Autumn adventures at Go Ape!

'So... I just jump off the platform... into the air?' 

Teetering on the edge of a wooden platform - the last solid surface before a 400m long zip wire suspended 150ft above the forest floor - I clearly wasn't entirely convinced that I should step out into thin air.

As I stared anxiously across the Trossachs National Park, I had to make a choice: change my mind and turn back or jump.

I jumped.

I don't think I'll ever forget the surreal experience of flying over the top of the Trossachs National Park - the cool air whipping past me as I stared down through the treetops, trying to take in every inch of the beautiful view, while the little voice inside my head screamed 'What are you doing?!' The little voice might have added a few expletives...

As someone who is scared of heights - and is generally a big feartie - I didn't think I would ever conquer one of the Go Ape! tree top adventures, but, trying to embrace that 'just say yes' attitude, I decided to face my fear and finally signed up.

I also signed up Nicole from Ginger Kitchen - she admitted the idea also terrified her and I thought it would help to take along someone who was as nervous as I was!

After landing - rather ungracefully at 15mph - at the end of the zip wire, we made our way out into the forest to tackle the rest of the course - unsure of what to expect and nervously anticipating the dreaded Tarzan swing...

The course at Aberfoyle is split into five sections: the enormous zip wire at the beginning is the first section, then you make your way around the other four, which are a series of different obstacles to cross, Tarzan swings and smaller zip wires. There's an information card before each activity which provides a diagram of how you should fasten your safety lines, the correct way to move forward and the difficulty rating of the obstacle. 

The obstacles are varied and some are much harder - and scarier! - than others. From wooden tunnels which you crawl through on your hands and knees, rope nets which you pull yourself up and across, to logs which swing precariously as you try to stay upright crossing them. I didn't expect the course to be so physical - it's definitely a bit of a workout and certain obstacles - that rope net! - will make you wish you put in more time at the gym. I'm writing this the day after completing the course and my shoulders are still grumbling...

I was also surprised at how independent the course is - while there are instructors dotted around the sections, keeping an eye on everyone and in earshot if you need help or assistance, you're responsible for clipping and unclipping your safety lines before and after every obstacle. This can be a little daunting, especially when sizing up the larger challenges - even as I neared the end of the course, I scrutinised the information card and triple-checked my safety lines every single time to make sure I was definitely doing it right!

There's a thirty minute safety demonstration before you get anywhere near the course though, where an instructor will tighten you into your harness and explain exactly how to use your safety lines. There's also a practice line which you have to complete before you begin, which gives you the chance to get familarised with how to clip and unclip your safety lines and the sensation of moving in your harness. Our instructor, Callum, also did a quick quiz before we set off, making us shout the golden rule of Go Ape! - 'Always stay attached!' As well as the information cards, there's a safety warning before and after every single obstacle, reminding you to never unclip all of your safety lines at once. While it's still terrifying being that far above the ground, two safety lines means that you're securely attached to either an obstacle or a tree platform at all times. 

It was tough, terrifying and there were definitely a few shaky moments - I did have to chant 'Don't look down, don't look down, don't look down' as I shakily made my way across a few obstacles - but it was also exhilarating and such an adrenaline rush. I think most of us can be guilty of staying in our comfort zone most of the time, but Go Ape! is a fun and unusual way to break out of our weekend ruts and do something different. There were a mixture of different groups taking part - families, parents with children, couples, friends - so it's definitely got a wide appeal, whether you're looking for an unusual team building day out for your office or a quirky activity to impress your date! 

I think - considering my earlier 'feartie' admission - the sense of pride I got after completing the course was my favourite part of the day. As I clutched my certificate of achievement, I have to admit I was pretty chuffed to have finally done it - after so many years of insisting 'I could never do Go Ape!'. The views were also pretty spectacular - if you've got one, I recommend taking a GoPro to capture all of those beautiful autumnal colours while you're flying 150ft above the treetops!

Go Ape Aberfoyle prices range from £33 for a gorilla (aged 16 and over) to £25 for a baboon (aged 10 to 15). For further information and to book a Go Ape adventure, please visit the Go Ape website.

Thank you to Go Ape! who invited me to take part in their Go Ape Autumn Adventures campaign. As always, all words, opinions and cowardly-cat confessions are my own. 

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