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Choose Your Giant Adventure

Ballintoy, Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland.

If you are a regular to my website or my social accounts, you will know by now that I am a massive advocate of two things; adventure and mental health! To be honest, I didn’t ever choose either of these - they just kind of happened - but I now realise how important both are in life.

Despite what most people probably think, adventure isn’t just about backpacks, paddle boards, walking poles and climbing boots…but those will help!

We all have the desire to travel, to see new places and we often innocently overlook what is on our doorstep. As cliché as that may sound, I think you are nodding in agreement! A great example is my friend Simon who lives just three miles from two major tourist attractions on the Causeway Coast, but has only ever driven past them!

I am without doubt a water baby. Since I was a toddler, I was running around the shallows of the Causeway Coast beaches, swimming, water skiing by the age of six and then surfing, which has taken me on so many adventures, it is incredible. I know the coastline of Northern Ireland like the back of my hand. I know how it reacts and behaves in all sorts of conditions. I feel part of it and it… part of me. I am regularly right at the centre of every mood swing the North Atlantic weather system throws at us. From the beautiful calm summers and spring to the chaos and the raging weather of late autumn and winter. I’m out there whatever the weather, BUT, I am still discovering more and more that I have not seen or experienced before. And there IS a difference. Seeing is one thing, experiencing is another and you can bet that adventure will give you both.

Discover Northern Ireland has recently launched an online interactive experience on their website, giving you the chance to Choose your Giant Adventure to help create your perfect short-break. If you are new to taking adventurous steps in life, there is a flow chart game you can follow which will help you choose what you want to do and then point you in the right direction to get started. It’s easy to follow and has all the variety you need to discover what’s around us.

I recently had the opportunity to meet the team at Causeway Coast Kayaking Tours in Ballintoy for an epic day of fun. Ballintoy is a small harbour nestled in the cliffs between Bushmills and Ballycastle. I know this area very well as I surf nearby, walk my dog on the cliffs, swim, paddle board and fish in the area regularly.

Al Mennie, Ballintoy. Picture by Discover Northern

However, I hadn’t been on a kayak here until I went along and met the guide, Robin. “Sure, what could be different to seeing the coast on a kayak compared to all the other ways you experience it”, I hear you ask. Well, that’s just it. It’s all about perspective. I cruised out of the harbour to the east and worked my way along the foot of the white, chalk cliffs going through captivating caves and big blooms of seaweed. I got a different perspective of the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge than most!

Crossing the bay between Ballintoy and Sheep Island. Picture by Discover Northern

The view from a secret cave across the bay before sunset!

Being so close to the water but not in it and hearing the water slap the kayak as I propelled myself along, is a little rush I wasn’t expecting.

I also cruised out across the channel, across the site of a wreck that lies in the depths between shore and Sheep Island, a large lump of rock protruding from the sea just offshore. The island is capped with grass, and farmers used to carry their sheep out there in boats then haul them up to the top. The island is known locally for being capable of “feeding 9, fattening 10 and starving 11 sheep”. Speaking of feeding, after my little session I stopped at O’Roarkes café in the harbour and after much deliberation, I finally made up my mind and had some cake lol!

Cake at Roarkes Kitchen Ballintoy!

The pandemic has led to more people from all over coming to stay in Northern Ireland. I’ve met people who had travelled here for the first time, and they will no doubt be back. I am fortunate to live close to the coast and I see how people have become much more adventurous recently taking up all sorts of activities from simply visiting the Causeway Coast more often, walking the forests in the Glens of Antrim, the hills of the Mourne Mountains or Castlewellan Forest Park, sea dipping, paddle boarding…the list goes on. There are so many centres and local guides who are experts in navigating the different terrains too, such as the guys up at Bike Mourne who run must visit tours of the Mourne Mountains ideal for outdoor adventure seekers. Or take it more at a slower pace with Stand Up Paddleboarding at SUP HUB NI, also in Co. Down.

Al Mennie and Robin crossing the bay at Ballintoy. Photograph by Discover Northern

But it’s not just about being an ‘outdoorsy’ type. For example, there are lots of food establishments that have opened, offering all sorts of cuisine we would have normally only found in other parts of the world! Dotted along the Causeway Coast Way Walk are fantastic little eateries that will take your taste buds on an adventure and bring so much to life too. Not only do you get to eat great food, but you get to travel, meet new people and experience new things and that’s what adventure is really about. The adventure is often in the events surrounding the activity or experience, not just in the doing it! It’s not all rugged, picture perfect outdoorsyness, it’s about looking at what’s right in front of you from new perspectives that opens our mind to new experiences and stories to tell when we return home!

I must stress how important it is to be mindful of safety when you are taking on something new. I know the excitement can be overwhelming at times and so, I strongly recommend going with a guide in whatever it is you plan to do, at least for the first time.

Being adventurous in my opinion, is a great way to relieve stress, open our minds and our hearts to new perspectives, broaden our outlook and that is where we create memories and stories. People often say I have so many stories to tell! They come from my adventurous character, from trying new things and seeking out new experiences.

Play the interactive video experience and Discover Northern Ireland at, where you can also enter a competition to win your ultimate stay in Northern Ireland. It’s worth getting the low down from the platform before rushing off on your own!

Click this link to go straight to the website and start your Giant Adventure...


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