Great Yarmouth North Beach parkrun

Great Yarmouth North Beach parkrun. Start in the middle, head out to sea and turn right, then it’s two laps, and finish where you started. Don’t miss the finish if you’ve run nearer the sea for firmer ground (you end up a little way from the signs).

There are several parkruns entirely on beaches, but not loads, so I decided not to miss my chance to fit another in. This is a fairly new parkrun, in that this was only the 18th event, but it started before everything closed down in 2020, so it is a year and a half old.

‘Caution Runners’ sign at the top left of the course, near the boating lake.

There is a car park right next to the start, and there are also toilets there. The car parks along the sea front are all quite expensive, though, so for cheaper paid parking, park in town or on the sea front itself. In town, it’s £1 an hour, on the road at the front, £4 for 3 hours. Alternatively, a little further North, there’s free parking. I parked in Salisbury Road, from where it’s about half a mile to the start, and there are more toilets on the sea front at the end of the road. Parking by the sea is free here, too.

The start is further in to the beach, to the left of this picture, but you can’t miss it – the Beach Hut on the right is on the map.

As well as being a run entirely on sand, which I thought might be kinder to my knee (it was not), this is a relatively small one in attendance – we had 39, which is fairly typical at this point in its life. The record is 160, from the first event, but they’ve only three subsequent times had more than half that.

Early on, having turned towards the sea.

It’s useful to listen to the first-timers’ briefing if you’ve not been before, as there are a few important instructions. First of all, don’t run in front of anyone fishing – it might be annoying, and they might be casting. Keep on the sand, and don’t run on the dunes once on the town-side part of the course. There are plenty of ‘keep left’ signs on spades, which was a nice touch, and a couple of marshals patrolling to keep us honest.

Keep left sign on a spade.

All of this means that there are only a couple of places with firm footing. There’s an area which has enough grass in the sand, up towards the boating lake. And you get the chance to run nearer the sea once you turn at that end – though the temptation to stay there, in front of fishers, must need a bit of controlling. We were told there were lots of fishers, but that turned out to be just the one, who seemed unbothered by our presence.

Other than that, it’s soft sand, then soft sand with some pebbles, and an occasional tiny incline that feels, thanks to the soft sand I must remember to mention, like a big hill. It is very tough. I have run Woolacombe Dunes, famously hard thanks to having an actual hill up a dune, but was significantly quicker there (over 8 minutes). I am, admittedly, a different runner now, with only one good knee, but gosh, this was hard. The Dunes run has a lovely downhill bit. This one, flat. With soft, soft sand.

Still, don’t use my times as a guide. Expect to be a minute or so per kilometre slower than a fast course – it was more than that for me.

Some slightly harder, but still soft, sand near the sea.

It is absolutely lovely, though. The conditions will vary wildly with the seasons, and even from week to week. We had some crazy clouds, and a bit of a headwind for the South-bound section, but it was pretty good. A cold start, but this is an ideal way to warm up, and running (or struggling) through (I use the word advisedly, and not “on”) the sand with the sound of the sea rushing in to shore is a glorious thing.

Run towards the sea.
A view of the wind farm over the dunes.
The lovely finish. At times it really felt like it wouldn’t, but it does end. After 5k, in fact.

Other than the run the Venetian waterways, right next to the course, were renovated in 2019 and look great. There are hotels all along the front, and also several cafes, which combined to torment us with the smell of breakfast on the entire route. The Beach Cafe itself opens at 10, though looked open when we finished, so may have clued in to the fact that some customers are appearing from the beach at 9:30. I managed to resist, walked back along the front past people setting up for the Fire on the Water festival, and drove along the sea front to soak up a little more sea air.

Results from Great Yarmouth North Beach parkrun, event 18, 16/10/21.

Bressay parkrun, Shetland

Bressay parkrun route. Start at the top, run all the way to the bottom, then back up to the finish – c.2 miles out, 1 mile back.

Bressay (pron. “Bressy”) is an island to the East of the Shetland mainland, just a few minutes on a ferry (officially 10, which is possible if you include mooring time and the ferry is full of cars you have to wait for before you stroll off, but no matter – it’s a short trip). It’s a scenic part of the world, even on a drizzly day such as we had.

Looking back at the ferry on the stroll to the start.

The ferry is £6 return, payable on the way out only (cash or card). Locals and long-stayers can currently get a ferry card for cheaper travel. The ferry itself is easy to find, right on the waterfront in Lerwick – you can see the route on the map above. I walked past it by accident the day before while strolling round town after I’d got off the larger ferry from Kirkwall (Orkney) which docks further to the North of town. The event team meet the ferry to point everyone in the right direction and greet volunteers, though it’s fairly straightforward to follow people on the short walk to the hotel and round to the side where the parkrun flag flies, above the painted start line.

The start line, painted, next to the Maryfield House hotel.

Although fairly remote, as the North-most parkrun in the UK (Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia have more northerly ones) this is a destination event for parkrunners, so I wasn’t totally surprised to not be the person there with the most completed parkruns, even in a field of just 46. It was a little more of a surprise that I actually knew the person who had run more, though it took me several glances to realise. We’ve not been in the same place since a trip to Poland in 2013, so I let myself off, even though I’d said good morning to her on the way to the ferry and then smiled when she let the event team know she was from Bushy. Two big clues, but it was something in the way she walked to the start that reminded me – wait – Gdansk and Gdynia?!

There were a few other tourists, including a couple from Alaska who I assumed were in Shetland for work – there’s a lot of well-paid jobs here in oil and gas. Others, including my friend, had run the Loch Ness marathon the weekend before and could enjoy a more relaxed weekend this time round.

The course is a long out and then shorter back, as you go past the finish line after just under a mile, head further on down the road before a right turn, turn around a cone and back to the finish at Speldiburn cafe. A quick left-turn into the cafe car park and you’re over the painted finish line and can go for drinks and breakfast baps next door. It’s pretty much the perfect setup.

The mail shop. A right turn to follow the course. The low wall held our bags. The finish is to the left after the low wall (but is almost straight on from the road on the right when you actually run/walk it). Credit: Google maps.

There’s no bag-moving service, so those in the know, and those of us who always travel with a running bag just in case, set off with our bags on our backs, then cast them aside at the mail shop, which marks the corner before the finish. A helpful marshal was there to take them from us and arrange them nicely on the wall. That helped me greatly. For one, I didn’t want to run with my bag the whole way. For two, I had offered to scan barcodes once I’d finished, so being able to collect my bag for the last 200m without having to find wherever I’d dropped it was super efficient. I have run and scanned before, but it always feels like a bit of an indulgence, and not necessarily that helpful unless you know you’ll finish first, as someone else has to be there to scan at least till you get there (and realistically, why would they then stop?). Now I’m several minutes slower than I was, even more so, but they were still looking for people at 7pm on Friday and wanted two scanners, so I figured offering would help make sure the event went ahead and my lack of pace wouldn’t be too awful – a look at previous events suggested I ought to be fairly well in the first half of finishers. It worked out, at any rate – and I’d happily have dropped out had a third person offered. As it was, I was able to finish, scan several of the people behind me and get to chat to several of them after they’d finished, as well as some of the other volunteers.

Left turn into the finish.

The route itself is undulating. They did warn us of a hill, and there is one, but it’s short and mean rather than a huge obstacle. The start is downhill, which is always exciting, and then it’s a case of up, flatten, down, up, up, flatten, and so on – a classic example of a course that rarely lets you go. That hill is towards the end of the long out, so reappears into the final mile, to test you, and there’s a little more uphill heading towards the finish itself to keep everyone breathing heavily.

As for returning, it’s possible to finish and walk/run the mile back to get on the 10:30 ferry, but I joined the crowd in the cafe. Table service at the moment makes it very simple, and you don’t even have to keep an eye on the clock with the 11:30 ferry in mind: there was a general movement at 11:00, some finishing of drinks and conversations, and a fairly leisurely walk up Gunnista road (not on the course) and left to make it to the ferry without rush.

Happy gang of volunteers.

All parkruns are great, and each have something to recommend them, but there’s a lot in the combination of hopping on a ferry, running somewhere remote with scenic views, and most of the participants being able to fit in the cafe, a cafe right on the finish line, to make this a really special one. Book your ferry!

Results from Bressay parkrun, event 120, 9/10/21.

Skara Brae Neolithic Settlement, Orkney

Orkney countryside.

After a weekend of windy weather, Monday was sunny and relatively still. The ideal day for a walk through the island.

A bunker by the roadside on a quiet road.
Skara Brae is just the other side of this loch – the visible building is Skaill House.
A highland cow looking monolithic in greeting.

Orkneys buses cover much of the island, but for places that aren’t ferry ports, are only intermittent. It’s possible to get a bus to Skara Brae, but direct ones from Stromness go rarely enough that it seemed easier to walk – it’s 7 or 8 miles, depending where in Stromness you start from. I booked my ticket ahead of time to make sure the fairly tight capacity limits weren’t reached by the time I got there, though on an October Monday that wasn’t really an issue. It’s £9 for adults, or £4.50 if, like me, you are in the first year of an English Heritage membership (if you’re a renewed member, it’s free).

Orkney has plenty of Neolithic sites, and Skara Brae may be the highlight; a settlement of ten houses. It was discovered by chance in 1850, when a severe storm took the earth from a large knoll, to show the outline of the village. It was partly excavated, then abandoned before it was returned to in order to protect it from the sea and people raiding for artefacts. Now, there’s a museum, the site itself (and a display room next to it, currently closed) and Skaill House.

The museum is in the visitor centre, and just has a few rooms to introduce the site. The artefacts found, at least those of whalebone, are in incredible condition, given the settlement was occupied between approx 3200 and 2200BC.

Just outside the centre is a re-creation of the best-preserved house, to give an idea of how each would have looked when intact. They were all built to the same template, so if you’ve seen this one, you’ve seen them all.

Re-created house at Skara Brae. By the wall is a dresser on the right, box bed in the middle.

From there it’s a short walk to the site. Beside it are dated blocks to give you an idea of just how far back in time you are going – beyond the Romans, past the construction of the pyramids, to this collection of houses.

It’s a place to wonder at, rather than spend ages. It isn’t a large site, but on a good day it’s astonishing enough to just stand and stare, imagining a bustling community living here.

Undulating Skara Brae.
Houses linked by passageways.
A house, with dresser and remains of bed and fireplace.

From the site itself, another short walk takes you to Skaill House, for a chance to see how rich people lived not very long ago.

Skaill House.

The house has been there, gradually expanded, since 1620. It strikes a slightly discordant note with the ancient marvel that is the settlement, but it’s presented nicely and, I suppose, does the job of returning you to more recent times. There is some personal history of the owners, which I found mostly uninteresting – great for them, of course, but not for me – other than that of the last person to live there full-time, who retreated to mostly live in one room as the house grew mouldy around her. She died in 1991 and left it to Malcolm Macrae, who had it restored so as to be on display, host weddings and hold a couple of rental flats for holiday-makers.

I was lucky enough to be just behind a charming double-act, who entered each room with “nice room”, and then gave the call-back “lovely room!” As we finished and headed for the gift shop, he agreed that yes, he would like ice-cream. “Vanilla?” “Yes, of course”. Quite. I had the chocolate, which was excellent.

Display on the discovery of Skara Brae in Skaill House.

Visible from the site, and a short walk down the road (or through a metal gate on the left of the site – I snuck back in this way, ticket to hand in case I was challenged) is a great beach. On a sunny day like today, it is a great place for lunch, and not itself a long walk even if you walk the whole length.

Just above the wall, a rabbit – standing still and hoping I’ll go away.
Panoramic view of the Bay of Skaill.

The way back was harder than the way there – purely because I got more tired, and walking along the side of the road needed a little bit of attention, which was ebbing. I also chose not to take the slightly shorter route, down Hillside Road, as it was slippery and uphill on the way there, and I didn’t fancy sliding down it on the way back. That left me on the main road: the roads aren’t busy, the walk is fine, but after a couple of hours of checking behind me every time a car came towards me, in case a car coming the other way meant I needed to move off the road, I was tired. If you can get the bus one way, I would recommend it.

The only rain of the day came in horizontally for a brief period, being replaced by more sunshine and a rainbow, which topped off a glorious day.

Rainbow under changing skies.
The route undulates to reveal different views. Here, the Loch of Stenness.
Curious cows, suggesting they don’t get many visitors.

Orkney Wireless Museum

Next to the ferry terminals, on Junction Road, is a small museum of radio and its use in the war. When I went, it was offering free entry, though they seemed uncertain whether that would continue – some summers, the entry fee provides enough income to cover the insurance on what is low-cost volunteer effort.

Radios and valves.

The space is crammed with radios and related paraphernalia. Components, posters, even an empty old display unit for batteries. They must have done a roaring trade back in the day.

Cinema advertising.

There’s an obvious route through, past the radio section and into the war one, though you get a quick view of everything from the door – it’s that diddy. Captions are plentiful and I thought the whole thing charming, though the attendant was quick to add that many people found it chaotic. Charming and chaotic, perhaps.

Valve porn
Old radios

I know next to nothing about radios, am not especially interested and entered in slight trepidation that I might be assumed to be a ham-nut and subjected to more detail than I could cope with. But that was not the tone at all – enter and enjoy it in whatever capacity you can. For me, those old radios, with intricate wooden cases, were a highlight, as was the spy radio from the war (though you’d think I’d have taken a photo of the latter, and I did not).

WW2 mobile radio.
WW2 radio stuff

It’s a lovely museum, a short walk from the centre of Kirkwall and cheap to boot.

Kirkwall parkrun, Orkney

Kirkwall parkrun route. Start behind the small boathouse, head South then turn left, turn around the cone and come all the way back round the outside, round the cone at top right, then back and left to go past the start. On the third time, miss the second cone by heading right to finish where you start.

Although I missed the summer, and hit a windy weekend, I made it to Orkney in time to see it at its best, in sunshine. The ferry from Scrabster, at the very top of Scotland, takes under two hours, and leaves you in Stromness, where I had decided to stay.

As a result, I had to hop on a bus to get to Kirkwall, but the 8:10 got me there for 8:40, leaving plenty of time to stroll around the town and have a look over the course. It’s easier to do than to describe, with nearly three laps going back and forth past the Peedie sea (Peedie is an Orcadian word, for ‘small’ – it used to form a natural harbour). There are plenty of places to stay in Kirkwall if you’d rather, with the Peedie hostel overlooking the route.

One of many views from the bus.

There’s plenty to see from the bus, with views of the sea on both sides at one point. The fields are full of sheep (sheep) and cows (coos), for extra highlights.

View over the Peedie Sea from near the second cone. Start and finish at the small boathouse in the middle of the picture.

In the sun, the place looked gorgeous, but the wind blowing towards the sea at our backs was enough to slow us all down as we ran across the middle of the course. Turnout, at 34, was a nice size for a course that has two out-and-back sections on narrow paths, though they’ve had over 100, which must have been a little more chaotic.

Blue cones mark the finish, runners head left to right on the path.
The finish, with clouds gathering.

It’s all on paths, so unless the sea floods in you’ll have no difficulty with grip. And although the course description sounds complex, it’s very easy to follow. It’s also very easy to find – I hopped off the bus beside Tesco, knowing that was on the route, but if you stay on till the travel centre in Kirkwall, you’ll still be in sight of the course.

The course is distant (but not far) in between the lampposts.
View from the second cone – boathouse centre-right.

After a lovely run, as the weather brightened and the wind seemed less significant (more because I wasn’t trying to run into it, I suspect, than because it had disappeared – it only got stronger towards Sunday), I had a wander round Kirkwall itself, which is a charming town with a small centre.

The parkrun is also near the harbour, where they play the Ba game. I chose purely to imagine how it would feel to score the winning goal, fully immersing the ball in the sea – the sign nearby points out that players often immerse themselves, too, and it’s hard to imagine being given the time to score while pursued by a scrum of players without hurling yourself into the cold-looking water. I sat overlooking it in the sun, instead.

Results from Kirkwall parkrun event 111, 2/10/21.

Ireland vs Zimbabwe, Stormont Cricket Club, Belfast

Ireland’s final winning score. There really is a bar behind the scoreboard, though you order there, then they wander off to the pavilion, the other side of the pitch, to bring it back to you.

Scorecard from Ireland vs Zimbabwe, 3rd ODI, 13/9/21.

I had been checking the Northern Cricket Union website on and off, hoping to catch a league match, but without success – fixtures are published but I never found a start time. That might be me, or just that spectators are discouraged in Covid times (unlike England, Northern Ireland hasn’t given up and given in to the macho “pchaw, I’ll be alright” crowd). It was with some excitement, then, that I spotted that the Ireland team would be playing in Northern Ireland, after some sell-out T20s in Dublin.

I managed not to over-excitedly book tickets weeks ahead, figuring that the weather might be changeable, but relented with a week to go, in case they hit the 500 limit. When the previous Friday’s match was abandoned after one innings, I was worried, especially with rain in the forecast, but the rain spread itself through the day, and they got a result even after a 2.5 hour delay to the start.

Rain delays the start, as a blotter patrols the outfield.

I knew it would be convenient, given the terms and conditions promised free parking at the ground, but still didn’t expect to be able to drive right in and parked at the Stormont car park next door – it’s small, but free all day, and a short walk to the ground. But I could have driven right in and parked more or less by the door, it’s that convenient. Adelaide was good, given you can park very close for $20 on the day, but this is better, and the convenience feels like a thrill after the hassle of attending any large-scale event.

The crowd wasn’t large, with 30-40 in to begin with, swelling to 100 or so in the afternoon, helped by schools and work finishing for the day, so tickets were not hard to come by. They were also a bargain at £15, so I wasn’t overly bothered by the tough refund conditions. So long as 9.5 overs were bowled, you’d see nothing back.

Ireland warm up to bowl, having won the toss.

I had brought plenty to read but ended up chatting to fellow cricket lovers who were glad to see a game after cancelling their trip to Manchester – before the game itself was cancelled, and just because England seems too insane a place to visit right now. We passed the time before the game finally started, and then Brendan Taylor walked out for his final international innings. An overcast day didn’t look likely to provide conditions for a glorious end, and so it proved as Josh Little bowled both openers after a slow, solid start. He is a useful weapon.

Rain took the players on and off, with the number of overs gradually nibbled away at, and the usual comedy that cricket’s laws ensure – at one point they played through a shower, walked off as it ended and then didn’t appear again for half an hour as we sat there in the dry.

Getkate fields on the boundary as Zimbabwe lose wickets, including to him, later.
A few guidelines. We didn’t have to worry about touching the ball, with the few sixes hit either out of the ground or, twice, to the pavilion.

Covid-wise, we were asked to download the NI app, take a test beforehand and have a mask to hand for going inside, not that we needed to. It was all pretty relaxed on the day, other than us being asked not to handle to ball. Stewarding was in place, but relaxed – it is very straightforward to get on to the pitch, it’s just that almost everyone just doesn’t, as we’ve seen in England recently.

No need to bring your own chairs, just grab one of these from the pile.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day, even though it was a fairly low-key game that Ireland won fairly easily, despite worries about losing the light if they went on too long, and losing a few wickets without too much batting further down. Chasing was much easier than trying to set a pace, though Ervine would have single-handedly scored plenty if he could have stayed there, and provided most of the runs in any case. The first ball of Ireland’s reply went for four as we strolled back from the ice-cream van, which set the tone, and Stirling did more or less as he pleased. He was given out at least twice and successfully overturned with reviews before eventually bashing one up in the air. Zimbabwe did much worse with reviews, with Ireland reviewing two, maybe three decisions that weren’t given in the field, and players trooping off afterwards (without screens, that was how we knew the decision went against them). The Irish umpires were perhaps being extra careful not to be perceived as being in favour of the home team, backed up by technology.

Raza fields as Stirling hits one up in the air – if you look carefully, you can see the ball, a little above Stirling and to the right, a lucky shot that would have made an excellent photo with a zoom lens.

There were Zimbabwe fans there, too, who chatted happily to Raza when he came close. He was the highlight of the day for me, as I gestured to the umbrella I’d just put up as they played on in rain, and he shouted “Ump! Look! And these are the locals!”

Near as dammit, anyway.

The cricket ended some time before 7 – a long day, as I was there for the 10:30 start which didn’t happen, but one which whizzed by. Having parked at Stormont I took advantage of the last of the light to have a walk around the estate, which is a lovely spot, with the parliament building way at the top of the hill. Apparently the trees are planted 200ft apart at the start of the drive, spreading to 250 near the top, which gives a false perspective and makes the building look closer than it is. Clever. And perhaps good motivation for the runners who were using it for training: “It can’t be that much further! It is, though”.

View down the Avenue, past Carson’s statue.
Stormont Parliament Buildings.
From the car park to the grounds.
Stormont is another place with a parkrun. Running it will be another chance to talk about hills, I can tell.
Celebrating and commemorating Mo Mowlam.
A final view of Stormont. At this point, the building appeared to be ticking. Whether from the flagpoles or some monitoring system, or something else entirely, I couldn’t tell.

Dundalk parkrun, Ireland

As parkrun returned in Ireland, I decided that heading a short distance across the border wasn’t too out of keeping with the spirit of things, and the fact that Dundalk was well under an hour’s drive away sealed the deal.

Dundalk parkrun route. Start at the pictures, into the middle and round the roundabout, then three anti-clockwise laps and back down the middle section.
Dundalk parkrun sign at Dundalk Institute of Technology.

As it’s only just starting back and they’re feeling their way, there are no facilities on site – use the hotel was the general idea. There is plenty of parking, free on a Saturday, though that didn’t stop many people bumping onto the pavement by the yellow lines. Let’s be charitable and there were many people who figured 5k was their absolute limit, so walking an extra 150m would be too much.

Parking at DkIT.

There’s a lovely big windmill on campus, which is a feature you can’t miss.

View of the windmill from the middle of the park.
The start is just behind the zebra crossing. The laps run left to right.

As a multi-lap route running round some fields, this could be uninspiring, but I found plenty to look at, and the course twists just enough to keep it interesting. One side is slightly downhill, the opposite slightly up, but otherwise this has the potential to be pretty quick, so long as you can get round everyone. Not an issue I had, so this was my quickest of the year again – I’m not running much, but it is still getting easier now I can parkrun regularly.

Cross the zebra crossing and follow the path round.
Path past the windmill.

Let me jump you straight past the fact of three laps to the finish. I was moving fairly well, and looking forward to the finish and a guarantee of being quicker than previous weeks. As a result I perhaps switched my brain off, and accelerated towards the very obvious finish line, next to a container in the middle of the park. We had run down there already, so I knew it. I accelerated to use up whatever I had left.

And was applauded as I past the finishing line, pointed towards the roundabout, which now seemed an implausible distance away. I had overcooked it, because the finish line had shunned me, facing the other way and waiting for me to return. I had thought my watch was going to make this course a little short, rather than reaching the more obvious conclusion that having run 4.7km, the finish line was not quite as imminent as I was attempting to make it.

There you have it – be careful with the finish, it may be slightly further away than you think it is, if you forget about the loop.

View from the roundabout in the middle.
Far end of the field.
Heading down the middle of the course.
Past the finish, round the roundabout and back to finish.

Otherwise there were no dramas, plenty of happy people and a few – though not too many – visitors from elsewhere, glad to be back at a parkrun with .ie in the URL. The playing fields were fairly busy, so be sure to follow the crowd, and paths, rather than any small groups who might break off to run across the grass, but otherwise you can’t really go wrong.

Till the finish.

Results for Dundalk parkrun event 247, 11/9/21.

Dungannon Park parkrun, NI

A novelty – a parkrun that still has the extra word ‘park’ in the name.

The route – two clockwise laps. The start is on top of a hill.

Although I could see where the run was, I wasn’t sure where to park from the website, so trusted to the directions, which said to look for the sign to the park from the road. I was relieved, then, to see volunteers gathered by the car park.

Everybody gather, huddle close beside.

Even better, behind those trees there’s a sign that clearly says start. I relaxed a little too much at that – once I got closer after some faffing, I realised that it was pointing towards the start, not its actual location. I had plenty of time, but it’s worth bearing in mind, especially as the start is on a large clearing up a cruel hill, so you don’t really want to have to rush up it.

A really large area for the start.
A downhill start, on a wide path.

It really is a very large clearing. As a result of all that space, and the first path being downhill, the start was tremendously exciting, and definitely got legs and blood moving. The surface is hard-packed, if a little rocky – think big gravel, not the stuff you’d put on a driveway – so watch your footing. You’d probably be fine running in shoes without much cushioning, so long as you’re not blasé.

A sweeping downhill turn to get to the lake.
A downhill path brings you to this uphill section, and a sharp left turn to take the path on the right.
The view from the downhill path, which I missed both times. Lovely, though – the boards near the car park have more info about building the water feature.
A view of the lake.
You’d do well to spot this on the run, but it’s there.
View over the lake, more or less on the run route.

The course is two laps, clockwise round the lake, past the campsite and through the woods. And, of course, up that sodding hill a couple of times. The route picks a less cruel incline than the one we walked up to reach the clearing, but still – it’s a fair way up. The finish is lower, though, so it is at least a net drop. And, as ever, the total elevation was disappointing (20m) given how hard the hill felt.

Narrow bridge at the back of the lake.

Some of the paths are fairly narrow, so pick your spot to overtake carefully – the start is an excellent spot, as is the long straight just afterwards, which becomes the finish. From there it is twisty and narrow, round the lake and over the bridge above.

Climbing the hill takes you to the highlight, the section through the woods. It is darker in there, and still slightly uphill, but it’s a lovely spot, with the course snaking through and back up to the clearing.

Snaking through woods.
Climbing towards the wooded section.

After doing the whole thing again, you can gallop as best possible down the tremendously exciting start (I didn’t find it quite as exciting the third time), take a right turn at the bottom and along to the finish, next to the campsite.

Right turn towards the finish.
The finish line, with scanning immediately at the finish.

The cafe is right next to the car park, and with toilets behind it – those were open even though the cafe is currently closed.

Flowers by the bandstand. Behind is the start sign, which actually points you towards the start, a few hundred metres away (but up a hill. Did I mention the hill?)
Relief map of the park.

It’s a lovely run of many features, and a nice park to have a stroll round afterwards. Dungannon itself has a series of interlinked parks, and near to Dungannon Park is a posh, if under-rented, outlet centre ensuring that not only can you get refreshments, but also a whole new wardrobe – of clothes and probably an actual wardrobe, if you’re short one. I didn’t even get to the centre of town, as the parks are a little outside, but enjoyed both a run and a walk, plus doughnuts from a supermarket. Everything I needed, and plenty I didn’t.

Results from Dungannon parkrun event 89, 4/9/21.

City Park parkrun, Craigavon

City Park parkrun route, Craigavon, Northern Ireland

A one-lapper! I have been indecisive recently – frankly, it seems as if all of Northern Ireland’s parkruns are in gorgeous settings, and I couldn’t decide between a view of the reservoir, another forest park, or the Parliament buildings. In the end, I headed for Craigavon, as that’s where new friends from Moira Junior parkrun tend to be. Several of them were there. And I missed them all on the day.

Post-run view of the leisure centre, over the lake. Civic centre car park behind me.

In part that was because this was the largest event I have done in some time, with over 200 people (and partly because I wandered straight off at the finish to get my camera). I haven’t seen so many at a run since a 10k I did in Hatfield, and not at a parkrun for… some time. It was far from congested, though, as there is masses of room outside South Lakes leisure centre, where it starts and finishes.

A view of the finish. See? Masses of space.

I parked, as the website recommends, in the civic centre, which is right next to the course. Most people park at the leisure centre, which is slightly closer, but either way there is loads of parking. The direct gate from civic centre to the water was closed by the time I got back, around 11am, but it isn’t far to walk round the centre and in through the front gate.

The finish line, with crowds.
Reverse view from (near) the finish line.
The first section, after the plaza in front of the leisure centre. No one stopped for a drink.

The other bonus of this course is that it’s a one lapper (or one plus a tiny bit, to be totally accurate, given that the start is before the finish line, so the latter is assembled after everyone has set off). After Comber’s four laps, this was quite the difference.

It is also incredibly easy to follow, once you’ve taken the right fork (shown below, and marshalled at the time) at the end of the first straight. That takes you away from the lake just for a short while – it felt a lot longer when walking it afterwards. Other than that, you just follow the lakes round, keeping them on your left, and watch for cyclists (not that I saw any) who might prefer you keep to the pedestrian part of the path.

Take the right fork for the parkrun route.
Dangerous place sign next to the lake.
A view of the lake.

It’s a very flat course – one small rise during that fork, and a couple of other slight rises that might have been as much my lack of fitness as anything else – and so ought to be a fast one if you want it to be. They have been asking for volunteers on the night before for the past few weeks, but it has always worked out, so long may it continue. On a day like yesterday, sunny throughout and then warming nicely after 11 (I spent the rest of the day at Kilkeel beach – this is one of those countries where they can’t “close the sea”), it was absolutely gorgeous.

Results from Citypark parkrun, event 389, 28/8/21 (235 finishers).

Hillsborough Forest parkrun, NI

Hillsborough Forest parkrun route. 2 laps clockwise, from the path in the woods, bottom left of the route above.

A new event, this started when parkrun returned in Northern Ireland, on 26th June 2021. It partly fills the gap between Craigavon and Castlewellan and, more importantly, is in a gorgeous location.

It doesn’t even need to use all of the available ground, so there’s more park to explore before or after if you want to. The event is two B shaped loops, clockwise in the NE section, beside the lake.

The website suggests parking in town (and that’s where the toilets are), but this was a rainy day and I parked in the Forest Park car park – at the end of Park Street on the left side of the map. This clearly gets busy, as they have marshals there once the morning gets going, but today it was pretty quiet, for obvious reasons. It was dryish as we walked to the start, and rained during the event. This was the perfect run for that, being mostly under tree cover, but that didn’t stop us all getting wet on the way back to the car park.

The start and finish. The start is actually on a path, not as “middle of the woods” as the picture makes it look.
View from the gathering point, right by the finish.
The first turn.

It’s not especially hilly, though it felt it. Whenever you turn away from the lake you’re going uphill, which makes for two obvious hills on the map. The one in the middle of the route is the toughest, especially the second time around. It’s also gravelly underfoot – nothing too loose, but you might prefer trainers with some cushioning to minimal tread.

View of the finish.
Heading up the first incline (this lot are cooling down, I wasn’t actually able to keep up with these youngsters).
Top of the course, which you cover in both directions.
It is a bit of a hill, honest. But mostly just pretty.

It’s a gorgeous course, and a great park to just mooch around afterwards – trees, lake, fort overlooking it all. People gathered happily under tree cover at the finish before making their way back to wherever they’d come from, and I strolled back round the course, mostly dry despite the rain, taking pictures.

Results from Hillsborough Forest parkrun event #9, 21/8/21 (122 finishers).

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