It’s strange how 40kph seems like no speed at all when you’re stuck behind a tractor on a country road... and yet it feels completely different when you’re hurtling down a hillside in a little yellow toboggan.
Billed as a ‘white knuckle’ ride, I’m certainly gripping the lever tightly as we twist and turn our way through forest outside Belfast on Ireland’s very first alpine coaster ride, but it’s clear that my three-year-old sitting in front of me feels so such fear – in fact he’s clearly trying to inch the gear stick forwards to go even faster.
Some 40 feet behind me I can hear our six-year-old, riding with his dad, whoop with delight as he plunges down the slope into the tunnel we’ve just exited.
And all too soon we’re being winched back towards the summit, ready to go again.
With its 565m of track, 12 twists and two tunnels, the Black Bull Run – Ireland’s first and only alpine coaster – opens this Wednesday to the public at Colin Glen, an adventure park in the hills of west Belfast.
Set in an idyllic 200 acres of woodland (but just a short drive from the M1) the rollercoaster is part of a €5.8m investment at the park, with world-class attractions now including a new 250m Forest Flyover Zipline and, opening in August, a River Rapid zipline where visitors can expect to notch up speeds of up to 80kph on what will be Ireland’s longest zipline.
The new rides (at the freshly-created Mountain entrance) join established attractions, like the Gruffalo trail, a SKYTrek Ultimate Ropes course and a high-tech driving range, lower down the mountain at the River and Leisure entrances - with the journey time between all entrances worth bearing in mind if you’re booking multiple entertainment options.
The adrenaline rides are a savvy addition to the offering, with adventure-starved families keen for fun ways to keep the kids happy in this year of ‘staycations’.
In the first 24 hours of pre-booking opening, 500 slots had already been snapped up.
Certainly the coaster does it for our two. My youngest, Finn (three), loves anything sensory and is beaming with the exhilaration of the ride downhill, through rustling forest and dark tunnels. Tom (six) is bolstered by the element of control he’s felt, taking charge of the toboggan’s lever and (ever more cautious than his thrill-seeking brother) braking zealously as entered corners and dips.
The coaster is suitable for three years and up, with three to seven year olds having to ride with a parent (there’s a combo adult/child ticket) while eight and up can ride solo, but must have an adult on site.
Pre-booking a time slot is essential and a session for the Black Bull Run lasts between 30 and 45 minutes with two journeys on the ride. Prices range from £10.50 (approx €12.25) for kids to £18 (approx €21) for an adult and child combo.
The mountain entrance site is still in its infancy and feels a little sparse.
There are picnic tables and a coffee cart is planned, but it could maybe do with something small like a playground to occupy the under tens while big kids (of all ages) try out the zipline – an exhilarating experience I thoroughly enjoyed, even if my screaming might have suggested otherwise.
Pre-booking is essential for all activities with combo packages and discounts on the website (colinglen.org).