Go Ape, Aberfoyle

Not being one for heights, I had successfully managed to avoid visiting Go Ape until now…

Last weekend I was invited down to Go Ape’s Aberfoyle site for a Tree Top Adventure with a friend. With high speed zips, free-fall Tarzan swings and daring crossings, a Tree Top Adventure sounded like my worst nightmare. However, after doing a little research, I learned that over half of Brits are ‘very afraid‘ and ‘pretty nervous‘ around heights. Feeling slightly more at ease that I wasn’t alone – I decided to go for it. 

Scotland is currently having one of the most beautiful Autumns I’ve ever seen, we got so lucky with the weather and had a dry, crisp day with the sun splitting through the trees. We were booked in for an 11 o’clock slot at the Aberfoyle site (about an hour outside of Glasgow) so were up and off early for a fun, girly day out. 

What to Expect

On arrival, you are given some safety rules to read through, which is pretty important as you are responsible for your own safety on the course. Then you are given a safety briefing by a tribe member who ensures your harness is fitted correctly, shows you exactly how to clip on and off all the wires and that you are fully comfortable doing so. 

Next, you’re off! A spectacular 426m zip line through the trees drops you at the first landing station where the route begins. 

Go Ape

Go Ape Zipline

Pumped with adrenaline you make your way round five different aerial assault courses with various challenges on each. You’ll find plenty of tribe members wandering down below you, should you need some encouragement or a little reassurance before taking the step out onto a wobbly ledge.

Go Ape - Tree Top Adventure

There are some bits of the course that are optional, should you want to take an easier route – although everyone is encouraged to do the dreaded Tarzan swing! One of the most feared obstacles, solely for the reason that you’ve got to hurl yourself off a platform suspended 30 feet in the air and then clamber up a cargo net back onto the platform on the opposite side. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I have to admit, it was one of the best bits and so, so much fun. 

Go Ape Sky Park

And finally, after many Tarzan fails, hysterical laughing fits and a very muddy bum later, you are presented with a certificate of awesomeness. 

Go Ape Certificate

I would highly recommend Go Ape and can’t wait to go back. If you’re like me and a bit of a wimp around heights, I would say to just go for it. I felt so safe and secure the whole time I was up there; the staff were brilliant and so re-assuring when you have a bit of a panic and just want to hug the nearest tree for a minute. 

The groups were also spaced out really well, I didn’t feel like I was holding anyone up going at a granny pace over the obstacles or when we stopped to take a few (shakey) pictures. You also don’t need to be super fit to take part – we went for a fun day out and had a blast. 

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What to Wear

  • Closed toe shoes (Trainers are perfect)
  • Trousers/ leggings – that you don’t mind getting muddy
  • Jacket/ Jumper with pockets – you’re not allowed any bags on the course so if you want to bring your phone/ camera etc. they must be in a zipped pocket.
  • Waterproofs (if there’s rain forecast)
  • Gloves
  • Bobbles 

It’s also worth noting, if you want to go along but prefer your feet firmly on the ground, there’s lots more to do. You can go walking/ biking and even try segwaying. Plus, Ben A’an and Ben Venue are just next door if you fancy a slightly more challenging walk. And after all your adventures – cake at the on-site cafe! 

This year, Go Ape is encouraging Scots to think twice about traditional stocking staples and consider the gift of an unforgettable experience this Christmas. They are offering the chance to gift an experience with bundles available in denominations of £30. Vouchers are delivered instantly, making it the perfect option for the last-minute shopper (guilty).

Available here: https://goape.co.uk/giftvouchers?utm_campaign=influencers&utm_medium=social&utm_source=bloggers&utm_content=giftvouchers

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Jobes Sport Review – 10.6 ft. Surf SUP

It’s been just over 3 months since I purchased my first SUP board from Jobe Sports and I absolutely love it. It is perfect for me and I use it almost weekly for solo paddling.

I researched lots of companies and different sized boards for a while before deciding upon this one – I was looking for an inflatable light weight board with good stability as I wanted to be able to travel with it but my biggest challenge was deciding which size. A lot of people recommended the 12 ft. but I just felt that it was a tad too big for me so opted for the 10.6 ft as this promised ‘great stability, easily maneuverable and ideal for solo touring’.  It does all of that and more… once you master the wobbling part.

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The Pro’s

  • Stability – I was very surprised by the rigidity of the board when inflated, it handles really well on the water but I wouldn’t recommend more than one person on the board at a time.
  • Lightweight – These boards can look really heavy and clunky but they’re so light and easy to carry. The strap handle in the middle of the board allows for easy and comfortable lifting.
  • Speed – I wasn’t expecting to go anywhere fast on this little board but I was so wrong. The board is streamlined and cuts through waves with the pointer bow brilliantly – I’ve even managed to surf some of the smaller waves with it.
  • Appearance – At the moment, it is only available in the one colour but I really love the design on the surf 10.6 ft. boards. I think it looks clean and smart (plus, it matches my wet-suit).
  • Pump it up – Thumbs up for the high pressure dual action pump. The gauged pump is a life saver, I wouldn’t know when the board was pumped up enough otherwise -the manual details exactly how much air to pump in as well.
  • The Paddle – The adjustable paddle is super lightweight, has great durability and is really comfortable to hold.

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The Cons

  • I only have one and it’s a small one – there’s no cross guard so I can’t secure any bags or anything onto the board with me.

Aside from the cross guard, I genuinely have no improvements to suggest towards this board. It’s really quick to inflate and deflate, lightweight and easy to maneuver in the water and easy to pack down. If you’re buying for one – it’s perfect!

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What’s Included?

  • 10.6 ft. Surf SUP
  • Waterproof Carrying Bag
  • Pump (with nozzles and pressure gauge)
  • 1 x Aluminium Adjustable Paddle
  • Ankle Leash
  • 3 x Detachable Fins
  • Repair Kit

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Ben Donich

Last weekend, my dad and I headed up to Loch Lomond to blow away some of the summer cobwebs, we planned to do a bit of kayaking on the Saturday and take a jolly up Ben Donich on the Sunday morning. However, either being optimists or idiots, neither of us checked the weather forecast…

We had the loch all to ourselves on Saturday and so paddled up to Tarbet and then over to explore some of the hidden beaches underneath Ben Lomond.

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We had perfect conditions for kayaking minus the eerie mist that was hovering. The route back was slightly trickier with the weather being borderline stormy and the mist making it difficult to see, however, we hugged the nearby shore line, avoiding the worst of the weather, back home to some warm hot choccy!

Waking up on Sunday to dry, cloudy weather, we grabbed our backpacks and headed up to the Rest and Be Thankful taking the B828 towards Lochgoilhead.

The munro is pretty well signposted and there’s a decent sized car parking area, free of charge. Follow the signs for ‘Glen Mhor, Ben Donich Hill Access’.

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The path is pretty well maintained the whole way up, although, there are some boggy areas over some grassy slopes nearer the summit. The walk provides fantastic views down to Gleann Mor as well as back over the Rest and Be Thankful to Loch Restil, with Beinn an Lochain towering above it.

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We were only about ten minutes in to our climb when we got caught in some lovely Scottish weather and got completely soaked, the fog started to lift about half way up but we didn’t manage to see much from the summit.

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My dad is a pro at hill-walking and of far higher ability than me when it comes to climbing tougher munros. He’s always up at the crack of dawn every weekend doing hill sprints, climbing, the lot – but it’s always fun to do a nicer, easier one together.

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Although our views were a bit restricted nearer the summit, I thought this was a fab little climb and great for easing back into hill-walking if you’ve not been out in a while, guilty! 

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The Dockyard Social

This week I headed over to The Dockyard Social, a new street food and bar hub near Finnieston. They’ve just won Best Street Food at The Scotsman Food and Drinks Awards 2018, so I couldn’t resist trying some delicious food and cocktails. I also had a chat with The Dockyard Social’s founder, Kyle Steel, about their venue, their traders and what’s next.

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So, tell me about The Dockyard.

For me, it’s all about creating a really social space where you can bring your dog, your family and you don’t need to worry about any kind of preconception. We had a mummy bloggers event on earlier where there were forty mums and dads with their kids; we had Wonder Woman and Cinderella, it was amazing!

As the day goes on, it transcends into a more hipster, cool kid kind of vibe – not that mums and dads aren’t cool, I have 3 kids myself. But you can see the demographic shifting a little bit. People generally stay here for around 4 or 5 hours.

I can see why, it took me an hour to pick something to eat, there’s so many options to choose from. It’s a really cool venue, did you guys have a lot of refurbishing to do?

It took us two to three months. We tried to use as much as possible from the building; the blue metalwork you see around the place was here originally. The initial footprint of the building was one of the biggest Glaswegian shipbuilders back in the day, about a hundred years ago now. We really wanted to tie that in, hence ‘The Dockyard’.

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How do traders get a place in The Dockyard?

When we started off, we were inundated with enquiries, we tried to mix it up between established and some brand new traders. ‘Fujisan‘ were our very first trader, they had only been going for six weeks, we were their second event. And then we had ‘FatBoys‘ he came in and it was his first ever big event, he did about 900 covers in four days.

We really want to help them get on the scene and start making a name for themselves. We get loads of traders getting in touch and because just now, we’re only open every second week, we are trying to mix it up so it’s always fresh. We see about 3,000 people over the weekend, so you want to keep it new and give the traders a chance to push themselves but also not get bogged down by being in here for 8-10 weeks, or it can get a bit stale.

How long are you guys here for? Please say forever.

Well, we’ve got a 10-year lease, full license application in just now, all going well – touch wood – it’ll be granted early December. The street food side of things will be running Thursday to Sunday with each day targeting a different group. Thursdays will be very student heavy and then Friday to Sunday is open to all ages. And there is a training school Monday to Friday every week.

Coffee Cocktails

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Will we be seeing more new traders then?

Absolutely! Going forward, we may give them three or four week stints, we have 12 pitches but it’ll always be something new.

I am so excited to try the Bubble Waffles! They look incredible.

They are hugely popular, everyone always comes in asking for them.

Bubble Wrap Waffle

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Tell me more about the traders then. I’m vegetarian for example, is there a lot of choice?

We’re really passionate about providing equal opportunities for dietary requirements. Ally who owns ‘Paleo Kitchen’, for example, is one of the nicest guys in the world who focuses predominantly on the caveman diet. So, no refined carbs, coeliac friendly, a lot of vegan dishes – loads of opportunities.  All of our traders will be able to accommodate you whether you’re vegetarian, vegan etc. We just really want everyone to feel welcome at The Dockyard and really create a community hub.

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Smokey Trotters

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What would you say the traders gain from being here?

We’re all about providing a platform for food street traders and chefs who maybe want to take a step towards doing their own thing. But where we really differentiate ourselves from other operators is that,while we’ve got 12 different food street traders, we run 2 of them so our revenue comes from the bar, ticket sales and our 2 food stalls. The other 10 are up and coming businesses.

We’re just here to provide a cool vibe and location for them to really apply their trade and give them an opportunity to show what they do. We spent four years doing Section33, so we were doing pop ups in old abandoned buildings helping raise funds for the homeless and gained a really strong following from foodies and their loyal regulars. It’s now transitioned to this and it’s actually been a year since we signed the lease on the building.

Bangkok Street Food

Food stands

What was the idea behind The Dockyard Social, what inspired you?

I think life is short, life is an absolute gift. The more we can do to help people the better. I’ve got three young kids and if I can help inspire them to help people when they’re older – they can look back and say ‘Well, Daddy did it”. I just think that’s a butterfly effect that spreads out exponentially. It’s all about uniting people and that old analogy of ‘People Make Glasgow’. We just want to do it on a bigger scale.

How are you planning to help people?

When we get our full license, I really want to put in 2 big initiatives. Teaching families who are currently relying on food banks how to cook free of charge. I keep hearing that a lot of families who reply on these food banks don’t know how to cook nutritious food and I want to help change that.

Section33 came about because my granny told me not to! “Kyle, you need to get a trade, be a plumber or a plasterer…” I wanted to prove to my gran that hospitality isn’t to look down upon others, it can really help people who are in sticky situations. Once we get the full license I’m going to put on a monthly local pensioners tea dance where they can come in for free and we’ll provide tea, coffee, cake etc. We want to hear their stories. I would give anything to have 5 more minutes with my gran.

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Big Buns

What’s next for you guys?

Our main ambition? We’ve got 10,000 square feet here, with another 4000 behind the scenes where we’re building a training school to help homeless people, the long term unemployed and kids that have come through care. We get them into the training school, and the street food traders will help train them. Then once they’ve done their basic training they’ll come out and they’ll do six weeks on pizza, 6 weeks on Thai and so on, so that after six months they’re ready to go and get a bigger job or maybe start their own brand – that’s the dream!

We’ve got loads of funding coming in from the training side of things from the government and then we’ll look at doing probably Edinburgh next. And then maybe move South, perhaps. It’s all just really cool. But we’re working on keeping engagement fresh, word of mouth is the biggest driver for us.

Thanks for reading, keep up with my latest adventures – A Bonnie Travelers Inside Guide

Images by: Fraser Craig

Editing: Harry Smith