Martin McMullanMichael AndersonRonnie Irvine
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Mountain Biking Memories

Posted on December 2, 2020 @ 11:24 AM in Mountainbiking

Memories have a funny way of slipping away from us unless we think about them from time to time. With Christmas approaching rapidly (and in the backdrop of that thing we'll not mention), we thought it was a good time to look back at some of your favourite memories on the bikes. Get the mulled wine out and enjoy some notalgia as told by you guys!


Oh the stories I could tell about how mountain biking has changed my life and is now keeping my four year old son fit and entertained during C19. I lived in Tenerife for 8 years which is where I got into mountain biking.

I went on a tour from the top of Mount Teide (the Volcano) down to the sea. Weirdly I ended up doing it as a job with tourists part time and fell in love with mountain biking. Through a chain of events I ended up back in Belfast and began work as a youth worker and again, oddly, I completed a course to become a CTC MB trail leader and would regularly bring young offenders out on all the trails in NI day and night trail riding. As well as doing it for my own sanity and the pure joy and thrill of it.

My favourite memory has to be bringing my son AlfieBear down to the Castlewellan trails for his first ever session to see how he would get on. We started at the pump track and his interest began...

Not going to lie, Alife already looks more confident here than I was my first time round a pump track

We never left the pump track for over an hour and then toured around the lower level trails. He absolutely loved it and has really taken to it. I was super chuffed and so proud. He has now been mountain biking in Castlewellan, Barnett Demesne and Tollymore to name a few. I wonder is he to young to do the 27k red trail in Rostrevor?

I love what MTBing has done and continues to do for me and my family - the wife also loves it as she gets to stay at home and watch the Housewives of Harlem or something!

Happy Trails Peeps.



I haven’t been into MTBing for that long but this day up at Davagh Forest has been the best so far. Can’t wait to return.

Sometimes it's the simple days out that can mean the most.


My favourite memory was definitely riding the downhill tracks in Andorra with my 7 year old son!



Any day I'm out with my son and the old boys - but this one beats them all. It was my son's birthday, we took a lads trip to Rostrevor, taking my sons birthday cake up to Kodak Corner.

(We wouldn't have believed it if we hadn't seen the evidence - amazing that it stayed in one piece!)

This picture just makes us happy.


We had a super day out on hired e-bikes from Life Adventure Centre at Castlewellan early in October. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to zip up the hills and trails round Castlewellan lakes.

E-bikes have become a game changer for getting more people onto the MTB Trails

Certainly something I couldn’t usually do if I relied on my own puff!  



Besides my KOM at Yellow Water last week it has to be Redbull Rampage in 2003! Still buzzing!

Anyone else feel their palms get sweaty if they stare at this too long?

Glyn is still rocking the MTB world - check out his Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup.



Just that one time in band camp, when I did 4 days in the Alps. Haven’t got on a bike since, scarred for life!

Despite the fear in Liam's face here, he's still following MountainBikeNI on Facebook, so we reckon he secretly enjoyed it!

You can follow us too! Tell us about any of your future memories - find MountainBikeNI on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Mountain Biking and Mental Health

Posted on November 23, 2020 @ 9:57 AM in Mountainbiking

With everything going on in the world at the minute, we thought we'd reshare our blog on the positive impact mountain biking can have on your mental health. Keep on riding!


The stats on mental health can be quite scary. One in four people will experience a mental health condition at some stage in their life, and if anything, those figures are slightly higher in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK.

Mountain biking should be fun above all else

A specialist in mental health (and avid mountain biker), Eamonn Duffy spoke to MountainBikeNI about some of the many benefits mountain bikers experience:

In recent years, the positive impact regular exercise (like mountain biking) can have on our mental health is an increasingly researched topic. It is well documented that regular exercise can promote good mental health via reducing social isolation, promoting the release of endorphins (or your ‘feel good’ hormones) and promoting a healthy weight which in turn improves self-esteem and confidence, alongside much more.”


An Outlet for Stress

One of the most commonly identified ways in which mountain biking improves mental health is by providing an outlet for stress. This was a recurring theme amongst MountainBikeNI followers, who contacted us in their dozens to agree with the findings.

One rider wrote about how mountain biking was a healing factor for him as he and his partner go through their first round of IVF.

I’ve been welcomed into a few groups and have ‘cycling mates’ who support each other in WhatsApp groups, and who I’ve been able to vent while huffing and puffing my way up fire roads. As a man in my 30’s, that outlet is invaluable, and getting into the habit of talking over where my head’s at is something I know can help in all aspects of life.”

Exercise, being with nature and the satisfaction of a good spin are all beneficial to mental health

Another explained how it gave him ‘smiles per miles’ after having suffered with depression for years. “For me it was a way of relaxing…and leaving everything behind. It gave me something to focus on. Now this year I’m racing in a XC fat bike race for 6 hours. Life’s good, I’m on the up. Everyone who is trying hard to get back to themselves… you can do it. It’s hard yes, but it can be done.”

Work too can play a big factor. Desk jobs can result in a sedentary lifestyle that’s hard to combat. As one mountain biker put it, “I try not to let my work overpower me nor take it home, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen… For me MTBing is my release.”


Making Friends

The social side of mountain biking can be just as important as the physical benefits. Making friends can be difficult as an adult as most people don’t even know where to begin. In the world of mountain biking it is relatively straightforward.

There's something about mountain biking that makes it easy to speak to complete strangers

Meet someone once or twice on your local trails and the next thing you know you’ve been added into a message group of 40 likeminded people probably in a similar situation – just looking for someone to ride with. Don’t be under the assumption that everyone in that group is a high flying, super shredding DH or EWS champion. In reality, they’re likely in the same boat as you.

You can also begin to meet other mountain bikers by joining the MountainBikeNI Trails Team, sponsored by Chain Reaction Cycles. This group meets up a few times a year to help with trail maintenance and litter picking.

As another MountainBikeNI commenter put it, “The social side to mountain biking is fantastic. A big problem in your head going out for a ride, shared with a mate might turn out to be a small problem. A different outlook on a solution to problems, maybe some ideas you hadn’t thought of. The biggest thing is chatting – it doesn’t even need to be about problems or issues, just talk.”


Finding Help

If you need help making that first step into mountain biking, one great resource can be found in the organisation Mind Your Mate and Yourself, formally known as PIPS. They organise a men’s group to ride the Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails every Wednesday. If you'd like to join, simply turn up at Life Adventure Centre in Castlewellan at 9:30am any week. A Ladies group will also be starting at the end of May. For more information on this, follow their Facebook Page.

Some of those who attend the group told MountainBikeNI how beneficial it was. "It gives structure to my week... gets me out, breathing fresh air, burning fat and gaining muscle." "Keeps me from becoming isolated".


Some of the Men's Group from Mind Your Mate and Yourself

Other resources available include:

Aware (another excellent national organisation which provides help for people with depression)

Stop, Breath and Think (a mindfulness based app to help with anxiety and depression)

Lifeline (excellent for a listening ear and advice. They can signpost you to appropriate agencies and / or provide free counselling sessions).

Samaritans (also great for a listening ear / advice and signposting)


We would like to thank Eamonn Duffy for his invaluable input, Jill and all the team at Mind Your Mate and Yourself, as well all the mountain bikers who wrote to us to tell us their stories. Also to the team at Arc Fitness, dedicated to addiction recovery through fitness coaching.

If you would like to create a MTB group or find one in your area, you can visit MountainBikeNI or contact us and we’ll assist you with connecting with others.

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Is This Trail for You?

Posted on September 29, 2020 @ 1:24 PM in Mountainbiking

In last month’s blog, we listed some important advice for new mountain bikers. This month, we’re doing a run down of all Northern Ireland’s official MTB Trail Centres, so the new riders amongst you will get an idea of where you can plan your next trip – and, maybe where you should give a miss for now.

It should be noted that as a general rule of thumb, blue MTB trails should only be tackled my riders with moderate experience and red trails by those who have a lot of experience. Black trails should only be ridden by riders who have years of experience.



Barnett Demesne MTB Trails

Barnett is located at the centre of Belfast and ideally situated for new mountain bikers. With the shortest trail length of any of the other trail centres, one could mistakenly assume that short equals easy.

The trails at Barnett Demesne are incredibly impressive as they manage to pack in a huge amount of riding into a relatively small area. They’re also ideal for all abilities, with 3.4km of green trails, 3.9km of blue trails and 1.5km of gnarly red trail. If you’re in two minds about whether to step up for the red trails, you can expect a few more heavy-duty rock drops, a boardwalk and a short log ride.

It should go without saying that the jump park at Barnett is also only for extremely experienced riders.

Blessingbourne Estate MTB Trails

Located amongst the stately ground of Blessingbourne Estate, the trails here are a fantastic opportunity for riders to get their first taste of a red trail. With 8km of red and 4km of blue, it is super popular with local cyclists as a spot to shred a few laps quickly and has enough variety to make things interesting.

There is almost no climbing at Blessingbourne which means fitness levels aren’t inhibiting to new riders and – as with all of the trail centres – there are plenty of chicken runs if you find that you aren’t ready for some of the features you’ll encounter on the red trails. Don’t be surprised to find you have to do this a few times as the red trails also have a number of more severe optional black features!

Blessingbourne also has a pump track on site, as well as multi use green trails around the Estate, so it’s perfect for all the family.

Castlewellan MTB Trails

Northern Ireland’s most popular trail centre, in terms of visits per year. Castlewellan is another trail centre with a range of trails that will be suitable for anyone. The 4km of green trail will suit children and anyone unfamiliar with a bike, as it hugs the trail around the lake. With only one slight climb on the north side of the lake, this is one for the whole family. It’s also worth pointing out that Castlewellan Forest Park has one of the world’s largest hedge mazes, the Peace Maze. After you’ve had a spin, why not check it out?

A step up from this is Castlewellan’s 4.5km of blue trail which will introduce you to rollers and a few small rock drops before merging back onto the green trail and bringing you back to the trailhead. This is very manageable for anyone with limited to moderate experience on a mountain bike.

The red trail is a different story to that at Blessingbourne. At 19km it has a substantial fitness requirement before you even begin to look at the features. With incredible panoramic views that make those short (but gassy) climbs worth it, the red also shows off the full spectrum of features one could want at a trail centre. There are plenty of rock gardens, drop offs, tabletops and more to keep the adrenaline up so it’s advisable to wait until you’re finding blue trails fairly easy before tackling Castlewellan.

For the hardcore mountain bikers, Castlewellan MTB Trails also has two black trail options – 'Dolly’s Chute' and the always popular 'The Great Escarpe'. Obviously only tackle these if you’re an experienced mountain biker. And even then, caution is advised!

Davagh Forest MTB Trails

Davagh Forest is often referred to as Northern Ireland’s hidden jewel in the MTB scene. Located outside Cookstown, visitors may be surprised when they arrive to find a trail centre with over 20km, a skills park and pump track, some great accommodation and the incredible Dark Sky Observatory (opening on 16th October!)

For those just starting out mountain biking, there is a gentle 3km green trail near to the trail head that takes you along some wide off road trails. Adult beginners may find this too easy, but they’ll be compensated with the stunning beauty of Davagh Forest.

The blue trail (measuring 7.5km) is one of the more challenging blue trails in our list, but all the more enjoyable for it. You’ll climb as you leave the car park and continue to do so, navigating some great rock features, and will have your handling skills tested on some mini switch backs. The back half of the blue trail is a bit more flowy and gives you a nice opportunity to build speed. If you’re tackling this, don’t forget that we’ve all got off our bikes when we hit something that looks a bit too tricky. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Davagh’s red trail is a tour de force of how to build great trails in epic environments. After a challenging climb up the ominously named ‘Widowmaker’, you get to explore some heart-pounding single track offering plenty of berms, sharp descents, rock drops and more. Whilst challenging, the red is certainly manageable for non pro riders, provided you have some experience on red trails before. Just make sure to bring a friend with you for this one, as there are a few rock slab features (Eagle’s Rock anyone?) that are worth giving a miss until your skills have grown appropriately.

Don’t forget to give the Stream Trail a visit while you’re there – and check out the fastest times on Strava if you fancy a challenge!

Rostrevor MTB Trails

Northern Ireland’s most famous trail centre. Rostrevor MTB Trails rightfully deserves its reputation as the jewel in the crown amongst the official trail centres, packing a hefty 27km of red trails along some of the most beautiful scenery on the island.

With no green or blue trails, Rostrevor is probably worth giving a miss if you are new to mountain biking, or even if you’ve only attempted blue trails before.

For those who have ridden a red trail before and are up for a challenge – expect everything you’ve read about in our previous trails and more. Rostrevor starts with a leg burning climb of about 5km, first on fire road and then on switch backs. While you can stop to catch you breath as often as you want, this is also a good reason to have either an e-bike on your ride or a moderate level of fitness.


When you reach the breath taking (literally!) #KodakCorner, allow yourself some time to enjoy the epic views of Carlingford Lough and the Mournes, before moving on to a variety of ascents and descents that will skirt along Slievemeen, Slievemartin and beyond. The features you encounter may not be as sizable as those you’ve met elsewhere, but as you feel the burn of 20km+ of climbing, you’ll need experience and concentration to maintain your flow.

Rostrevor, similar to Castlewellan, is also home to a black trail route – this one a more substantial 19km. This trail navigates a heart-racing section of technical singletrack to meet the return route along Kilbroney Valley back to the trailhead and is a much more challenging route only suitable for experienced mountain bikers.

We can’t forget the two purpose built downhill trails; Mega Mission and On the Pulse also require a high level of technical ability to manage the compilation of jumps and boulder fields you’ll find here.

Looking for more information on trail grade specification? Check out our descriptions on MountainBikeNI!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

7 Bits of Advice for New Mountain Bikers

Posted on August 7, 2020 @ 1:00 PM in Mountainbiking

Northern Ireland's Mountain Bike Trails have seen a drastic increase in numbers during lockdown as more and more people turn to nature to get their exercise groove on. With that in mind, we asked our followers for advice they would give to new mountain bikers that are maybe just starting out. Enjoy!


1) "Talk to other bikers"

Mountain biking is a profoundly social sport at heart. New mountain bikers, as they're getting to grips with how to handle rock drops and lean into corners, will probably be out with friends. When you bump into other riders, maybe just before descending Run Ragley Run at Davagh Forest MTB Trails, don't be afraid to say hi. Mountain bikers love to talk shop on trails, bikes or even just the weather. We're a friendly bunch really.

2) "BUY A HELMET" / "Trees don't move out of the way"

Two pieces of advice for the price of one! Buy a helmet. Use it. Why? Because trees don't move out of the way, as you'll quickly come to realise. Helmets are literal life savers and every mountain biker you ever meet, from the pros at the top to the weekend warriors ripping up the local trails will tell you that you NEED a helmet. 


3) "It's about having fun"

Strava times and insane jumps are great, but all mountain biking should be about fun. Portraying it as a a 100% high flying, gravity defying ultra sport actually prevents more people from getting into the sport (and possibly, eventually joining in the extreme stuff). Do it your way and don't get too hung up on the super skills that some people are able to show off as they blitz past you on the trails at Blessingbourne Estate.


4) "Consider your budget"

Buying a bike for the first time is 9 parts exciting, 1 part scary. Don't let the scary bit put you off. If you're unsure of what bike suits you best (are you a 27.5 rider or a 29er? E-bike or hard tail? How about a full sus?)then talk to somebody. The team at Chain Reaction Cycles are experts at helping people choose their first mountain bike - just give them an idea of your budget and they'll throw plenty of different options your way. A word of warning, as you fall in love with the sport, you may find yourself eyeing that second bike. And then third...

5) "Ride at your own pace on trails within your skill level, but still challenge yourself from time to time"

Similar to 'It's about having fun' but with an extra emphasis on the features. Features, if you're not familiar with the term, are the obstructions or varients in the trails which you'll encounter along the way. It's important when you're starting out to not let yourself get caught up in what you think you should be able to do. When you come to tackle your first rock drop (like the one below at Barnett Demesne MTB Trails), decide if you're happy to give it a go. If not, keep practising on the smaller ones until you feel you've got the hang of it. Then, when that day comes, go for it and enjoy the buzz!

6) "Look where you want to go, not at the stuff you want to avoid"

A straight forward piece of MTBing advice as old and true as time. Your hands have a tendency to follow your eyes, so don't lock on that tree that's up ahead. Instead, track the trail with your eyes as you move and you'll find that all those rocks actually pass much easier than you would have expected. An ideal place to practise this is the boardwalk at Rostrevor MTB Trails.


7) "When you get older, after falling off a mountain bike for 30 years, all those injuries are gonna come to haunt you, so give them time to heal!"

When the day comes that you fall off your bike for the first time (and it will come) then get up, pat yourself down and examine the damage. As this commenter put it, those smacks start to add up so if you feel you've done any damage, call it a day and allow yourself time to fix up.

Looking for some more advice? Pro rider Dan Wolfe made a video of great tips for new mountain bikers at Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails which you can see here.

Latest comment posted by Arun on August 13, 2020 @ 9:16 AM

It is nice to know about these tips, and I feel it will help all adventure sports enthusiasts. I am a biker, and I also love being a stunt pilot. I got trained from a camp arranged by ... Read more >

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Sperrin View Glamping at Davagh Forest

Posted on February 28, 2020 @ 3:20 PM in Mountainbiking

Having somewhere to stay close to MTB Trails is always a joy; you can leave your things there when you set off and can put your feet up when you come back. The lovely folk at Sperrin View Glamping contacted the MountainBikeNI team and offered your favourite blogger Kerry a chance to check out their newly opened pods!

On 31st January, Sperrin View Glamping opened its doors – a new dark skies space near Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails that allows campers to sleep in a luxurious pod with the best view of the night sky.

They invited MountainBikeNI to come down and spend a night, and I couldn’t refuse! I set off after work from Belfast, which takes just over an hour and a quarter, and arrived on the Blackrock road.

I passed Beaghmore Stones and shortly after, the subtle lighting revealed the site. I pulled up into the car park and walked across the Communal Hub where I was greeted by owner Michael, who couldn’t have given a warmer welcome, including a lit fire at the hub!

The hub is, simply put, amazing. There’s nothing they haven’t thought of; a kitchen for guests to use any time they wish, a bathroom, and plenty of space to chill out, play some board games, or sit in the reading corner. The attention to detail in here was fantastic, with all the décor and little pieces carefully strung up or placed around the room – it feels modern, but still has that homely Northern Irish touch.

The pods are like a larger version of the TARDIS - way bigger on the inside

All the buildings have been designed with such a unique design

Every detail is thought of inside

Walking towards the pods, it felt like being on another planet. The one thing you can’t miss are the giant windows on each pod. I was immediately excited to get inside and start the stargazing.

As you walk around the back, there are picnic tables and little firepits ready for anyone brave enough to brace the colder evenings or toast a marshmallow in the warmer ones.

Michael then showed me the inside - wow! As you walk in there is a spacious bathroom to the side with a good-sized shower. On the other side of the room is a sofa which can be pulled out into a sofa-bed if needed. There is a fridge, kettle, and plenty of materials for keeping your outdoor fire alive. Mairead, who also owns the site popped down and gave another warm welcome. She also revealed the cheese board made up in the fridge for us! They suggested some places to go for food near the area and left us to get settled in.

Towards the front of the pods there are some large stairs that lead up to the giant window and the first-floor bed. There is also a TV but watching the sky is a much better alternative! There is then another bed up a wooden ladder, so 5 can fit in it in total.


Mountain bikers will love the design every bit as much as kids will.

After a quick cup of coffee, we headed out to get some food in nearby Cookstown which is only a 20-minute drive out from the site. One thing to keep in mind is that if you are arriving a bit later on in the evening midweek and planning to eat out, aim to get out as early as possible.

Eventually we found somewhere to stop and enjoyed a nice cold drink along with our meal. Alternatively, the kitchen in the communal hub is totally decked out so if you wanted to bring along food and cook, there is more than enough equipment to whip up a storm.

Cooking is very much an option

On returning to the pods, we lit the fire out the back and brought out the cheese board to enjoy under the stars – what an experience! Even though it was a cloudy night, when there was a break in the sky, the stars were so bright.

Just a taster of some of the incredible views you can expect

Determined to see some constellations, I kept my eyes peeled and luckily, I was able to spot some of the obvious ones like Orion’s belt. It’s incredible how small looking at the night sky can make you feel. It’s so vast and this was the perfect way to escape the city lights to experience them. After demolishing the cheeseboard and warming up by the fire, it was time for bed, but not before checking the window for one last peek at the stars.


Sometimes work isn't so bad

The expectation with glamping might be that despite not being in a tent, it’s still cold, but that’s not the case with Sperrin View as they were very cosy, and the beds were really comfortable!

Waking up, the first thing you want to do is open the curtains of the window to see the difference from night-time to daylight; It was bright outside, but I knew it was going to be a colder one. We got out of bed, got ready and headed over the hub where we had our breakfast – opting for cereal but the facilities are there for anyone wanting to have a more adventurous breakfast!

After this I headed back to the pods to chill out for a little bit longer before heading off to explore. My first port of call was Beaghmore Stone Circles, only 2 minutes up the road from the site, and a really interesting place to visit. The stones are all so perfectly placed in circles, its eerie but faciniating – experts think that the stones mimic the comets and constellations in the sky.


Beaghmore Stones are just a short drive away

My next stop was, you’ll not be surprised to hear – was Davagh Forest Mountain Bike Trails which is really handy to the site, only a 5-minute drive away and very easy to find.

Davagh is such a great spot for all levels of mountain biking abilities, making Sperrin View the perfect overnight stay location for anyone wanting to shred. Davagh also has a number of walking trails so if you’re taking along a non-mountain biker but want to hit the trails yourself, there’s plenty of options!

The beauty of a dark sky site is that, you don’t have to pine for brighter evenings and longer days, because the magic happens when the sky is lit only by the moon and stars, it’s the perfect year-round destination – provided there isn’t complete cloud cover.

I couldn’t recommend this site anymore, it’s just amazing! The attention to detail, the hospitality and the location is ideal! Michael and Mairead are brilliant and the whole experience was unreal!

To see more and to book your stay, head to


Locations like this are few and far between; the level of thought and care that has gone into every detail of Sperrin View Glamping is incredible. We can't recommend it enough the next time you're taking a spin on the trails!

Latest comment posted by Celine barr on May 14, 2021 @ 2:26 PM

How much are the pods in July and august Read more >

Kerry Kirkpatrick
Kerry Kirkpatrick  Assistant Marketing and Events Officer

A true North Coast water baby, happiest when on the beach.

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