Every year at Christmas we all go through the same mind-boggling problem of what presents to buy for friends and family that will surprise them. We look for inspiration from our friends in the office, try and get a hint from a partner or take a sneaky look at a kid’s letter to Santa – often with mixed results!
Worry not however, as the ‘little elves’ at Tourism Northern Ireland have been hard at work looking for fun, original and great gift ideas to save you from a nightmare before Christmas!
Ruth Burns, PR and Marketing Destination Manager, Tourism Northern Ireland explains why people should try out an alternative Christmas gift this year:
“We’re asking people to let Northern Ireland be their inspiration this year when thinking of alternative Christmas gifts. It’s tempting, but a little unimaginative, to give the same old pyjamas and socks and soaps and perfumes as presents every year but Northern Ireland has some truly unique and exciting experiences that would make great alternative gifts.
“From a short break in a stunning location to an exhilarating tandem sky dive or Game of Thrones Archery experience – there’s something for everyone.”
Tourism NI has listed a range of fun alternative Christmas gifts:
A.W.O.L. Paintball & Adventure Activities, Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone. If you have a thrill seeker in your life then treat them to an exhilarating experience at A.W.O.L. where they can choose from archery, canoeing, kayaking, abseiling, assault courses and much more. www.letsgoawol.com
Half Days Sailing on the Antrim Coast, Causeway Coast Sailing, Ballycastle, Co Antrim. If there is a budding sailor in your family then a day out on the Antrim Coast will prove to be the perfect Christmas gift. This experience will allow them to learn the ropes with hands on experience as well as take in the spectacular views. www.causewaycoastsailing.com
Game of Thrones Archery Experience, Clearsky Adventure Centre, Castle Ward, Co Down. Game of Thrones fans will love this experience which will allow them to step into the fascinating world of Winterfell and enjoy archery in the very place that the hit TV series was filmed as well as play dress up in a Game of Thrones costume. www.clearsky-adventure.com
Wild Photography, Far and Wild, various locations. This is the ideal gift for nature lovers as it gives them the opportunity to get up close and personal with wild life through a camera lens. The unique experience lets the lucky recipient take a gentle hike with an expert through remote countryside in search of locations and wild life that will help people create exciting and intriguing shots. www.farandwild.co.uk
Dive in the Sea, Aquaholics Dive School, Portstewart, Co Derry~Londonderry. Give someone you love the opportunity to try something completely new and discover a whole other side to the North Coast. Perfect for anyone who has ever wanted to have a go at scuba diving, this three hour session will include a safety briefing and instruction from a fully qualified PADI instructor. www.aquaholics.co.uk
Tandem Skydive, Wild Geese Skydiving Centre, Garvagh, Co Derry~Londonderry. The lucky recipient of this thrilling gift will experience freefall from 15,000 feet whilst being securely attached to an experienced instructor. www.skydivewildgeese.com
Extreme Downhill Zorbing, Jungle NI, Magherafelt, Co Derry~Londonderry. Perfect for anyone that loves an adrenaline rush as this experience involves climbing inside a giant inflatable 3 metre ball and rolling down a purpose-built run at speeds of over 20mph. Not for the faint hearted this experience is sure to leave participants buzzing. www.thejungleni.com
Tarzan’s Tree Top Adventure, Jungle NI, Magherafelt, Co Derry~Londonderry. Give someone you love an experience at Northern Ireland’s only tree top adventure course where they can swing from the trees on over 40 challenging elements set at varying heights above the ground, some up to 70ft high. Obstacles to be tackled include rope bridges, scramble nets, Tarzan swings, a 200m zipline and a King Louis Descent Powerfan drop. www.thejungleni.com
North Coast Sea Kayaking Experience, Simply Sea Kayak, Portrush, Co Antrim. This is a fantastic opportunity to sample one of the most iconic sea kayaking trails in the world. This truly unique experience includes a skills session and guided paddle, taking in the stunning views of the North Coast.www.simplyseakayak.co.uk
Northern Ireland Microlights, Newtownards, Co Down. Treat someone you love to a trial in an airplane such as a Nosewheel or Tailgragger 3 Axis aircraft where they can enjoy an exhilarating experience whilst soaking up the beauty of the surrounding countryside. www.nimicrolights.co.uk
Ideas for Couples
Couples pod camping adventure package, Clearsky Adventure Centre, Castle Ward, Co Down. Give someone a minibreak with a difference this year and allow them to spend the night in a quirky heated camping pod set in the beautiful 820 acre National Trust owned demesne. With bike hire and a choice of either archery or canoeing also included this is the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure. www.clearsky-adventure.com
Kestral Cruise, Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh. Enjoy a romantic cruise around Lough Erne with your other half taking in the stunning scenery and many historical viewpoints such as Devenish Island. www.ernetours.com
Couples Thrill Seeking Experience, Todds Leap, Ballygawley Co Tyrone. Why not compete to see who really is the better driver with an off road experience before zooming down a 500m zip line and taking part in a heart racing white knuckle hill rally ride. www.toddsleap.com
Bay to Bay Sea Tour for Two, Portrush Sea Tours, Portrush, Co Antrim. Take in the glorious sights of Ramore Head, the Skerries, Dunluce Castle and Island Doo and enjoy the stunning sandy beaches of Portrush from the sea as you zoom across the water on a high speed boat. www.portrushseatours.com
We are Vertigo, Newtownbreda, Belfast, Co Antrim. Treat someone special to a memorable experience at this indoor trampoline park, ski and adventure centre. Choose from skiing, snowboarding, high ropes, low ropes and a climbing wall. www.wearevertigo.com
Sheans Horse Farm and Heritage Centre, Armoy, Co Antrim. Why not enjoy a romantic horse riding experience together at Sheans Riding School in Armoy close to the Causeway Coast. Treat your other half to a canter through the beautiful countryside and stunning Antrim hills. www.sheanshorsefarm.com
Couples Titanic Segway and Archery Adventure, Titanic, Belfast. Treat your other half to a tour with a difference at Titanic Belfast. Visit all the key sites where the famous ship was built and discover its fascinating history all whilst gliding along on a Segway. Participants will also enjoy a one hour archery session under the famous Harland & Wolff cranes. www.segwayni.co.uk
For Mum and Dad
‘High Sea at Tea’ voyage, Clearsky Adventure Centre, Strangford Lough, Co Down. Treat your Mum and Dad to an afternoon tea with a difference. Enjoy the sights and sounds of Strangford Lough including the SeaGen, Seals, and Angus Rock Lighthouse before stopping at a beautiful spot to enjoy a nice cup of tea and homemade scones. www.clearsky-adventure.com
Belle Isle Cookery School, Lisbellaw, Co Fermanagh. Ensure that Sunday dinners at your Mum and Dads are first class from now on by buying them a cookery lesson at one of Northern Ireland’s cookery schools. The list of options is endless and includes winter warmers, Home Baking and food for friends.www.irishcookeryschool.com
McComb’s Coach Travel, Giants Causeway Tour. Encourage your Mum and Dad to uncover some of the hidden gems that are right on their doorstep with a McComb’s Coach Tours voucher allowing them to experience a trip to the Giant’s Causeway that will take in Carrickfergus Castle, Bushmills Distillery and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. www.mccombscoaches.com
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. If your Mum or Dad are budding historians then they might appreciate a short break away in Co Armagh, one of Northern Ireland’s most fascinating counties. The city of Armagh boasts two impressive cathedrals both with their own interesting stories of history and heritage.www.stpatricks-cathedral.org
Christmas gifts on a budget
Christmas can be an expensive time so instead of worrying about having to spend lots of money, why not treat your nearest and dearest to a fun experience around Northern Ireland.
Perhaps a cosy walk along the beach or in a local beauty spot or forest park with a picnic filled with mince pies and turkey sandwiches. The options in Northern Ireland are huge and include stunning beaches such as Magilligan in Co Derry~Londonderry, Portrush in Co Antrim, Crawfordsburn in Co Down and Tyrella Beach in Co Down. Many of these beaches are close to a sea side town and so are perfect for exploring lots of different sights and sounds as well as enjoying a yummy fish and chip at the end of the day.
If you and your family love the great outdoors then why not hop on your bikes, create some fun memories and enjoy one of the many cycle routes available including Dundrum Coastal path in Co Down, Musgrave Park in Belfast, Claudy Country Park in Co Derry~Londonderry and Larne to Browns Bay in County Antrim.
The whole family will love a trip to the Ulster Museum where they will come face to face with dinosaurs, meet an ancient Egyptian mummy and see modern masterpieces. Or why not delve into the past at the Down County Museum where everyone can enjoy the exhibitions showing artefacts relating to the history of County Down from years gone by to the present day.
For more information on things to do in Northern Ireland click on www.discovernorthernireland.com or visit your local tourist information centre.