I’m going to open this post by asking you to step back in time – to the summer of 1993.
That’s me on a jungle gym on the beach in Elgin in the north of Scotland, displaying some excellent sartorial style as ever (is it just me who hated her NHS-issue glasses back in the day, but who has spent the last few years pursuing ever more oversized plastic frames?). If you squint, you’ll also be able to make out my younger brother and sister in the picture – the former of whom is just above me, and the latter of whom probably made it all the way to the top.
Me? I hung out on the bottom rung long enough to pose for this photograph and them mercifully made my way back to solid ground, where I probably read a book or something.
Sure, a lot can change in 23 years, but I bet you’re wondering – how did I get from that…
Well, the short answer is: I didn’t.
But I tried, and that’s what matters. At least for the purposes of entertaining copy.
Now this may come as a surprise, but I don’t view myself as a particularly nervous person – at least when it comes to the physical stuff. I have no issue with heights, fall over on the regular and am not averse to the odd bruise or scrape in pursuit of my goals. Sure, I didn’t really go in for all that rough and tumble stuff as a kid, but I had read Ben Hur by the time the picture at the top of this post was taken which I reckon is just as impressive for an 11-year-old.
The trouble is that my body doesn’t always agree, to the extent that I can be securely fastened into a safety harness and intellectually aware that I am absolutely fine and yet my legs will not stop shaking. It’s happened to me a couple of times in the past, most dramatically in the front seat of a car during a driving test (an explanation, if one were needed, of why am I 34 years old and still do not hold a full driving license). And I’m not so driven by the pursuit of hits – or your vote for Most Innovative Content in the 30 Plus Awards – that I’ll walk across a tightrope in the middle of the Glentress Forest while not really in control of my legs for them.
Why, then, was I so keen to try out the treetop adventure course at Go Ape, Peebles? Well, because they’ve been pursuing me for a review since last summer – and because my sister and her boyfriend, home from Dubai for the holidays, and even my mother were really excited to try it out.
Go Ape offers outdoor adventures courses at locations across the UK and US; including three in Scotland, in Aberdeenshire, Aberfoyle and Peebles in the Scottish Borders. The courses offer a range of facilities including forest segways, zip trekking and the treetop adventure courses we were there to experience. The Peebles course is built into the hillside overlooking the Tweed Valley, and features the highest zip wire in the country over the reservoirs.
After making our way along the winding roads of the wilds of Lanarkshire and the Scottish Borders (I’m a wee bit ashamed to say this, but as much as I love the vast, unspoiled landscapes of my beautiful native land, aren’t motorways GR8?) we arrived at the course – a little late, thanks to completely missing the small car park next to the cabin and instead following the signs for paid-for parking halfway up the bloody mountain. Still, the staff were pretty understanding and booked us onto the next half-hour session. As you’ll be ascending the hill in a small group it’s important to arrive in time for the start of your session, giving you time to properly take in the half-hour safety briefing with one of Go Ape’s instructors.
As a family of kinaesthetic learners though, it took being properly shown the ropes, as it were, by our instructor Dougie before how to use our safety harnesses properly sunk in. At the Peebles Go Ape site, you progress through five courses in roughly ascending order of difficulty – and, although the idea behind the site is to let you go off and have your own adventures while instructors dotted around the site keep an eye on you, you have to complete the first two courses supervised before you’re allowed to do so. The first of these consisted of a rope ladder up to a platform, along a tightrope and then a short zip wire journey back down to the ground – I made it to the platform, on my second attempt, before Dougie had to come and rescue me.
As the courses grew progressively more difficult, adventurers had to do battle with obstacles including Tarzan swings onto netting, shaky rope bridges, suspended tunnels and stepping stones in the air before reaching the zip wire for that all-important release to the ground. It meant that I had my mum for company on my walk around the site after the first course – as much as she loved the zip wire (and was able to execute a beautiful landing) the remaining courses involved “too much work” in order to get to that point. Of course, we discovered later from another instructor that she could have gone back and tried the first course again…
A few days before heading out, I had been sent a survival kit with the Go Ape gloves (great for gripping onto tough ropes), a t-shirt and some travel toiletries and insect and midge repellant courtesy of Pyramid Travel Products*, which is also based in the Scottish Borders. The soap, hand sanitiser and repellant sprays meant that those of us on the ground remained germ- and bug-free throughout – and the neat travel-sized bottles would have come in handy for T in the Park the weekend before. Unlike certain members of my family, I’ve never had a problem with midges or mosquitoes – I’m just naturally repellant, I guess – but with it starting to get hot again at home and me determined to pick up walking or running by the Clyde again they’ll certainly come in useful.
As for whether we got our money’s worth from our (admittedly provided for review purposes) visit to Go Ape? While I may have crashed out at quite literally the first hurdle, MC and Jamie completed the entire course – including the showstopping penultimate zip wire, at 48 metres high and 300 metres in length. Their verdict? One of the ultimate thrills of their lives.
At £33 per person (£25 for under 16s, who must be accompanied by an adult), Go Ape isn’t a cheap day out – but when you consider you’ll be getting as much as three hours of adventure out of that, assuming you can stay the course, it’s excellent value. While there’s little point to me planning a repeat visit, I’d recommend it to anybody looking for something different to try over the summer holidays – especially since you’ll get to explore another side of Scotland into the bargain.
Big thanks to Dougie, Simon and Craig for helping us get the most from our Go Ape adventure.
Have you tried Go Ape? What would it take to get you up on that zip wire?
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased. We were treated to the Go Ape Treetop Adventure for the purposes of an honest review.
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