After an incredible year of adventures in South America and the USA, we touched down in London in July for our annual UK summer visit. As usual, we’ve been hopping around the country visiting friends and family, but this year we also drove up north for a work trip that involved exciting adventure activities Scotland including canyoning, tubing and our first white water rafting experience.
Vegan delights in Glasgow
Did you know that Glasgow is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the UK? When we found out, we just had to stop off on our way to Moray to sample some of Glasgow’s vegan delights. We headed straight for Mono, where we gorged on vegan mac and cheese and a battered sausage supper. Not exactly healthy, but it was damn tasty.
In the morning, we got up early so we could enjoy a healthier breakfast (minus the waffles!) at Picnic. The fruit and granola bowl was particularly delicious and we also got the chance to see a few of the top spots in Glasgow, including the cathedral, George Square, the city chambers and trendy Byres Road and Ashton Lane. It was our first time in Glasgow and while we prefer the overall vibe and history of Edinburgh, we enjoyed the more local, less touristy feel of the city.
Adventure activities Scotland with ACE
As we drove north from Glasgow, we were surrounded by golden fields and hedges spotted with purple heather, green hills rolling off into the distance. Our destination was ACE Adventures, an outdoor activities company and campsite in Moray, where I was due to do some writing work for the next couple of weeks.
Set on a protected estate, there were tent pitches amongst the forest, charming shepherd’s huts and large bell tents with cosy wood stoves and fire pits. As well as on-site paintballing and disc golf, the company specialises in Scotland adventure activities on the nearby River Findhorn such as tubing, canyoning and white water rafting. We were there to test them all out.
Tubing and cliff jumping Scotland
On paper, I think I sound far more adventurous than I actually am. Sure, I’ve hiked to Everest Base Camp and skydived in New Zealand, but I’m actually pretty scared of extreme sports and I HATE being cold. So, the idea of plunging myself into a Scottish river (even if it was in summer) was not an appealing one. However, if there’s one thing travel has taught me it’s that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is always a good thing, it gives you a huge sense of accomplishment.
With that in mind, I put on a wetsuit and lifejacket and headed down to the river. Our first event was tubing, a gentle start I thought, and something I’m familiar with after tubing in Vang Vieng in Laos. With children as young as five on our trip, I assumed it wouldn’t be too hairy, but then came the first challenge: cliff jumping.
Did I mention that I hate cold water? Also, jumping off things – not a fan. So, standing on the edge of a rock overlooking a brown, peat-stained pool had my heart racing. The area, Randolph’s Leap, was named for a daring jump across the river during an ancient battle, now we were expected to plunge in, rather than over, the chasm.
With little children lined up behind me, I couldn’t very well back out so I held my nerve, shut my eyes and stepped off, feeling the cold water suck me under. Seconds later I emerged, spluttering and coughing, relieved that the jumping was over. Or was it? The rest of the group were going back for more and Andrew was heading up even higher, 8 metres higher in fact, for a second jump.
Eventually, we all slipped onto our tubes for the fun part, floating down the river surrounded by lush green forest and steep granite rocks. Swishing over the rapids was like being at a water park and I suddenly realised that I was actually having fun. At a small waterfall, we slipped off the tubes to slide down a chute unaided, then joined together in a long line for one final go on the rapids.
The next challenge was canyoning at Allt Aireimh, a brook that runs through a canyon surrounded by birch and Caledonian pine forest, which eventually reaches the Findhorn. So, what is canyoning? You might be wondering. Well, imagine walking down the river, at the bottom of a canyon. Along the way, you may have to scramble over rocks, jump into pools of water, slide down chutes and even abseil down waterfalls.
My heart was hammering as we reached the 45-foot-high corkscrew waterfall and our guide, Matt, clipped me onto a rope for the descent. Rather than abseiling, he was lowering our group over the waterfall one by one. There was nothing for it but to put complete trust in Matt as I dangled over the sheer drop and cold water numbed my fingers. I gazed into the canyon below, gasping as I dropped over a blind overhang.
Back on the ground, I was buzzing from the adrenaline rush as we continued onwards, scrambling over slick boulders, squeezing under fallen trees and zipping down natural water slides into deep pools. I was having a great time until Matt announced that we were going to have to do a dreaded cliff jump.
Stood on the precipice, I knew my fear was totally irrational. All I had to do was jump and seconds later I’d be in the water, feeling a heady rush of achievement. Still, in the moment this felt like an insurmountable task and my body definitely did not want to make that leap. The only way to tackle it was to take a deep breath, shut off my thoughts and jump.
The water was even colder in the shaded brook and we were all feeling the chill when we finally spotted the opening to the river Findhorn up ahead, through a sun-dappled canopy. A few more chute slides and a wade through a deep narrow pool and we were into the Findhorn, which felt like a warm bath.
Our five-day Scottish yoga retreat
After these adrenaline-pumping white water sports, I was looking forward to the final part of our Scottish adventure: a peaceful, five-day yoga retreat. There would be morning yoga sessions in the forest, cosy evenings around the wood stove in our bell tent, river walks and a trip to an eco-village. Still, there was one more challenge in store, one that turned out to be the most hair-raising of all, a day of white water rafting which involved a spectacular boat-flip and a lot of bruises.
Stay tuned for the full story of our Scottish yoga retreat in the next post, plus an exciting new update about our Portugal move!