Chris Scott Activity Tourism Manager
Having 'retired' from competitive sailing he is trying to find something new to fill the void. Currently mixing it up with 10ks, trail running, duathlons and adventure races.
March 20, 2017
March 9, 2017
March 7, 2017
February 28, 2017
February 21, 2017
From Competitor to Completer
Having spent every summer since I was 10 competing at sailing regattas virtually every weekend – I’ve had enough. Don’t get me wrong sailing is an absolutely fantastic sport, I’ve met great friends and had reasonable success but it’s time for a change. Hopefully I’m not old enough to be experiencing a mid life crisis but perhaps working for OutdoorNI.com has opened my eyes to the whole new set of options to get out any enjoy Northern Ireland’s outdoors.
Along with a few mates last year I had a go at the Belfast Rat Race which ignited a slow burning ambition to have a go at a few more of these challenge / adventure races. I found out very quickly that there are some seriously fit guys and girls who take part in these events but there are also a great number of folk there to complete rather than compete with the emphasis on having fun, trying something new and meeting like-minded adventurous people along the way.
As the weather slowly begins to improve and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel of what has been a bleak winter to say the least, I have begun to research my options for this summer.
Luckily in Northern Ireland there are plenty of diverse options to suit all abilities and interests. The majority include running, canoeing, cycling and in many cases a combination of all three but here are just a few that have whet my appetite:
Having done a bit of running before this might be the perfect way to dip my toe into the scene. A quick glance over the previous race results show there is a range of abilities. There is also the massive appeal of running through Tollymore, Castlewellan and Rostrevor Forest Parks rather than the urban scene which I have become familiar with.
If you are interested in this you had better be quick at the last race of the series is on 6th March in Rostrevor. For more details click here
This one has really caught the eye of everybody in the office – well….not everyone!!!. Based around Carlingford Lough, this event is certainly a challenge. The day starts with a 15km run from Carlingford village to the top of Slieve Foy and back, then a 1km paddle across Carlingford Lough and finishing a 45km circular cycle through the Mourne Mountains. The event can be done on your own or as part of a team and raises money for an African Schools Trust. You even have the opportunity to win a diamond!!
The event is endorsed by Everest conqueror Hannah Shields “Taking part in a race like this will give competitors such a fantastic buzz of adrenaline as well as the great feeling of helping so many needy children in Africa.”
The event takes place on Saturday 15th May – For more details click here
This event has been running very successfully in Fermanagh for a number of years. There are a quite a few hardcore folk who take on the 45 mile cycle, 10 mile kayak and 13 mile run all by themselves but there are even more who take part as a three person relay team and therefore only have to focus on one of the disciplines.
It is not a race as such, the real purpose being to assist in the fight against Cancer. The immediate beneficiary being CLIC Sargent (Caring for Children with Cancer), who receive every penny raised from the sponsorship.
The event is based at the Share Holiday Village so can also be a fun day out for the family whilst mum and or dad are taking part.
The event takes place on Saturday 22nd May – For More details click here
The title of this event nearly put me off until I read a bit further. Having never tried a ‘normal’ marathon, the thought of one through the foothills of the Mournes sounded as if I would biting off a bit more than I could chew.
However, as well as the main event there is a half marathon and a 10k walk/run which sound as if they may be a bit more achievable and again the Mournes will certainly provide a spectacular place to run. I think I’ll leave the Ultra Marathon option to others this year!!!
The event takes place on Saturday 12th June – For more details click here
Again this event is more a challenge than a race and for me that’s just as well. One complete lap of Lough Neagh – Britain and Ireland’s largest inland water is 87 miles or 140 kilometres. The appeal of this event is certainly not in question as this year’s edition will almost certainly be Northern Ireland’s largest ever cycling event.
A slick event website provides all the information you would need plus most importantly a training programme making the event achievable for the first timer.
The event takes place on Sunday 29th August – For more details click here
So it looks like a busy summer ahead – check out the blog later in the year to see if I have walked the walk rather than just talked the talk. Maybe I’ll see you at some of the events – well at the start line anyway!!
I’m sure I have only scratched the surface of what is actually out there. If you have any other suggestions of outdoor challenges or adventure races in Northern Ireland then why not post a comment on this blog. Alternatively why not ‘Suggest an Event’ on OutdoorNI.com.
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Getting out on Northern Ireland’s Canoe Trails
Northern Ireland was the first country in Europe to develop official canoe trails. CanoeNI.com has been delighted with the success of these trails as not only have they won awards – most importantly they have attracted people from all over the world.
But don’t just take our opinion. Following the launch of the Strangford Lough Canoe Trail in July 2008, Canoe and Kayak Magazine UK described Northern Ireland as ‘one of the must go canoeing destinations in Europe.’
Other advocates include:
If this is not inspiration enough then each trail has its own section on CanoeNI.com with trail guides, camping details, accommodation, canoe hire etc.
But how do you make Northern Ireland your ultimate canoeing experience?
How you venture out onto the canoe trails obviously depends on your canoeing ability but don’t worry there are plenty of options:
Learn from the best…
If you are interested in getting out and enjoying the canoe trails but don’t know one end of a canoe from the other then why not take some lessons. Northern Ireland has a great range of canoeing providers who can teach you all the necessary skills so you can make the most of future canoeing adventures. Even if you want to just have a go before embarking on a course then why not check out our calendar of canoeing events which can give you that perfect introduction.
Follow the leader…
If you don’t have the time for lessons or you’re just mad keen to get out there then why not sign up for a guided trip. This option allows you to combine the local knowledge and safety provided by a qualified guide. These trips can be booked by individuals joining together as a group or why not get your friends or family together. Quite often these trips involve a night camping under the stars. Check out our range of day and short breaks.
Just add water…
Maybe you already know how to canoe but don’t want the hassle of organising the trip. Then contact a canoeing provider who can arrange an itinerary, rent equipment, drop off and collection. All you have to do is turn up and start your adventure. The majority of providers will ask for a minimum British Canoe Union Three Star Award (or equivalent) for the craft you wish to hire. Alternatively many will carry out a short pre-hire practical test.
Go it alone…
If you’ve got the knowledge and the gear then CanoeNI.com will provide all the information you need to plan your trip. Each trail also has its own waterproof guide which can be ordered free online.
With so many options available why not explore one of our canoe trails this year. Each canoe trail is unique and will allow you explore a different part of Northern Ireland’s spectacular countryside.
Gorgeous views you have! There is no where to go for walks as beautiful as that around where I live. You are very lucky. Read more >
This is my first attempt at writing a blog so I thought I would begin by writing a little this month on some things to think when buying a bicycle.
When buying a bike it is very important that it is the correct size. When buying for children we can be tempted to buy one a little bigger so that the child “can grow into it”. This is something I would probably have been guilty of when my children were small, hoping the bike would last longer but now I realise why we should not do this.
If we buy a bike which is too big it can be dangerous as:
When you go to buy a bike you will find they are sold in wheel sizes and this in turn is related to the age of the child.
Bicycles with 26” wheels are classed as adult bikes.
When we buy a bike in adult sizes we must remember that the higher the bike is from the ground, the longer it will be from the saddle to the handlebars. This can be measured in inches or centimetres, so again it important to stand beside the bike, sit on the saddle and see if you can reach the handlebars and controls. The saddle on the bike will be adjustable from approximately 4-10”.
There are no rules to say you must buy a particular bike for a particular age, but if possible bring the child and let them try out the bike in the shop, letting them stand over the bar to see if their feet reach the ground and sit on the saddle to see if their toes touch the ground.
A little news now about what is happening with cycling in schools. Here we have what are called WOW and COW days in our green schools. You may be familiar with these schools as they proudly fly a large green flag outside their school and rightly so as everyone has worked extremely hard to win it.
What is WOW or a COW day? You might ask, well a WOW day is where as many teachers children and parents walk to school on Wednesdays, and yes you have guessed it a COW day is where as many as possibly cycle on Wednesdays. This is a big success and if you were to visit one of these schools on a Wednesday you might think the school was closed there are so few cars about. Raphoe Central School will be celebrating one year of walking and cycling to school on the 23rd February where everyone will meet in town and walk or cycle to the school. Eamonn Brown road safety officer with Donegal Co.Co. will officially open the new bike shed and local councillors who supported the cycle training will also attend.
Look out for more tips from Mary on cycling safety – in the next blog she will be writing about Helmets.
For more information on Pedal Right and its services please click here.
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With the spring time just on the horizon I thought I might put forward some suggestions for weekend picnic destinations for all the family. I have tried to include a good mix from country estates to spectacular coastal landscapes. We are very fortunate here in Northern Ireland as we have a plethora of unique natural environments to explore. However, in my humble opinion, these locations should be top of your list!
This 18th century mansion located on the shores of Lower Lough Erne was designed by James Wyatt and completed in 1798 for the 1st Earl of Belmore. The interior was created by some of the leading craftsmen of the 18th and 19th century. Castle Coole is widely regarded as one of Ireland's finest Neo-classical houses. Beech Wood provides a stunning back drop to the mansion and there is a tranquil walk through this unspoilt wood. The wood was planted around 1709 with a mixed group of beech, oak and scots pine and still has oak trees dating back to the early 18th Century. There are some lovely places to stop here and have a picnic right in the middle of a natural paradise.To learn more about walks around Castle Coole click here...
This harbour bit of a hidden gem at the north eastern tip of Island Magee. The National Trust own and manage the coast on either side of Portmuck harbour and have provided excellent trails for visitors to enjoy the stunning coastal scenery and dramatic views out over to Scotland. This harbour is the perfect spot for a family day out with a number of walking trails to suit walkers of all ages and abilities. To find out about walks in and around Portmuck Harbour, click here
The former demesne of Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristol (or the Earl Bishop), as he is still affectionately known. His building ventures at Downhill spanned the 1770s to the mid 1780s. They include his house or ‘palace’, the Mussenden Temple, Mausoleum, the walled garden, ice house & dovecote, various fish ponds, massive pillared gates and gate lodges.
The most famous of these is Mussenden Temple and this is a great spot for a picnic perching dramatically on a 120 ft cliff top, high above the Atlantic Ocean on the north-western coast of Northern Ireland. This unique spot offers spectacular views westwards over Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point and County Donegal and east to Castlerock beach towards Portstewart, Portrush and Fair Head. The temple itself was built in 1785 as a summer library. Its architecture was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome. It is dedicated to the memory of Hervey's cousin Frideswide Mussenden. Click Here for more info...
Roe Valley Country Park offers a variety of routes along the riverside and through woodland. Combining legend with industrial and natrural heritage the park has great appeal. There is a 7 mile walking trail which circles both banks of River Roe or Red River (from the Irish ‘Abhain Ruadh’). 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. This winter saw the snow settle on the river’s banks but now as spring approaches the park will soon be in full bloom and the perfect spot for a picnic with all the family. Read more about Roe Valley Country Park walks here...
The famous gardens at Mount Stewart were planted in the 1920s by Edith, Lady Londenderry and have been nominated a World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk through magnificent woodlands, viewing the flora and lake, beautiful throughout the entire year.
The lake itself is seven acres in size and was created in the 1840s by Charles, 3rd Marquess, but the surroundings were not landscaped until Edith, Lady Londonderry’s time. Now the banks are planted with Primulas, Irises and other water-loving subjects, as well as the immensely large-leafed Gunneras.
The gardens contain a remarkable variety of species from all over the world such as a fine Californian Redwood and Australian Cordylines. Read more about the walk here...
In 1956, Lady Londonderry handed the gardens over to the care of The National Trust and noted “Gardens are meant to be lived in and enjoyed and I hope they may long continue to be a source of pleasure to those who visit them”. What better way to enjoy these fine surroundings than to dander around the grounds and enjoy a small picnic with your friends and family as you bask in the nature all around.
Broughshane is known as the Garden Village of Ulster thanks to its summer floral displays. Over 75,000 flowers are planted annually winning the village many national and international awards such as Ulster in Bloom, Britain in Bloom, the European Entente Florale and Nations in Bloom. Beside Broughshane is Little Acorn Wood. This is a 16-acre community woodland developed and managed by the Woodland Trust which has been created along a delightful riverside path. As you walk down this path you would expect to see the Dipper, Heron, Kingfisher, Mallard, Moorhen, Yellow Wagtail and Meadow Brown Butterfly plus a collection of exotic ducks in the pond. This picturesque part of Northern Ireland possesses a real rural community feel and is the perfect spot for a spring picnic. One lovely walk in Broughshane is called Buttermilk Bridge, click here to find out more...
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