Mention Northern Ireland and you think of misty green hills, golf, Titanic and a few other things we don’t like to talk about. But mountain biking?
Yet there has been a revolution in outdoor recreation circles — and they say 2013 is the year we will start to reap the benefits.
More than 50,000 mountain bike visitors are set to descend this year alone, and some 90km of new trails launch in the spring.
Major new trail launches are planned for Castlewellan, Kilbroney in Rostrevor, Barnett Demesne in south Belfast and Davagh Forest in the Sperrins.
According to Chris Scott, activity tourism manager for Outdoor Recreation NI, Northern Ireland has the perfect landscape for mountain biking.
“Kilbroney alone gives you incredible views over Carlingford Lough and takes you through the foothills of the Mournes. I’ve been speaking to some world-class mountain bikers and they say it has some of the most fantastic views they have ever seen in mountain biking courses,” he said.
The routes are designed to merge in seamlessly with the forest, Chris added.
More than 250 businesses attended a series of Northern Ireland Tourist Board Industry Development Seminars to find out how they can benefit from the new flagship trails.
Rosemary Lightbody of NITB said: “We want to complement these world-class trails by empowering local communities and private sector tourism businesses to work together to provide high quality visitor facilities.”
Delegates heard from industry experts on how cafes, pubs and accommodation providers can best cater for visiting mountain bikers.
NITB also distributed pocket-sized toolkits aimed to stimulate ideas.
Key elements include providing good laundry and drying facilities, bike wash facilities and secure places.
Visit www.outdoorrecreationni.com for more information.