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A son and surf weekend


Fun and games in Northern Ireland

Fun and games in Northern Ireland

Fun and games in Northern Ireland

A WEEKEND driving a 4x4, hovercraft and learning to surf - it's a young boy's (and dad's) dream trip.

What's more it can all be done in just two days - and you don't have to travel to the other side of the world for it.

It's only a short trip up north - and the Tullylagan Country House Hotel, just outside Cookstown in Co Tyrone, was our central base.

It's a three-star hotel in a period house that's a star above that. Rooms are comfy, there's a roaring fire downstairs and even a trad session broke out on the Saturday night in front of the roaring log fire.

We ate in the informal Harry's Bar & Bistro - which offers either a la carte or a great value £10 dining option. The Kitchen restaurant is more high end, and there's a great buzz in the period house room that's classy but fun too.

Situated in the heart of Northern Ireland, our longest drive to the activities was to the Derry coast - but still only an hour and a half from the hotel.

I was with my adventure-loving 12-year-old, Stephen. Still at an age when it's not uncool to be seen away with dad, but old enough to be better at most things than me.

And it was nice to have memories to treasure before he gets to an age when it's Ibiza with the lads, or, heaven forbid, with some girlfriend.

Our port of call was beautiful Benone Beach, where Stephen's instructor (I chickened out) had him ready for the Atlantic waves.

Super-cool instructor Dan Lavery seems to be living the dream - and he's brilliantly expert and patient (he teaches all ages, including the blind and special needs learners).

From a lesson on the beach, he soon had Stephen paddle-boarding and then surfing (and tumbling) like a Baywatch expert. Even on a cool day - this was back in early April - Stephen didn't want to leave. Given the chance, he'll be back in a shot.

A short drive away and it's time for another adventure - driving a hovercraft. Foylehovni had played host to a host of celebrities who want to try the Top gear-style driving challenge - on water and land.

There's even a leaders' board with such names as football pundit Gary Lineker and his wife and TV travel couple Jon and Ciara Whelan (Ciara beat him by a mile).

Younger children like Stephen have to drive with an adult - but it's stil the same adrenaline-filled fun.

Racing around a track over water and land, avoiding the long grass (that's hard), is thrilling. There's enormous power in the mini hovercraft, and you use your body to steer around, a bit like jet-skiing on grass.

I won't even mention the time it took to get around the track, but if was a windy day, the very patient team tried to resassure me.

Grdeat for kids and adults like, seemingly it's a big bit with hen parties who drop over from nearby Derry city before the big day.

One day over, and exhausted, we headed back to Tullylagan for a welcome dinner and nap.

Breakfast was traditionally Irish - enormous - and a nice touch is that it's freshly cooked and served witha a smile and a nice chat.

A short drive took us to our last, and biggest, challenge - and once that I couldn't chicken out of in front of a child.

Todd's Leap is a one-stop shop of fun and mandness. It's the kind of of place evey school should try, and plenty were there on the Sunday morning we visited.

It's a vast site of zip-lines, off-road driving, scary dives onto giant inflatables and wearing man-sized balloons for sumo-style fights.

First up, the zip-line, terrying for me as I hage heights, but left with a smug feeling of satisfaction when I soared down across the forest without wetting myself.

Then Stepehen got ato drive an enormous off-road vehicle. Incredible! Our navigator, a former driving instructor, had Stephen getting into gear, manoeuving through a car park (please don't hit the Audi!!!!) and down through the forest tracks, summits and drops. He took it all in his stride, did better than me, incredibly, and we learned tht the youngest ever driver was a mere four years of age.

Then the ultimate challenge of our trip - swinging from a giant harness that threw us around in the air. After the first landing I swore I'd never do it again, until we were told we'd have to do it face-first high in the air. My face was a picture of fear. Stephen just laughed.

And that's the point of these trips - kids having a laugh at the expense of their parents. and that's a lasting memory in itself for both of us.