Get outdoors – a family fun day out

May 12, 2014

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I may waddle a little when I walk, but I’m no duck. As a result, I’ve never been too keen on water sports – water and fun don’t mix, right? How wrong I was, as I discovered when I took the family to experience an adventure day with Mobile Team Adventure in Belfast.

Outdoor activities on offer across Northern Ireland include cycling, mountain biking, horse riding and walking, but to the thrill of my eldest boy in particular, we were signed up for a day of canoeing and archery.

The meeting point for the canoeing was Shaw’s Bridge in Belfast; just a few minutes drive from the city centre. There was great excitement in the car as we approached with the kids – aged 11, 8 and 5 – wondering who would fall into the water first [everyone voted mum of course] and who would be made to walk the plank.

Our guide for the day for Dermot who immediately won the respect of our boys by revealing he was a top Scout, Duke of Edinburgh Gold holder and all round outdoor action man. We were in safe hands. After a routine health and safety brief we were fitted for life jackets and helmets and shown to our Canadian Canoes. I’d been slightly concerned about the stability of the canoes, especially with a five year old on board who has no fear and even less sense, but the boats were surprisingly stable and after a short ‘how to paddle’ guide, we were off.

It was a gloriously sunny morning and canoeing down the River Lagan on the sun-dappled water was incredibly relaxing. Dermot set a gentle pace and encouraged us to look around, spot the local wildlife and enjoy the experience. The river was so peaceful and the wildlife so varied (we saw ducklings, dragonflies and a Heron) it seemed incredible that the busy dual carriage way was just a few yards away.

As our confidence with the paddle grew, so did our competitive edge and before long our two canoes were racing each other. After a kilometre or so Dermot began to set challenges including boat wheelies and ‘walk the plank ‘which involved strapping the canoes together and walking across a wooden divider as the boat moved along. The kids loved this and yes, everyone did manage to stay dry.

We found canoeing to be a fantastic sport for the family – size, age and ability didn’t really seem to matter on the water– what did matter was that we were working together as team, enjoying Northern Ireland’s beautiful scenery and being active at the same time.

Hungry after our water adventure we took the ten-minute towpath walk to the Lock Keepers Inn where we refuelled in preparation for our second challenge of the day – archery. Our archery lesson was held at Mobile Team Adventure’s new base at Ardnavallay and was a real opportunity for the boys [and girls] to put their Robin Hood skills to the test.

Dermot was fantastic with the kids, guiding them through the correct stance and technique. A few arrows went astray, but after several attempts each, we were all hitting the target and beaming with our achievements. It is rare that our children can all participate in one activity and enjoy it equally – each one feeling as great a sense of accomplishment as the other, but today we found two.

For a family day out, where the focus is on having fun as well as learning new sports, I’d definitely recommend canoeing or archery but with so many activities available why not be adventurous and try something new this summer.

Read about our adventures mountain biking at Castlewellan Forest, County Down here: 

For more information on activities in Northern Ireland visit:  



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