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.
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Top Tips For May Day Fun
MAY DAY MAY DAY is well known as the international distress signal for an emergency but never fear because this Bank Holiday weekend the only distress you will encounter is deciding how to spend it in Northern Ireland’s outdoors.
To make your task easier we have listed some of our top tips – there is something for everyone and if you can’t find what you want here then be sure to check out our events page.
No experience is necessary for any of these activities – all you need is a sense of adventure. It is strongly advised to book ahead to avoid any disappointment.
Have a great Bank Holiday Weekend!!
Sunday 2nd May
Are you ready to experience body-surfing waves, scrambling up cliffs and flinging yourself into deep water from heights of up to 20ft!
Coasteering involves walking, scrambling, jumping, swimming and sometimes crawling around the coast.
A 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.
TIMES: 12.00pm - 2.30pm
AGE: There is a family session running the same time as the adult session. Kids from the age of 8 upwards are welcome.
£25 per person
Monday 3rd May
May Day Activity Shindig is packed full of exciting activities for all ages. With canoeing, orienteering, archery and a bouncy castle, there's something to suite everyone, and no chance of the kids getting bored. The new grass sledges are perfect for letting out the kid inside. Demonstrated on The Gadget Show, these sledges are on tank tracks and provide the excitement of tobogganing without the need for snow.
11am - 5pm. Buy your ticket on the day
£6 for 2 activities, £12 for 5 activities -Car park charges may apply
Sunday 2nd May
Choose your activity – paddle around the sheltered lough bay or bike around the stunning estate trails.
There will be Canoes, ‘Sit on Top’ Kayaks and Mountain Bikes for hire.
Everyone is welcome ... individuals, groups of friends, families...
Hire times - 11:00-12:00, 12:30-13:30 and 14:00-15:00
Suitable for: Everyone - no experience necessary.
Children and Adults: 4+ yrs old – Kayaks and Canoes / 12+ yrs old – Mountain Bikes
(under 18s must be accompanied by an adult at all times).
Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd May – also available at Life Adventure Forest Centre, Castlewellan Forest Park.
Got an hour to fill? Great! Life’s 1 hour Archery sessions are not only excitingly NEW, they're also fantastic FUN and very very SAFE!
The sessions are mighty craic with endless games and challenges that provide a great introduction to a super sport thanks to dedicated instructors and specialist equipment.
Suitable for 4 yr olds upwards...
From £14 per child and £16 per adult.
Saturday 1st – Monday 3rd May
Visitors may enjoy the thrills in a variety of land and water activities; one hour, two hour or even taster sessions in sailing, kayaking, canoeing and banana skiing or archery, Combat Corps, climbing and pedal go karting.
A wide range of combination packages are available so value for money is guaranteed.
Premiere activities - 1 hour sessions £7.50
Land Activities - 1 hour sessions £6.00
Taster Sessions - 2 hour sessions - £12.00
Saturday 1st May
Learn how to canoe in the heart of the Lagan Valley Regional Park
9 - 11 AM Splash! Kids session £10pp (kids only)
2 - 4 PM Family open session - everyone welcome.
Children must be accompanied by an adult. £ 10pp (under 15's) £15pp (16+)
4.30 - 6.30 PM Adults open session (16+ only) £15 pp
This blog is helping me very much, by giving tips for my outdoor adventure. Thank you very much for providing such a great tips for my fun. Read more >
In the spring of my daydreams, I spin along quiet Northern Irish lanes.
The office and the city outside fade away and vivid cycling memories flash past in colours as bright and clear as the view of the Scottish coast from the Torr Head Road in April.
Gorse flowers yellow under a cobalt sky and fills the air with a faint scent of coconut. Then I am speeding downhill surrounded by blackthorn hedges, full of blossom, birdsong and the promise of summer to come. Next on I'm riding around Rathlin Island with my dad or skimming past the lakes and country houses of Fermanagh. Then there are the roads kissing the edge of Stangford Lough, it's drumlin studded waters as blue as the Adriatic in the afternoon sunshine.
If I'm feeling energetic, a climb across the lonely passes of the Sperrins or the Mournes might follow. Otherwise I might be sharing a Sunday afternoon train from back Portstewart with a gaggle of homeward-bound cyclists. We brag of miles ridden and summits conquered while remembering lying in the heather, bike cast aside, searching the cotton wool clouds for the tireless Skylarks.
Come to think of it, why am I dreaming about all this, rather than actually getting on my bike? There are so many choices for great cycling in Northern Ireland - from multi-day epics to gentle afternoon freewheels - and there are some brilliant ideas on this site. Using the Belfast-Londonderry rail line can seriously extend your range by opening up new starting points or offering a pedal-free return route. And if you are not lucky enough to live in Ireland the ferry and air connections are excellent.
This is a fantastic time of year for cycling, so I'll see you out there, making some new memories!!!
Tom Cooper is the author of Cycle Touring in Ireland. To buy the book, priced at £14.95, please click here.
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Robbie from Scotand tells us about his Easter canoeing trip with his family on the Lough Erne Canoe Trail ...
A frosty January night in Lochwinnoch........
Robbie: Stef, do you fancy a paddling holiday at Easter?
Stef: OK, providing there's plenty of fun stuff for the kids to do too.
Robbie: I've found a beautiful cottage owned by keen canoeists where we can paddle from the end of the garden. Will I go ahead and book it?
Stef: Sounds good. Where is it?
Robbie: Fermanagh in Northern Ireland.
So started the planning for our Easter holiday on and around Upper Lough Erne, one of Britain's most beautiful spots that couldn't be better for family paddling. Given the fabulous canoeing opportunities we've had around Scotland, this is no small compliment.
We stayed at Cygnet Lodge, a self-catering cottage owned by Dawn and Robert Livingstone, on the shores of Upper Lough Erne, between Lisnaskea and Derrylin. The house was 2 hours from the ferry terminal in Larne and proved to be everything we hoped for: great value, with all mod-cons and a huge garden for the boys to play in.
The best thing though was that we could paddle from the jetty at the end of the garden, so we didn't need to bother with any loading and unloading onto the car when we wanted to go out on the water.
Dawn and Robert proved to be great hosts (their house is close nearby to Cygnet Lodge) and were a font of knowledge about local paddling places, interesting things to do for both kids and grown-ups alike and the best local eateries. After a first stop to visit the amazing Marble Arch Caves in Florencecourt and a food shopping trip to Enniskillen (O'Doherty's butcher shop has to be seen to be believed ) we finally got the chance to get out on the water for an evening's paddle with some pals who'd joined us for a couple of days at the start of the holiday.
We were blessed with calm weather and clear blue skies all week that made the paddling a pleasure. We alternated between days out on the water and days out visiting local places of interest. Our longest paddling trip was down and back to the Crom Estate, a beautiful National Trust property less than 2 hours paddling each way from Cygnet Lodge.
We beached the canoe at the landing slipway and stopped for a while to explore the grounds of the estate. The kids thought the famous yew trees were fabulous for climbing - like something straight out of Harry Potter! The café just above the slipway there was a great find and was just what we needed to fill up hungry children.
After lunch we headed back out onto the water for the return trip back up the Lough. We couldn't resist having a look around the Crichton Tower, a folly on Gad Island near the Crom Estate. We found that the threat of marooning the kids in the 'haunted' tower ensured their perfect behaviour for the rest of the day.
The return trip up the Lough was just as beautiful. We were treated to the sight of Great Crested Grebes performing their elaborate mating dances. The real surprise was the great hospitality we received from the members of the Hare Krishna community on Inis Rath, an island on the Lough, when we stopped there for a break. Fabulous custodians of a fantastic island!
A great highlight of the trip was doing a self-guided geology tour around Cuilcagh Mountain that straddles the border between Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and Cavan in the Republic of Ireland. The boys thought that the Drumod Sulphur Spa in Swanlinbar was great, mostly because it smelled like they do a couple of hours after dinner of beans on toast!
Ireland is a bastion of common sense where Health & Safety hasn't ruined the fun of adventure. This became evident when we explored Pollnagollum Cave near Boho. With head-torches on, we explored 200 metres into the cave - very Indiana Jones! Turning off the torches to experience total darkness and see whose nerve cracks first was great (the answer was of course 'Little Miss Feartie' as mummy was christened!).
The day on / day off the water continued as the week progressed. We had a great paddle north of the Lady Craigavon Bridge to explore the other end of Upper Lough Erne. We were most impressed by the courtesy of other water users. All the drivers of powered craft slowed down to a crawl as they passed us and the fishermen all gave us a cheery wave - how different from the experienced often recounted by canoeists on the Song of the Paddle website.
A great high point of the holiday was a full day in Enniskillen. A beautiful wee town with great shops, great eateries and lots to see and do. If you're ever there then a tour of the castle is an absolute must.
A favourite activity for our boys each evening was catching minnows off the jetty at the cottage. Dad decided to get in on the act and got the shock of his life when Percy the Pike leapt onto the hook!
So, would we go back? Definitely!
Would we recommend staying at one of Robert and Dawn's Lough-side properties? Certainly!
Would we recommend taking the time to explore Fermanagh and paddling Upper Lough Erne? Absolutely!
We'll certainly be back.
Northern Ireland is a green getaway in the colorful sense of the world and turns out to be an eco destination for the travelers. It is renowned for its beauty and rich built heritage. Read more >
by Kieron Gribbon
I remember stepping onto the platform at Castlerock one sunny weekday morning in June 1997. As the train pulled out of the station to resume its journey towards Derry, I pulled OSNI Sheet 4 out of my rucksack. It was the beginning of my very first hill walk, and I’d chosen Binevenagh as the day’s main objective.
After studying the map for a few minutes, I set off from Castlerock station to follow the coast westwards. From memory, I was wearing a pair of black combat-style trousers and a rust-coloured Burtons t-shirt. It was the first time I’d worn walking boots, and I was a little bit worried about getting blisters from them. The Millet’s price tag had only recently been removed from my new Eurohike rucksack which contained a Peter Storm fleece, waterproof coat and over-trousers. Lunch was in there too, along with two bottles of water.
I was on my own – I didn’t know any other hill walkers back then – but I felt reasonably confident about what lay ahead of me that day. My fitness levels were adequate for the expedition and my map-reading skills were reasonably good.
The first section of the route passed Mussenden Temple – perched spectacularly on a cliff top overlooking the beaches of northernmost County Derry. After passing through the nearby ruins of Downhill Palace, I continued along the main road towards the entrance to Downhill strand. From there, a steep road led upwards to Gortmore viewpoint.
By that time it was getting hot, and there wasn’t even a breeze. The back of my Burtons t-shirt was completed saturated with sweat and stuck to my back each time I removed my rucksack. I should have invested in one of those “technical” t-shirts I’d seen in Millets when buying my other kit a few days earlier.
At Gortmore viewpoint, I stopped for a while to admire the scenery below. Comparing the actual landscape to the map in hand, I identified the cliffs of Binevenagh a couple of miles to the south-west. A faint rumbling sound drew my eyes towards the lower ground beneath the cliffs. There I spotted the train on its return journey from Derry back towards Belfast via Ireland’s longest straight section of railway – which just happens to cross Ireland’s largest coastal plain.
When I arrived at the top of Binevenagh, it was time for lunch. I ate my sandwiches close to the cliff edge and just admired the view for a while. To the south-west, the meandering River Roe eventually found its way through crop fields before entering the sea at Lough Foyle. To the north-west, the Magilligan peninsula stretched out across the mouth of the lough stopping less than a mile short of County Donegal.
Following the cliff top in a north-easterly direction along a grassy path, I descended through the forest to the base of the cliff. Passing Saint Aidan’s church along the way, I finally arrived at the finish point – Bellarena railway station. In the distance, perhaps two miles away, the approaching Belfast-bound train was just a dot on the flat horizon. A few minutes later, it pulled up at the station. No passengers got off, and I was the only one getting on.
Much of the route I walked that day followed the old Ulster Way, which has since been revised slightly for the new version launched in September 2009. I’d enjoyed the walk so much that I decided to continue along the Ulster Way to Dungiven – a section I completed over my next two walks that same week. Although my interest in hill walking has since taken me all over Northern Ireland, and beyond, Binevenagh is still one of my favourite walking locations.
While some people regard hill walking as a never-ending peak-bagging challenge, others see it as a pleasant way to keep fit in the great outdoors. For most, a view from a cloudless summit is the reward they hope to find at the end of every climb. To me, hill walking is about all of these things – and more. Sometimes it’s about the peace and tranquillity of an isolated valley, while other times, it’s about the social experience of being part of a walking club. Most importantly, it’s about escaping the humdrum of everyday life and getting some fresh air into the lungs.
Hello, My name is Lucy, I work for The Outdoor Shop (www.theoutdoorshop.com), and we are one of the country’s leading independent retailers of technical outdoor clothing and equipment. We’re ... Read more >