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. [caption id="attachment_40969" align="alignleft" width="390"] The Castlewellan mountain bike trail is officially opened by DETI Minister Arlene Forster.[/caption]
The 25km cross-country trail and purpose-built pump track costing £1.9 million 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.[caption id="attachment_40971" align="alignright" width="300"] The mountain bike trail in Castlewellan in now officially open.[/caption]
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill also 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.”
* Department of Trade and Investment through the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s Tourism Development Scheme (£1.4 million).
* Sport NI – £150,000.
* Down District Council – £170,000.
* Newry & Mourne District Council – £153,000.
Council Vice Chairman Welcomes in New Biking Initiative
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.[caption id="attachment_40972" align="alignleft" width="300"] The mountain bike trail at Castlewellan Forest Park has now been officially opened. Pictured are bikers Glyn O’Brien and Gareth McKee with Malcolm Beatty, Forestry Service Chief Executive, South Down MP Margaret Ritchie MP, DETI Minister Arlene Foster, Down District Council Vice Chairman. Councillor Gareth Sharvin, and Brian Henning, Sport NI Chairman.[/caption]
“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.
“Located just minutes from the lively village of Castlewellan, this forest park has long been a popular recreational hub in County Down however with the completion of a unique £1.9 million trails development in conjunction with Rostrevor, Castlewellan has now become one of Northern Ireland’s flagship mountain biking venues.
“With a 27.5km of exciting trails packed full of fun features including winding singletrack, rollers and rock gardens, Castlewellan Forest Park has been transformed into a must-visit location for mountain bike enthusiasts, beginners and families alike.”
Councillor Sharvin added: “Coupled with 49km of purpose-built trails in Rostrevor, this landmark development of sustainable trails has not only transformed the Mourne Mountains into an ideal short break mountain biking destination but also combines with a further 26.5km of new trails in Davagh Forest near Cookstown to make Northern Ireland the next must visit destination for mountain bikers across the UK and Ireland. I believe we are set to realise Northern Ireland’s potential as one of the world’s top mountain biking destinations.
“With 23,000 mountain biking visitors expected by the end of year, the two trails centres are projected to bring an estimated £1.1 million annual boost to the local economy.
Combining the trails here in Castlewellan with the trails in Rostrevor allows us to benefit greatly from large scale events at each location. With the World Police and Fire Games staging mountain biking in a few weeks’ time in Rostrevor, 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 despite having an ideal landscape for trails, we have not yet harnessed the huge benefits that this growing adventure activity can bring to Castlewellan and the surrounding region.
“As such, we feel that the Council’s project contribution of £170,000 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.
“Other contributions have been made to the project by the Forestry Service, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland, Chain Reaction Cycles, Trail designers Trails Wales and Glynn O’Brien, and the The Mourne Heritage Trust, Doran’s Consultants, Euroservices and Clixby’s Forest and Environmental Contractors. It has been a real team effort.
“Finally, I would like to thank Chain Reaction Cycles for their sponsorship for the next three years. Their position as the world’s largest online bike store certainly brings credibility to project and I know their marketing support is already paying dividends in terms of specialist media coverage.
“As you’ve just heard, this project has required the support and involvement from a large number of individuals and organisations, and I am very pleased that Down District Council is a leading partner in this exciting project, which represents in reality the ethos of joined up government; partners and communities working together with collective ownership and responsibility.”
Newcastle Councillors Delighted at Mountain Biking Facility
Councillor Eamonn O’Neilll said: :”I am delighted with this initiative. It will bring business to Castlewellan and aleady there are positive signs that restaurants, pubs are shops are starting to reap the benefits. The business community are keen to get involved. The Castlewellan Forest Park has huge potential and the mountain bike trail has certainly put us on the map. This is just the beginning.”
Councillor Dessie Patterson said: “As chairman of the Mourne Heritage Trust I welcome the mountain bike trail project. It will add to the prosperity of the Mournes area providing much opportunity for recreation and sporting events. We have supported the idea from the beginning and it is great to see us finally having got the bike trail up and running with a number of key partners involved.”
Councillor Stephen Burns added: “This is a great day for the Castlewellan area and the wider Mournes. We now have a world class facility on our doorstep and this will in years to come be a flagship to generate further developments for the Castlewellan Forest Park and the area. This is a classic example of what the public and private sector working together can achieve in partnership to create a major recreational and tourism asset, one which we are all proud of.”
Councillor Patrick Clarke said: “These 25 kilometres of world-class mountain bike trails will attract upwards of 13,000 visitors in the first year alone and this will be a major tourism and economic boost for Castlewellan, surrounding areas and the wider Mournes. The long term potential of the cross-country mountain biking trails and purpose built bump track which have been designed and constructed to blend into the natural surroundings of Castlewellan Forest Park has not yet been fully realised.”