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canyoning

So after I went canyoning with the GingaNinja last month (read about that here) I decided it would be fitting that we take the child to have a go and because we had such a tremendous time with Scotland’s Canyons there was only going to be one company that we were going to do it with.

And so on a beautifully crisp September morning the day after ASK has completed her first triathlon (read about that here) we rolled up once more to Dollar Glen – all super keen to get some thick neoprene on and get cracking through some of Scotland’s beautiful landscape.

We were greeted once more by the seemingly ever cheerful Ruaridh, which I felt was impressive for a Sunday morning, and he made ASK feel very welcome, so welcome infact that her usual ‘new person’ shyness which usually takes 10 minutes or so to disappear was gone in seconds.

We suited up in slightly warmer gear than last time as September had started to chill the air and by the time we all had neoprene on we were suitably toasty and warm. Ruaridh offered us two options for our adventure – the first was a replica of our first trip but with the most challenging bit removed or we could start a touch lower down the glen and then head further towards the bottom. We decided the latter would be better as it gave the adults something new and the ASK wouldn’t wonder what she was missing out on.

Five minutes later our merry band of thrill seekers were heading to the start of our journey and ASK was showing zero nerves – which was mildly worrying – so I asked her, ‘what’s the most important thing to do today?’ And without missing a beat she said, ‘to listen’ – which is the right answer but I also wanted her to have fun so we ramped up the fun aspect a bit as we headed to do a bit of training.

Excitement was building.

ASK had indicated that the thing she was most interested in and excited about was the abseiling and this therefore was were the training began.

Ruaridh took her through it all, carefully explaining things until she understood and then got the GingaNinja and I involved so that we could help ensure she was going to be safe and secure during some epic fun. Now with training and team briefing over we headed straight to the water and within a minute of travelling down the glen we came to our first challenge – a bit of abseiling next to fast flowing water, to give ASK a taste for it.

I made the jump down into the deep pool so I could monitor from below and then she just slowly bounced her way down on the rope. Absolutely awesome! I was so proud of her and more importantly she didn’t moan about a single second of it, infact upon reuniting with me at the bottom she started calling out, ‘More! More! what’s next?!’

Clearly canyoning was going to be a major hit and next was a jump.

ASK had asked for goggles to do the jumps, now despite being an open water swimmer, surfer triathlete, kayaker and paddleboarder she’s not keen on getting water in her eyes – so the goggles came and were put on before the first jump.

What followed next was a big leap into a deep cold pool of water and when she came up out of the splash brilliantly she couldn’t see anything and began to panic for a second until she removed the goggles…

‘Didn’t need the goggles did you?’ I asked semi-mockingly.

She snorted a response through a massive grin and then left her goggles inside my wetsuit for the rest of the trip – happy to have her head and eyes splashed by the water.

From here it was bum scooching, cannonballing, leaps, jumps, slides and battering around the glen like nobody’s business and ASK grew in confidence with every step – so much so I had to remind her of the importance of not getting too over confident. I could tell she feeling confident too by the level of her chat, for which the whole of the glen could probably hear, so my apologies to any other visitors to Dollar Glen on Sunday morning.

Ruaridh really made her experience phenomenal and she grasped every opportunity that came her way and as we waited to descend one of the bigger waterfalls my little 8 year old called out, ‘this is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life’ and I’ll be honest that’s high praise indeed because she’s done some pretty exciting things. Moments after her exclamation she was descending the bigger waterfall on a rope and although assisted here she delighted in the experience and was desperate for more! All I could hear as she went down the rope were screams of joy. ‘What’s next dad?’

The answer to that was simple – more of the same exhilarating adventure.

More jumps followed and more beautiful scenery and this time around on our canyoning adventure I felt fortunate to have the time to stop and watch things happening and absorb my surrounds. Last time I had been focused on the fun but this time having ASK with us meant everything was a bit slower and so I enjoyed this differently.

Eventually we reached what would be the final major jump of the morning and Ruaridh explained it’s a bum scooch to the edge and then a leap.

The GingaNinja dutifully did the leap into the water and then ASK went. There was much hilarity from us as parents as she belly flopped into the water and we were reminded that we need to work on her diving. But as with all the other jumps and leaps she simply popped her head out of the water and gave a massive cry of joy!

There was of course one final challenge and this was getting out the water and back up the top of the hill. Despite ASK being desperate to continue canyoning I could see in her face that she was exhausted and while she managed the rope climb out of the water and up the side of the glen she needed to be dragged back up the hill to the car. I had one exhausted but truly happy little girl on my hands and I had Ruaridh and Scotland’s Canyons to thank for that.

Conclusions
There are not enough adjectives to describe how outstanding this adventure was.

ASK is still super buzzing about the whole thing and will remember this for such a long time (I’m also aware that another canyoning trip has been added to her Christmas list). We were fortunate that water levels were just about perfect for adventuring and the weather was kind but I feel that whatever kind of day you get the guys at Scotland’s Canyons really will make the most perfect adventure for you.

Once again I’ll say a massive thank you to Ruaridh for his guidance and planning but more this time because he made my daughter feel like the most important part of our adventure. It was no surprise to me that she was much happier chatting to him than either of her parents that she was leaving behind. Blooming kids!

Good for kids?
Is it good for kids? Well if you watch the video (either above or on YouTube) you’ll see how much enjoyment my little one got – but she’s quite a specific case who has been doing all sorts of adventures since the day she was born. However, what child do you know that doesn’t love adventure? doesn’t love getting muddy? doesn’t love doing the unusual or the thing that under conventional circumstances you don’t get to do?

I feel like every child given the opportunity would absolutely love this and the great thing is that Scotland’s Canyons really work with the people they have in front of them so that everyone is getting an experience they are comfortable with and excited by.

Baked goods
Last time we were presented, post event, with delicious, moist and homemade courgette cake, I drool thinking about it (I don’t even like vegetables but I did love the cake). This time it was peanut butter cookies and dear me it was like Ambrosia – the food of the gods. ASK, not a massive fan of peanut butter, left half of hers to me and there were no complaints as I scoffed them down – I’d like the recipe for those please!

Again?
Scotlands Canyons offer tours of Bruar and Alva as well as Dollar Glen (though Dollar Glen I believe is the most suitable for young adventurers) and I’m keen to do both Alva and Bruar, ASK is simply very keen to return for another crack – so will we be booking again?

Yes we will.

And in answer to the question, ‘would we return to Dollar Glen for a third time?’ The answer to that is yes too. Both of our trips were very different and the glen moves as much as the water does and so each time you do something like this the experience is new and fresh! I can’t wait to go back.

Finally
As ever it is worth mentioning that this is an independent and impartial review and I paid for my canyoning – turns out that I’m once more super happy with my adventure and ASK wanted to share it with you. Basically – as stated last time, if you’re considering your own canyoning adventure make sure to look up Scotland’s Canyons.

Find out more
You can find out more about them at their website scotlandscanyons.com. Enjoy!

Question: What’s better than having a Monday off work?

Answer: Having a Monday off work to go canyoning with the truly awesome Scotland’s Canyons. For those who like spoilers this will be an unapologetically positive review of every last little bit of the experience and everyone should be having a go!

So let me roll back…

We are regular hikers in the beautiful and, in my opinion, vastly underrated Ochils and have often cited the beauty of this location as one of the main reasons we made the move to Scotland. Hiking the numerous glens of the Ochils has been one of the great joys of our time here and we often wondered if it would be possible to get amongst the waterfalls and the pools in a safe way and enjoy the drama and the majesty from another perspective.

Casually browsing…
Totally by accident I was casually browsing the internet (not) looking around for some options to do the exploring of the waters of the Ochils and Scotland’s Canyons came up. Ooooo, interesting I thought.

Initially I inquired because I was looking for an adventure to take my daughter on and they have the ability to take younger adventurers. The guys explained how they work, what’s involved and how much a child of 7 could do – it all sounded brilliant. I emailed back and said there was no rush, however, I was keen to book for myself and my partner and once more the guys were just brilliantly helpful.

Now I love good service and I love people who are super knowledgable about the service they provide. Now the great news is that Scotland’s Canyons have top notch service and a boatload of knowledge – you really couldn’t ask for more. Anyway, we found a suitable date – we booked via their website through the excellent online system and from their communication was excellent.

Confirmation received and then a day or so before the event we received comprehensive emailed details about the day, where to go, what to expect and all the little details you need. The thing I really like about the emailed details was the clarity of the information – something that doesn’t always happen when you book something but Scotland’s Canyons really got this right.

And so to the day – we headed off to the grey and murky Ochils, the rain thundering down and both the GingaNinja and I looking at one another thinking this could be a cold, miserable one! But as we rolled into our destination things perked up a bit and by the time we were parked it was a lovely day for an adventure that was going to be filled with water and activity.

Our guide for the morning was Ruaridh – what an awesome name and what an awesome guy, he must be awesome because he has a beard. His professionalism and his friendliness were immediate and he took us through everything we needed to know. He pulled out all the kit we would need, more on that later and in no time at all we were kitted out, briefed and ready to roll. I was excited, probably too excited but bugger that it was adventure time. As we readied to leave we met a couple of hikers who immediately had questions for these neoprene clad adventurers and as anyone who has ever met me on the side of a hill will know – I love a bit of chatty chat.

I digress – let’s get to the action.

We ambled along the trail in our thick, warm wetsuits and I was grateful for the breeze, cooler weather and the ability to unzip the neoprene jacket because I was starting to work up a bit of a sweat. Thankfully this was a company that really gave good consideration to comfort – on any day, thick neoprene can get very toasty, very quickly but by having a jacket and armless wetsuit it meant we could vent heat as was required – perfect. And despite a few minutes of walking to the start, our feet were comfortable in the excellent Adidas Terrax canyoning specific boot.

Anyway after a few minutes we arrived at the waters ‘in’ point and Ruaridh gave us the some key information for a great yet safe adventure plus a bit of practice at some of the skills we would be using during the day. It was the abseiling skills I was most keen to get to grips with as I’ve never done it before and we went through this until both I and the GingaNinja felt confident that we understood the process. However, practice is one thing at the side of a glen but in reality it can be a little different and I had to hope my fear of heights didn’t come into play!

And then we were off – into the water, clambering over obstacles, negotiating our way over the smooth stones of the glen and admiring a place we know so well from a whole new perspective. The route of the water breaks you into the canyoning really nicely, at the top it’s reasonably tame where you can get a good sense of your environment, get a feel for being in the neoprene and also acclimatise yourself to the water. There were slides, jumps and other canyoning fun to be had and as we moved onwards the challenges became more interesting. Ruaridh explained everything clearly to ensure we maximised the potential of each challenge and he clearly knew the route in depth and this knowledge really shone through and benefits the people he is guiding.

The GingaNinja and I took slightly different approaches to canyoning – she was keen and nervous while I was keen and excited and the great thing was that Ruaridh helped us both to enjoy it. He was super encouraging to the GingaNinja when her face would say ‘I can’t do it’ but her words said, ‘I’m going to do this’ and with the support of Ruaridh the GingaNinja chose to do all but one of the jumps – testament to her willingness to challenge herself and to the brilliant guidance we we were getting.

It was then we reached the point in the course that can only be described as the jewel in the Dollar Glen crown – the waterfalls and our descent of them.

It starts out with a jump here and a slide there before becoming truly, truly epic with water cascading all around and a sense that you truly have reached Narnia or Atlantis or some other lost world. The GingaNinja was clipped in and given instruction on the best way to descend and then she set off making slow but steady progress through the water. I watched from above, surprisingly without being terrified about what I would shortly be doing. I saw the GingaNinja release the rope and give a smiling thumbs up and then I headed over to listen to the instructions.

As I stepped out I could feel how slippery the gorge walls were from the hundreds of litres per second of water that were passing through them. I steadied myself and then slowly entered the water, feeling the water cascading around and over my head and it was amazing. I lowered myself further and further to the ground and took shelter next to the GingaNinja – noting that the next abseil looked even more amazing. The GingaNinja and I exchanged terrified but happy glances and waited for our guide to join us.

It was decided that the water flow was a bit strong to go straight down the waterfall and so we headed a few feet to the side of the waterfall and abseiled down from there. I should have spent more time taking in my surrounds but instead it felt like I thundered down the descent. But I did have an absolute blast facing my fear of heights – what a way to face them!

At the bottom of the second waterfall we were afforded a bit of respite while ropes were collected and we took in the splendour of the waterfall and the size of the achievement in actually getting down it. We also took in our lack of core strength which if either of us had any would have been a bonus coming down the rope! That said we both absolutely loved it and were thrilled to continue sliding, abseiling and jumping our way to soggy fun.

Eventually we reached an easy ‘out’ location and Ruaridh asked how energy levels were and I gave an immediate thumbs up but the GingaNinja looked like her legs might be a bit wobbly. However, she too eventually gave the thumbs up and we continued further down the glen for another half an hour of liquid fun – bombing into crystal clear water pools, sliding down the smoothest of rocks and I even managed an impressive slow motion fall on flat ground and about 3 inches of water (what a numpty I am). Eventually though the adventure had to come to an end and we clambered out at a rocky viewing platform that I’d once stood at looking longingly into the water, wondering if it was possible to get in the canyon.

Seems I found my answer.

The hike back to the car park is uphill and when your body has just done the canyoning it can feel hard work but it gives a chance to chat, in our case mainly about our respective fruit and vegetable growing experiences, and once back at the car park we were offered a little snack to send us on our merry way. A delicious slice of the most moist cake I’ve ever had combined with a very fine cup of tea was the perfect way to end our adventure.

What a day.

Conclusions
It’ll come as absolutely no surprise that I loved my time with Scotland’s Canyons. End to end of the experience, absolutely everything, was covered and it felt safe but super adventurous all at the same time. In all the adventures I’ve done over the years, from running the 74 miles of the Skye Trail Ultra to racing through the winter night in Lyon to snorkelling in the freezing cold waters of Iceland this one rates very, very highly.

I’d also like to say a massive thanks to Ruaridh for his excellent and regular photography during the day, it was much appreciated!

Who would enjoy this?
There’s something here for almost everyone I think. Whether you enjoy exploring little nooks that few see or you’re a thrill seeker that wants to take adventure to the next level or you just love being in the outdoors and want to try something different then Scotland’s Canyons will be able to give you a great day out. I often describe living in Scotland as the ‘life fantastic’ and if you enjoy living the ‘life fantastic’ then you’ll love canyoning too.

And the best bit?
For what you get it is tremendous value for money. It was absolutely cram packed with action for over 3 hours solid – Ruaridh really wrung all the adventure out of the glen for us and we appreciate that. The GingaNinja even commented that if she had come out of the water, that half an hour earlier, when her body was saying, ‘finish’ but her head was saying ‘continue’ she would still have felt like she’d had a great time and it would have been worth every penny. I always feel it’s the highest compliment I can pay to say that the thing I’ve ordered was both value for money and exceeded my expectations in every way.

Again?
I suppose the true testament to my enjoyment is whether I would go back, well would I? Oh yes, we will be going again at some point in the future because we believe that no two adventures with Scotland’s Canyons would be the same and that’s super exciting. Plus we are definitely looking at taking our (near) 8 year old daughter to do their family version of canyoning – she’s excited and so are we.

And finally…
As ever it is worth mentioning that this is an independent and impartial review and I paid for my canyoning – turns out that I’m just super happy with my adventure and I wanted to share it with you. Basically, if you’re considering your own adventure make sure to look up Scotland’s Canyons.

Find out more
You can find out more about them at their website scotlandscanyons.com. Enjoy!

Thanks to Scotland’s Canyons for the picture(s)
really (not) a runner

rambling about my running journey

Robbie Roberts Wedding Pianist

Weddings | Civil Partnerships | Parties and Events | Corporate Receptions and Events e: robbie@robbie-roberts.com t: 07919924857

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