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.
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.
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.
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.
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!