Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster: Northern Ireland geared up for mountain biking 

Stormont Executive press releases - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Northern Ireland is building a reputation as the new go-to place for mountain bike adventure, Tourism Minister Arlene Foster has said.

The Minister was speaking at the official opening of Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trail, which brings the network of purpose-built mountain bike trails in Northern Ireland to over 100km.

The 25km cross-country trail and purpose-built pump track is situated in Castlewellan Forest Park and has the potential to attract thousands of visitors to the area. 

Coupled with a further 50km trails network in Rostrevor, mountain bike enthusiasts and other visitors are expected to generate a significant impact to the local economy in the wider Mournes area.

Arlene Foster said: “Mountain Biking is one of the fastest growing adventure activities in the UK and in Northern Ireland there's been a revolution in the provision for the activity over the past few years. We now have over 100 kilometres of purpose-built trails across five centres - each with their own unique selling points. 

“Northern Ireland is now building a reputation as the new go-to place for a mountain bike adventure, offering the best destinations and facilities in the UK and arguably among the best in the world. 

“Castlewellan, and also its counterpart in Kilbroney, is really putting the Mourne Mountains on the mountain biking map. The numbers of bikers using both trails has already exceeded all expectations and this is a reflection of the quality of the trails not only as a test of ability, but also the beauty of the scenery and landscape in the Mournes.”

The Castlewellan trail is ideal for both leisure and competitive mountain bikers and has already attracted the attention of the worldwide mountain bike fraternity, having secured the Single Speed European Championships for 2014.

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill commented: “This new facility is a visible outworking of the Forest Service’s Recreation strategy in action. The strategy is designed to develop working partnerships to secure a more diverse range of facilities and attractions for the enjoyment of present and future generations in our local forests. 

“The successful completion of the Mournes trails project is the result of effective partnership working between Forest Service, Down District Council, Newry and Mourne District Council, NI Tourist Board and other partners. It is the latest example of how partnerships can realise the potential of our forests to deliver against wider objectives such as health, tourism, education and sport.

“I hope that local communities and people from all parts of the island and indeed further afield take the opportunity to benefit from this new recreational and tourism product for years to come. The trails not only offer exciting recreational opportunities but can provide a real economic benefit to tourism and the Mournes area.”

Speaking at the opening Down District Council Vice Chairman Councillor Gareth Sharvin said: “The Mournes can now look forward to attracting large scale mountain bike events, both here at Castlewellan and at the Kilbroney trail. With the World Police and Fire Games staging mountain biking in a few weeks’ time, both trails centres will benefit from positive publicity and The Mournes will be firmly placed on the world mountain biking map. 

“Mountain biking has enjoyed a real surge in popularity in recent years and we feel that this project will not only provide unique recreational facilities for the local community but also result in a positive injection of activity tourists to our corner of Northern Ireland.” 

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board envisages that the County Down mountain bike trails, and others at Blessingbourne, Barnett Demesne and Davagh Forest, will attract out-of-state visitors and will be an attractive option for short break destinations.

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