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Castlewellan MTB Trails Phase II Consultation - Update


Outdoor Recreation NI (the organisation behind MountainBikeNI.com) has been proactively consulting with mountain bikers in recent weeks regarding the Phase II trail development within Castlewellan Forest Park.

Consultation has been carried out in a number of ways:

  • Public consultation on 22nd January at Hillyard House, Castlewellan (40 attendees)
  • Online Survey via MountainBikeNI.com - open from 30th Jan - 7th February (162 responses)
  • Northern Ireland Mountain Bike Alliance (NIMBA) has also provided a useful response

This strong response has been invaluable in order to ensure the proposed trails meet the needs and demands of riders.  They have therefore been consolidated and will be reflected when refining the remaining 2 design stages: 

‘Macro’ Design - Development of a concept plan i.e. agreeing trail corridors with land owners and land managers
‘Micro’ Design - Trail corridors are divided into sections with specific design outlined

Once completed these designs will provide an indicatory cost to guide funding applications for capital trail build costs.  It is currently difficult to estimate when such funding may become available.

The feedback received has been complimentary regarding the present mountain bike trails in Castlewellan with the 'Great Escarpe', 'Moorish Return' and 'White Water Rapide' regularly stated as riders’ favourite sections.   It has also been pleasing to see a recognition and appreciation that mountain biking in Northern Ireland has come a long way in the last 12 months.

However, there has been some gratefully received constructive criticism of the present trails regarding overuse of 'speed bumps', rock gardens or obstacles on apexes of corners.  This consultation process has outlined a passionate desire for phase II to increase the variety of trail on offer in Castlewellan with the focus on fast and flowing trails with berms, small jumps and drops. 

The consultation to date has been with 'mountain bike fanatics' for example 81% of online survey respondents stating 'It’s a waste of a week if I haven’t been out on the bike' therefore it is important to take this feedback in context of wider mountain bike industry research available for example:

  • Recent MTB strategies from both Scotland and Wales (who have had a 10 year 'head start' in terms of development and market analysis) have identified their key weakness is the lack of recreational trails to meet the wider market and therefore grow the market.
  • Visitor data and site visits to Coed-y-Brenin (one of the UK largest MTB centres in North Wales) highlighting how they were able to arrest their falling visitor numbers and in turn significantly grow their visitor numbers by complementing advanced trails with intermediate trails.

In summary the focus of trail development within Castlewellan will remain on red and black (more advanced) trails taking into account the specific feedback received but also ensuring adequate provision of beginner and intermediate trails to meet the wider market and therefore grow the market moving forward. 

MountainBikeNI.com would like to thank everyone for their ongoing support re: the development of world class mountain bike trails here in Northern Ireland.  

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