Watch: House of flying axes craze, dubbed the ‘new ten-pin bowling’, comes to Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland's first ever axe throwing centre has opened in Belfast and it's inviting visitors to "unleash their inner Viking".
Dubbed the new ten-pin bowling and the fastest-growing urban sport in the US and Canada, axe throwing will now be available at Cityside Retail Park's Excite pavilion off York Road.
The venue, run by Edinburgh company Black Axe Throwing, will sit alongside Excite's other entertainment establishments including VR CityX gaming centre, Northern Ireland's first virtual reality arcade with "never before seen" VR simulators and more than 280 games and Lost City Adventure Golf, which opened as part of a £2m revamp at the retail park.
The cinema at Excite has also benefited from its own multi-million pound overhaul.
A typical session in axe throwing includes "a walk through the basics" as well as some advanced techniques that will allow participants to throw two axes at once.
Competitions and rapid-fire rounds are also part of the experience.
"We are not going to lie, axe throwing is pretty addictive, but that's okay, we've got plenty of axes!" said Gareth Fairlie, founder of Black Axe Throwing.
Pre-booking for a one-hour session is advised, however walk-ins are also welcome, he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Around 95% of people we see have never held an axe, so there's a lot unfamiliarity with the tool," he continued. "Axes tend to have a weird stigma attached to them, making many people think about that scene with Jack Nicholson in The Shining, but many find that there is something very satisfying about throwing one. There's a satisfying thud throwing something heavy that has a danger element, it's like a deep-seated primal thing and once you've got that motion it becomes a little bit like playing darts.
"When people pick the axe up for the first time, they begin with quite a tentative throw. We then ramp it up and bring in the factors that help determine how the axe will stick to a target.
"You can leave feeling elated having learned a whole new skill-set," added Mr Fairlie.
An hour's session at Black Axe Throwing costs £20 and is open to all abilities.
Participants must be over 16 years of age, advised Mr Fairlie.
Brian Gaffney of property agents Savills, which represents Cityside retail park, said: "We have a rapidly expanding experience offering at Cityside and building on the phenomenal success of their Edinburgh venue, Black Axe is fast becoming the best axe throwing experience out there. Axe throwing is one of the fastest growing urban sports in the US and Canada and is described by The Times as 'the new 10-pin bowling' - so we are very excited to house the first dedicated venue in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It's a great night out - fast paced, energetic and brilliant fun for all."
Mr Fairlie created Black Axe Throwing after a discovering he had a talent for it. He said: "Myself and right-hand man Kevin used to produce festivals and events and after one particularly gruelling festival, we found a couple of axes in the back of a van and rigged ourself up a target. It was so much fun we knew we could do something with it."
Mr Fairlie then left London with his other business partner to begin Black Axe Throwing in Scotland.
"All three of us have worked in the weird and wonderful side of events for many years, so just ran with it. Turns out it worked!"
The business began as a pop-up operation in 2017 in Edinburgh and to test demand for the activity in Northern Ireland, Gareth and his team then opened a pop-up at S13, the former B&Q store on Belfast's Boucher Road. It ran until February this year.
Mr Fairlie said the central appeal of Cityside encouraged the team to invest in a more permanent operation here, where they will employ six members of staff.
Cityside Excite first launched in 2016 and has undergone a £2m investment. Mr Gaffney added: "We want to stay at the forefront of current trends in terms of our leisure offering and are delighted to work with operators that strive to meet consumer demand in the sector in exciting and innovative ways."