An Afternoon with Outdoor Specialists Ace Adventures
Standing on the precipice looking down into the black waters of the River Findhorn, it appears I have now completely lost the plot. Rafting is all well and good you know but you’re pushing your luck here Neil. Why would cliff jumping ever seem like a sensible way to spend an afternoon? And here you are about to hurl yourself over the edge. You’re actually doing this then are you? Looks like it doesn’t it? Game face on, nervous smile, the diminishingly confident walk to the rock’s end, the long, nauseating look down. God almighty. This is it eh. A few seconds of free fall and…..
My recent display of, em, foolishness came towards the end of my day with Ace Adventures in the outdoor mecca that is the Cairngorms. After a day of white water rafting – my first since I was too young to know to say no – it was the best possible introduction for the weekend ahead. Although squeezing into a wetsuit on an unseasonably cold and wet Highland spring day was a rudely dramatic shift from the day to day norm, by the time we had reached the water I was buzzing with excitement.
Ace Adventures have this stretch of the magnificent River Findhorn to themselves and it is a spot that would be almost inaccessible by any other means than raft. Cruising down the gorge at a pace ranging between leisurely Sunday stroll and hysteria-inducing-hell-for-leather, this is the only way to appreciate this magnificent example of Scottish nature. Endless massive trees and rock formations, noisy oystercatchers and even stalking buzzards make for good company on the journey downriver.
With water levels at a bold level and both myself and fellow Scotlander Kim up for the challenge, our excellent guide Nick did not hold back and the journey was a perfect balance of terror and serenity. Naturally, one of the more treacherous stretches of rapids sees me instantaneously catapulted from the raft and into the icy blackness. Quite put out at first, panic followed quickly by some sort of bizarre delirium soon sets in as I was hauled coughing and spluttering back aboard. Utterly exhilarating! I was secretly hoping for a second dice with death as the journey continued but had to make do with my cliff jumping journey of emotions. From beginning to end the trip went from around 11am to 4pm, and it’s an activity that runs throughout the year. If I were to go again, I’d particularly like to visit in the autumn.
Any gorgeous location needs a good story and I do love some grizzly history. Close to this idyllic spot lies the ruins of Dunphail Castle and Nick’s skills extend into storytelling. Although records are sketchy, local folklore goes that the castle fell under siege and that a group of defenders faced starvation but for the clandestine support of some friends ‘on the outside’ who hurled food over the walls under cover of darkness. Stumped as to the lack of a white flag the besiegers eventually cottoned on and intercepted the suppliers. Unceremoniously beheading them they then hurled their skulls over the walls as a grim warning that crushed any lingering hope of survival. The legend continues, with recent evidence suggesting that human remains may indicate some truth to the story. Scotland excels in gore once again. Here’s my look at more historical, and wider, attractions in the Moray region.
Ace Adventures have been on the go for nine years now and offer numerous outdoor activities. Aside from rafting, they also have a paintballing area and a disk golf course. The latter causes me considerable shame as I continually fail miserably, but I’m assured that this is a sport on the rise. With a huge area of hazard-laden land with which to base a 27 hole course, they have themselves a prime spot. Even the hosting of international competitions is becoming a target for the Ace team.
Camping facilities are also available for those eager to brave the elements even further and huge bell tents make for a fun way for groups large and small to test their mettle overnight. I make a decent showing of getting a fire blazing and feel suitably proud of myself. MAN MAKE FIRE and all of that. Spot the city boy.
My recent visit to the Cairngorms was my latest adventure with the Scotlanders travel bloggers. For my part I was revelling in the region’s world class outdoor sports capabilities and was kindly invited along on an Ace Adventures tour by their fantastic owner Jim Davis. As ever though, any reviews I give are entirely honest accounts and opinions.
For bold lovers of the Scottish outdoors this is a first class experience and is one of my personal highlights of 2015 so far.
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