Last weekend was the first official Slow Adventure Weekend in Northern Ireland. Slow Adventures are a new tourism initiative favouring slow, immersive experiences that engage with remote, wild and nature-rich places.
A chance to engage with nature and not only partake in an activity but also to learn aspects of the local area such as the produce, wildlife and environment.
You can journey through break-taking views of the Glenga Valley in the heart of the Sperrins foraging for food along the way, bake your own bread the traditional way in the farmhouse kitchen of Bradkeel Social Farm, see how artisan cheese is produced or have a go at traditional fishing on the River Foyle and cook your catch on a wild camp fire. Other packages include interactive cooking demonstrations with local hand-picked ingredients, Irish walking tours, horse riding in the Faughan Valley as well as deer stalking, bird shooting and salmon fishing in Strabane.
We were lucky enough to be able to go along and try the White Horse Adventure. Our break started with a visit to City of Derry Equestrian. The rural centre is located in the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains, and we met expert instructor Pauline and her team, who cater to absolute beginners and experienced riders alike at the 30 acre school.
Smix & I fell into the absolute beginner category, and were both a little anxious about the whole sitting on a giant horse thing, but I honest don't think they could have done more to make us feel at ease and enjoy the experience.
We started by meeting our horses, brushing them and getting them ready for the hack. Once we were up on the horses, Smix definitely wasn't happy about it all, so Pauline got an extra instructor to walk alongside him to make him feel more secure. Like I said, nothing was too much for them to do, they were totally focused on making your experience an enjoyable one.
As part of the White Horse Slow Adventure you'll take a guided hack through the countryside, with different lengths of trails available to your preference. Pauline keeps you entertained with stories about the local area and wildlife.
The landscape is absolutely beautiful, and you wouldn't know you are only four miles outside the city. I really couldn't recommend Pauline and her team more highly. They made us feel so welcome, and so at ease. If you live on the North Coast and want to learn to ride, or even experience some trail riding, you should check out the City of Derry Equestrian facilities.
The 'adventure' part was wonderful, but now it was time for some relaxation and being spoiled. The next stop on the White Horse Slow Adventure, is the 4* White Horse Hotel. The hotel is beautiful, and our room was perfect. Again they made us feel very welcome.
Your package includes a 3 course meal from the hotel's award winning chef Noel Ward, with a complimentary bottle of wine. The food is locally produced and sourced, with options to suit everyone's tastes.
For groups of over 20 people, there is Irish folklore story telling and traditional music available. For groups of any size, you can relax in the lounge bar for the evening.
You also have full access to the leisure club facilities at the White Horse. They have a surprisingly large pool for a hotel, plus jacuzzi, both steam room and sauna, a gym, and spa treatments available as extra if requested.
Your checkout time on the second day is purposefully later than usual, noon, so you have time to use the facilities if you wish. We actually went shopping in the city after horse riding, the relaxed at the hotel, and used the pool the morning after. It worked really well for us. Your package also includes a full choice of breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and as a final treat you will be presented with chocolate truffles spiked with local whiskey The Quiet Man, as a souvenir of your trip.
We had such a lovely time, and this was just one of the many different Northern Ireland Slow Adventures available to choose from. While the summer season is over, the Slow Adventures are available all winter. There's fishing, food tours, cycling, canoeing, and walking tours, so there's something for everyone who wants to discover more about Northern Ireland.