Timmy Mallett arrived in Coleraine with a flourish last week to meet our mayor and gushed: “I’ve arrived in God’s own country.”
The exhuberant TV presenter called at the Town Hall to be greeted by Causeway Coast and Glens Council’s first mayor, councillor Michelle Knight-McQuillan and staff at the Coleraine Tourist Information Office.
Wearing his trademark natty glasses and bright pink T-shirt, Timmy told the Times: “We’re thrilled and delighted to be here in God’s own country in the Causeway Coast and Glens.
“It’s just magnificent! We set out with this idea of cycling from Belfast to Derry and thinking ‘what route do we take’?
“Well this is just the best route in the whole world. And they say that Causeway road is one of the top ten in the world, but I’d put it higher than that...it’s perfect cycling.
“We arrived in torrential rain,” he cackled...”I like the fact that you get all four weathers - and more - in an hour here.”
Riding alongside his friends Tim Rose and Andy Burroughs, the colourful broadcaster came to Northern Ireland on the Stena Line ferry on Tuesday and has been tweeting about their journey every step of the way.
With the help of cycling charity Sustrans, the trio travelled along the coast to Carrickfergus, past Islandmagee through Larne and right up to the North Coast, with a stay in Bushmills.
Their 170 mile trip concluded with another stop in Limavady and finally a tour of Derry.
“On the way we have been experiencing the many things the ferry has to offer in terms of tourism and things to see but most importantly it’s the welcome of the people of Antrim that has set our hearts alight. It’s just magnificent,” said Timmy.
During his visit he and his friends were thrilled to meet the ladies of the Tourist Information Office - Anne Shiels and Siobhan McKenna - whom they had been in contact with during their tour of Northern Ireland.
Over a cup of tea Mayor Knight-McQuillan described the area as having iconic tourist attractions such as the Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle and she spoke proudly of her Aghadowey roots.
And - as it was election day - the mayor gave the colourful broadcaster a quick resume on the new Council areas and invited all of his party to come back to the borough.
During their visit to Northern Ireland the three men have been collecting funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital where Andy’s 12-year-old son has been receiving treatment for a brain tumour.
Andy explained that little Danny had undergone brain surgery at the hospital and follow-up proton beam therapy in Jacksonville Florida, adding: “Thankfully we are now seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
“He is recovering well and is back and school and playing football.
“I can’t thank the surgeons, doctors and nurses at the hospital enough, everybody has been brilliant.”
“So far we have raised over £4,000 for Great Ormond Street and I want to thank the people here for their fantastic generosity.
“Everyone we’ve met have just been wonderful.”
Timmy added: “We have been very touched by the huge generosity of the people of this area and it’s made us feel very humble. And are we gonna come back? Of course we are!”
Anyone who wishes to donate to the fund can do so by visiting the Danny Burroughs page on justgiving.