Benbradagh heather nicholl sunbeams

International Women’s Day 2021 #ChoosetoChallenge – really got me thinking.

How could I choose to Challenge myself in a way that could possibly inspire other ladies but follow the government guidelines at the same time.

I had talked about hiking from Benbradagh to Binevenagh passing our stunning coastline along the way on a number of occasions with Cherry since the first lockdown & when I suggested doing it for International Women’s Day I was delighted she was up for the Challenge too.

The plan was to start on Benbradagh Mountain on Sunday 7th March to be at the top to watch the sunrise and finish on top of Binevenagh Mountain on Monday 8th March for International Women’s Day.

Benbradagh heather nicholl sunbeamsAs we made our way to the peak of Benbradagh the golden rays of sunbeams filled the morning sky, awaking the mountains and valleys as far as the eyes could see. The sun continued to rise and in all its glory in the blink of an eye as we reached the top it made its appearance shining brightly on the land around us. Standing in awe of such beauty, not a word spoken between us we watched an extraordinary performance unfold in front of our eyes – a new day was beginning.

With pack-backs filled with all essentials – food, first aid kit, extra clothing, lights etc off we set on what was going to be an epic journey which would lead us across mountains, through forests and on the occasional road – we had no time scale, no pressure just a fun-filled adventure, just the two of us.

We were unstoppable as we set off laughing our way across Benbradagh. On reaching the bottom I was ready for food, probably the excitement of what lay ahead more than hunger – nothing beats a chicken bap and a coffee at 8.30am to get you going though.

Refuelled we set off again making our way towards Donald’s Hill, the mountain terrain working our legs with each step as we plodded along to the top. From here the views were incredible, we could see Binevenagh, The Sperrin, Donegal and beyond. We took time to capture the beauty, a few selfies of course and then off we set again following the North Sperrin Way markers to Terrmain Road with one final climb to the Windmill on the Cam.

Reaching the path our pace lifted as we trekked to the bottom – I was ready for food again – this time a ham bap with Taylor Cheese and onion hit the spot – My favourite!

Fed and watered off we set towards Drumrammar, through Springwell and into Grange Park, all on forest paths – we listened to the birds singing softly, the wind whistling through the trees, it was so peaceful until I started singing a little tune and Cherry joined in too lol.

Coming out of the Grange we knew our next part was mainly on roads, a long stretch pounding the tarmac which was sore on the ‘ole’ hips. Each step hurt but we plodded on, spirits high even through the weather had changed. The rain was starting to beat down on us and a cold water began to blow – time to add those extra layers and get off the road onto softer ground. Thankfully it was short lived.

We were on a mission and nothing would stop us apart from an unexpected surprise – A delivery of Tim Hortons Donuts – OMG DELICIOUS!!heather nicholl and friend celebrating IWD 2021

Next stop Downhill Beach. On arrival we were greeted by family members who brought us hot coffee and pizza – it was 8.30pm. We had been hiking for 13hours so we were ready for some hot food before our final trek.

Our bellies filled, off we set on the homeward straight along the beach from Downhill to Benone – boots off, airing the feet and the feeling of sand between our toes. The sound of the waves crashing on the shoreline, the stillness in the air and the clear night sky as the star shone extra bright – it was spectacular.

Our final part of our journey led us up Leighery Road, into Ballycarton Forest and across the mountain face – we entered the ‘Nature Reserve’ of Binevenagh at 12.30am.

There was stillness in the air, our head torches lighting our path as we climbed over the stiles, watching our footing on the rock below then suddenly think fog rolled in. There was something very mysterious about it, not scary but magical everything around us was calm, silent and unimaginable.

Here we were two women alone on Binevenagh – you probably think we were completely mad but it was pretty amazing, in fact I would say it was a mind blowing experience.

Our final push to the top, took us up past the Devil;s Thumb, around the edge of Binevenagh and right to the lake through the heavy fog. We had stayed on track, arriving at a perfect time – 1.03am. We had achieved our goal, approx 40miles in 18 hours and feeling very proud of ourselves. It was International Women’s Day & we had completed our #choosetochallenge.