A historic Deeside castle is to become the third site in Scotland to host a family-friendly treetop aerial rope course.
Go Ape is an outdoor adventure experience due to open to the public high amongst the leaves at Ley Wood, Crathes Castle, on April 2. It has taken a month-and-a-half to build and consists of a giant obstacle course in the trees using ladders, walkways, bridges and tunnels made of wood, rope, strong wire and zip lines. People swing, climb and crawl their way around the three-hour course.
Participants are kitted out with harnesses, pulleys and karabiners, given a 30-minute safety briefing and training before being let loose into the forest canopy, to swing through the trees. As many as 14 instructors will be on hand, patrolling the forests.
Manager Nick Benbow explained why Crathes Castle was the ideal location for their next course.
“This piece of woodland really lends itself to this particular course,” he said. “It is a deciduous forest of oak, ash and fir trees with a few elm and beech trees too. There are big, substantial trees and the geography and geology of the area has meant it has ended up being a really beautiful course. The setting is fabulous, with the gardens and waymarked trails.
“We now have 27 such courses around the UK altogether. We started off with one eight years ago but it has become massively popular.
“Crathes is our new course for this year and our most northerly, with the closest other one being at Beecraigs Country Park, at Linlithgow.
“Customers usually book themselves online and when they arrive, we do a safety briefing before being fitted out with a rock climber’s harness, various safety lines and pulleys. It is then basically left to them to go where they want. There are no instructors following you around but they are patrolling the course and keeping an eye on customers.”
He said the course took three hours to complete and was split into five sections, each 30-40ft high, with each ending in a zipline.
“Here, we’ve got the UK’s first skateboard zipline, where you actually stand on a skateboard on two cables, so it’s a bit of a balancing act!” he said.
“The course has taken about one-and-a-half months to build by a team based in Chamonix, in France, who build high-wire courses. We build all the pathwork, stockades and fencing ourselves and the construction guys are there making a few final adjustments this week. The office from which we are operating is only 50m from the castle, on the other side of the road.
“This is a good, accessible adventure course for everyone, from kids aged 10 to people in their 90s. It is not meant for extreme rock climbers, you don’t need to have had any experience at all.”