Published Wednesday, 24 July 2013
It transpired I was only skimming the surface of the activities and places to see in the area, which is a matter of minutes outside Derry/Londonderry, the UK City of Culture.
This time around, I was accompanied by my 4 children. Given they are aged between 9 and 15, it's not that easy to find activities that will keep everyone amused. However, the Faughan Valley came up trumps.
On this trip, we stayed at Derry Farm Cottages at Drumahoe. Our cottage was very well appointed. If, like me, you grew up in a farming community, the sight of a huge "Aga" in the kitchen is something you would be used to. However, I'd had never seen one that is controlled by touch screen technology! The addition of Sky Tv and free Wifi are a great bonus to keep everyone entertained.
However, on our trip, the TV was barely used as the weather was too good to waste and there were bicycles outside and Alpaca's on the farm!
We soon discovered that the cottage was within a 4 mile radius of anywhere we needed to be over the weekend, including the centre of Derry/Londonderry.
One such place was Oaks Fishery, which is open to beginners as well as experts. They can hire you all the equipment you need, including the boat! The 15 acre lake is a really tranquil place and somewhere I could imagine myself chilling out for a day. Now, to be honest, I don't really know the first thing about fishing, so luckily the owner, Ian, was on hand to show us the ropes.
I was astounded to see trout literally jumping out of the water, though not as astounded as my 10 yr old, who managed to catch one while out on the boat. The rest of us caught and released a number of smaller fish from the jetty. The kids were buzzing after the fishing expedition and full of chat as we left.
The buzz continued as we headed to Campsie Karting, where we got kitted out in overalls and helmets to race around the 400m indoor track. After a safety briefing, we got into the karts and the race got underway. I found it fascinating to see my kids get braver and braver as they got used to the kart. So brave, in fact, that I was beaten into 3rd place. Even my daughter drove faster than me!
The adrenalin keeps building at Oakfire Adventures, where willing participants clamber into a huge ball and then roll down a steep hill. I guess Zorbing is a bit like being in a huge hamster ball.
If that's not enough, the Giant Swing sends you flying head first towards the ground from a height of 60ft!
If that's too exhilarating for you, a visit to the Faughan Valley Golf Course will calm you down again. This course is built on the banks of the river and offers some great scenery as you enjoy your game. We had a golf lesson from Noel, the Club Professional. And he is good - even I was able to hit the ball off the tee by the end of the lesson.
The Faughan Valley is home to some very good chefs too. Barry O'Brien at Beech Hill Country House and Noel Ward at the White Horse Hotel are old hands at cooking for my demanding (!) tastes - so it was great to bring my 4 kids to let them enjoy the dining experience at both places.
New to us all was the Belfray Country Inn. On arrival (purely by chance) we were met by clowns, stilt-walkers and a happy couple arriving courtesy of locally-based Cutting Edge Helicopters, which certainly added to our evening!
The Faughan Valley has a wealth of activities, history and sights to see. It means that each visit can quite literally offer a totally different experience.
To find out more about Faughan Valley, you can visit discoverfaughanvalley.com
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