Family Mountain Biking in Castlewellan

May 21, 2013

Posted by
Tara

Hi I’m Tara! A busy working mum, I try to combine my passion for writing with my love for the good things in life. Travel, food, wine and quality family time are all the things that make me smile!

I’m always up for a challenge, especially if it involves getting my kids away from the TV and into the great outdoors. So when Discover Northern Ireland asked if I would like to go on a family cycling trip to experience the new Mountain Bike Trails at Castlewellan Forest Park, I didn’t hesitate in accepting.

The Craig Family

In hindsight I was maybe a little bit hasty, after all, I hadn’t straddled a saddle in over two years, but my husband and two boys (aged 8 and 11) love nothing better than getting out on two wheels, so let’s just say, I did it for them.

For those of you who are familiar with this beautiful forest park in County Down, you’ll know that it already boasts a fabulous lake, forest walks, a camping and caravan park, cottage café and much more. And now, following the opening of two new mountain bike trails and a pump track, it has even more to offer, and all for the small price of the car parking fee (£4.50 for a car in case you’re wondering).

Our bikes and helmets were hired from Ride the Mournes and I’d been asked to meet Craig at the mountain bike trailhead, located at the top of the main car park, and within minutes he had us fitted out, briefed and ready to go. Wooohooo!

Green MTB Trail at Castlewellan

Wanting to ease ourselves into the mountain bike experience we decided to tackle the Green Trail first. This 4km trail is described as being suitable for beginner/novice cyclists, requiring only basic cycling skills –perfect!

The flat, wide path takes you on a scenic loop around the lake and there are no real obstacles along the way. I found the cycle to be pretty effortless and really quite relaxing but I could tell that my boys were eager to get their tyres into something grittier, so after a quick refuel, we hit the Blue Trail.

Covering a similar distance (4.5kms) the trail guide recommends users of the Blue Trail are intermediate cyclists/mountain bikers with basic off-road riding skills.

I chose to ignore this warning and naively followed my two boys and husband down the narrow single track. In just a few minutes the boys were nowhere to be seen – they clearly relished the challenge and tackled the gradients, roots and stony track head on.

The Blue MTB Trail Castlewellan Forest Park

Being less confident in my biking skills, I took a much more cautious approach (much to my husband’s annoyance) and slowly made my way along the trail.

Around 60% of the Blue Trail is single track and it’s an expertly designed trail that weaves its way up through the forest, crossing streams and climbing hills, rewarding you with majestic views at the top and a thrilling, fast paced decline.

I could lie and say in true MTB style that I ‘kept her lit’ and tore up the track, but because I’m writing this blog for other families I’m going to be very honest – I struggled with the Blue Trail and just minutes in, I lost my balance, toppling over in a very undignified way with my bike on top of me.

No damage done, I got back on the saddle and continued at a snail’s pace, rejoining the Green Track as soon as I could and giving my husband the freedom to blast on down the Blue Track and get his adrenaline fix.

I was the last to finish, and 40 minutes after launching ourselves down the Blue Trail, we were reunited as a family at the trailhead. The boys had finished ten minutes earlier and were now testing their mountain biking skills on the pump track. Red faced, covered in mud and beaming from cheek to cheek, they declared the trail to be ‘amazing’, ‘class’ and ‘brilliant’.

Blue Trail at Castlewellan Forest Park

Clearly they loved the experience and already I’m being asked when we are gong back. Their enthusiasm says it all – Castlewellan and its new mountain bike trails make for a great family day out.

My only piece of advice, honestly rate your cycling ability and pay attention to the skill level recommended for each trail. Being a bit of a biking novice, I went in over my head and have the bruises to prove it, but for the rest of the family, the trails were an epic adventure that they can’t wait to repeat.

For more information on all mountain bike trails in Northern Ireland check out www.mountainbikeni.com.

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