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A Return my Favourite Outdoor Activity Centre at Craggan Outdoors

Filed in Blog by on May 9, 2018 • views: 30

Outdoor Activity Centres Scotland – Winter is Over!

I do love that Scottish spring feeling. That freedom to de-layer in the outdoors and bask in the as-yet midge-free air. The time when grand plans unfold for the year, where you promise to spend as much time outdoors as you can and challenge yourself in new areas. Good timing then that I make my second visit to my favourite outdoor activity centre in Scotland to take on two new adventures – rock climbing and kayaking.

kayaking fun outdoor activity centres scotland

The Activities: Climbing

Rock climbing is not something I can ever say I’ve done before. I’ve scrambled up many a mountain and had a rather hilarious go at one of those indoor ice walls, but taking on a natural vertical ascent is quite another matter. It’s rough, it’s tough and it’s not built with us humans in mind. It’s certainly not built with daft kilted travel bloggers in mind. Who knew? That said, it kicks the backside of any artificial effort and, as your adrenaline works itself into a frenzy with each strain and heave, you quickly realise that you’re loving this!

climbing group at huntlys

Trust remains the big one for most when strenuously working your way up these things. Your partner on the ground below is your entire support system and literally provides the rope that gives you both the freedom and security that you’ll need to rely on. As such, this is most certainly not an activity to be taken on independently or without trained supervision. This is where the Craggan Outdoors team come in. Carefully selected routes of ascent, all of the necessary equipment and step-by-step instructions are dished out as you go. A scene from Mission Impossible it may not be, but it’s a start. Plus, Ethan Hunt has not and could not do it in a kilt. Fact.

abseiling

Kayaking

Giving at least some of our muscles a rest we spent the afternoon kayaking. With no customers about it was a chance for the team to learn a few new tricks and tweak their existing techniques. My last shot on a kayak was in open water in Shetland where, surrounded by nature, my journey allowed for a completely different perspective on the islands’ ruggedly exposed landscape. While a very different experience in the on-site pond at the outdoor activity centre, this allowed for controlled experimentation and, in my case, a proper induction as to how to operate the rather cumbersome beast beneath you. With a blessedly different water temperature than that found during my gorge walk last time, getting wetsuited-up and out there was a pleasant release. What I like about kayaking is its freedom. Whether you’re looking to gracefully coast along or furiously scream by at pace, it can deliver. I have to admit to loving the surge of speed as you get going but am equally inclined towards just coasting here and there, letting the natural momentum of the water direct you into a relaxed slumber. Yet again, it’s the power of nature.

kayaking outdoor activity centres scotland

Springtime with Craggan Outdoors

The primary element of my work in 2018 with the team here is to observe how they operate and evolve through the different stages of the season. While my first visit was very much an induction as the team underwent their training for the year, this trip was all about seeing them in action. I tagged on with one of the regular school groups that visit Craggan Outdoors to take on this month’s activities. As with any good tourism business, customer enjoyment and satisfaction is at the heart of things and while the regular stag groups, birthday events and the like that visit are all about having as much fun as possible, this group has slightly more tailored needs and objectives.

team problem solving

When working with kids, safety is even more of a vital priority than usual and, while the staff are trained to expect the unexpected, it is even more the case with youngsters. This is a returning school group who sang the praises of Craggan Outdoor’s outdoor activity centre as a professional but relaxed provider that have always delivered rewarding experiences for their kids. As teachers and parents know all to well, keeping youngsters engaged and happy is a near-impossible task but, arguably even more so than for the rest of us, it’s vital to call on the outdoors for support. Fresh air, immersion in spectacular Highland environments and the positive release of energy. This is the stuff that stimulates young bodies and minds and takes kids away from their comfort zones and ever-increasingly digital lives. I missed most of the digital omnipresence growing up and can comfortably say I was always happier on a football field than in front of the Playstation but I’ve watched with some alarm at how kids today are seemingly obsessed with social media, vlogging and online gaming. The school’s accompanying staff were emphatic on the importance and the benefits to their kids in getting away from that – with controlled yet challenging days out like these the ideal solution. Rock climbing in the Cairngorms is probably not the most conventional form of activity for imminent teenagers…but my money says it could be a day they never forget.

Accommodation

While looking for outdoor activity centre accommodation in Scotland, you’ll often find it a thankless task. When dealing with large numbers, few hostels can handle you and when looking for comfort and convenience you often find your wallet gets a thumping. On this trip I tried out Craggan Outdoor’s Ardenbeg Bunkhouse in Grantown-on-Spey. Able to host groups of up to 23 people, it provides warm and comfy lodgings as well as access to kitchen facilities. A serene companion to a busy day in the outdoors, it’s a great option for travellers just passing through or those engaging at the activity centre itself.

ardenbeg bunkhouse lounge

What’s Next?

In other news, the Craggan Outdoors team have bedded into the season well. The wide range of outdoor activities and client types keeps the team of employees on their toes and travellers and locals alike continue to acknowledge the benefits to be had through organised, yet often non-mainstream, sports. Our play around with the kayaks served to both train and entertain and, in Dan, the team’s senior instructor, they have a leader that could not be more suited to this kind of work. A happy team makes for happy customers and I look forward to hearing how things are progressing as we start to move towards peak season.

Neil Robertson is a travel blogger, broadcaster and marketer who spends his time finding the best bits around his home country of Scotland, in his guise as Travels with a Kilt. Particularly fond of the outdoors and history, he can generally be found up a Munro, poking around ruins or chasing his drone around a loch. This year he will be working closely with Craggan Outdoors as they progress through the various stages of the tourism season – with plenty of sporty participation from their outdoor activity centre activities along the way. You can follow his adventures both on this site and over on his Scotland travel blog.

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