What to do with two ten year old nieces for 5 weeks? This has been my Summer ’17 challenge, and I will confess that I must have been wearing my rose tinted nostalgia glasses when I convinced my sister that I’d done the working parent thing before, and I could do it again - no problem! What I failed to remember was that I was fourteen years younger (Cain is now 24) and had the world’s most laid back boy to amuse; a bmx and a packed lunch was pretty much all he required.
Ten year old twin girls are another story, and with my sister in the final stages of chemo treatment, I was determined to give these girls a summer holiday to remember. I’ve been writing about Live Active Leisure’s Holiday Hero Camps for the past 5 years now and decided I’d put their promise of ‘we’re here when you need us’ to the ultimate test. Could they keep my girls happy and entertained and me stress-free and sane?!
First thing we did was buy two £20 memberships for free access to the pool, ice rink and sports halls all July and August. (I can tell you it was the best value £40 I spent all summer – so-much-so that my sister intends to keep it going once they’re back to school next week. Look out for the same offer this October >>>) Next up, we poured over the summer programme and the girls decided on a combination of all-day camps at Bells Sports Centre, Swim & Skate at Perth Leisure Pool and Dewars Centre, and the new Adventure Day activities dotted around Perthshire – one of which was a family day at Loch Faskgally…
“Take the day off work and come with us!” they chanted. “Get Cain to come!” was the follow up. And so it was that me, Cain, Holly, Jenna my best friend Kelly and her two boys all met at Bell’s Sports Centre at 9am on sunny morning in July for a day of adventure. These are still relatively new to LAL, having crossed over last April when outdoors sports moved from PKC to sit under their popular Sports brand. Holly and Jenna had already been on two other days earlier in the month – they climbed to the top of Ben Vrackie much to their mum’s disbelief and spent a day hiking in Craigvinean Woods, building dens and toasting marshmallows – and were beyond animated at the thought of us finding out just how ‘awesome’ they were.
Picked up in a mini bus, we were taken to the store at Balhousie Primary to get kitted out with wet suits, floatation vests and water-tight bags for our pack lunches. “Who wants to jump from the cliff?” came the call from the store. The girls looked up nervously, this was one adventure too far and so we decided we’d probably stick to canoeing and archery, with a little swimming in the Loch if we were feeling brave. Cain, Kelly and her boys are regulars at this sort of thing however, and they reappeared laden with kit and excited smiles.
The drive up was glorious, and Highland Perthshire welcomed us with sunshine and blue skies. There was a quick stop at the loos in the forest for a change into wet suits – Kelly and I have worn some fairly tight-fitting outfits in 30+ years of friendship but these were something else - before parking up at the side of Loch Faskgally, not far from the Linn of Tummel.
Dave, our lead instructor, is a man who is made for his job. The girls had talked about him after their previous days on the mountain and in the forest, and I could see why the kids had taken to him so well. Enthusiastic, fun and patient he explained things clearly, getting over safety points and the serious business of canoeing on a river without bursting the bubble of excitement that had built up in the kids.
Into the loch we all got, two to a canoe, and with time spent explaining to each pair, it wasn’t long before we were all paddling up the water, the sun on our faces and, if I’m honest, the sweat lashing down my back as I put everything I had into propelling Jenna and I forward! We got stuck in a bit of a never-ending circle trying to get behind a fallen branch at one point, but Dave took some extra time to give us lessons in steering and although we held up the rear for most of the day, we both felt a real sense of achievement as we dodged low-hanging branches (most of them!) and weaved our way past fishermen and glistening rocks. Seriously – I was strutting like GI Jane by the time I got out at the archery!
Archery next, and we were all lined up and given strict instructions on safety! There would be no arrow-in-eye scenarios on this watch. It’s so much trickier than it looks but the kids soon got the hang of it and Cain entertained everyone by hitting the bullseye with such force, the arrow glided straight through the straw backed target and into the grass beyond. I scored a fairly below-average four, with the girls each hitting eleven and fifteen much to their delight!
Back in the canoe for a paddle across to the Linn of Tummel; one of the most exhilarating parts of the day was being out in amongst the Perthshire countryside. I loved seeing the girls’ smiles as they pointed out the white water rapids of the falls and hearing their laughter as they ducked underneath the low-hanging branches around the water’s edge.
We devoured our pack-lunches, hungrily tucking into sandwiches and swigging from water bottles as we chatted about our archery and canoeing capers. The mood was building for the cliff jump and open water swim and Kelly’s boys were near fever pitch by the time Dave called everyone round for a safety chat and check of helmets.
The kids packed their trepidation into their empty lunch boxes and lined up excitedly to experience the thrill of leaping into a cold Scottish LochWith Ritchie in the safety canoe below, and Dave steadying the jumpers as they counted down, this almighty feat of adrenalin-junkie style antics was every bit as safe as stepping from a kerb. However, my heart was still pounding as my 24-year old baby stepped up, asked if he could do it in his pants, got the laugh he wanted from the kids, was told no, and threw himself off of the edge of a cliff into the cool, still waters of Loch Faskgally. Squeals went up, the never-ending queue saw kids, Kelly and Cain back for multiple jumps and just as Dave called final jump, my mini-adventurers decided to give it a go.
Holly and Jenna packed their trepidation into their empty lunch boxes and lined up with the others to experience the thrill of the leap – Holly loved it and joined the others as they swam down Loch to the canoes; Jenna hated it and walked back with those of us who were still high and dry but both agreed they were glad they gave it a go.
As we canoed back to the mini bus, there was a real sense of freedom in the air. Spending time in the great outdoors, swimming in a loch, jumping from a cliff, is such a far cry from the tablets, phone screens and ‘like’ buttons that dominate our lives that just a few hours out can do you as much good as a week’s holiday. Kelly and I felt like kids ourselves, my girls felt like super-heroes and the boys cemented the feeling of adventure as they (deliberately!) capsized for one final swim through the loch.
Hungry and happy, there was only way to end things and after drop off at 4.30pm at Bells it was back to mine for hot chocolates, Duo Pizzas and a bit of a slating for my rubbish archery score!
This was a perfect day, for lots of reasons, and as well as being great fun, with brilliant instructors, both Kelly and I were astounded at the value-for-money aspect of the day. £15 per head produced happy, worn-out kids and a stream of requests to get booked up for the October events.
Find out about the October Adventure Dates over on the Live Active Website >>>
Note: We paid £45 per family of three with Cain playing for free in return for these action-packed photographs!
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