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Beaches, Birdlife, Birthdays and Bumper Cars - 4 SUPer days Touring in Northern Ireland.

Our recent trip to Northern Ireland was pretty spectacular so much so that we can wait to run it again. The north coast of our wee neighbour is stunning, similar in so many ways to a Scotland but because of the short 25 minute flight from Glasgow to Belfast it feels so much further away.

4 clients joined me on this trip and this blog is written by Rob, who had a brilliant time exploring and winding through the cliffs and coastal landscapes of many of the Game of Thrones sites. If you fancy coming on the trip next year, this is a blog post that you NEED to read. ✌️

Bank holidays are just the perfect excuse for getting out on the water - paddling for hours on end, exploring new places, embracing nature and the company of others! That’s what this trip to the North Coast of Northern Ireland was all about.  The place offers lakes, rivers, and of course the big blue sea making it an adventure playground with something for everyone - whether you're a Game of Thrones fan, a nature lover, a thrill seeker or just someone who’s after a bit of calm and serenity.

Day One

The group size for this one was small but perfectly formed - we each arrived to Belfast under our own steam, some making the 25 minute flight from Glasgow, others from London, and one on the ferry with all the kit!

Our base for the long weekend was Portrush - and whilst some of the group were still travelling to this hustling sea-side town, others were already trying out the surf conditions along the area’s beautiful stretch of golden sands, or Whiterocks, if you want to give one local beach it’s actual name.

Once we were all at our colourful accommodation and bags flung into our rooms, it was time for the first paddle of the weekend.  We headed in convoy up to Portballintrae Harbour - where our amazing instructors and guides set up the boards.  Time to get our sea-legs sorted.  If you’re a flat water paddler, getting used to the swell of the ocean definitely takes some time, but with stunning sea cliffs and arches, caves and castles to distract you - the wobbliness is worth it - losing your glasses to the ocean is too (just!).  We were touring on really stable Gladiator boards though which made things feel that bit more safe and secure.

After a beautiful 5 or so kilometres distance paddle down the coast it was time to step foot back on dry land - provided you were up for trying to surf in.  Everyone on the trip was keen to try anything, and this was a great bit of fun to end day one.  That, along with the subsequent fresh fish and chips, promenade walk, and visit to The Harbour Bar for a Guinness and chat with the locals.

Day Two

Things were a bit hazy as we woke up on day two - but not because of the “craic” the night before - but because of the sea-haar.  Not ideal when you’ve another scenic paddle planned. The only solution:  cake, coffee and patience.  Plus a pit stop at a filming location from Game of Thrones - The Dark Hedges (that’s not the name of the episode, just the name of this row of trees.)  Fortunately the haar lifted by mid-morning. So we headed out from Ballintoy Harbour (another GOT filming location) to paddle along the coast to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.  The sea was so calm - the biggest motion in the ocean was caused by a surfacing porpoise!  For a unique experience we paddled right under the rope bridge, through the chasm that it joins, to the sounds of various sea-birds and rumbling stomachs, so we stopped here for lunch.  

On trips like these it's great to take advantage of the conditions when you can, so we added some extra adventure on the return leg,  circumnavigating around ‘Sheep Island’ - why it’s called that we couldn’t work out but it was raw and rugged.  Then the haar descended again, providing a test of everyone’s navigation skills to get back to the harbour.  

Day Three

After an early morning dunk in the sea, a birthday celebration for one of the group, called for the best of both worlds paddle.  Paddling out of and along Port Stewart Beach for an hour we then took a left and entered the mouth of the River Bann.  This flat calm stretch of water, which is home to all sorts of birdlife, stretches up and through the well known town of Coleraine.  We opted not to paddle all the way into the town, stopping a couple of km short, in favour of a waterside bistro and a well earned bit of pud (and now customary pint of Guinness!) - a fine reward for 10 kms of paddling up the river Bahn.

The great thing about trips like this is also just hanging out and having a laugh, so once we were into dry gear we all headed to the local arcade, which included bumper cars, and erm, a log flume (so much for the dry gear!) Then following dinner with an amazing view over the ocean, it was back to the beach for a bit of bonfire and birthday cake.

Day Four

The sea conditions had been kind to us up to this point, and our luck was sure to run out. And it did. Well, only if flat water is your game.  With the waves rolling in, we opted to test out our Sup-Surf skills once again - and there is NOTHING more fun than just getting battered around by the ocean, jumping on and off your board, and attempting to look cool. Nothing.  We did this for about two hours, before packing up, getting one last ice-cream, and then making our way to Belfast.  Here some of the gang took in the sights, sounds, and beverages at the infamous Crown Liquor Saloon, reflecting on an awesome 4 day trip with memories that will last a lifetime.

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