From sailing to Laser Quest battles, staycationing has never been such fun
In straitened times there has been an upsurge in staycations and short trips as more of us look for great British-based breaks. Sadly work commitments mean my partner Graham has to stay at home, so my daughters and I are off for a girls’ own adventure break.
Castle Douglas is where we are headed, around a two and a half hour drive from Edinburgh. Our destination is Galloway Activity Centre, on the banks of tranquil Loch Ken. Here a cornucopia of accommodation is available; you can sleep in a tipi or a yurt, or in one of the loch-side cabins or bring your own tent and camp.
Another option is the self catering bunkhouse, which although basic, has everything you need. We had a look inside a yurt and a tipi – both with open fires or stoves – and they looked amazing. However waking the next day to a thick frost, I felt smug, warm in our double glazed and centrally heated bunkhouse.
The local area has lots to offer. Nearby Castle Douglas has a vibrant high street with quite a few cafés, takeaways and a large supermarket for supplies. We opted to discover what the activity centre could provide by way of an evening meal. You eat in the multi function café area, along with the staff. On offer is tasty hearty grub, but this communal option might not suit everyone.
We made a point of dropping in at the tourist information office in Castle Douglas. Scotland’s only dark skies park is nearby at Galloway Forest Park. Low levels of light pollution means great views of the stars on clear nights. Also within striking distance is Threave Castle and Threave Gardens. Alternatively The Cream of Galloway visitor centre at Gatehouse of Fleet provides a fun day out. However we are wildlife fans, so make for Belly Mack farm, one of the stops on the child-friendly red kite route.
We are treated to the amazing sight of around 50 whirling dervishes. Fed as part of a process to reintroduce them to the area, kites practice their aerobatic flying routines, swooping down to collect carrion from raised platforms, every day between 2pm and 4pm. Their distinctive plumage and tails make them an easy bird to identify. One of the farm dogs cheekily hid beneath the platform before dodging out to steal some meat.
The real attraction about staying at Galloway Activity Centre is the plethora of things to do. Next morning, refreshed after a hearty breakfast, we met up with our instructor, Iain, who kitted us out with suitable wetsuits, and buoyancy aids.
We are sampling a range of activities from their family taster sessions, which are ideal for beginners. Kayaking is first, even Hope (6) my youngest is able to join in. The kayaks are sit on types which are brilliant. We learn how we should paddle on dry land before getting in and giving it a go. Hope struggles a bit with the cold, so we opt out of the next activity, and watch from the comfort of the café, as elder sibling Eve (9) gives sailing a whirl. She joins in with a young group heading out towards an island, and they have lots of adventures en-route.
After a lunch break we volunteer for activities on dry land. Although game to give climbing a go, looking up at the 30 foot climbing platform is quite daunting. However we are rewarded with stunning views and treated to a masterful flying display by swallows. Soon, we are launching ourselves off the platform via zip wire. Eyes closed in my case.
The highlight of the whole day, for the girls, was a game of Laser Quest. Two teams battled it out in a cordoned off area of forest. I can report various irregularities – creeping out of bounds to shoot behind enemy lines and jersey-swapping to put the opposing team off the scent for example.
We all agree that we would come back again in a heartbeat. The girls had a most excellent adventure, and besides we have other activities we all want to tackle.
A single activity taster session costs £16.50 per person, or a full day of five sessions costs £45 per person. The Bunkhouse sleeps up to 20 people and costs £16.50 per person per night. One night in a Mongolian yurt, which sleeps up to six, costs £80, or try a tipi which sleeps up to six and costs £60 per night. For further details and info, see www.lochken.co.uk/
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
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Wind direction: North east