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!

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.

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