Photo Blog of Davagh Forest and Blessingbourne Estate

Posted on June 27, 2017 @ 5:01 PM in Mountainbiking

Can't keep up #bluetrail #6yearold #blessingbournemountainbikingtrails #blessingbourne #merida #bigtrail800

A post shared by Trigger (@run_trigger_run) on Dec 31, 2016 at 8:42am PST

 

We love seeing you all hitting the trails around Northern Ireland. Be sure and tag us @MountainBikeNI, #davaghrocks and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Walk Where You’ve Never Walked Before

Posted on June 19, 2017 @ 3:37 PM in AdventureWalking

For those in search of an epic Instagram photo or somewhere new to walk this summer, we share some exciting new trails which have opened in the spectacular Causeway Coast & Glens. Your chance to enjoy previously inaccessible spectacular views near Ballycastle and Cushendun, Co. Antrim this summer. 

Fairhead
Fairhead Northern Ireland

Those who come to explore the new trails at Fairhead are in for a treat this summer, with over 13 miles of trails to discover, you can expect stunning coastal views towards Ballycastle, Rathlin Island and the picturesque Murlough Bay from this ruggedly beautiful, wild and remote location.

Local myth states that it was at the iconic cliffs of Fairhead above the famous Sea of Moyle where the Children of Lir, were put under an evil spell, transforming them into swans to spend 900 years in exile from humanity. Composed of a rock called dolerite, the great cliffs of Fairhead were born out of volcanic activity some 60 million years ago. The upper half of the cliff is formed of gigantic columns which are up to 12 metres in diameter, some of which are separated from the rest of the cliff but still stand, despite their precarious nature.

The walks begin from a farm car park clearly signposted off the Fairhead Rd. With a range of walks to choose from ranging from 1.5 to 3.4 miles (all offering spectacular clifftop views) these fully waymarked trails are named according to their Irish placenames. Several interpretative panels are dotted along the routes to provide you with more information on the history and geology of the area. Choose between 5 routes

  • Lough Dubh Walk (Red Route) 1.5 mile
  • Casan an Loch Walk (Purple Route) 2.2 miles
  • An Belach Runda Walk (Green Route) 3.1 miles
  • Loch na Crannoige Walk (Blue Route) 3.3 miles
  • Murlough View Walk (Yellow Route) 2.9miles 

The walks are all interlinked meaning that you can return to the start at various points. Please be aware that sections of these walks are situated near a cliff edge and due care must be taken particularly during windy conditions and in poor visibility.  Weather conditions along the coast can change very quickly - so be prepared.  Although the walks are waymarked it is advised that you equip yourself with a map.  The walking routes pass through areas of open land and working farmland. Livestock may be present and ground conditions are often uneven, wet and mucky underfoot and as such walking boots are strongly recommended.  

Ronan's Way
Ronan's Way

Ronan's Way is a rare opportunity to access some of the most stunning scenery in the Glens of Antrim on foot. With over 8 miles of new trails developed this is a fantastic opportunity to experience the breathtaking scenery of the inspiring Glens landscape.  

The walks are located on the McAuley Farm, on a stretch of land in memory of Ronan McAuley, a true Glens man who had a dream that more people would explore and enjoy Glendun and the exquisite views of the land that he called home. A couple of benches situated along the routes mean you can sit back and admire the breathtaking views. The diversity of natural habitat (woodland, peatland, farmland and the river) in Glendun means that there is an abundance of wildlife to see. 

A truly inspiring landscape, there are four routes of varying lengths to explore each providing an opportunity to view across one of the nine Glens of Antrim and over the channel to the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. Located in a glen all of the walks have climbs, but the views are worth it! Walking boots are strongly recommended as the ground can become mucky underfoot. All walks begin at the carpark off the Glendun Rd where a trailhead panel and waymarker posts will direct you to the following walking routes;

  • Green Loop, 0.9 miles
  • Yellow Loop, 1.2 miles
  • Blue Loop, 2.3 miles
  • Red Loop, 3.4 miles

Those looking to extend their time walking in the Glens can visit the nearby Cregagh Wood; a short 0.9 mile woodland walk worth a visit. The wood's tranquil and peaceful surroundings make this location an excellent home for Red Squirrels who can often be spotted running from branch to branch.   

Waterfoot Beach Walk
Waterfoot Beach

For those who do love to be beside the seaside, the new 1.6 mile beach boardwalk at Waterfoot near Cushendun is well worth exploring on a sunny day. 

Depending on tide levels, you can take a walk back on the beach or retrace your steps along the coastal path when you reach the end of the route. With two playparks along the way for the kids to explore this is an ideal family walk this summer before tucking into a BBQ/ picnic on the beach and paddling in the sea.

The walk looks out towards Red Bay Castle which projects out onto the headland just north of Glenariff and passes species rich grasslands. Feel free to walk through the wildflower meadow where you can spot yellow-rattle flower and small copper butterfly.

Don't forget to share your photos with us on social media using #WalkNI.

Latest comment posted by Valerie campion on July 3, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

I am visiting the area in sept for a weekend of walking , I am looking forward to taking some of the above walks . The area looks spectatulor . 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.

Size Isn't Everything

Posted on May 31, 2017 @ 6:30 PM in Mountainbiking

When thinking about where you’re going to spend those precious few hours on your bike during the week, there can be a temptation to go exclusively for the big names. Davagh Forest. Castlewellan MTB Trails. Rostrevor MTB Trails.

They are of course all outstanding trails and well worth a visit, but to keep to these three exclusively is to miss out on some of the other fantastic mountain bike experiences right at your doorstep in Northern Ireland.


Barnett Demesne

The idea that Barnett Demesne might not even be considered by some would be anathema to its many loyal riders. Located only four miles from the centre of Belfast, Barnett Demesne is located beside the Mary Peters track and boasts Ireland’s first official purpose-built jumps park! 

The trails

The trails themselves consist of 8.8km of green, blue and red lines, worked into a remarkably compact area. This lends to a quick course with sharp technical corners, some great boardwalks and rock sections, and a surprising number of climbs. All this is that bit more impressive when you consider that Barnett is tucked away in a relatively small bit of woodland, with walking trails on one side, sports pitches on the other and the river Lagan running through it.

 

What else is there to do?

Given the proximity to Belfast city centre, there’s no shortage of things to do in the area. In the immediate vicinity, that could mean taking the bike onto the towpath and cycling to a nearby cafes. Or you could head into town and visit any of the multitude of great restaurants, bars and music venues. 

 

Blessingbourne Estate

Blessingbourne is ideal for everyone, whether you’re a lone MTBer, going with the family or heading with a group of friends. In addition to the outstanding trails there, it has top class accommodation and plenty of resources on site to keep you entertained. In the last few months, it has won a multitude of awards including MountainBIkeNI’s “Best MTB Friendly Accommodation”, a “9.9” rating badge from Booking.com, and most recently, won the much coveted Accommodation of the Year award in the self catering section of the Tourism NI awards.

The Trails

Mountain bikers that ride Blessingbourne for the first time are usually surprised. In addition to the 12km of blue and red trails, it also packs a few orange features. Berms, log rides and rock drops abide and it makes for an incredibly pleasant mountain bike experience. In particular, Blessingbourne Mountain Bike Trails are ideal for the beginner. With bike hire available on site, the 12km gives a good test of endurance for the newer MTBer, with zero hill climbs. There is also a pump track on site.

What else is there to do?

We recommend renting one of the self catering cottages at Blessingbourne and making a trip out of it. Colleen and Nick who own the Estate are outstanding hosts and only too happy to help with anything during your stay. Enjoy the walking trails around the historic estate, bring the little ones to the play area, or head out and visit the nearby town of Fivemiletown.

Tollymore Skills Course

There have been loads of blogs about Tollymore Skills Course, but we thought it would be remiss to leave out here, largely because it’s so much fun! The guys at Tollymore accommodate for all levels, whether you're getting on your mountain bike for the first time - or a seasoned pro. Book a session with them on their website.

 

The Trails

The skills course at Tollymore has around 1.5km of singletrack trails, ideal for both complete beginners and those looking to brush up on their skills. With everything you could want to hone up on (rollers, table tops, rock sections, northshore etc), you can rest assured you’ll come away as a better mountain biker.

What else is there to do?

With both Castlewellan and Newcastle just a stone’s throw away, both towns are filled with loads of great activities and restaurants for visitors. Tollymore also runs courses on mountaineering, rock climbing and canoeing!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Get into Watersports with Get Wet NI this Summer

Posted on May 31, 2017 @ 12:22 PM in Adventure

Continue the fun out on the water through the summer months with Get Wet NI's Participation Events. Come and have a go at something new with your local watersports club, uncover a new passion or improve your skills and confidence.

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Down

Coastal Rowing Summer Sessions For Juniors, Portaferry Coastal Rowing Club, Strangford Lough, Sat 8th & Sun 9th July.  A fantastic opportunity for kids aged between 11 & 18 yrs to have a go at rowing on the Gilpin Skiff. Each session will be led by a qualified cox from Portaferry Coastal Rowing Club

Bright Night Sailing For JuniorsDonaghadee Sailing Club, Various dates throughout May, June & July. An opportunity for those aged between 8 & 17 yrs old to get out on the water and learn some of the basics of sailing while having great fun with like-minded juniors.

Dinghy Ducks Sailing Programme, East Down Yacht Club, Downpatrick, Various dates throughout May & June. Get out on the water and learn to sail a Dinghy during these popular Friday night training sessions ideal for individuals, families and groups of friends.

Learn to Waterski/ Wakeboard with the experts, Meteor Water Ski Club, Various dates throughout May, June & July. Learn to ski on a beautiful picturesque lake. An adrenaline fuelled session with expert coaches. 

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Antrim

Go Rowing With Lagan Curraghs, Lagan Curraghs, River Lagan, Belfast, Various Dates throughout May, June & July.  Experience rowing a traditional currach on the River Lagan and Belfast Lough. Learn basic rowing techniques and try your hand on the steering oar.

4 Week Rowing Course for Beginners, Lagan Scullers, River Lagan, Belfast, 4 week course with various start dates from May to October. This four week course for beginners is aimed at improving your basic rowing skills and confidence in a fun and safe way.

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Fermanagh

Sunset Paddle, Share Discovery Village, Lisnaskea, Fri 2nd June. Sunset Paddles are an excellent way to be introduced to the sport of canoeing. You don’t need to have any previous canoeing experience, specialist kit or skills…just come and have a go!

Recreational Paddle, Erne Paddlers, Castle Archdale, Sun 4th June. A great way to see and experience the beautiful vistas and ancient sites of Lough Erne. Joine Erne Paddlers and explore some hidden gems only accessible by boat including.

Get Wet Northern ireland

Co. Armagh

Learn To Sail Beginners Sessions, Craigavon Watersports Centre, Various dates throughout May, June, July, August & September. Learn how to confidently sail in sheltered waters. This first step session is aimed at beginners and is an ideal way to learn the basics of sailing.

Canoe & Kayak Starter Sessions, Newry & Mourne Sea Kayak & Canoe Club, Camlough Lake, Sat 10th June. An ideal opportunity to get out on the water and try canoeing & kayaking with expert instructors.

Check out GetWetNI.com for even more fantastic events on offer throughout the Summer.

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.

Every Day in May!

Posted on May 24, 2017 @ 12:34 PM in Walking

Thomas Johnston talks about how he was inspired to get outside and active every day in May - be prepared to be inspired!  

In 2011 I reconnected with a cousin I hadn’t seen in years right around the time she was training for the 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross race, which takes place in Yorkshire. After a couple of decades of not doing a great deal of exercise, except for some token efforts over the years at going to the gym, she inspired me to get out there again and I quickly rediscovered my love of running outdoors, in all weathers, at all times of the year. (I also bought a mountain bike but I really only have eyes for my running shoes.) I didn’t waste any time in entering the 2012 Belfast City Marathon, ticking off a long-held desire to “run a marathon” from my bucket list. In retrospect it was a foolish thing to do from a near-sitting start. It wasn’t a fast time and I got an injury that bothered me for a long time afterwards, but I still crossed the finish line! This led me on to taking part in Every Day in May, which I’ve been doing each year since 2013.


What is Every Day in May?

It’s a charity event designed to motivate people of all ages and abilities, wherever they are in the world, to go outside, to improve their fitness, and to raise money. Participants cover 5km or 10km each day during May using any self-powered means, such as walking, running, cycling, swimming, canoeing, and so on – anything so long as they are providing the power – with the emphasis being on the outdoors. To make it a more approachable event for people who don’t currently exercise they can split their activities over two sessions – it encourages people to get off the bus a stop or to earlier or to go out for a walk at lunch time. May is the perfect to do this because the days are getting longer, the weather is (hopefully) getting warmer and nature is positively exploding with activity. And being outdoors in nature is incredibly therapeutic.

In 2013 – still nursing my marathon injury – I mostly walked or cycled 5km. In subsequent years I overcame that injury and my running improved, so I was able to alternate between running and walking. This year my fitness has improved to the extent that I am able to run 10km each day. And my partner is also taking part for the first time this year – he’s walking at least 5km every day and, being the good citizen he is, he’s picking up any litter he passes along the way! He won’t mind me saying that he’s pretty darn fit for 73 years – which just proves the Every Day in May is indeed for everyone.

We’ve taken the opportunity to explore the countryside on our walks and runs. We live beside Delamont Country Park which has some of the best views you’ll see anywhere in Ireland; from the Millennium Stone you can look over Down Cathedral (where St Patrick is buried) to the Mournes in the distance and then follow the sweep of the county Down countryside over Gibbs Island and along Strangford Lough all the way down the Ards Peninsula. However, Delamont is pretty hilly so I tend to only run through rather than around it!

We’ve also been along the Quoile River several times, around the lake at Castlewellan, the Waterworks in Belfast (using their parkrun route), Rowallane Gardens in Saintfield, Castle Ward, along the road from Portrush to Dunluce Castle which has some spectacular coastal views as well through our picturesque home village of Killyleagh – famous as the birthplace of Sir Hans Sloane (founder of the British Museum) among many other luminaries. County Down in particular has some stunning places to be outdoors. We’re planning to run and walk along the Comber Greenway and wherever else our map leads us.

We’re doing it for charity

I don’t want to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet – but it’s not easy running 10km each day for 31 consecutive days! It’s extremely tiring and it’s not something people should do as a matter of course. Your body doesn’t have time to fully recover  – but as a one-off event for charity it’s doable. Walking 5km each – for someone not used to that level of activity – is also a massive achievement and something within reach of almost everyone.

As well as the physical aspect it’s also a challenge trying to fit the activity into your day. Factor in the time it takes to get ready and then shower at the end and before you know it you have to find two hours out of every day in between work and family life.

One thing I’m very conscious of when I take part in Every Day in May is just how lucky I am and how much I sometimes take my health for granted. I’m lucky to be fit enough to be able to run 10km every day knowing that at the end of it all I can just stop, recover very quickly, and get on with my life. There are many people in the world who can’t “just stop” being ill – so me running 10km every day is my small way of showing support for those people less fortunate than myself by raising money for charity.

This year we’re supporting two causes:

NI Hospice, in memory of my mum. It's impossible to overestimate her importance in my life. It was difficult to see her health deteriorate, especially towards the end, but she never lost her spirit while her body was failing her. She passed away in 2015. During her illness she was helped by – and always spoke very highly of – the awesome people at Northern Ireland Hospice.

Down Cathedral Organ Appeal, in memory of Helen Walker. Helen passed away earlier this year. She's linked with mum in a sad sort of way because her funeral was the same day as mum's anniversary. Singing in the Down Cathedral choir was a big part of Helen's life and it's our privilege to raise money in her name so that others can continue to hear the organ’s uplifting sounds.

Go outside!

The best thing about running, or walking or jogging, is that you can quite literally do it anywhere. And it costs very little. You don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment – just running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt (all easily packable items), and you’re away, wherever you happen to find yourself. I find it very therapeutic too. If something is bothering me I think about it when I’m out there and by the time I come back it’s resolved or I’ll know what to do to get past it.

Simply going outdoors and listening to the sounds of nature and life passing by (I can’t listen to music when I’m running – too distracting!) is enough to fill up my soul-meter. So my advice to you is Go Outside!

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!

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