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Family makes visitors right at home with NW200 invite

Cups of tea, burgers, a royal wedding and bikes - it is all happening in the North West this weekend, as Karen Ireland finds out

I don't particularly like motorbikes and I certainly don't like them whizzing past me at 200 miles per hour, but that is the situation I find myself in this weekend.

I have joined the more than 150,000 people who flock to the North West for the annual NW200 celebration.

Why do I find myself in this situation? Well, my other half and my youngest son Teo (14) are simply bike mad. So this is the third year I have been here.

But I found the solution, and it lies with one Portrush family.

Last year we discovered their garden was the perfect spot for watching the races and I, to my great delight, found cups of tea on tap.

So when the bikes were mentioned before Christmas, I only had one condition - 'as long as we go back to the same spot as last year'.

For not only do the Cairn family open up their Portrush garden, they also serve tea and food all day and throw open the doors of their home to strangers from all over the world, with several hundred guests descending on the property for the weekend.

Kathleen and Paul have four grown-up children, Gavin, Nicola, Arlene and Owen, and this year we visited them again on Thursday, the practice night, and I decided to find out more about the true NW hospitality.

Kathleen explained how it all came about. "Around 12 years ago we were sitting in the garden watching the racing when a crowd of five guys from all different nationalities came along and asked us could they join us. It was a lovely sunny day and we had the best craic," she said.

"As the day went on more and more people joined us and we had the best day. The tea was flowing and so was the chat." According to Kathleen, she got the surprise of her life at the end of the day when the group of guys handed her a brown bag thanking her for her hospitality.

"I almost passed out when I opened it and there was £300 in it. I couldn't believe it and felt like we hadn't really done much," she said.

"My son Gavin has special needs and we decided to give the money to a charity working with him.

"It just sort of took off from there. The next year we decided to do it again and to be more organised with food etc.

"We have found the same people come back every year from all over the globe.

"We just have a great weekend and a lot of fun. I love just meeting all the people and chatting to them."

But how does the family feel about hundreds of people tramping through their home? For instance, last year when it poured down with rain and I just sheltered in their kitchen all day drinking cups of tea.

"We don't mind at all as everyone is so nice," said Kathleen. "They are all very polite and well-behaved and we have never had any problems.

"When people leave there isn't one bit of rubbish in the garden.

"I just feel so bad if it rains or the bikes are cancelled and people are just sitting about - I keep giving them food and feeding them all day.

"I also worry a lot about the safety of the riders if the weather is bad.

"This year it is looking good and of course the royal wedding will be on television for the women." That's another tick for me!

Daughter Arlene, who works in a local hotel, said: "We used to hate the North West when we were younger as we were barricaded into the house for the weekend, but now we really look forward to it.

"There is such a buzz in the house, it is unbelievable. Last year we had people from as far away as Australia.

"It is a busy day and we are on the go from about 6.30am.

"Mum is up baking fresh scones and getting all the food ready.

"We go through about 100 burgers on the day and I am usually in charge of the barbecue. I can't wait for the burgers to run out so I can join in the party."

So, with cups of tea on tap, the royal wedding and my happy men, it safe to say I don't mind channelling my inner biker chick this weekend.

Belfast Telegraph

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