MTB Campervan Weekend in N.Ireland!

Posted on June 25, 2015 @ 12:29 PM in Mountainbiking

After visiting the Mountain Bike Northern Ireland stand at the London Bike Show, we were lucky enough to win flights, campervan, campsites and bike hire in Northern Ireland for a weekend. Not knowing much about the trails, but being impressed with what we saw at the bike show, we were excited about our weekend away!

rostrevor

After a short flight from Gatwick to Belfast City with Aer Lingus, we picked up our fantastic campervan for the weekend from Garry at Causeway Campers. On Friday evening, we took in the sights of Belfast and visited the famous Crown Bar.  A delicious dinner was had at Home restaurant, then off to our accommodation at the Shepherd’s Rest in Draperstown. During our pint at the on-site pub, we were lucky enough to listen to one of the other guest’s strike up a few Irish tunes!

We awoke to a beautiful blue sky morning, surrounded by rolling green farmland.  A quick “small fry” breakfast was had at the local greasy spoon and it was a short drive to the Davagh Forest Trails, where we picked up great Marin hire bikes from Dave at Outdoor Concepts

Davagh Forest Trails

The trail at Davagh Forest starts with some twisty singletrack, joining a fireroad, affectionately named the “Widowmaker” by locals.  Fortunately, the road didn’t live up to its name!  From there, we hit the red trails: “Big Wig Jig”, boasted flowy section of singletrack through dense forest, and not being able to resist, we headed back up the hill to do “Run Ragley Run”, again with beautifully crafted singletrack and incredible panoramic views! 

The 'Boundary Rock' trail was a highlight at the bottom of the hill, displaying unique terrain with huge boulders along the way, including a massive one that you can ride down.  

Boundary Rock

With the sun still shining, we drove to Castlewellan.  Along the way there was some breath-taking scenery, with lots of rolling green countryside.

castlewellan

The stunning Castlewallan Mountain Bike Trails are set around a beautiful lake with a castle overlooking it.  The campsite and great trail facilities are located very close to the trailhead.  After setting up camp, we picked up bikes from Life Adventure Centre, then rode the trails into the evening. What impressed us was the way the undulating trails snaked their way around the lake, allowing you to grab glimpses of the water.  After 20kms of trails in the evening, we happily tucked into our meals at the Maginns pub in the town.

The sun was shining the next day as we headed off to the Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails on the shores of Carlingford Lough. 

Kodak Corner

Here there are 27kms of trails that wind around and over the hill. We picked up our bikes from East Coast Adventure and set off! An obligatory photo was taken at “Kodak corner”, named as such as there is picturesque view overlooking the lake, with the Republic of Ireland in the background. 

rostrevor

Overall, we were mightily impressed with the quality of the trails.  The scenery was spectacular, and a highlight was enjoying the local’s warmth and hospitality.  Will definitely be back again soon!

Latest comment posted by Steve miller on July 6, 2015 @ 5:59 AM

Looks great and will definitely pay a visit soon Read more >

Tim Rickerby
Tim Rickerby  Commercial Lawyer

Tim is a commercial lawyer based in London, and is a keen mountain biker and runner. Originally from New Zealand, he is enjoying exploring all the trails that the UK has to offer.

Davagh Enduro: Your Guide to Davagh!

Posted on June 19, 2015 @ 11:24 AM in Mountainbiking

In case you've missed it, the 2015 Davagh-Enduro takes place this Sunday 28th June 2015! 
Now in it's third year, this easy-going Enduro mountain bike event continues to grow from strength to strength and this year the organisers are hosting a special Davagh Youth Enduro & Family Fun Day on the Saturday before the main event - this Saturday!

Why not make a weekend of it?! 
With this in mind, we thought we'd share some suggestions of a few MTB-Friendly places to eat, drink and sleep near the Davagh Forest Trails this weekend!

 

Apparo, Draperstown  

Apparo Draperstown

This family run restaurant and boutique hotel is located in Draperstown (approx. 8 miles from the Davagh Forest Trails). Priding themselves on using only the freshest local produce, Apparo has gained a excellent reputation as an ideal base for those riding the Davagh Forest Trails. 

 

The Shepherd's Rest, Draperstown 

shepherds rest

A firm favourite amongst visiting mountain bikers, this pub/campsite has scooped the MountainBikeNI.com End of Year Awards for 'Best Apres-Ride Pint' the last two year's running and also picked up the 2014 award for 'Best Non-Serviced Accommodation'. Just 4 miles from the trailhead, The Shepherd's Rest is hard to beat! 

 

Glenavon House Hotel, Cookstown 

Glenavon House Hotel

For those after a bit more luxury, the Glenavon House Hotel (12 miles from the Davagh Forest Trails) is a family-owned 62 bedroom hotel in Cookstown. Overlooking the Ballinderry River, this three star hotel boasts it's own private leisure complex including swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna - a perfect way to ease weary legs after hitting the Davagh Forest Trails. 

 

Crocknagree Cottage, Beaghmore

Crocknagree Cottage

One of the closest self-catering accommodation options to the Davagh Forest Trails, Crocknagree Cottage is a beautiful, four star, two-storey cottage which combines old tradition with all the modern comforts. There are plenty of MTB-Friendly facilities including secure bike storage and drying facilities making this a great spot to base yourself for a weekend riding the Davagh Forest Trails. 

Of course, these are only a selection of where to eat, drink and sleep near the Davagh Forest Trails. Click on the links below for a full list of MTB-Friendly cafes, pubs, restaurants and accommodation options near Davagh Forest, County Tyrone.

Chris Armstrong
Chris Armstrong  Mountain Bike Officer

Chris looks after all things mountain biking in Northern Ireland ...it's a tough job but someone's gotta do it!

Father's Day: Top 12 MTB Gift Ideas!

Posted on June 15, 2015 @ 2:28 PM in Mountainbiking

If like me, you've suddenly realised that Father's Day is this Sunday, yes THIS Sunday (21st June) you are most likely scouring the internet in search of some unique Gifts for Dad this year! 

To lend a helping hand (we're good like that) the team at MountainBikeNI.com has got together to come up with some MTB Father's Day Gift Ideas that we reckon Dad's would really want this year!


Mountain Bike Hire ...Leave 'trusty rusty' in the shed!

Get Dad half day / full day bike hire at Northern Ireland's new mountain bike trail centres

Father's Day MTB Gift Idea

Bike Hire @ Rostrevor
Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails, £20 half day rental with East Coast Adventure 

Castlewellan Forest Park By Electric Bike
Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails, £58 for 2 people (electric bikes) with Life Adventure Centre

Bike Hire @ Davagh Forest
Davagh Forest Trails, £20 half day rental with Outdoor Concepts


MTB Tuition Course ...Teach an old dog new tricks!

Sign Dad up for a mountain bike tuition course out on the trails across Northern Ireland

Father's Day MTB Gift Idea

Mountain Biking Skills Day
Mourne Mountains, £70 (Full Day) with Rock & Ride Outdoors

Davagh MTB Trails Essential Skills
Davagh Forest Trails, £45 (3 hour session) with Far & Wild

1-2-1 Mountain Bike Skills
Any location, £50 (3 hour session) with Summit Mountain Biking

 

MTB Guided Rides ...Well I never knew that!

Heading out with a mountain bike guide can offer extra insight into Dad's favourite trail centres 

Father's Day MTB Gift Idea 

Guided Rides in the Mournes
Mourne Mountains, £55 (bespoke tours available) with Mourne Bikes

Mountain Bike Guiding
Mourne Mountains, £35 for half day ride with Total Guiding

 

Couple MTB Days ...You're sharing this with Mum!

These couples MTB days are perfect for when Dad maybe doesn't deserve ALL the credit! 

Father's Day MTB Gift Idea

Couples Mountain Biking
Blessingbourne Trails, £30 for 2 people including Bike Hire, Tea/Coffee & Snacks

Couples Activity Day
Castle Ward (Multi-Activity), £64 for 2 people with Clearsky Adventure Centre

 

Quirky MTB Gifts ...Nobody's ever bought me this before!!

Some other more unusual mountain bike gift ideas that are sure to surprise Dad this year! 

Father's Day MTB Gift Idea 

Urban Mountain Biking 
Derry~Londonderry (Guided Urban Ride), £40 with Far & Wild

Become a Master with the Spanners
Any location (Bike Maintenance Course), £50 with Rock & Ride Outdoors

Looking for even more inspiration, check out OutdoorNI.com/Gift-Vouchers for loads more activity-related Father's Day Gift Ideas on offer across Northern Ireland this year! 

Chris Armstrong
Chris Armstrong  Mountain Bike Officer

Chris looks after all things mountain biking in Northern Ireland ...it's a tough job but someone's gotta do it!

Action Packed Summer Schemes 2015

Posted on June 11, 2015 @ 12:03 PM in Adventure

This is OutdoorNI.com’s Summer Scheme blog for 2015 but don’t worry we’ve got a brand new blog with details of exciting Summer Schemes for 2016 'Your Ultimate Guide to Summer Schemes 2016'

The summer holidays are edging ever closer and while the kids may be looking forward to eight long weeks off school you may be starting to stress about ways to keep them entertained.

Don’t press the panic button just yet! With so many brilliant summer schemes on offer across Northern Ireland we have handpicked some of the best outdoor programmes with more than enough adventure to avoid boredom setting in. Make it a summer they'll never forget with one of these fantastic summer schemes.

Summer Schemes on the Causeway Coast

Kids Surf Camp,  Long Line Surf School, Benone & Portstewart Strand

Drop the kids off this July to Kids Surf Camp at either Benone or Portstewart Strand where wee ones aged 6-12 will spend 5 days making new friends, working on their surfing skills and playing beach games during these 2 hour sessions with the qualified and fully trained instructors and lifeguards from Long Line Surf School.

Dates:
(Benone & Portstewart Strand) Monday 29th June- Friday 3rd July
(Portstewart Strand only) Monday 6th- Friday 10th July 

Kids SUP Summer Camp, Portrush

Drop your kids off at the beach each day for 5 days of stand up paddleboarding with Troggs Surf School (Northern Ireland's first ASI Accredited SUP instructors). During these 2 hour beginner lessons you child will learn the basic paddling skills and techniques needed to get started in a few easy and fun steps before setting off on an adventure around the harbour.

Dates: Weekly throughout July & August

Summer Schemes in the Mournes

East Coast Adventure Centre’s summer camps, Rostrevor, Co. Down

Back by popular demand East Coast Adventure Centre’s summer camps are set to run Monday to Friday each week throughout July and August. These camps are the ideal solution for families looking for day, weekend or mid-week boredom busting solutions. With a wide range of activities available this programme caters for all ages from 'Little Indians' 8-10 years of age to 'Youth Camps' for 14-16 year olds. 

Dates:
Day Camp (Various dates throughout July & August): Drop the kids off each morning for an action packed day of activities before picking them up on your way home from work. 

Residential Camp (Various dates throughout July & August): Who says the fun has to stop at dinner time stay for the week and toast some marshmallows on the campfire.

Weekend Camp (Friday 3rd- Sunday 5th July): Enjoy a weekend of Action packed activities! Friday 3rd- Sunday 5th July

Wet & Wild Kids Summer Week, Life Adventure Centre, Castlewellan Forest Park

Returning every week throughout July & August Life Adventure Centre's Wet & Wild Kids Summer Week for children aged 8 to 14 years of age, promises action packed adventure. Drop your kids off on your way to work for a week of mountain biking skills on the Castlewellan MTB trails, water sports including canoeing and kayaking on the lake and lots of land activities including group games and archery.

Dates: Weekly throughout July & August

Summer Schemes in Derry~Londonderry

5 Day Summer Camp, Carrowmena Activity Centre, Limavady

Choose between one day or a week full of adventurous activities from high ropes, climbing, zip lining and kayaking to hill walking across Binevenagh to name just a few of the activities on offer for 8-15 years olds. With the option to spend Thursday night camping underneath the stars your kids will head off on a night walk before cooking their dinner on the camp fire, sure to be an unforgettable experience. Special discounts apply for sibling/multiple bookings so book early to avoid disappointment.

Dates:
Monday 13th- Friday 17th July
Monday 10th- Friday 14th August

Summer Schemes in Strangford

Adventure Camp, Clearsky Activity Centre, Castle Ward

Set in the ground of the stunning Castle Ward Estate this is one summer scheme that promises to send the kids back tired and ready for a good night's sleep! Clearsky's adventure camp is suitable for those aged 8-15 years old. Activities range from climbing and pier jumping to canoeing, archery and mountain biking with the week concluding with a family BBQ. Don't panic if you don't have time to drop them off on your way to work, Clearsky will be running a free shuttle bus service from Newcastle, Strangford and Downpatrick each day.

Dates: 
Monday 27th- Friday 31st July
Monday 3rd- Friday 7th August 

Summer Schemes in Belfast

Mobile Team Adventure Summer Scheme, Shaws Bridge, Belfast

With early drop off from 8.30am and late pick up until 4.30pm this is the ideal soloution to keep your kids entertained while you are in work. They are sure to have a fantastic week learning new skills and making new friends with an action packed programme of activities including mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, river tubing and orienteering to name just a few.

Adventure Kidz (5-15 years old)
Mini Kidz (5-8 years old) 

Dates: Weekly throughout July & August

BAC Summer Schemes, Belfast Activity Centre, Belfast

For those looking for action packed adventure in the city check out the summer schemes on offer with the team from Belfast Activity Centre (BAC), the perfect setting for your kids to experience the great outdoors just minutes from the city centre. Running weekly Monday to Friday throughout the summer months the multi-activity programme is ideal for those aged 8-12years. During the week they will get the chance to explore the centre's artificial cave, take on the high ropes challenges and complete team games. For those looking to get out on the water and learn to kayak/canoe then join BAC for their Summer Paddling Programme for some splashing good fun!

Dates: Various dates throughout July & August

The team at BAC also run a highly popular Access Ability programme which tailor's activities for those with disabilities.

Dates:
(14 to 17 year olds) Monday 17th- Friday 21st August
(18 to 25 year olds) Monday 24th- Friday 28th August 

For even more ideas of summer schemes and adventures across Northern Ireland check out OutdoorNI.com. Have a fantastic summer!

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

A Day on the Cycle Sperrins Tour with Far and Wild

Posted on June 9, 2015 @ 4:00 PM in Cycling

On a recent, glorious Spring day I enjoyed a flavour of the new Cycle Sperrins touring route.  Developed by adventure company Far and Wild, these guided or self-guided tours last from one to four days and explore the highlights of this perfect cycling destination, known for its quiet roads and abundance of archaeological sites.


As well as enjoying the beautiful scenery, I got to visit several members of the Sperrins Cycle Consortium, local businesses which cyclists can stop off at en route and get a taste of the local culture and cuisine.

I met the team from Far and Wild, picked up my hire bike and we started our tour from the pretty, Ulster Plantation village of Eglinton.  Close to the shores of Lough Foyle, it’s right beside City of Derry Airport, meaning cyclists can set off on their tour as soon as they land.

Our first stop was Rachel’s Kitchen in the middle of the village, a relaxed café where our choices varied from hearty fries to fresh scones and pastries – an ideal place to fuel up for the day’s journey.

We set off and immediately began to ascend into the Sperrin foothills to the south.  The going was challenging but manageable, helped by occasional stops and the beautiful views which quickly began to open up: over the main summits of the range and back over Lough Foyle.

Our next stop, the busy village of Claudy just off the main road from Derry~Londonderry to Belfast, was reached in time for lunch.  We called into 54 Main Street, a recently refurbished restaurant, café and bar where owner Stephen ensured we were well fed for the next leg of our trip.

Specialties include Sicilian coffee, a range of high quality teas, home baked cakes and pastries and artisan sandwiches.  Their plan is to become a hub for visitors to the Sperrins, by providing packed lunches, changing facilities, secure lock-ups for bikes, a range of meal options including speciality sports nutrition, and transport if needed.

Suitably rested and stocked up, we hit the roads again.  We followed a short but lovely stretch of traffic-free path along the River Faughan through Claudy Country Park before navigating another series of hilly back roads to our next rest stop, the picturesquely located village of Park.  This section, while again tough in parts, was one of the most scenic as we were now in the heart of the Sperrin Mountains.

Our next stop was just a short (uphill) jaunt from the village, and was one of the most unique and memorable of the trip.  Tamnagh Foods, nestled in idyllic scenery in the grounds of a 19th century hunting lodge, is an award-winning artisan producer of cheeses as well as granola, relishes and chutneys.

Co-owner Kevin showed us around the cheese production area and explained the different stages of the process.  Afterwards we got to try Tirkeeran, a delicious new cheese currently being developed.  Visitors are welcome by prior arrangement to see the production area and purchase any of the products.

We said goodbye to Kevin and set off on one of the most anticipated/dreaded parts of the day’s journey.  All day my cycling companions had built up the suspense and challenge of Dart Pass – a minor road ascending the side of Dart Mountain to a high point of about 440m.
The climb was indeed long and exhausting, made bearable only by a chocolate bar break and captivating views of Sawel and Dart, the highest and fifth highest peaks in the range respectively.  My pride was relieved to find I wasn’t the only one who had no choice but to get off the bike and push, on two occasions.  Fortunately cyclists can take an alternative, less tiring route if they wish, marked on the trail map.

It was all more than worth it when we reached the top, however.  After a quick stop to catch our breath, we began the long descent into the lush, green Glenelly Valley and County Tyrone.  This was easily the highlight of the day for me and one of my most exhilarating cycling experiences, helped by the complete lack of cars on this lonely mountain road.

We then followed the main road as it undulated west through the valley, with views of the Glenelly River below and across to the distinctive glacial cut in the Sperrins known as Barnes Gap.

I was glad for a chance to sit down at our next stop, Bradkeel Social Farm.  Our hosts, Mabel and John, treated us to coffee and home-made scones with jam and cream as they told us about their working family farm.  Outside we visited the polytunnels (extra hot in the strong afternoon sunshine), got some tips on growing our own fruit and vegetables (some of which I didn’t realise were suitable for our temperate climate) and watched the animals graze on land which clung to the slopes of the valley. Once again, visitors are welcome by prior arrangement and can stay for lunch to sample home cooking using the farm’s produce.

My day’s cycling ended just a short distance further in the idyllic, crossroads village of Plumbridge.  We called into Watt’s (The Glenelly Bar), a friendly and homely pub which is a great place to relax after a strenous day on the bike.  While I didn’t stay over, there are various accommodation properties in the local area including Sperrins Cycle Consortium members Ballynsollus Cottage (self-catering) and Gortin Accomodation Suite and Activity Centre (hostel and self-catering).

While I was exhausted, it had been a thoroughly enjoyable day and an experience I’ll remember fondly.  It was great to meet the various people living and working in the Sperrins, and a nice sense of achievement knowing we’d started almost at sea level and had cycled up through the foothills and over the main chain of the range – a distance of about 56 Kms / 35 miles (though it felt a lot longer with the challenging terrain).

The suggested Days 2, 3 and 4 of the Cycle Sperrins itinerary take in many more of the region’s highlights (with an option of returning to Ebrington via the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal).  These include the impressive Beaghmore Stone Circles and nearby Davagh Forest Mountain Bike TrailsSt. Aidan’s Church and Holy Well and Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil économusée.  Accommodation options include Consortium members An Teach Glas (self-catering) near Maghera and the glamping lodges at Benone Tourist Complex at beautiful Benone Strand.

As part of the service, Far and Wild provides bike hire and full kit, a map guide, support including pre-arranged end-point pick-up and luggage transfer, emergency call-out, and guiding if required.

To find out more or to book your Cycle Sperrins tour, visit www.farandwild.co.uk/activity/cycle-sperrins/ or www.facebook.com/cyclesperrins

Latest comment posted by Robert Parker on December 9, 2016 @ 1:49 PM

Great post, thank you! My wife and I will be visiting Read more >

Martin McAlinden
Martin McAlinden  TNI's Visitor Information Administration Officer

I currently work in Tourism Northern Ireland's Visitor Information team. Working in this team constantly gives me great ideas of places to explore outside of work which i try to take full opportunity of when i can, whether its to take some photos, do a bit of hill walking or cycling or just see a new area.

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