Summer is not over yet – not even in Scotland! So, I packed my backpack full of adventure, grabbed three friends and headed out to Go Ape Aberfoyle for a thrilling day flying high above the Queen Elizabeth Forest. Here is why you should too!
Together with three friends I jumped in the car one early Saturday morning and headed north to Stirlingshire. Our destination? Go Ape Aberfoyle in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.
What is Go Ape Aberfoyle?
Go Ape Aberfoyle is one of Go Ape’s 31 tree top adventures across the UK. There are two other sites in Scotland (Peebles near Edinburgh and Crathes near Aberdeen), but Aberfoyle is by far the biggest. The course was expanded and newly designed earlier this year, marking the celebration of its 10th anniversary in June! The two zip lines at the beginning and end of the high rope course are some of the longest zip wires in Britain and let you fly 46m above the ground.
Check out my video:
5 Reasons to try Go Ape Aberfoyle
Not convinced yet, Go Ape Aberfoyle is for you? Here are five reasons why you should try it:
1) It’s a change of perspective
I had driven past the entrance to the Go Ape Aberfoyle car park many times – once even stopped to take photos of the bluebells across the road. But actually try it? That had been on my bucket list for quite a while.
From the ground the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park looks like any other forest. Lush green, dark and chilly, a place for hiking, but more likely to drive through on my way to higher parts of the Trossachs.
Go Ape Aberfoyle allows you to get up close with the forest in a way, that you simply don’t get on foot or by car. Not only can you look down onto the treetops from the zip wires, you also climb up the trees, getting ever closer to their crowns. You might see forest animals going on about their daily lives, and plants or leaves like you’ve never seen before. I love that Go Ape Aberfoyle is a thrilling physical activity, yet encourages you to look around and take in your surroundings.
2) It’s a great bad weather activity
The thing with outdoor activities in Scotland is, that rain often gets in the way of a good day out. However, I was reassured that unless a huge storm hit Scotland, the course would be open in any weather.
Luckily the trees shelter the high rope course pretty well, so that even on a rainy day, you can enjoy a bit of fun in the air.
You might get rained upon on the two long ziplines, and the cables and planks will be wet, but that’s nothing a pair of gloves and waterproof trousers can’t fix!
3) It’s an easy day trip from the city
Go Ape Aberfoyle is just about 1 hour away from Glasgow or 1.5 hours from Edinburgh, which makes it an excellent day trip from either city.
You could potentially get a bus from to Aberfoyle and then walk half an hour to the Go Ape site (or stick your thumb out) but the road is fairly narrow and windy – not sure I’d be comfortable to walk there. Another option is of course to cycle, but than you’d be knackered by the time you got there…
The course itself takes about three hours from start to finish, which means there is plenty of time for other activities before or after.
4) It’s a great physical activity
Most of the high rope course is pretty straight forward – you don’t require a significant amount of strength, just maybe a bit of balance and fearlessness.
Some of the harder crossings take that a stop further though, which turns the tree top adventure at Go Ape Aberfoyle into a full-body workout.
This crossing below, made my friend Aurelie and I struggle quite a bit – I’m glad, I was the one taking photos!
The good thing about any climbing-related activity, is that it tires you out without you noticing it – it’s just too much fun!
By the end of the course, we were all knackered and really hungry. Our arms hurt a little and so did our legs. But no one could have wiped the smile away from our faces!
5) It’s fun for everybody
Before you say, you’ll hate it because you’re scared of heights, hear me out. I’m scared of heights – and there is nothing more thrilling than overcoming that fear in order to feel like I’m flying! Years ago I did a high rope course in Austria and hated it – I was numbed by my fear. This time round, I let the fear roll over me and loved every second on the course. In fact, I wish it could have been longer!
The tree top adventure is completely safe and you get safety instructions before you ever leave the ground. On the high rope course you can sometimes choose between easier and harder crossings, and some of the Tarzan swings are optional.
We had a fun day out with a couple of friends, but I could imagine Go Ape Aberfoyle would also be grand for a (sober) hen/stag-do, a team building event or families with older children (min. height is 1,40m).
Good to Know for Go Ape
Booking | Book in advance to avoid disappointment – it is a very popular activity, especially during weekends. You will get a time slot that you have to stick to – late arrivals will be charged the full prize. It’s best to arrive early!
What to bring | Note, that you can’t bring any bags with you on the course, so it’s best to leave your stuff in the car and only bring what you need (money, camera, gloves). Cameras are allowed as long as they are always attached to you. I would recommend to wear long-sleeve outdoorsy clothes that can get dirty (the same counts for shoes) – if you manage to do the entire course without landing on your bum at the end of a zipline, I’ll buy you a drink! We brought gloves as it was a rainy day, – they kept my fingers nice and warm – mittens wouldn’t be practical. Find out more in the Go Ape FAQ.
You might also like: Packing tips & packing list for Scotland
Which camera is god for GoApe? | I brought two cameras with me on the course, because I wanted to get a variety of shots from different angles. A GoPro is a great choice, particularly if you also bring your chest and head straps, or even just an extendable selfie stick. It fits easily in my pocket – for the harder crossings where I needed two hands. I also brought my new Canon M3, because it gives me more control and better photo quality. Unlike my big DSLR this camera fits comfortably into my jacket when I zip it up, so it was easy to stow it away on harder crossings or the longer ziplines when I wanted to film with the GoPro.
My ideal adventure cameras
Go Pro Hero 7
While I actually own an earlier model, I would upgrade to the new GoPro Hero 7 in a heartbeat if I could! The GoPro is my go-to camera (get it?) when it comes to epic travel adventures. It’s waterproof, records high-quality videos (4K) and is my best friend when it comes to taking selfies.
You can buy the GoPro Hero 7 right here.
Tired of lugging around my big Canon DSLR on mountains or risking it every time I climbed into a canoe or kayak, I recently added a small mirrorless camera to my tech family – the Canon M3. While it’s not waterproof, its small size and light weight make it a great companion for my adventures. It takes awesome photos and is my go to for travel videos!
You can buy the Canon M3 right here.
The run down | After receiving your equipment and safety instructions you fly across the Queen Elizabeth Forest to the other side of the valley – watch out for the big waterfall on your left! You then make your way through the four circular sites – up a ladder, over a few crossings and down by zipline. In the end you cross the valley again, only on a higher and longer zipline!
Safety first | As mentioned you get safety instructions before you start the course. There are Go Ape staff members at the zip wire platforms to ensure a safe journey across the valley. Throughout the high rope course there are staff members on the ground, able to help you out or shout up a word of confidence when you get stuck!
And afterwards? | The surrounding area is one of my favourites in Scotland – the Trossachs are some of Scotland’s finest hiking grounds. I’d suggest to do Go Ape Aberfoyle early in the day and spend the rest of the day hiking Ben A’an, wild swimming at Loch Katrine or Loch Ard or simply relaxing in Aberfoyle!
With autumn already knocking on our doors, it is high time you spent a day in the Queen Elizabeth Forest yourself and fly high above the tree tops with Go Ape Aberfoyle!
Would you give Go Ape a try?
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.