Torr Hell! The Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive - Cycling Northern Ireland

Posted on April 28, 2017 @ 1:00 PM in Cycling

The summer has been busy for me with lots of work and of course tonnes of cycling. One final sportive before the end of season, I headed to Northern Ireland in September to complete the Giant's Causeway sportive.

I had been very busy all week so I arrived in Antrim with no notion of what I was cycling, where I was headed or what to expect! Usually I would read the official website, look at the route and the elevations but time just ran away for this one. Luckily I rang a friend on the way up  who has done the sportive numerous times and she warned me to only to do the 126km route. The 180km would be a big ask especially with Torr head at the end. She kept coming back to Torr head, saying it was tough, it goes up and up some more... to be honest, I have cycled up the Alps so didn't really pay attention.  How hard can it be?

It's not often I listen to anyone but I was very glad that on this occasion I did. 126km was more than enough. The route is hilly enough and then, having already cycled 103km the fun begins! Or not, I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

Have you ever been on a roller coaster? At the start it chugs up almost vertically and your mouth goes dry. Then it drops considerably along with your tummy. That was the first bit. I don't know how I had never heard of this climb until the day before. Even cycling in the Alps I don't remember any of it being this bad. This Torr hell was relentless. 17 kilometers in total. I would climb up a very steep aspect, it would get a bit level and then it would go up again. I don't know. It seemed to go on and on. Parts are 23% gradient, (that's steep!)  I honestly thought I would just fall over. My arms and abs were killing me later from pulling so hard on the bike. My front wheel kept lifting off the road in an unprovoked wheelie. The views were lovely though, looking up and up and up at a wall ahead with little tiny cyclists. Thankfully the weather was being kind to us so that was something. I had to dig deep and get up this wall. I found my inner Serena Williams, I was grunting and shouting good-oh, along with some fine sailor swearing and it seemed to help no end! Certainly made the guys around me work a bit harder, they thought I was shouting at them!

Gringing my gears on Torr Head

The part of the climb that nearly broke me was when I thought it was over. It had leveled out and seemed like a natural finale. I always look for the top tree / telegraph pole, there was nothing else higher. Then, there, pinned to a fence was "King of the Mountain starts here." I actually screamed at the top of my lungs "AGH F*** RIGHT OFF!!" It meant there was another climb and this section was timed.  No amount of obscenities was going to make this one go away.  Like the lovely demur, classy lady that I am I remembered cycling rule #5, "Man Up." I grew a proverbial pair and got stuck in there.

Not sure how long that stretch was but finally I saw the "King of the Mountain ends here" and that was it done. Some of my group were waiting for me here, others were still behind me. I actually couldn't stop and had to ask the lads to hold the bike still while I fell of it in a heap. One of the chaps was white and looking like he might vomit. My little legs were shaking and I was drenched in sweat. The good news was though we only had 6 kilometers left to the finish. Downhill. The pictures and write ups don't do the climb justice at all, if you want to experience it, get in the car and go. If you're a cyclists and you intend on cycling it,  pack a swear jar.

So the season closed for me on a very steep high. It was tough but I am very glad that I took on the challenge. Another box ticked, another new place visited!

Follow Sinead's blog here.

Sinéad Kennedy
Sinéad Kennedy  Orwell Wheelers

Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor, based in South County Dublin.

She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners and golfers. Recently featured in the Irish Independant, FIT Magazine, her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety. A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including La Marmotte Sportive.

Sinéad has also completed three Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races, Half Marathons and the Camino de Santiago.

'RideNorth' Offers in the Sperrins

Posted on April 24, 2017 @ 4:22 PM in Mountainbiking

If you’ve seen the recent below video of Irish Vitus Factory Team rider Killian Callaghan and WideOpen Mag rider Kelan Grant tearing up the trails in Northern Ireland, hopefully it has inspired you to come to the Sperrins on your next mountain bike trip!

Only 2.5 hours up the road from Dublin (and 1.5 hours from Donegal), Davagh Forest is easily accessible from all parts of Ireland. Often looked at as a 'hidden gem' for mountain bikers in Northern Ireland, Davagh makes the most of incredible natural trails. It is best known however, for it's famous rock slab drops. Be sure to ask the locals about Eagle's Rock and Boundary Rock.

To help encourage you that little bit more, we’re happy to share with you some of the many offers going for mountain bikers!

ACCOMMODATION OFFERS

Cobblers Cottage

 

Offer: 3 Nights for the Price of 2

Bio: One of the closest accommodation sites to Davagh Forest Trails, Cobblers Cottage is a renovated 200 year old home away from home. In addition to plentiful secure bike storage space, there is a bike wash, laundry facilities and the idyllic wood/turf burning stove. Equally however, you’ll still get 4G coverage (with 02) and WiFi!

An Creagan Cottages 


Offer: 3 Nights for the Price of 2

Bio: With 8 cottages at An Creagán (ranging between one bedroom and three bedrooms) you and a squad of friends can stay in comfort only a 10 minute drive from the trails. An Creagán itself has plenty to enjoy while you’re there including a forest trail of its own, the option to hire bikes and a restaurant on site. It also provides free Wi-Fi and plenty of parking.

FOOD AND DRINK OFFERS

The Auction Room

Offer: 10% Off

Bio: The Auction Room is one of the most popular new cafés in Northern Ireland. Winner of the Fréd Award for NI Cycle Café of the Year 16 / 17, spend a few minutes inside and it’s easy to see why. In addition to incredibly friendly staff, their eclectic interior and delicious food, they love to see mountain bikers and cyclists coming through their door. 

Shepherd’s Rest 

 

Bio: A family run pub and campsite, the Shepherd’s Rest is well known to all of the local mountain bikers and has been consistently voted as one of the most popular venues in the “Recommended Apres-Ride Pint” category in the MountainBikeNI Awards. With the upcoming Davagh Enduro sure to mean it will once again be jammed with visiting mountain bikers, the Shepherd’s Pub is a great shout the year round.

To avail of all of these offers, use the code "RideNorth" when booking or purchasing.

To plan your mountain bike road trip to the Sperrins visit MountainBikeNI to see travel times, suggested itineraries and more recommendations on where to eat, drink and stay. 

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Top things to see at Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park

Posted on April 13, 2017 @ 9:32 AM in AdventureWalking

Discover Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park just a stones throw from Belfast City Centre. Donated to the people of Belfast in 1959 by Lady Dixon in memory of her late husband, Sir Thomas, the park covers more than 128 acres and boasts rolling meadows, woodland and gardens.

With 3 newly signed routes, a coffee shop full of delicious treats and fantastic playpark to explore we've picked out some of the top things to see during your visit. 

The International Rose GardenRoses Belfast

The International Rose Garden has made the park world famous, and contains over 20,000 blooms in the summer, the garden also displays the best of the roses from local breeders. Each year thousands of visitors enjoy the rose gardens and associated events during Rose Week in July. In addition, the garden has trial and display beds of cluster and large flowered, miniature, shrub and climbing roses as well as a Princess Diana memorial garden

The Japanese GardenJapanese Garden

The Japanese-style garden with water features for quiet contemplation is ideal for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the City.

Golden Crown FountainGolden Crown Fountain

Commissioned for the Queen's Golden Jubilee The Golden Crown Fountain is a hidden gem within the park for those exploring the newly signposted Garden Trail.

The Magnificent MeadowMeadow Trail

The newly signposted 1.78 mile meadow walking trail follows the parks perimeter and is perfect for those looking to enjoy the flora and fauna on offer in the magnificent meadows filled with orchids, peedweeks, clovers and hayrattle.

The Woodland
Woodland Walk

The new 1.93 mile woodland walking trail takes you through dense woodland before rewarding  you with a spectacular view over the entire park.

Wilmont House
House

In the mid-1800s, the estate was bought by the Bristow family. Wilmont House was built as the family home, designed by Thomas Jackson and completed in 1859. 

The park is also a great base for exploring Lagan Valley Regional Park if you want to keep exploring.

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.

Northern Ireland's Outdoor Adventure Blog outdoorni.com walkni.com cycleni.com canoeni.com