2016's Queen of the Mountain

Posted on August 11, 2017 @ 3:14 PM in Cycling

One of the most iconic sportives in Northern Ireland, the Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive takes place this year on Saturday 9th September with support from DiscoverNI. In the lead up to the event, participants eagerly train to be in with a chance of winning the specially timed segment up the infamous Torr Head. The fastest male earns the title of King of the Mountain and fastest female, Queen of the Mountain.

We caught up with the 2016 Queen of the Mountain, Claire Vernon, to hear her thoughts on the day. Claire is a keen cyclist from Belfast who rides with Phoenix Cycle Club. She flew up Torr Head’s QOM Segment in a seriously impressive 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Torr Head tops out at 1,210 feet with a gradient hitting over 20% in places and an average gradient of 8%.

I had originally planned to do the longer, more formidable route but due to last-minute social commitments (and since I sacrifice enough of my social life for cycling) I thought I’d forgo the 115 mile-route (what a martyr!) and do the 85-mile cycle instead.

Since I no longer had the challenge of completing the longest leg in one of the toughest sportives in the UK and Ireland, my sportive buddy had planted the idea in my head of completing the 85-mile route in under 5 hours. So, with that goal in mind, and charged with a healthy dose of competitive spirit (sure, it would be good if I managed the sub 5-hour target but it would be even better if I beat my friend to the finish line…), I set off like the hammers.

The first section is a bit of a blur as I hopped from group to group, depending on which one offered the best speed/shelter ratio. Unfortunately to meet my target I had to skip two of three feed stations. I opted for the middle one, where my sportive partner had allocated a strict 10-minute time limit to stuff a ham bap into my gob.

Knowing that Torr Head now awaited me, I was lucky enough to receive a tow along the coastal road by a strong two-man team putting in some kind of time trial-esque effort. I’m not quite sure why they chose to do this in the lead up to Torr Head, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.

For some reason I thought the QOM challenge was on the very first part of Torr Head, so I attacked the first steep, winding section until I felt sick. Eventually, after dodging cars, fellow cyclists and sheep, I saw a roadside marker indicating the actual start of the segment, about three quarters of the way along Torr Head, leaving me wondering “What kind of masochist decided to place it here?!”

 

Claire's winning Torr Head ascent captured by sportive photographer IndustryImage.

I really was truly spent by that stage, but I summoned some inner strength by recalling all those times I’d been charging up a hill on a training ride and someone shouted out their car window “Keep ‘er lit!” – which always gives me a little boost.

(Maybe during future Giant's Causeway Coast Sportives you could have a roadside speaker that blares out “Keep ‘er lit!” at participants?)

With legs burning and heart frantically beating, I finally trounced Northern Ireland’s most ball busting climb. After enjoying the thoroughly dissatisfying descent off Torr Head (a climb that deserves a much better descent), I rolled into Ballycastle, finishing under 5 hours and – more importantly – beating my friend by a good 5 minutes.

 

Claire collects her QOM Prize from Chain Reaction Cycles Belfast Flagship Store.

If you want a chance to tackle the event’s KOM / QOM segment on either the 85 or 115 mile route, you can register for the Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive on the event website, and keep up to date with everything via our Facebook page. If you’re planning to earn the title, the time to beat for King of the Mountain is 6 minutes and 40 seconds; and 8 minutes 46 seconds for Queen of the Mountain. Learn more about the stunning Causeway Coast via Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

Claire Vernon
Claire Vernon  Cyclist and QOM at GCCS 2016

5 Things you didn't know about the Mourne Mountains

Posted on July 20, 2017 @ 4:25 PM in Walking

There is a saying "you learn something new everyday" and we did just that when we caught up with tour guide Peter Rafferety owner of Walkthemournes.com based in the beautiful Mourne Mountains. Peter really is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to interesting facts on this spectacular area and we couldn't wait to share with you these 5 interesting facts you may not have known about the Mournes. 

The Mourne Wall

Mourne Wall

You may find this hard to believe but this 22 mile long, 1.5m high and 0.8m thick wall, which took 18 years to build and crosses 15 mountains was constructed by hand! 

Built using classic dry stone wall techniques (no motar used!) and granite from local quarries, the wall which encloses 9,000 acres of mountainous terrain, was designed to keep farm animals away from the reservoirs and rivers. The wall passes the peak of each mountain except 'Rocky' where it skirts around the summit.

Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous Plants Northern Ireland

Believe it or not the Mournes has 2 types of carnivorous plant the 'Butterwort' and the 'Sudew', but don't panic contrary to what some people had heard, these plants do NOT! eat humans and the sheep are also safe.

As the soil where these plants grow is so poor in nutrients they catch small flies and the dreaded midge to provide their food. Not easily spotted by the untrained eye but the Walk The Mournes guides can usually find some depending on the time of year.

Smugglers
Smugglers Northern Ireland

The Mournes was once a hiding place for some infamous smugglers.You may have seen clues to this if you have been to Bloody Bridge Car Park. 'The Smugglers Head' sculpture by artist Ralf Sander was inspired by the smuggling activitiy that was rife in the Mournes in the 18th & 19th Centuries. 

Ships would dock in Newcastle at the foot of the Mountains with their illegal proudce including coffee, tea, silk, tobaccco and wine before trekking their way through the Mournes on horseback along the Brandy Pad which crosses the top of the two valleys. But did you know they had a secret cave to store and hide their goods from customs men? Peter has lots of stories of their escapades hiding from the customs men and will take you into the hidden 'Smugglers Cave' to see where they hid! Certainly not for those of a nervous disposition you will have the opportunity to enter the cave and crawl along a ledge to a small chamber (hopefully Peter remembers the torch!).

Stone Cutting

Mourne Granite

Most people as they walk through the Mournes think what they see in front of them is the way it was left after the last ice age 10,000 years ago but nothing could be further from the truth. 

The Mourne Men are famous the world over for their great skill in working with stone, a skill that is not just learnt but bred into them. 150 years ago hundreds of men and boys toiled at cutting the Mourne Granite using only hand tools. The granite stone had many uses in the 18th & 19th centuries for buildings, millstones and was even used in cobbled streets, the stones of which were designed in such a way that that when horses hooves wore down the surface the cobble could be taken out, turned and replaced.

World War ll

Mournes World War 2

You may think that the Mournes had no connection with World War 2 but you will be amazed at the evidence you will find yourself walking on. Shrapnel remnants of bombing practice from off-shore American Navy ships from World War ll (70 years ago) still continue to be found here....don't worry though it's unlikely you'll come across any unexploded shells!

The aim of Walkthemournes.com is to help both visitors and locals discover and enjoy all the area has to offer. Some people find it a bit daunting to set out on their own so never actually get to experience the fantastic mountains. This is where Walk The Mournes guided tours are even more beneficial as people have the security of a professional qualified guide to look after them. To find out more about the tours offered check out their website: Walkthemournes.com, phone 028 4176 3297 or email: peter@walkthemournes.com.

Latest comment posted by Rodney Magowan on July 28, 2017 @ 10:11 PM

enjoyed this list of 5 - thanks apart from Americans shelling the Mournes the hills are also the site of many sad wartime crashes by allied aircraft, RAF, commonwealth, Polish etc. You may have ... Read more >

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.

Former Irish Downhill Champion Visits Davagh and Blessingbourne

Posted on July 17, 2017 @ 6:41 PM in Mountainbiking

Newry-based mountain biking legend Glyn O'Brien and fellow adventurer wife Catherine took a trip west to Blessingbourne Estate and Davagh Forest recently to visit the mountain bike trails on offer there.

Blessingbourne Estate

On a typically damp summer evening we made our way to the beautiful Blessingbourne Estate, in Fivemiletown, Co.Tyrone.

 

The trailhead at Blessingbourne Estate MTB Trails.

 

The rain certainly hadn't dampened anyone's spirits as the estate was buzzing with families arriving to stay in the fabulous 5 star self-catering accommodation. After a warm welcome from Colleen & Nick, we ventured out on the trails, neither of us having been to Blessingbourne since the recent extension.

 

OB2!

 

We both had forgotten how much fun could be had on some of the original features such as the Crocodiles back and Snakes trail. From winding boardwalks, flowing berms and skinny log rides to challenging rock drop-off options alongside the main trail, Blessingbourne really has something for everyone.

 

A different view of the Blessingbourne trails with my big head stuck in the middle of it! 


Cato keeping focused on the Crocodile's Back


We were reminded what a fun, family-friendly venue it really is - and so much craic for grown ups too! We even enjoyed a game of table tennis and swing ball after our ride!

 

Davagh Forest

Next day we arrived at Davagh Forest, situated in Co Tyrone. We noticed that a fabulous new play park had been added since our last visit. Despite the poor weather the trails were busy with riders of all ages.

There's something pretty magical about Davagh Forest.

 

The notorious "Widow Maker" climb never seems to get any easier but the laborious climb is well-rewarded with the sweepy descents of 'Big Wig Jig' and 'Run Ragley Run'.

 

Encouragement for the Widowmaker!

 

Every time we go to Davagh we always find a new treasure on the trails - with many variations for riders of all abilities. This time was no exception. Although we love the notorious features such as Boundary rock and Wolfs Hill there are many other rocky outcrops to play on along the way.

 

Tearing down one of Davagh's finest trails on a slightly damp summers day. I reckon its better when its wet anyway! 

 

The newer 'Stream trail' is riding like a dream - always a fast few minutes of whoopy fun!

Of course we couldn't leave Davagh without calling into The Sheperds Rest, a family-run bar located just 10minutes from the trail head. We were welcomed in our muddy gear and sat beside a warm fire with a pint of Guinness and a hearty post-ride meal. The pub has been in the family since the 1930s and we enjoyed a bit of a history lesson from Colin the owner.

 

We definitely earned these pints.

 

All in all we had a super weekend re-discovering some of the fun to be had in our local trail centres, and we hope to visit again very soon! Returning home from 3 weeks racing and riding in Europe it was refreshing to be reminded of the fantastic trail centres and facilities we have on our own doorstep!

 

For information on the MTB Trails at Blessingbourne Estate or Davagh Forest visit MountainBikeNI.com. Glyn is the founder of FirstTracksMTB.com - who offer coaching in mountain biking and run the much loved Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup.

Latest comment posted by Peterson on September 16, 2017 @ 4:36 PM

This is a post which is presented a visits of former Irish Downhill Champion Glyn O'Brien & fellow adventurer wife Catherine. They visited a trip west to Blessingbourne Estate & Davagh Forest. I ... Read more >

Glyn O'Brien
Glyn O'Brien  Professional Mountain Biker

Glyn has a career spanning over 30 years on 2 wheels – from BMX, Moto X and DH. Some of his career highlights include 3rd Redbull Rampage, 2nd Masters Worlds Champs and Irish DH Champion. Glyn’s passion for riding remains as strong as ever and he wants to instill his experience and enthusiasm into the rest of the team he races with.

Photo Blog of Davagh Forest and Blessingbourne Estate

Posted on June 27, 2017 @ 5:01 PM in Mountainbiking

Can't keep up #bluetrail #6yearold #blessingbournemountainbikingtrails #blessingbourne #merida #bigtrail800

A post shared by Trigger (@run_trigger_run) on Dec 31, 2016 at 8:42am PST

 

We love seeing you all hitting the trails around Northern Ireland. Be sure and tag us @MountainBikeNI, #davaghrocks and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Ethan Loughrey
Ethan Loughrey  Mountain Bike Officer

Hardest thing about Mountain Biking? Definitely the trees.

Walk Where You’ve Never Walked Before

Posted on June 19, 2017 @ 3:37 PM in AdventureWalking

For those in search of an epic Instagram photo or somewhere new to walk this summer, we share some exciting new trails which have opened in the spectacular Causeway Coast & Glens. Your chance to enjoy previously inaccessible spectacular views near Ballycastle and Cushendun, Co. Antrim this summer. 

Fairhead
Fairhead Northern Ireland

Those who come to explore the new trails at Fairhead are in for a treat this summer, with over 13 miles of trails to discover, you can expect stunning coastal views towards Ballycastle, Rathlin Island and the picturesque Murlough Bay from this ruggedly beautiful, wild and remote location.

Local myth states that it was at the iconic cliffs of Fairhead above the famous Sea of Moyle where the Children of Lir, were put under an evil spell, transforming them into swans to spend 900 years in exile from humanity. Composed of a rock called dolerite, the great cliffs of Fairhead were born out of volcanic activity some 60 million years ago. The upper half of the cliff is formed of gigantic columns which are up to 12 metres in diameter, some of which are separated from the rest of the cliff but still stand, despite their precarious nature.

The walks begin from a farm car park clearly signposted off the Fairhead Rd. With a range of walks to choose from ranging from 1.5 to 3.4 miles (all offering spectacular clifftop views) these fully waymarked trails are named according to their Irish placenames. Several interpretative panels are dotted along the routes to provide you with more information on the history and geology of the area. Choose between 5 routes

  • Lough Dubh Walk (Red Route) 1.5 mile
  • Casan an Loch Walk (Purple Route) 2.2 miles
  • An Belach Runda Walk (Green Route) 3.1 miles
  • Loch na Crannoige Walk (Blue Route) 3.3 miles
  • Murlough View Walk (Yellow Route) 2.9miles 

The walks are all interlinked meaning that you can return to the start at various points. Please be aware that sections of these walks are situated near a cliff edge and due care must be taken particularly during windy conditions and in poor visibility.  Weather conditions along the coast can change very quickly - so be prepared.  Although the walks are waymarked it is advised that you equip yourself with a map.  The walking routes pass through areas of open land and working farmland. Livestock may be present and ground conditions are often uneven, wet and mucky underfoot and as such walking boots are strongly recommended.  

Ronan's Way
Ronan's Way

Ronan's Way is a rare opportunity to access some of the most stunning scenery in the Glens of Antrim on foot. With over 8 miles of new trails developed this is a fantastic opportunity to experience the breathtaking scenery of the inspiring Glens landscape.  

The walks are located on the McAuley Farm, on a stretch of land in memory of Ronan McAuley, a true Glens man who had a dream that more people would explore and enjoy Glendun and the exquisite views of the land that he called home. A couple of benches situated along the routes mean you can sit back and admire the breathtaking views. The diversity of natural habitat (woodland, peatland, farmland and the river) in Glendun means that there is an abundance of wildlife to see. 

A truly inspiring landscape, there are four routes of varying lengths to explore each providing an opportunity to view across one of the nine Glens of Antrim and over the channel to the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland. Located in a glen all of the walks have climbs, but the views are worth it! Walking boots are strongly recommended as the ground can become mucky underfoot. All walks begin at the carpark off the Glendun Rd where a trailhead panel and waymarker posts will direct you to the following walking routes;

  • Green Loop, 0.9 miles
  • Yellow Loop, 1.2 miles
  • Blue Loop, 2.3 miles
  • Red Loop, 3.4 miles

Those looking to extend their time walking in the Glens can visit the nearby Cregagh Wood; a short 0.9 mile woodland walk worth a visit. The wood's tranquil and peaceful surroundings make this location an excellent home for Red Squirrels who can often be spotted running from branch to branch.   

Waterfoot Beach Walk
Waterfoot Beach

For those who do love to be beside the seaside, the new 1.6 mile beach boardwalk at Waterfoot near Cushendun is well worth exploring on a sunny day. 

Depending on tide levels, you can take a walk back on the beach or retrace your steps along the coastal path when you reach the end of the route. With two playparks along the way for the kids to explore this is an ideal family walk this summer before tucking into a BBQ/ picnic on the beach and paddling in the sea.

The walk looks out towards Red Bay Castle which projects out onto the headland just north of Glenariff and passes species rich grasslands. Feel free to walk through the wildflower meadow where you can spot yellow-rattle flower and small copper butterfly.

Don't forget to share your photos with us on social media using #WalkNI.

Latest comment posted by Valerie campion on July 3, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

I am visiting the area in sept for a weekend of walking , I am looking forward to taking some of the above walks . The area looks spectatulor . Read more >

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.

< newer articlesolder articles >
Northern Ireland's Outdoor Adventure Blog outdoorni.com walkni.com cycleni.com canoeni.com