Welcome to Northern Ireland's Outdoor Adventure Blog. This blog will keep readers up to speed with all things ‘adventure’ in Northern Ireland this year. The OutdoorNI team will be posting up new and exciting information on the best ways to get out and enjoy the Northern Irish countryside whilst industry professionals will be letting us into their tips of the trade in order to get the best from Northern Ireland’s ultimate activity playground!

This blog is packed full of useful information for everybody looking to take part in outdoor activities from the hardcore adrenaline junkie to those simply looking for some fun ideas for all the family.

This outdoor adventure blog will cover a range of land, water and air based activities such as caving, coasteering, hover crafting, zorbing, surfing, sky diving and many more. You can also find more activity specific information by visiting the other three blog sections on cycling, canoeing and walking.

Bike Lights and Daylight Visibility: Why Cyclists Should Be Seen at All Times

Posted on February 21, 2017 @ 2:07 PM in Cycling

In our newest blog, our friends at SeeSense explain why bike lights aren't just important for night riding.

What do you look for when buying a bike light? You might consider brightness and decent battery life as being important features, or you might want a light that offers good visibility in the dark. But what about being seen during the daytime? How much emphasis do you place on daylight visibility?

It is a crucial aspect of cycling safety that many people tend to ignore when making their purchase. But when you consider that 80 per cent of cycling accidents happen during the day, and with a significant increase in fatalities within a 10-year period, it’s become evident that visibility during the day is now just as important as being seen in the dark.

A greater onus has been placed on cyclists being seen during daylight hours. Companies are designing bike lights specifically for daylight visibility, and it makes sense when you look at some of the research that has been conducted into road safety in recent years.

Following a study of 184 cyclists previously involved in collisions, Australian researcher Phillipe Lacherez found motorists had “looked but didn’t see” the cyclist before it was too late. He suggested that a solution to this was both wearing reflective clothing and fitting a light which works during the daytime and also at night. Many cyclists sport high-visibility gear when on the roads, but hi-vis clothing only offers visibility during daylight hours as it reflects UV rays from the sun. Lacherez suggested the use of reflective strips on your knees and ankles that allows the lights from cars to bounce back and signal a cyclist’s movement.

In another survey conducted in Denmark, 4,000 cyclists were enrolled in an experiment that again proved the benefit of daytime visibility. In the survey, 2,000 only used their lights during the hours of darkness, while the other 2000 participants used their bike lights all day. The results showed that there was a 47 per cent decrease in accidents when lights were used throughout the day.

Also, since 2011, all new cars in Europe are required to be fitted with daytime running lights because of the proven safety benefits. If large vehicles like cars need to be seen during the hours of daylight, then surely it makes sense for a cyclist to also require high visibility?

Most accidents have been found to happen during the hours around dawn and dusk. This is partly due to rush-hour traffic, and also because of factors including changing ambient light conditions which can make it more difficult for motorists to spot cyclists. Bright, visible bike lights can help counter that problem by giving cyclists more of a presence during the day.

Almost half of fatalities occur on rural roads , making them particularly dangerous for cyclists. There are various factors which contribute to the high volume of accidents. Not only does the speed limit tend to be higher, but isolated routes can also be unlit or have poor lighting. Having a bike light that flashes brightly from both front and rear can alert drivers of a cyclist’s presence before they get too close to you, reducing the risk of a collision or near miss.

Motorists have a vital role to play in helping reduce the number of cyclist fatalities and accidents on our roads. Research has found that 60% of major collisions happen at junctions, with drivers commonly reporting that they ‘failed to look properly’. Better awareness of other road users is a crucial factor of road safety for motorists and cyclists alike.

A cyclist also has to be aware of the traffic around them, and by making themselves more visible they are taking an important step towards improving their own road safety. See.Sense ICON and ICON+ lights have been designed with twin CREE LED lights and a fresnel lens to offer unique visibility during the day. Our lights have a 15-hour run-time with optimised battery use, all which can be monitored and controlled from your smartphone and recharged by USB.

Improving cycle safety isn’t just important for reducing fatalities, it can also encourage more people to take up cycling. And the more cyclists we have on the roads, the better cycling infrastructure can be developed to improve the overall cycling experience. Cambridge University found that 85% of local cycling correlated with the provision of better cycle routes. So if we cycle, they’ll build it, and if they build it, we’ll cycle more.

 

Gareth Fullerton
Gareth Fullerton  Works at SeeSense

Top Places to Spot Snowdrops in Northern Ireland

Posted on February 10, 2017 @ 2:47 PM in Walking

A sign of the start of Spring these pretty little white flowers can transform landscapes and give a whole new experience to your walk.  Here are our top spots to enjoy beautiful displays of snowdrops on a crisp winter walk:

Castle Ward, Strangford, Co. Down

Castle Ward National Trust Elaine Hill

Image Credit: National Trust / Elaine Hill

Springhill House, Moneymore, Co. Derry~Londonderry

Springhill

Argory, Dungannon, Co. Armagh

argory

Castle Coole, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

Castle Coole

Rowallane Garden, Saintfield, Co. Down

Rowallane Garden

Barnett Demesne, Belfast

barnett demesne

Keep an eye on the National Trust Website for lots of great snowdrop events happening at the properties over the next month. 

We’d love to see your snowdrop sightings when you’re next out walking.  Use #walkni on Instagram or @walkni on Twitter and Facebook.   

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!

8 Best Places to go Walking this Valentine’s Day

Posted on February 8, 2017 @ 2:50 PM in Walking

Somewhere Magical - Glenariff Waterfall Walk, Co. Antrim

Glenariff Forest Park 

Somewhere Breath Taking - Slieve Binnian, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down

Image: Ryan Simpson Twitter: @rsimpsonphoto  

Somewhere Peaceful – Castle Caldwell Forest – Rossergole Point, Co. Fermanagh

castle caldwell

Somewhere Above the Clouds – Slieve Bearnagh, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down   

Bearnagh

Photo: Hibernia Landscapes by Stephen Wallace Twitter: @hiberniaphoto 

Somewhere by the Seaside – Ballintoy, Co. Antrim

Ballintoy 

Image: Chris Ibbotson Photography Facebook: @chrisibbotsonphotography

Somewhere Secluded - Blessingbourne Estate Woodland Walk, Co. Tyrone 

Blessingbourne

Somewhere Away from it all – Divis and the Black Mountain, Belfast  

Divis

Somewhere by the Shore - Island Hill & North Strangford Nature Reserve, Co. Down

island hill strangford

Image: Chris Ibbotson Photography Facebook: @chrisibbotsonphotography

Happy Valentine's Day!

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!

The Best of Mountain Biking in Northern Ireland!

Posted on January 30, 2017 @ 11:23 AM in Mountainbiking

After almost two months of voting, we’re delighted to now be able to announce the winners of the MountainBikeNI Awards 2016! Find out how your favourite trail centre did in one of the closest years yet!

 

Favourite Trail Centre: Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails

Our reigning champion, Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails have done it again! Gathering their fifth consecutive title, there can be no denying Rostrevor’s power house status in the world of mountain biking. It could be their two incredibly fun downhill courses; or possibly the challenge of a seriously steep climb followed by some incredible views. Whatever the reasons, Rostrevor continues to draw mountain bikers from every part of the UK and Ireland.

 

Favourite Trail Section: Home Run, Rostrevor

This proved to be our closest category with only a singular vote pipping it for Home Run at Rostrevor. Even our second and third places only had a handful of votes between them, which we take to be a pretty good sign that so many of the trail sections across Northern Ireland have their respective fan bases. As it is, Home Run proved victorious! It may be helped that many riders are glad for their legs’ sake to be almost at the end of the marathon trail.

 

Favourite MTB View: Kodak Corner

Taking 58% of the vote in this category, it’s no surprise that Kodak Corner reigns supreme again for mountain bikers favourite view in Northern Ireland. On a quiet day in the office, it’s one of our favourite past times to search #KodakCorner on Instagram, and bask in the stunning pictures you all send us from there. Be sure to keep them coming!

 

Favourite Trailhead Provider: East Coast Adventure

Another close category with a difference of only around 3%, East Coast Adventure have retained their title as the favourite trailhead provider. Home to mountain bike hire, Mark, Peter and the team are also continuing to grow a range of other activities that mountain bikers are taking advantage of, including their highly successful East Coast Glamping.

 

Favourite MTB-Friendly Café: Kilbroney Park Café

With almost double the percentage of votes, Kilbroney Park Café strongly won the MTB-Friendly Café vote. Based right beside the trail head, and with plenty of cake and sugar to pick you up after a hard day’s riding we completely understand the café’s popularity. The view of one of most stunning mountain ranges in Northern Ireland doesn’t hurt either!

 

Favourite Apres Ride Pint: Kilbroney Bar & Restaurant

Rostrevor’s winning streak continues, as the Kilbroney Bar and Restaurant wins in the after ride pint category. This has proved to be one of the most closely contested categories, with a different winner in each of the past three years. Busy year round, the Kilbroney Bar & Restaurant is in it’s prime during the increasingly popular Fiddler’s Green Festival.

 

Best MTB Event of 2016: Red Bull Foxhunt, Rostrevor

One of the biggest mountain bike events in the UK or Ireland, the Red Bull Foxhunt is a renowned favourite of weekend warriors and seasoned folk alike. This year seen Colin Ross retain his title, despite the best efforts of Gee Atherton. The Red Bull team have already promised some exciting changes for 2017, so we can’t wait to see the carnage returning to Rostrevor! In the meantime, check out some of our pictures from the event on the MountainBikeNI Facebook page.

 

Favourite MTB-Friendly Accommodation: Blessingbourne Estate

And at the very end, we have a non Rostrevor victor! Blessingbourne Estate, home to centuries of history and Northern Ireland’s first purpose built MTB track, proves to be incredibly popular with mountain bikers, families and couples alike. Check out their recent promotional video showing off their trails and accommodation alike.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

The Best of Walking in Northern Ireland

Posted on January 17, 2017 @ 9:32 AM in Walking

The results are in and we are excited to announce the winners of the 2016 WalkNI Awards showcasing the best of what Northern Ireland has to offer when it comes to walking. Be prepared to get inspired and be in awe as the winning list is revealed.

Favourite Walking Destination - Mourne Mountains 

The highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland we are not surprised to see the mighty Mournes in Co. Down top the poll for favourite walking destination.  Offering endless routes for walkers to experience a beautifully wild landscape with breath-taking views this compact yet impressive mountain range has a lot to offer.  From the rocky outcrops on the summits and stunning reservoir views to the distinctive Mourne Wall the entire Mournes Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is simply unique.  

Most Epic View - North Antrim Cliff Path, Co. Antrim 

WalkNI Awards Most Epic View

With so many spectacular views to choose from, it was a close call but we can now announce that The Causeway Coast and Glens are officially home to the ‘Most Epic View’ in Northern Ireland. The winning view overlooking Benbane Head can be accessed from the North Antrim Cliff Path, part of the 33 mile Causeway Coast Way.  Just a couple of miles from the Giant’s Causeway this stunning section of coast is less known but yet provides some of the finest coastal views in Europe.  The secret is now out so make sure to get exploring this fab path with spectacular views around every corner!

Best Walking Festival - Mourne International Walking Festival

Mourne International Walking Festival

Taking place every June this international walking festival organised by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council alternates between Newcastle and Warrenpoint each year attracting a whole of host of international visitors.  With stunning routes between 10k and 40k for all levels in the mountains and surrounding countryside the guided and self-guided walks showcase the best of the area. As well as offering excellent walking opportunities, festival goers can experience the friendly local hospitality and get to know fellow walkers in the ‘Knees Up Shindig’ on the Saturday evening. Booking is now open for the 2017 festival happening in Warrenpoint so make sure you don’t miss out!

Best Walk Challenge Event - Causeway Coast Challenge Walk

Causeway Coast Challenge Walk

With absolutely stunning coastal views to keep you motivated, getting your certificate and badge after completing this 30km long distance walk won’t be your only reward! Organised by local walking group, the Bannside Ramblers, this annual event is known for its friendly atmosphere.  The walk begins at Portballintrae, heading towards the world famous Giant's Causeway and onwards along the spectacular cliff top path to Portbradden before returning via the same route.  This year the event will take place on Sunday 30th April, get it in the diary, you won’t want to miss it! 

Favourite Walk in the Mournes - Slieve Donard via Glen River 

Slieve Donard via Glen River

With so many route options to choose from, all with their own unique charm we envy anyone having to choose in this category!  By a margain of 10%, at 853m, the highest summit in Northern Ireland peaked the poll to be crowned the public’s favourite route.  Slieve Donard can be accessed via a number of routes with this particular one following the Glen River from Donard Forest Park the people’s favourite.  We can go on and on about how great the view is from the summit but we think you should go see for yourself!  If you’re planning on standing on NI’s highest peak in 2017, send us your summit selfies. (#walkni Instagram / @walkNI Twitter)

Favourite Walk in the Causeway Coast and Glens - Ballintoy to Bushmills along the Causeway Coast Way

Favourite Walk in the Causeway Coast

With sandy beaches, interesting rock formations and cliff top paths it was no surprise that the 12.5 mile Ballintoy to Bushmills route received over 40% of the vote to win the title of favourite walk in the area.  A walk along this particular section of the Causeway Coast Way reveals many wonders including quaint villages and harbours such as Ballintoy and Portbraden, historical gems like Dunserverick and stunning stretches of sands in the form of Whitepark Bay.

Outstanding Achievement through Walking - Dermot Breen (Cancer Research UK)

Outstanding Achievement through Walking Award

Everyone in this category was definitely deserving of an award but it was Belfast man, Dermot Breen who walked the entire Ulster Way and then some in memory of his wife Jacqui who received the Award. Completing his long distance walking challenge over 38 days Dermot raised thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK along the way. Inspired by the book ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ (a firm favourite of the couples), in which the title character walks 627 miles to visit a terminally ill colleague Dermot (who by his own admission was no natural walker) pledged to walk even further and did so covering a distance of 652 miles, in memory of his wife.  Since completing this challenge Dermot has gone on to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain raising even more money for the charity and the Great Wall of China in aid of NI Hospice.   You can read about his experience here, ‘the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Dermot Breen’ or follow his walking adventures on Facebook

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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