Outdoors: Ex-rugby international Grace Davitt recommends north's 'outdoor gyms'

Rugby player Grace Davitt cycling near Carrickfergus

THE Women's Rugby World Cup arrives in Belfast next week and former Ireland international Grace Davitt says there's never been a better time to enjoy the benefits of Northern Ireland's 'natural gyms'.

With two major international sporting events – the UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship and Women's Rugby World Cup – taking place in the north this summer, ex-rugby ace Grace, in partnership with, is extolling the virtues of training outdoors.

"When I was a player we used to do a lot of our training outside, especially in the summer," she says.

"There are so many different exercises you can do outside which benefit endurance, strength and of course your overall health and so I would encourage everyone to work on their fitness in Northern Ireland's 'natural gyms'."

The north's six ‘outstanding outdoor gyms' are:

Mourne Mountains: Ideal if you're easily bored on a treadmill, with routes for all levels, from first-timers to running fanatics.

Slieve Gullion: Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Co Armagh featuring mountain paths, forest trails and country roads. Book a guided with Walk The Mournes to maximise your experience.

Sperrins Sprint: A traffic-free route through mid-Ulster, taking three-to-four hours to complete. Eco-adventure company Far and Wild offers bike hire and a map guide to the route, which has accommodation, restaurants and historical points of interest.

Causeway Coast: Surfing improves core strength and balance; lessons available at the likes of Troggs Surf School, Portrush. If coasteering is your bag, try Causeway Coasteering for sessions on climbing, swimming, scrambling and caving.

Derry: Families can try out fun canoe sessions at Creggan Country Park. Or for more of a challenge, embark on the Foyle Canoe Trail, which runs right into the centre of Derry.

Fermanagh Lakelands: The Share Discovery Village in Lisnaskea offers windsurfing and other watersports skills courses for kids and adults.

:: More information at

Woodland surprise

IF YOU go down to Brackfield Wood today, you're in for an added surprise. The Woodland Trust's Centenary Wood, in Co Derry's beautiful Faughan Valley, is the venue for a Saturday brimming with activities,from mindfulness to storytelling – all free of charge.

Brackfield is one of four woods taking shape across the UK to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War. The trust's Centenary Woods project will see millions of trees planted in recognition of the millions of lives lost.

Activities start at 11am. Booking essential (see or call 0330 333 5302).

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