It was hit by construction delays, but Ireland’s first alpine coaster is well worth waiting for, says Chrissie Russell
In the tunnel behind me, I can hear my six-year-old shrieking with delight. In front of me, my three-year-old is inching our gear stick forward in a bid to go faster.
Twenty-five miles an hour doesn’t feel fast when you’re in a car, but hurtling down a mountain in a little yellow toboggan, it definitely does — not that the kids seem to mind.
Ireland’s first and only alpine coaster opens to the public on Wednesday, part of a £5m investment at the Colin Glen adventure park in west Belfast.
The walk from the car park to the mountain site of the attraction is quiet and idyllic.
Only the sight of Belfast below reminds us how close we still are to the city.
Tom, my six-year-old, has been waiting a long time to get behind the lever of an alpine toboggan. Everyone has.
Work on the world-class attraction was green-lit in April 2019, only for construction to be hit by delays over the past year. Thankfully, it’s definitely worth the wait.
As we prepare to board, we get a safety briefing from staff — all standard hands inside the vehicle, don’t stop, keep space between the toboggans stuff.
Kids aged between three and seven have to be accompanied on the ride by an adult (and no under-threes allowed), while youngsters aged from eight to 17 can ride alone but they must have a supervising adult (one per group of seven children) on site.
Finn (3) is strapped to me with a seatbelt similar to those for kids on planes. He’s already picked up on the fact that pushing the big stick in front of us means ‘go’, and soon we’re off, leaning into curves, whooping down dips and through tunnels and clapping for more as we’re pulled back up the mountain to our starting spot.
In total, the route, officially named the Black Bull Run, covers 565m with 12 twists, two tunnels and maximum speeds of 25mph (let me say it again, it feels much faster).
But I’m set to reach even greater feats of speed with my next white-knuckle ride because just a short walk from the Black Bull Run is another new attraction: the Forest Flyover — a 250m zipline, launching from a 50ft tower where I park the kids with their dad (over 10s only on this one) and record a top speed of 28mph while also managing to hit new decibels with my screaming.
With so many adventure-starved families staycationing this year, it’s no surprise that pre-booking for the new attractions has already been doing a roaring trade, with 500 bookings notched up in the first 24 hours after the online booking system opened on June 30.
Pre-booking is essential and admission is on a timeslot basis. Sessions for the Black Bull Run last approximately 30 to 45 minutes and give you two journeys on the alpine coaster.
Child tickets (aged eight to 16) are £10.50, adult tickets are £15.50 and adult and child combo tickets (child aged three to seven) are £18. A session on the Forest Flyover lasts an hour. Child tickets (ages 10 to 17) are £15 and adult tickets £20.
Further down the mountain, at the river entrance to the park, there’s a host of other established attractions, including the SKYTrek Ultimate Ropes Course and the official Gruffalo Trail (with discounts if you’re booking multiple attractions), but plan your day to allow for travelling between the two sites.
In August, an even more hair-raising zipline opens, the River Rapid Zipline. It’s set to be the longest in Ireland, with dizzying speeds of up to 50mph promised.
Back at the top of the mountain, my three-year-old is already flinging his leg back over the toboggan, ready to race again and oh so happy for his mummy to scream and him to go faster.
÷ Visit colinglen.org for details