys toiled at cutting the Mourne Granite using only hand tools. The granite stone had many uses in the 18th & 19th centuries for buildings, millstones and was even used in cobbled streets, the stones of which were designed in such a way that that when horses hooves wore down the surface the cobble could be taken out, turned and replaced.

World War ll

Mournes World War 2

You may think that the Mournes had no connection with World War 2 but you will be amazed at the evidence you will find yourself walking on. Shrapnel remnants of bombing practice from off-shore American Navy ships from World War ll (70 years ago) still continue to be found here....don't worry though it's unlikely you'll come across any unexploded shells!

The aim of Walkthemournes.com is to help both visitors and locals discover and enjoy all the area has to offer. Some people find it a bit daunting to set out on their own so never actually get to experience the fantastic mountains. This is where Walk The Mournes guided tours are even more beneficial as people have the security of a professional qualified guide to look after them. To find out more about the tours offered check out their website: Walkthemournes.com, phone 028 4176 3297 or email: peter@walkthemournes.com.

Latest comment posted by Rodney Magowan on July 28, 2017 @ 10:11 PM

enjoyed this list of 5 - thanks apart from Americans shelling the Mournes the hills are also the site of many sad wartime crashes by allied aircraft, RAF, commonwealth, Polish etc. You may have ... Read more >

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.

Former Irish Downhill Champion Visits Davagh and Blessingbourne

Posted on July 17, 2017 @ 6:41 PM in Mountainbiking

Newry-based mountain biking legend Glyn O'Brien and fellow adventurer wife Catherine took a trip west to Blessingbourne Estate and Davagh Forest recently to visit the mountain bike trails on offer there.

Blessingbourne Estate

On a typically damp summer evening we made our way to the beautiful Blessingbourne Estate, in Fivemiletown, Co.Tyrone.

 

The trailhead at Blessingbourne Estate MTB Trails.

 

The rain certainly hadn't dampened anyone's spirits as the estate was buzzing with families arriving to stay in the fabulous 5 star self-catering accommodation. After a warm welcome from Colleen & Nick, we ventured out on the trails, neither of us having been to Blessingbourne since the recent extension.

 

OB2!

 

We both had forgotten how much fun could be had on some of the original features such as the Crocodiles back and Snakes trail. From winding boardwalks, flowing berms and skinny log rides to challenging rock drop-off options alongside the main trail, Blessingbourne really has something for everyone.

 

A different view of the Blessingbourne trails with my big head stuck in the middle of it! 


Cato keeping focused on the Crocodile's Back


We were reminded what a fun, family-friendly venue it really is - and so much craic for grown ups too! We even enjoyed a game of table tennis and swing ball after our ride!

 

Davagh Forest

Next day we arrived at Davagh Forest, situated in Co Tyrone. We noticed that a fabulous new play park had been added since our last visit. Despite the poor weather the trails were busy with riders of all ages.

There's something pretty magical about Davagh Forest.

 

The notorious "Widow Maker" climb never seems to get any easier but the laborious climb is well-rewarded with the sweepy descents of 'Big Wig Jig' and 'Run Ragley Run'.

 

Encouragement for the Widowmaker!

 

Every time we go to Davagh we always find a new treasure on the trails - with many variations for riders of all abilities. This time was no exception. Although we love the notorious features such as Boundary rock and Wolfs Hill there are many other rocky outcrops to play on along the way.

 

Tearing down one of Davagh's finest trails on a slightly damp summers day. I reckon its better when its wet anyway! 

 

The newer 'Stream trail' is riding like a dream - always a fast few minutes of whoopy fun!

Of course we couldn't leave Davagh without calling into The Sheperds Rest, a family-run bar located just 10minutes from the trail head. We were welcomed in our muddy gear and sat beside a warm fire with a pint of Guinness and a hearty post-ride meal. The pub has been in the family since the 1930s and we enjoyed a bit of a history lesson from Colin the owner.

 

We definitely earned these pints.

 

All in all we had a super weekend re-discovering some of the fun to be had in our local trail centres, and we hope to visit again very soon! Returning home from 3 weeks racing and riding in Europe it was refreshing to be reminded of the fantastic trail centres and facilities we have on our own doorstep!

 

For information on the MTB Trails at Blessingbourne Estate or Davagh Forest visit MountainBikeNI.com. Glyn is the founder of FirstTracksMTB.com - who offer coaching in mountain biking and run the much loved Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup.

Latest comment posted by Peterson on September 16, 2017 @ 4:36 PM

This is a post which is presented a visits of former Irish Downhill Champion Glyn O'Brien & fellow adventurer wife Catherine. They visited a trip west to Blessingbourne Estate & Davagh Forest. I ... Read more >

Glyn O'Brien
Glyn O'Brien  Professional Mountain Biker

Glyn has a career spanning over 30 years on 2 wheels – from BMX, Moto X and DH. Some of his career highlights include 3rd Redbull Rampage, 2nd Masters Worlds Champs and Irish DH Champion. Glyn’s passion for riding remains as strong as ever and he wants to instill his experience and enthusiasm into the rest of the team he races with.

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