Awaken spirit of adventure up North

by Gazette Reporter

WHILE adventure holidays usually conjure up faint images of climbing Mount Everest, exploring the Grand Canyon or hiking an Alpine Trail, often the travelling dream for a lot of us can remain just a fantasy. So who would have thought that we could enjoy an unforgettable and adrenaline pumping adventure weekend right here on our own doorstep?

Getting older, we have a tendency to lose the fearlessness we once had as a child. Suddenly strapping yourself into a rollercoaster doesn’t seem quite so safe. But pushing your fear to the limit and challenging yourself with new adventures is one sure way to get your heart pumping and for me, on a recent trip to preview what is in store with this year’s Adventureland, it was one way of finding the child in me once again!

The North Coast is set to host a total of 34 different activity events this weekend, for the third year of Adventureland. With everything from coasteering and sea safaris to paddle boarding and hovercrafting, Northern Ireland’s top events will be offered at a fraction of the price for one weekend only.

Setting off from Dublin, it was County Derry that was in our sights as our first pitstop. Just two and a half hours from Dublin is The Jungle NI, an award-winning outdoor entertainment facility located on a very successful farm diversity project in Moneymore – one of many in Northern Ireland we were to find out.

While paintballing, segways and clay-pigeon shooting were just some of the activities on the menu, it was the Tree Top adventure course we were there to try and attempt.

The first in Ireland, it’s a high wire course with a bit of a difference. It has over 40 challenging obstacles to try and overcome, with rope bridges, wooden swings, scramble nets and tight-ropes, which all sound easy enough until you discover that some of these are located 70ft in the air.

It’s okay though, since you’re in safe hands and harnessed to safety wires throughout the forest, but it’s the fear of falling anyway that really makes this adventure all the more appealing! Highlights definitely included the Tarzan (or Jane) swing through the trees, a zip-line and the freefall drop to safety.

On solid ground again, it was less than an hour’s drive until our next port of call at Portrush Harbour, County Antrim, where we were to take part in something a little closer to land. During the Adventureland weekend – and all through the year – Xplore Outdoors provide sessions celebrating everything the Great Outdoors has to offer including coasteering, mountain skills, rockclimbing and sea kayaking. And despite the freezing temperatures and threatening rain, it was the latter we decided to brave.

Climbing into a wetsuit in the cold wind and rain wasn’t something I was used to doing, but as soon as we climbed into the kayaks and set about learning the ropes, so to speak, we were soon warmed up.

While the weather failed to allow us to sail the high seas, our tutor Steve Hodge, explained how on a good day, the sea kayaking adventure takes kayakers to explore the numerous sea caves gracing the Northern Ireland coastline, and to see famous landmarks including the Causeway, Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and Dunluce Castle from a slightly different perspective.

We stayed at the Ramada Hotel in Portrush, just five minutes from the harbour and at the very centre of the coastal town. With over 70 en-suite rooms, ours overlooked the Atlantic Ocean, and the Counties Bar and Restaurant was buzzing with locals and tourists alike.

What better way to end an activity-filled day than to enjoy a well-deserved glass of wine, a delicious starter of tempura chicken satay and a steak covered in garlic and mushroom sauce? The fear was well worth the wait!

A visit to the nearby Harbour Bar is a must for visitors hoping for a good pint of Guinness at the oldest pub in Northern Ireland. Ask for barman Willy and he’ll be certain to look after you.

The following morning brought with it a scenic drive along the Coastal Causeway Route to Limavady in Derry, the location of FoyleHov Hovercrafting.

Another farm diversity project, the farm has acres of land perfect for activities and features rage buggying, target archery and laser clay shooting along with the  arrival of new born lambs. Kitted out in our boiler-suits, we took to the hovercrafting track with its hair-pin turns and water hazards and discovered talents we never knew we had! Our timed laps even managed to beat a certain Gary Lineker, a previous visitor to the farm.

With a total of 34 events taking place over the Adventureland weekend, which takes place on March 23 and 24, all activity providers offer services throughout the year.

So for those in search of an extra thrill this summer, visit www.OutdoorNI.com or www.dis covernorthernireland.com.

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