Bear Grylls Island Survival Academy – it may hurt a little…

Posted on May 11, 2017 @ 3:17 PM in Adventure

Just as I was beginning my après lunch coffee in Belle Isle Castle’s Grand Hall a team of menacing uniformed figures marched in.  They were on a mission, their leader Will quickly briefed us on the afternoon ahead. In fact, he told us very little (a theme which would remain for most of the day), only to dress appropriately as we will get wet and dirty and to be in a Land Rover outside at 1400. They left to the sound of a pin dropping in the background...

We piled into the Land Rovers and raced off into the grounds of Belle Isle Estate before arriving on the shores of Upper Lough Erne.  Following more instructions from Will (again suitably brief), we were equipped with buoyancy aids and paddles before venturing out onto the Lough. Just as I was beginning to take delight in the peaceful tranquillity an orange smoke flare set off from an island begin us.

After landing our kayaks on mass at the wooded island, we followed Will and his brigade to a pre-prepared campsite. Heath (another man not to be messed with) further focused our minds as he instructed us on how to safely use a knife during the remainder of the day.  The term ‘triangle of death’ (the area between your two kneecaps and you know where) will remain with me for a while.

The first task was to prepare a warm drink with a spark, a tampon and a Kelly Kettle.  Although no Café Latte, we were able to fashion a nice cup of coffee. Will and Heath then demonstrated their soft side and passed around the Jaffa Cakes. Just one each, they didn’t want to spoil us.

We split up into groups and rotated through several different exercises.  During the first, Will provided detailed instruction on the dark arts of concealment before issuing some camouflage cream and netting.  He then gave us two minutes to hide in the undergrowth within 20 paces before he came to find us.  I am immediately ran over 40 paces away, frantically covering myself in netting, diving into the biggest bush I could find and then closing my eyes in the hope that this would further help prevent my capture – it didn’t!  

With Heath’s guidance, we then became trackers carefully following a trail of footprints through the forest.  We achieved our goal with 20 seconds to spare. My two-year-old doesn’t stand a chance the next time we play hide and seek.

Following a short exercise in shelter building we returned to camp to be greeted by Venison Hot Dogs – a magic combination. After which the competitive spirits were raised with a round of axe-throwing.

As we walked back to the kayaks, this previous group of strangers were laughing and sharing fond stories of an excellent adventure. As it turned out we didn’t quite have one foot into the luxurious Belle Isle Estate just yet. Somebody had stolen half of the kayaks.  Will and Heath looked slightly sheepish although no one dared make any accusations.

The newly bonded group worked together to construct a raft to bring the remaining party ashore. I overheard the instructors trading bets on the raft’s chances of success – our odds weren’t good!

However, the raft optimistically named ‘Titantic II’ defied the odds and we reached the shore successfully.

The Land Rovers whisked us back to the luxurious accommodation afforded throughout Belle Isle Castle and Cottages, before enjoying a delicious dinner in the Castle’s Grand Hall, produced using the finest local ingredients.

Belle Isle Estate is the exclusive destination of the Bear Grylls Island Survival Academy. For more information on tailored incentive and corporate experiences contact:

Belle Isle Estate  

+44 (0) 28 66 387231

info@belle-isle.com

Chris Scott was a guest at the official launch of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy at Belle Isle Castle and Private Island

Photos within this blog are kindly provided by Ken McBride Photography

 

Chris Scott
Chris Scott

Having 'retired' from competitive sailing he is trying to find something new to fill the void. Currently mixing it up with 10ks, trail running and adventures with his two year old son.

Get Wet With A Watersports Club Near You

Posted on May 9, 2017 @ 10:53 AM in Adventure

There are lots of exciting come and 'have a go' watersport sessions happening across Northern Irleand over the next couple of weeks for £10 or less as part of Get Wet NI 2017. With no experience necessary, all equipment provided and many of the activities suitable for individuals, families and groups of friends, there really is no excuse not to try something new out on the water this May!

Sailing Northern Ireland

Set Sail

Try Sailing Day, Lough Neagh Sailing Club, Craigavon, Co. Armagh, Sat 13th May
An introductory session aimed at providing a taste of sailing to beginners on the largest freshwater lake in NI.

Try Boating Session for people with DisabilitiesBelfast Lough Sailability, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, Sat 13th May
Come and have a go sailing in speciality boats for wheelchair users and those with limited mobility.

Sailing Taster at Cushendall, Cushendall Sailing & Boating Club, Co. Antrim, Sat 20th May
Set sail and learn the basics before taking the helm in the stunning setting of Cushendall.

Come & Try It Day, Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, Holywood, Co. Down, Sun 21st May
A day of fun on and off the water experiencing the excitement of sailing.

Womens Introduction to Dinghy Sailing , Newcastle Yacht Club, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
An opportunity for the ladies to try out sailing in picturesque Dundrum bay. 

Push The Boat Out Northern Ireland

Push The Boat Out & Try Something New

Introduction to Sailing, Canoeing & Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Holywood Yacht Club, Holywood, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
An action packed day of activities on the water inlcuding sailing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and driving a power-boat. Ideal for beginners and families, come along and give it a go.

Try Sailing & Kayaking, East Down Yacht Club, Downpatrick, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
Try sailing and kayaking at East Down Yacht Club in a variety of boats, no sailing experience needed. A fantastic opportunity to learn more about the sport, chat with members and feel the atmosphere of the club.

Try Sailing & Windsurfing Taster Day, Craigavon Watersports Centre, Sun 14th & Sun 21st May
Try the exciting sport of sailing and windsurfing with experienced instructors at Craigavon Lakes.

Diving Northern Ireland

Diving

Try Sub Aqua DivingLisburn Sub Aqua Club, Lisburn Swimming Pool, Co. Down, Thur 18th May
Experience the freedom of swimming underwater without needing to come up for air during this fun intro session. This pool based session is a low cost way to have a go at this truly unique experience.

Canoeing Northern Ireland

Canoe/Kayaking

Come & Try It Canoe SessionsCounty Antrim Paddle Sports, Portglenone Marina, Co. Antrim, Sat 27th May
Learn the basics of canoeing before paddling upriver to Porglenone Forest. 

Sunset Paddle, Share Discovery Village, Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh, Wed 31st May & Fri 2nd June
An excellent introduction session to canoeing. Take in the spectacular scenery as you learn the basics or improve your skills at sunset with an expert team of instructors.

For more events check out GetWetNI.com

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.

Getting to know each other by getting to know Ireland – A weekend of Exploration on the Causeway Coast

Posted on May 8, 2017 @ 12:53 PM in Walking

The metaphor of the journey is often used to describe a person’s life. Never has it been more fitting than in capturing the experience of Dublin woman Mairead Donnelly. Since meeting her boyfriend Donal McAsey last year Mairead has literally been on a journey through Ireland. Early in their relationship the pair decided that they would use travel and discovering Ireland as a way of getting to know each other. Over the past eight months the couple has explored Dublin, Wicklow, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Wexford, Clare, Meath and Belfast. 

 Causeway Cliff Path Walk

From left - Donal, Mairead, Hope and Conor 

An avid walker Donal was keen to share his love of hiking with Mairead and as any Irish walker will tell you the key to enjoying it in this country is having the right gear. So in autumn last year determined to throw herself into the walking adventure Mairead took herself off to the wholly Irish owned store 53 Degrees North in Carrickmines.  

As luck would have it the visit coincided with a competition co-hosted by 53 Degrees North and WalkNI. The coveted prize a three night stay for four people in Atlantic Way Portrush, a popular self-catering accommodation and a guided cliff walk along the world renowned Causeway Coast Way with Belfast based company Away a Wee Walk. Without thinking too much about it – Mairead completed the entry card and was delighted when she received news that she had won the competition.

“I was thrilled to win the prize. It has been awhile since I was up North and I knew instantly who I would bringing with me – Donal of course and my friend of 22 years Hope and her husband Conor.”

Mairead and her boyfriend Donal travelled North on Friday morning. “We would love to have driven the entire coast from Dundalk but it would have taken too long, so instead we opted to drive to Belfast and from there we followed the Causeway Coastal Route from Carrickfergus, through to Cushendall and on to Ballycastle via Torr Head.”

Stopping off en-route at Carrickfergus Castle to have a look Donal described the experience:  "The castle was beautiful and oozing with history, I was told by an employee in the castle that he was giving a demo on the different suits of armour and weapons used back then, I was excited when he chose me amongst other adults and children that I was able to try out the plate suit of armour. This gave me an insight of what it felt like on, but I couldn't imagine going into battle with something as heavy"

The intrepid pair later stopped off and took a courageous and breath defying walk across at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge before arriving in Portrush in the late afternoon.

“Una had texted me a code for the key safe and we were able to let ourselves in. The house is beautiful, very cosy, everything you could need including a stocked fridge and we immediately felt at home. We were greeted by a welcome note and four chocolates on the table, and a chocolate by our bed side. It was such a lovely gesture”.

 Atlantic Way Portrush

A keen walker herself Una Lynch owner of Atlantic Way Portrush added “It has been great to meet Mairead and her boyfriend Donal. I was delighted to sponsor the competition. Atlantic Way Portrush is a new venture for me and I have tried to create a little ‘home form home’ for visitors. Over the past year the house has provided a second home for visitors from all over Europe, USA, Australia and China. But it is always lovely to have Irish guests. Those who are visiting the North Coast for the first time are often surprised by how beautiful it is. The Giant’s Causeway is usually the reason for visiting but the spectacular coastline, beaches and restaurants are some of the reasons for returning.”

 

Hope Hand a doctor in Dublin’s Mater hospital travelled up after work with her husband Conor Hand on Friday evening. “I was delighted when Mairead invited us to join her for the weekend. It is great to get out of the city and into the countryside – breathing in the Atlantic air is such a tonic.”

On Saturday morning Mairead and her friends met with Eimear Flanagan of ‘Away a Wee Walk’ for a guided walk from Dunseverick Castle to the Giant’s Causeway.

Driven by passion for walking and sharing the beauty of nature with visitors Eimear explained:  “We are so lucky to live in a country with such magnificent scenery. The cliff walk from Dunseverick to the Causeway rivals any walk in the world for beauty. The National Trust has done some great work conserving the path condition and making it accessible and I love sharing the experience with visitors like Mairead and her friends, it is such a privilege. Observing the awe with which people react to the scenery is so rewarding. We were blessed with fantastic weather and magnificent views of Rathlin and Scotland. The highlight for me was hearing Donal say that if he had 'come to the Causeway and only learned about the cliff path afterwards, he would have been so annoyed'.  The Victorians were more familiar with the path than we are today, that is changing though.  Without a doubt the Causeway stones are a significant feature of the coast, but they are certainly not the entire event.”

 

 

Walking is only part of the odyssey that Mairead and Donal have embarked on. Mairead explained “Coming to Portrush has also given us the opportunity to visit the Bushmills distillery and sample the world famous whiskey. In addition to the walking this past year we have also been visiting other Irish breweries and distilleries. James Gate, Teelings, the Whiskey museum and Smithwicks.”

On Sunday morning Mairead and her friends took the ferry from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island, Conor explained "we agreed we would walk around the Island instead of taking the bus, it was a beautiful walk up towards the lighthouse and I was amazed that we could view Scotland from there it was beautiful, I could of walked for miles.”

Maximising every minute of the trip the group returned to Portrush from Ballycastle via the 200 year old "Dark Hedges" made famous by the Game of Thrones.  Mairead explained "We wanted to visit as many places as we could during our stay, we are early risers and love to learn about each county we have been to and this was a great opportunity to do the same while being up North,”

On Monday morning everyone was up early. Inspired by Mairead and Donal’s experience Hope and Conor headed home along the scenic Causeway Coastal Route.  Mairead and Donal took time to explore the ruins of the 16th Century Dunluce Castle on the fringes of Portrush, "It's history was explained well by an Audio we had seen in the discovery room, we then made our way around the castle and got spectacular views out across the Coastline."

Poignantly yet fittingly the couples final stop was to pay their respects at the Dunlop Memorial in Ballymoney" Donal explained "Joey Dunlop was described as "King of the Roads, himself and his brother Robert were legends and tragically lost their lives doing what they did best, motorcycle racing, the memorial was set up in Ballymoney in 2010 and I wanted to go see it personally myself so we stopped by.”

Reflecting on their trip Mairead said "We were sad to leave, we really enjoyed our stay and plan to come back one day soon again, Una and Eimear had really made it special for all four of us, we have learned so much and love it up North.”

Looking to the future Donal said "We have plans to travel around Ireland within the next coming weeks months and years, we want to head down south, possibly around Co. Cork, Kinsale etc. eventually when we have our own country travelled we will be travelling abroad for new walks and adventures. Mairead added "I will be putting our first scrap book together of all the places we visit so we can look back on it in years to come." I'm very blessed I have someone to venture from place to place with creating great memories and learn new things. Anyone who feels that this country is short of places to see and things to do, I'd love to show them differently.”

Giants Causeway

Atlantic Way Portrush accommodates four people and can be booked via AirBnB, TripAdvisor and Booking.com.  For more information contact Una Lynch + 44 7825509441 AtlanticWayPortrush@gmail.com

Guided walks with Away a Wee Walk can booked online or contact Eimear Flanagan for more information +44 78 3770 3643 eimear@awayaweewalk.com

Article by Una Lynch 

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

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