It’s not every day you get the chance to go rowing in a Currach, so when Bout Yeh invited me onboard for a trip down the River Lagan last Sunday courtesy of the fab folk at Lagan Currachs I hopped, skipped and jumped at the opportunity.
A group of us met at the ‘Big Fish’ mid-afternoon for a pre-row photoshoot with Stephen Bradley from Bout Yeh. This gave everyone the opportunity to get to know each other a little and settle our nerves!
Niamh and Tim from Lagan Currachs were our captains for the day and once we were all safely kitted-out with lifejackets, they helped us board our stunning hand-built vessel for the afternoon. I was so lucky that Niamh and Tim had brought extra lifejackets and welcomed my husband and 3 kids to join us for the row. They of course leapt at the chance and couldn’t wait to get their hands on an oar.
We were given some brief instructions before we set sail and off we went a-cruising down the River Lagan with folks standing on the bridges overhead waving at us and taking photos of our very cool boat!
Admittedly, it took me a little while to get into the rhythm of rowing in a synchronised fashion with my other shipmates…those handcrafted oars are way heavier than they look! However once I eased into it I was able to row fairly well and also enjoy the passing views of Belfast.
As readers of my blog will know, I regularly walk and cycle around the city of Belfast. She’s a real beaut! However, I have never been able to admire the city sights from the river before and I would highly recommend this as an experience. We rowed by ‘Nula with the Hula’, Belfast Waterfront Hall, under Queen’s Bridge, all the while being able to see the world-famous Samson and Goliath cranes, the Obel Tower as well as spectacular views up to Cave Hill.
It was great to be away from the noise of traffic and the hustle and bustle of the city while still being able to enjoy the local sights from a whole new perspective. Once beyond the city centre we were well relaxed into the row and I was able to pick the brains of Niamh and Tim about how the Currach came to be making regular journeys up and down the river.
Amazingly, the Currach (a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, in case you’re wondering) was built by a group of people from across Northern Ireland. Tim and Niamh had become hooked on Currach-rowing after a holiday where they had experienced it. So, of course the next natural step was to gather a group of like-minded folks and set about the task of building one from scratch! I listened to their story with amazement, fascinated by the challenge they took on. The project lasted around 9 months, which seems super-quick to build such a beautifully crafted boat. I learned about the different types of wood used for different sections of the Currach and how they had basically learned the skills required for the build as they went along! So cool to be able to learn a traditional craft skill in our modern world where everything seems to be made of plastic or is mass-produced in a factory. I can definitely see the attraction of learning to build a wooden boat by hand. I can imagine that it requires a lot of elbow grease but can see how it would also be very therapeutic and rewarding process.
Once we had reached our destination close to Stranmillis University, we took a short break for refreshments. The boys were delighted that Niamh and Tim had thoughtfully packed hot chocolate and plenty of biscuits, and as us adults kicked back for 10 minutes with a warming cup of tea in hand, the chit-chat flowed. As we bobbed on the river, surrounded by the colours of Autumn, trees on both embankments swaying in the gentle breeze, it was so lovely to get to properly chat with my fellow rowers and make new connections. That’s what life is all about after all! So many interesting people from all walks of life.
Once we set off once more the sun began to dip in the sky. The row back was more subdued as tiredness began to set-in. It’s definitely a great workout rowing a Currach I can assure you! But so much fun too! And getting to steer the boat was definitely the defining moment of the trip for my boys! As we arrived back in the city centre, the famous starlings of Albert Bridge were flitting about in the evening light. It is quite a sight to behold but I would recommend putting up your hood as you row under the bridge or you might just get pooped on!
Exhausted but buzzing we arrived back where we had set out from and as we brought in the oars and rigged up the Currach for the night, the general agreement was that it had been a fantastic experience. I certainly gained a lot from the opportunity, finding the whole thing immensely cathartic. The boys have been raving about it ever since and shared it as their news topic in school this week.
If you fancy seeing Belfast from a whole new perspective, get in touch with Lagan Currachs via their Facebook Page. I can assure you, you will relish the experience 100%!
I want to say a massive thank-you to Stephen at Bout Yeh and to Niamh and Tim from Lagan Currachs for giving my family this magical opportunity to row the Currach down the Lagan. We thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it and are kinda itching to do it again…although possibly not on your row to Scotland! Thanks guys!