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Bringing Mountain Biking to the Masses

Posted on July 19, 2011 @ 9:10 AM in Cycling

This summer looks set to help bring mountain biking to the masses (and families) with the opening of two brand new, purpose built mountain bike trails. June 8th saw the official opening of the new trails down in Blessingbourne, with over 80 guests invited down. The usual suspects invited from Extreme 26, MTB Rider, Bikedock Belles, CCAR, Trailbadger and myself (except I had to pull out at the last minute due to a work meeting :-( ). Promoted as Northern Ireland’s premier Mountain Bike venue, Blessingbourne offers testing single track riding and family friendly route combinations.

Estate owners Nick and Colleen Lowry have been working alongside the Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) to develop nearly 10km of cross-country MTB trails, including a pump track and skills area.

There are nearly 10km of cross-country MTB trails, including a pump track and skills area. The trails genuinely cater for all abilities, with snaking single-track, lots of trail features including jumps, table-tops, berms, rock-gardens and drops; and chicken-runs for the kids and the faint-hearted, of course!

The trail designer was Architrail‘s Phil Saxena, who has designed trails for the Beijing Olympics and the Downhill World Cup, and they were built by Dinsdale Moorland Services, who work alongside Architrail on this and other projects.

The guys at Trailbadger got a preview of the trails before the launch and they have put on their website their thoughts and some important information on the new trails (

‘The Blessingbourne trails are an excellent start that the NI MTB community have been waiting a long time for. The trails have been expertly designed and built making them ideal for beginners and young families as well as seasoned pros.’

Another long awaited project that is now finished are the MTB trails at Castle Ward (Strangford). Up to 21 miles of new trails within Castle Ward Demesne opened at the start of July 2011 and the word going around is to get yourself, your friends and your family to check them out, because they are great! The trails are designed for walkers, off road cyclists and horse riders and meander through the picturesque parkland, forest and farmland on the shores of Strangford Lough.

Details for both trails (and a lot more trails) can be found on the Trailbadger and CycleNI websites.

Latest comment posted by Stone on August 26, 2011 @ 4:42 AM

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Paul McArthur
Paul McArthur

A trail runner, orienteer, adventure racer, mountain biker, semi-retired climber and blogger.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks – Top Tips for Safe Paddling

Posted on July 5, 2011 @ 4:05 PM in Canoeing

A mini revolution in kayaking has happened over the past few years, with the continued growth of Sit-On-Top Kayaks or SOTs.  They were perhaps frowned upon initially by the traditional canoeing fraternity but no one can deny their success in allowing a whole new wave of people enjoying paddle sports.

To get to the bottom of this we caught up with Rodger Hamilton, Participation and Club Development Officer at the Canoe Association Northern Ireland (CANI). – What exactly is a sit on top kayak?

A Sit on Top is a kayak that has no closed cockpit; you just sit on top of the hull where you will have a molded seat and footrest to get comfortable on. - Why have they become so popular?

Like most good ideas they are simple and easy to use.  Some people fear getting their legs trapped inside a conventional kayak but sit on tops are really stable, even if you do fall off you can just climb back on board again.

Watersports have traditionally been quite expensive but this has changed with sit on tops, they are relatively inexpensive with a starter kit costing around £300-£350 from several major retailers.  They can easily be carried on a roof rack and their plastic structure makes them very durable. - What are they best used for?

Their versatility is also their strength. People use them to play in the surf, short trips along flat water rivers, and because they are so stable they have become really popular with keen fisherman. - What are the top five tips to paddling on safely?

Even though the boats are very forgiving it is still important that you master the basic skills and safety procedures.

  • Let people know your route plan for your paddle trip
  • Paddle in a groups of 3
  • Be able to self rescue
  • Be able to do an assisted rescue incase a group member is tired is struggling to get back onto his craft
  • Carry appropriate safety equipment

The best way to ensure you are prepared is to sign up for a free CANI Sit on Top awareness day. The aim of the course is to raise awareness and provide you with basic skills, rescue techniques and knowledge that you need for paddling in different environments.


 Upcoming CANI Sit on Top Awareness Courses

Saturday 2nd July – Location East Coast                    

Saturday 23rd July – Location North Coast

Saturday 6th August – Location North Coast

Don’t forget to check out’s Have a go section for more have a go days, courses, guided trips etc.



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Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

Top activities for Stag Parties and Hen Parties in Northern Ireland

Posted on July 5, 2011 @ 2:17 PM in Adventure

With wedding season in full swing, Northern Ireland is full of maids of honour and best men frantically trying to organise the traditional send off for brides and grooms.

In the good old days this involved a party down the local pub but increasingly this has changed to a full weekend away with all sorts of activities taking place.  Great craic for all those involved except perhaps for the organisers who has to fill the role of travel agent, events organiser, social convener and financial director.

The good news is Northern Ireland is full of exhilarating activities to base a stag or hen party around. To make things even easier the team at have put together their top ideas for that adventurous hen or stag.

Hovercrafting at Foyle Hovercrafting and Leisure, Limavady, Co Londonderry

Maybe one more for the lads than the girls!!  Experience the thrill of gliding over land and water on a cushion of air at speeds of up to 30mph around a 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 hovercrafts are 2-seater and can be driven solo or in tandem with a willing and cooperative partner!  Hovercrafting can also be combined with Laser Skirmish, Archery, Laser Clay Pigeon Shooting, Powerturn Buggies. 

Once finished head of to Derry City or one of the many coastal town along the North Coast

The Jungle NI, Moneymore, Co Londonderry

The Jungle NI has established itself as one of Northern Ireland’s premier outdoor entertainment facilities making it perfect for stags and hens alike.  Activities include Paintball, Clay Pigeon Shooting, Archery, Zorbing alongside the recently introduced Irelands first Tree Top high Wire Adventure Course – a high ropes course with a difference! With over 40 elements including zip lines, bridges, scramble nets, tunnels, tarzan swings, and a powerfan descent; the course is sure to bring out the Tarzan or Jane in you!!

Tailored combination packages allow you pick and choose.  Barbeques and hot tubs also available.

Todds Leap, Ballygawley, Co Tyrone

Todds Leap Activity Centre brings you a range of multi-activity breaks just bursting with exciting outdoor adventures to get the heart pumping!  Off road driving, clay pigeon shooting, paintball, zipline, body-zorbing and much more can be built into a package to meet your needs!  Log cabin accommodation is available so you can stay for a night or a weekend and with a licensed bar and restaurant on-site, you won't want to leave!

Coasteering, North Coast, Co. Antrim or Ballyhornan, Co.Down 

Water, waves, rocks, gullies and cliffs.  Don a wetsuit take to the rocky coast and jump.  This activity is an exhilarating mix of body-surfing, rock scrambling and cliff jumping.  The activity is sure to create plenty of stories for the pub afterwards.  Top locations in Northern Ireland include Runkerry and Ballintoy on the North Coast and Ballyhornan in County Down.

Lurgaboy Adventure Centre, Co Armagh

Take on the 375 metre zip line, raft building, high ropes course as part of Lurgaboy Adventure Centre’s tried and tested hen and stag party packages.  Combine your activities with a stay in a luxury 4 star cottage or nearby 4 star hotel.

Corralea Activity Centre, Belcoo, Co Fermanagh

Take on caving, mountain biking, waterpark or surfing. Guaranteed to get you on a high before your night out.  Combine activities with an overnight stay in a self catering cottage on the shores of Lough MacNean.


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Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

Northern Ireland’s top campsites for outdoor fun

Posted on July 5, 2011 @ 11:51 AM in Adventure

Caravanning and camping are great ways to enjoy the great outdoors, however this summer you can take it a step further and combine sleeping under the stars with some excellent outdoor activities.

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Forest Service and The National Trust have an extensive list of campsites but to make things easier has picked our top sites for outdoor fun. 

Camping holidays are no longer about the bucket and spade or sitting around the campfire, so follow our lead and get out and enjoy some exhilarating outdoor activities.


Share Holiday Village, Lisnaskea

The Share Holiday Village is the perfect venue for families; Ireland’s largest multi-activity centre offers so many activities that you’ll never have to leave the lake shore site.  A full programme of activities is available all summer including the daily summer extravaganza, summer schemes, Inishcruiser and indoor leisure suite.  The Lough Erne Canoe Trail also offers the opportunity to explore the beautiful loughs.

This 3 star holiday park offers 10 spaces for touring and motor caravans and 24 spaces for tents. 

Castle Archdale Country Park, Lisnarick

Based on the shores of Lower Lough Erne this bustling campsite offers a wide range of activities either on the lough or amongst the acres of woods.  The marina area offers bike hire, boat hire and canoe hire so you can enjoy the Lough Erne Canoe Trail or the Castle Archdale Family Cycling Trail

This 4 star holiday park offers 150 caravan and motor-home spaces & 30 tent spaces.


Round Lake Caravan Park, Fivemiletown

The recent launch of the 6km Blessingbourne Mountain Bike Trails and Pump Track really put Fivemiletown on any outdoor enthusiasts map.  Round Lake Caravan Park is only a short drive from Blessingbourne so there’s no better way to enjoy the snaking single-track and lots of trail features including jumps, table-tops, berms, rock-gardens and drops, each with easier options for the kids and the faint-hearted, of course!

Check out this video to get a real sense of these trails.

This 1 star holiday park offers 12 spaces for touring/motor caravans and 5 spaces for tents.


Watertop Farm, Cushendall

 Situated in the Glens of Antrim this spectacular site is located in a working farm. Onsite activities include pony trekking, fishing, boating, pedal go-karts on site, quad train, assault course, and farm tours on the paddiwagon.

The nearby Ardclinis Outdoor Adventure offers activities including climbing, archery, canoeing and coasteering at their centres in Cushendall and Garron Point.

Ballyness Caravan Park, Bushmills

 As if its location of 500 metres south of the Old Bushmills Distillery wasn’t enticing enough, this award winning caravan site’s north coast setting means there is so much adventure on the doorstep.  Try surfing with Alive Surf School in Portrush or the new phenomenon of Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Portballintrae, challenge yourself with coasteering with Xplore Outdoors or The Adventure Team, or take in all in at high speed on the Causeway Sea Safari.

This 5 star holiday park offers 48 touring and motor caravan pitches. No tents.


Castle Ward Demesne, between Downpatrick and Strangford

This is The National Trust’s premier outdoor recreation site in the United Kingdom.  The recently launched 21 miles network of multi-use trails offer endless opportunities for walkers, runners, mountain bikers and horse riders to explore unique areas of our historic demesne which were previously inaccessible to members of the public. 

The Clearsky Adventure Centre is located on site offering a vast range of activities including canoeing, climbing, kayaking, and bike hire.  The nearby Strangford Sea Safari should not be missed.

 The campsite is owned and managed by The National Trust.

Castlewellan Forest Park, Castlewellan

Situated within the Mourne and Slieve Croob Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty this 450 hectare park offers an excellent choice of walks and cycle trails. The on site Life adventure centre offers a great selection of activities on and around Castlewellan Lake and further a field with in the Mourne Mountains. Mount Pleasant Equestrian Centre offers a riding experience for beginners to experts.

Delamont Country Park, Killyleagh

 Based on the shores of the stunning Strangford Lough, known worldwide for its wildlife, the site is surrounded by the natural beauty of Delamont Country park.  The newly opened Action Outdoors deliver offer canoeing, kayaking, climbing and grass sledging.  



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Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

Northern Ireland's Outdoor Adventure Blog