Posted on January 8, 2010 @ 5:54 PM in
Ashley Hunter – Coaching and Development Manager, Canoe Association of Northern Ireland shares his experiences of a four day trip on the Lough Erne Canoe Trail
Crom Estate to Trory –28 Miles 4 Day Trip
Having lived away from County Fermanagh for a number of years I could not wait to return along with some friends from University to spend a few days paddling on the Lough Erne Canoe Trail in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
As we only had four days available we decided to explore Upper Lough Erne – the smaller and more sheltered of the two lakes to the south of the main county town of Enniskillen. The aim of trip was not to cover as many miles as possible but to enjoy what this beautiful part of the world has to offer – no better way than in our two open canoes. The Lough Erne Canoe Trail guide and www.canoeni.com made planning the trip easy.
Start Crom (GR 370 238) to Smith’s Strand (GR 342 294) 6 Miles (5 Hours)
We had stayed with my parents in Enniskillen for a night before driving south to our starting point at Crom Estate, which is actually one of the 10 Access Points along the trail.
We started at around 10 a.m. launching from the slipway beside The National Trust Visitors Centre and as soon as we hit the water it was like going back in time. Peace, natural beauty and any number of historic buildings – maintained by The National Trust. We spent a few hours exploring these buildings and taking in the history of the area. Crichton Tower on Gad Island, the 17th century Crom Castle ruins (destroyed in a fire) and the 19th century Crom Castle which is the private residence of Lord Erne can all be viewed from the Lough. However our favourite feature was the 19th Century boathouse, formerly the headquarters of the Lough Erne Yacht Cub.
The area was really captivating but it was time to move on. Travelling north in very sheltered waters we made good time. The area was quiet and unspoilt and we passed very few other water users.
We paddled to our overnight stop at the Share Holiday Village at Smith’s Strand (GR 342 294). The camping facilities were excellent and there was a great atmosphere around the site. That evening were prepared a feast on our disposable BBQ topped up with chips from the centre’s Fish n’ Chip Shop.
Start Share Holiday Village (GR 342 294) to Carrybridge (GR 295 375) 7 miles 5 hours
Determined to keep to our pledge to enjoy ourselves we booked onto a climbing wall activity session before we left. Although when I was 30ft off the ground last nights beer didn’t seem like such a good idea. After our adventurous start to the day we continued our trip north at about 12 p.m. We were again treated by another beautiful day with calm conditions meaning the going was good, by travelling south to north we were also being helped by the flow of the from Upper to Lower Lough Erne – although the locals reckoned this was negligible at this time of year it was still of psychological benefit to us.
We stopped at Naan Island (GR 302 319) for lunch – Upper Lough Erne has a vast array of Islands and the Canoe Trail Guide is useful as it indicates were all the jetties and slipways are. Then we left the relative expanse of Upper Lough Erne and made our way along the river–like section.
On arrival at Carrybridge we set up camp on the north side of the bridge and east side of the river (GR 295 375) as recommended by the Guide, had a quick wash in the toilet block and then crossed the bridge to sample the “craic” in the Carrybridge Hotel – well I did say we were here to enjoy ourselves!! We had some pub grub and chatted with local and tourists. The bar / restaurant is a popular stop for hire cruisers – a Dutch couple we spoke to had been returning to Fermanagh for the past 10 years!
Day 3 Carrybridge (GR 295 375) – Enniskillen (GR 231 440) 10 miles 7 hours
We had an early start which maybe was not ideal considering the late finish to the night before. We continued our journey northwards towards the County town of Enniskillen in really peaceful river like conditions. About half way along our trip we stopped at Bellanaleck Jetty (GR 236 391). We took a five minute walk to Bellaneleck village to buy lunch in the local shop.
After lunch we continued towards Enniskillen and our campsite which is based on Castle Island right in the heart of the town. The island is managed by Life, an Adventure Activity Company in Ireland specialising in Outdoor Acvitivites & Outdoor Pursuits, they provide a ferry to Enniskillen so we decided to take an evening stroll through the town before returning for an early night. We are obviously getting too old for two late nights in a row. The island provides an excellent camping facility near to the town – absolutely perfect for touring canoeists.
Day 4 Enniskillen (GR 231 440) to Trory (GR 227 477) 5 miles 3 hours
Enniskillen is an island town named after the ancient warrior Kathleen i.e. Inis (island) Kathleen so what better way to explore it than by canoe. We spent an hour circumnavigating the town passing the beautiful 17th Century Watergate of Enniskillen Castle. We then continued through the Portora Lock Gates into Lower Lough Erne. After about 1.5 hours paddling we reached Devenish Island (GR 223 468), which was once the centre of Fermangh’s cultural and spiritual life – a monastic settlement was founded here in the 6th century. Climbing the inside of the 81 feet high round tower built during the 12th century was a great way to round off the trip.
We reluctantly headed off to our pick point on the mainland at Trory (GR 227 477) and loaded our kit up to head home. We had our own equipment and my parents to do car transfers but this can all be arranged through a number of canoeing providers in the area, again these are listed in the guide and website.
Lough Erne has got to be one of the best touring venues in the British Isles, even as a native of Fermanagh I discovered so much more about the area than I did not realise was there. The range of places we saw and the interesting people we met made this more than just a canoe trip but an overall experience. We choose to stay at relatively busy campsites and enjoyed the night life on a few occasions but if this it not for you do not worry as the Lough Erne Canoe Trail guide provides numerous camp sites off the beaten track so you can enjoy a wilderness experience.
We only managed 2/3rds of the Lough Erne Canoe Trail but we will definitely return in the future to explore the area further or maybe even have a look at some of the other Canoe Trails available in Northern Ireland. Check them out on www.canoeni.com
Although we had our own gear and I am an experienced canoeists don’t feel this is the only way to get out there. The are a wide range of providers offering tuition, guided trips, canoe /equipment hire – all you have to do is turn up.
Posted on January 8, 2010 @ 12:48 PM in
As we begin a whole new year, a brand new decade we thought the OutdoorNI.com team would to inspire you to try something completely different.
Giving up chocolate, spend less/save more and get organised are always the usual suspects when it comes to choosing a New Year’s resolution. According to Wikipedia only 12% of people actually succeed in achieving their New Year’s resolution. Why? Maybe because all these usual resolutions are really boring!
Panic not! OutdoorNI.com has the answer and so are making your New Year’s Resolution for you! Repeat after me...
"This New Year I will try 5 new exciting outdoor activities in Northern Ireland".
There are actually 37 activities on OutdoorNI.com buts let’s be realistic about this. Here are some suggestions...
Experience body-surfing waves, scrambling up waterfalls and cliffs and flinging yourself into deep water from heights of up to 20ft! Coasteering is an action packed activity which involve walking, scrambling, jumping, swimming and sometimes crawling around the coast or ascending a river. Coasteering is a high-risk activity and it is essential to begin with an experienced guide. Activity operators provide the essential equipment; you only need a swimming costume and a towel. The provided wetsuit ensures that you stay warm at any time of the year; other equipment includes a helmet and a buoyancy aid. If you are a beginner, you can start off on easy climbs and jumps and build up to the bigger ones once you gain confidence. There are a variety of places where you can go Coasteering in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s Top spot
The rugged North Coast is absolutely perfect for Coasterring - jumps, pools, climbs and gullies this area has it all. Always use a guide so you can get the best from your adventure whilst also being safe.
For More Info Click Here...
2. Mountain Boarding
Lose yourself in the thrill and adrenalin of mountain boarding in Northern Ireland. This is one to get your pulses racing! Mountain boarding or 'dirtboarding' is a super cool activity, invented by snowboarders to ensure they could still get their kicks when the white stuff was in short supply. It was such a success that it soon became an adventure activity in its own right. Northern Ireland has its very own mountain boarding centre, Surfin’ Dirt, located in the spectacular surroundings of the Mourne Mountains. Surfin’ Dirt cater for everyone over the age of 7 from novices to hardcore enthusiasts. They have boards and safety gear for hire and qualified instructors to show you how it's done.
Northern Ireland’s Top Spot
You can mountain board pretty much anywhere you have access to a grassy slope but absolute beginners should head for The Mournes in County Down where you will find Surfin' Dirt - Ireland's only mountain boarding centre.
For More Info Click Here...
Feel the adrenaline rush as you roll down a hill inside a giant PVC ball at speeds of up to 30mph. Zorbing is one of the most exhilarating extreme sports in the world. Originating in New Zealand this activity has now arrived in Northern Ireland. There are two adrenaline-packed rides to choose from: Hydro Zorbing The hydro ride has been described as an invigorating combination of a water chute and a rollercoaster! The ball is filled with about 10 gallons of water and up to 3 riders can float unharnessed down the hill while the ball spins, bounces and rolls. Harnessed Zorbing Harnessed Zorbing is the more daring of the two! Riders are strapped in at the shoulders, hips and feet while the ball revolves down the hill, gaining speed all the way. Generally two people ride the harnessed sphere at a time to balance weight, creating a smoother, faster ride! This is one adrenaline rush you’ll never forget!
Northern Ireland’s Top Spot
At the minute there is only one location in Northern Ireland where Zorbing is offered. The JungleNI are based in Moneymore, Magherafelt.
For More Info Click Here...
Experience the thrill of gliding over land and water on a cushion of air at speeds of up to 30mph. Hovercrafting has been around since the early 1920’s however it is now accessible in Northern Ireland as an adventure activity for all to enjoy. The skills required to successfully pilot a hovercraft, include balance, anticipation and an intuitive feel for the machine. All these can be achieved with a little training and application. Hovercraft providers have purpose built tracks allowing ‘pilots’ to ride over grass and water, navigating through tricky courses of hairpins and bends in a safe and controlled environment. The buggies are 2-seater and can be driven solo or in tandem with a willing and cooperative partner! No special equipment needs to be
purchased as helmets and other safety equipment will be supplied by the Hovercraft provider.
Northern Ireland’s Top Spot
There is currently only one Hovercrafting operator in Northern Ireland. Foyle Hovercrafting and Leisure operate on a purpose built course just outside Limavady.
For More Info Click Here...
5. Skydiving & Parachuting
Throwing yourself out of a perfectly good plane may sound like a crazy plan, but skydiving is a must-try for avid adventures. Skydiving and parachuting are mostly done for fun although there is a competition element to the activity as well. A good way to get started is to get in contact with a centre that specialises in skydiving and parachuting. The most popular jump for beginners is a tandem sky-dive where you are attached to an instructor. You only need a short briefing for this one and the freefall lasts for about a minute. This is a cost effective way to see if the sport is for you. These centres generally have restrictions for safety reasons, for example, you need to be 16 years old to jump.
If you enjoy the tandem skydive and want to take it further, the next step is to do a static-line course: a one day course where you learn about equipment, steering, how to land etc. There is a progression training system which will take you from static line through to freeflow until you are classed as an experienced jumper.
Northern Ireland’s Top Spot
Movenis Airfield, near Garvagh in Derry is where the Wild Geese skydiving centre is based.
For More Info Click Here...
So – I bet you didn’t think all that what possible in Northern Ireland. Now your New Year’s resolution is made check out OutdoorNI.com because there is so much more on offer.
Posted on January 7, 2010 @ 12:52 PM in
Ok, so it may be the coldest winter in 30 years but let’s not use that as an excuse to stay indoors. Northern Ireland’s landscape is truly spectacular in the winter, in fact this frosty season provides a near picture perfect backdrop for walking and exploring our natural environment in its raw beauty.
Here are some winter warmer walks on WalkNI.com that really come alive during these winter months.
1. Port Path, Co Londonderry – 6.5 miles
The Port Path follows a stretch of scenic coastline between Portstewart and Portrush and can be enjoyed at any time of the year. The winter seascape however is a sight to behold and the with the fresh breeze behind you as you stroll down Portstewart Strand this really is a winter experience not to be missed. Alongside the magnificent offshore views this route also passes by a number of interesting seasonal features such as traditional ice houses; stone built, turf roofed houses where ice was stored in the winter in order to preserve salmon in the summer. For the brave souls who partake in the ritual of a New Year’s swim the route passes Portnahapple, a natural sea pool offering great opportunities for a ‘quick’ outdoor dip. Click here for more details...
2. Castle Archdale Country Park, Co. Fermanagh – 5 miles
There is a whole host of history and wildlife on show as you walk around this winter wonderland. There are a variety of walks along the lough shore passing the deer park enclosure, wildfowl ponds, wildflower meadow and butterfly garden. There are also old flying-boat docks, ammunition dumps and slit trenches from World War II. Lough Erne played an important role as the most westerly flying-boat station, from which aircraft protected the allied convoys from the U-Boat threat in the North Atlantic. Winter is a great time of the year to explore this unique setting. Click here for more details...
3. Glenariff Forest Park, Co. Antrim – 5.9 miles
Winter creates the perfect backdrop to explore this mature woodland, along the edges of steep sided river gorges with freezing waterfalls and open, frosted moorland. The trail first takes you down the Inver River gorge, to the edge of the Ess-na-Crub Waterfall. Once you cross the river at the bottom of the trail, you begin a long and winding climb offering views of the Glens and of the Mull of Kintyre across the sea. You cross over the upper reaches of the Glenariff river at the top of the trail. At this point you are on the frozen peat moorland. Your way back gives spectacular views straight down the misty Glen to the coast and the sea beyond. Click here for more details...
4. Slieve Gullion, Co. Armagh – 9.5 miles
This walk is located within the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Slieve Gullion rises to 573m and is the centrepiece of the volcanic landscape and is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The purples of the heather contrast with the yellow of dwarf gorse and orange of the bracken to create rich mosaics of colours which contrast with the many greens of the agricultural farming landscape. The Ring of Gullion and Slieve Gullion, in particular, have rich associations with Irish legends and myths. In one tale, Finn McCool was bewitched by Miluchra on the summit of Slieve Gullion at the Lough of the Calliagh Bhirra. To this day the superstition survives that if you bathe in the lough your hair will turn white, apt then for a winter walk. Click here for more details...
5. Slieve Donard via The Glen River, Co. Down – 5.5 miles
This walk follows a popular route leading to the summit of Slieve Donard (850m), Northern Ireland’s highest peak and is a great winter warmer. From the coastal town of Newcastle the trail ascends through the woods along the Glen River and climbs further to the head of the river valley, high on the slopes below Slieve Donard ad Slieve Commedagh (765m). From here the path continues up to Slieve Donard offering views out towards the Isle of Man, Wicklow, Donegal, Wales and Scotland. Click here for more details...
6. The Lagan Towpath, Stranmillis to Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park, Co. Down – 6 miles
Arguably, the best time to walk the Lagan Towpath is early on a crisp winter’s morning as the mist hovers just above Belfast’s main river. When sampling this mysterious scenery it is easy to see why C.S Lewis drew so much inspiration from this special place. This section of the Towpath begins in Stranmillis, just minutes from Belfast city centre, taking walkers out along the river and canal system through a variety of wetland, riverside meadows and mixed woodland. After passing through Lagan Meadows and over Shaw’s Bridge this section of the Towpath finishes at Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park, one of Belfast’s most popular public parks, renowned for its ornamental gardens and rose trails. Click here for more details...
7. Croaghan, Co Antrim – 6.5 miles
Croaghan provides an ideal circular winter stroll rewarding walkers with stunning panoramic views over to Rathlin Island, just off the Antrim coast. At this time of year the walk cuts through blanketed hillsides and crisp forest tracks that hug the perimeter of the snow-coned Breen Forest. Once you’ve completed the walk why not reward yourself with a hot drink in the nearby picturesque port of Cushendun, where you might be lucky enough to catch a traditional Irish music night in one of the local pubs. Click here for more details...
8. Roe Valley Country Park, Co. Londonderry – 7 miles
The Roe Valley Country Park offers a variety of routes along the River Roe or Red River (from the Irish ‘Abhain Ruadh’). This 7 mile walking trail circles both banks of Red River, which originates amidst the peat bogs of the Sperrins Mountains, offering an explanation for its red colour. With the path running through an enchanting oak forest, combining legend with industrial and natural heritage, the park has great appeal. Winter sees the snow settle on the river’s banks and as walkers pass through the forest it is only the call of mallard ducks that breaks the silence. In winter, Roe Valley is a truly special place. Click here for more details...
9. Robbers Table, Co. Tyrone – 9 miles
This is an excellent off-road, winter hill walk across rolling hills and frosty moorland. The highest point of this route opens up superb views of the Bluestack and Derryveagh Mounatins of Donegal to the west and the High Sperrins to the north east. As the route climbs south over Ballynatubbrit Mountain it passes Robbers Table, the site where supposed local seventeenth century Highwaymen (Rapparees as they were known) met up to divide their spoils after raiding the postal carriages that traversed this upland landscape. Click here for more details...
Posted on January 7, 2010 @ 12:02 PM in
Although every family has different cycling needs, an ideal cycle ride for the family is one where you know the kids are going to be safe (not meeting with lots of cars), enjoy incredible views and be fairly flat.
Here are just a few very popular family friendly cycling routes that are traffic free and have facilities on site or near by such as toilets and somewhere to buy a drink:
- The Lagan and Lough Cycle Way on National Cycle Network Route number 93 and 9 is a 21 mile mostly traffic-free cycle and walking route connecting Lisburn, Belfast and Jordanstown.
- The Craigavon Lakes MTB Trail is a 10km circular route following the natural landscape contours around the lake and through woodland.
- The Newry Canal Towpath is a cycling and walking route from the Bann Bridge in Portadown to the Town Hall in Newry is a 20 mile trip on part of route 9 of the National Cycle Network. The route follows the towpath on the western bank of the Newry Canal.
- Belfast Lough Cycle Route is a flat section of National Cycle Network along the shoreline of Belfast Lough taking in views of a truely historic shipyard.
- The Castle Ward Woodland Trail offers you to experience the coastal, historic landscape of Castle Ward through the myriad of off-road woodland trails and tracks.
- The 2.5 mile family cycling trail in Castlewellan Forest Park is a circular route around Castlewellan Lake suitable for cyclists of all ages and abilities.
- The Comber Greenway is a 7 mile traffic free section of the National Cycle Network which follows the old Belfast - Comber Railway line.
- Crom is one of Ireland's most important Nature Conservation areas, home to many rare species, including the elusive pine marten.
- Ballycarton Wood/Binevenagh trail is a short linear route from Ballycarton Wood, along the forest track through Binevenagh Forest. Undulating track offers great views of the cliffs and glimpses of Lough Foyle, Magilligan and Benone Strand.
- Castlerock to Downhill Forest is a short linear cycle route connecting the village of Castlerock and the forest enjoys stunning coastal scenery and magnificent views towards Donegal.
- This traffic-free route is great for a family ride with young children. Dungannon Park, on the edge of Dungannon, is a beautifully kept area with a trout-fishing lake and lots of activities, and is wonderful for exploring by bike.