Monday, 10 August 2015

Go Ape Aberfoyle.

You might remember my trip to Go Ape Peebles last year. Well, I was kindly invited to try out the site at Aberfoyle so this Sunday, Ryan and I made our way from Edinburgh to the site which is about 45 minutes past Stirling.

I did recognise that village name and as I was driving there was a distinct feeling that I'd been round these parts before. Then, when I saw a familiar village shop it became clear that I was driving the same way I'd gone when I incorrectly navigated to Ben Lomond. It brought back some quite traumatic memories but thankfully this time I successfully managed to get to my goal destination on time. The fact that I had a helper sitting beside me in the car may or may not have been relevant to this achievement.

The first thing I'll say about the site at Aberfoyle is that it's set amongst a pretty spectacular landscape which you can see in the photograph above. This was also the first time that I've had the opportunity to make the most of my shiny new Go Pro camera which Ryan bought me for my birthday. I'm still having bother with resizing photos for the blog and some of them are stills from a rather shaky video (given that I took them in the process of navigating my way around a tree top assault course). I'll try to share some of the shorter videos on my Instagram so if you're interested you can check those out there.

Before you set out on the Go Ape activities you get set up in your harness, given a thorough explanation of the safety rules from an instructor and have some time to practice using the carabiners. Clearly, I've been before because I know all the lingo now. 

I'm also well aware of the golden rule of Go Ape which is 'Always Stay Attached'. Despite being well aware of this, in practice I made the schoolboy error of double unclipping. I'd barely removed the second carabiner when the instructor came over to inform me of my mistake. The system is fairly straightforward once you've had a little practice and out on the course it's much easier to remember not to double unclip. Something about the risk of falling from the tree tops really motivates you to adhere to the safety system. There are also plenty of signs to remind you about the golden rule should you have a carefree attitude to heights and a lackadaisical approach to your own safety.

The Aberfoyle site begins with a large zip wire into the forest. For anyone who hasn't been before then this is a baptism of fire but it is good for giving you a bit of confidence to tackle the remaining obstacles because nothing seems quite as daunting after that.

There are five sections, of increasing height, to complete. Each has a ladder to begin, a range of tree top obstacles and a zip line to finish. Some of the stand out obstacles for me were the stirrup crossing and the Tarzan swing. Both were exactly as their names suggest. The stirrup crossing consisted of a number of ropes with stirrups on the end and we swung across, placing a foot in each one. It's a particularly good workout for your legs and upper body as the achy feeling I'm experiencing today demonstrates.

 The Tarzan swing was basically a free-fall off a ledge followed by a swing into a big net once the harness kicked in. This was the one that struck the most fear into me because there is something so unnatural about just letting yourself fall, even though it is only a very, very short free fall. It was the most scary obstacle, but also the most fun.

Shortly after the Tarzan swing, it was time to make our way back to the start, via the main zip line. Having managed the zip line at Go Ape Peebles and also the one on the way in, it felt quite easy to leap off and zip across the forest on this occasion. It was good to be relaxed about it as I got to take in the spectacular views and attempted to take some snaps using my Go Pro but given the speed I was moving at, they don't really do the view justice. You should probably just go see it yourself. There's the plug.

If you'd like to take part in a Go Ape adventure it will cost £31-£33 (depending on location) for those aged 16+ and £25 for those aged 10-15. An outing will take around two to three hours, although if it's really busy it might take a little longer. We were there for four hours on Sunday but that was a peak day, during the school holidays.

At the moment, Go Ape are running a great campaign called #Shareadventure. All you have to do is share one of the adventures on social media and you could be in with the chance of winning a variety of prizes, including a discount code for Go Ape. I'm really fond of this campaign as I love reading about everybody's adventures.

Disclaimer: I was invited to take part in the activities at Go Ape Aberfoyle free of charge in return for writing about the experience. As ever, all words and thoughts are my own.

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