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Testing myself to the limit

It's freezing and I have arrived a tad late at the Nae Limits adventure activities centre in Ballinluig.

I barely have five minutes to grab a wetsuit, life-jacket, and helmet.

I quickly don my gear as per instructed and gather with the rest of my fellow nutters for transport to the beginning of my first experience of white-water rafting.

I am in the company of an upbeat contingent of stag revellers nervously laughing at each others' quotes from the movie Deliverance to keep their hangover-induced tremors at bay.

Two minutes later, the amphibian army files onto the mini-bus, paddles ready, to do battle with whatever the mighty river may throw at us.

The skies overhead are grey throughout a nevertheless picturesque 20-minute journey to the entry point near Aberfeldy.

The Tay's in full spate from the melting snow coming off the hills around Glen Lyon and the buff-coloured water is churning at a fair pelt.

The safety talk covers all scenarios, mainly involving unexpected ejection from the raft, and is delivered by our team leader Marcus, who has underlying air of confidence and wisdom that helps reassure.

We lift our raft astride the water's edge, get in, and push off. I am still wondering how you can grab a proffered rope or paddle from the river if you can't feel your fingers when I spot a party of 12-year-old girls hysterically giggling their way down the river ahead of us.

I feel slightly ashamed.

Marcus pairs us off, three down each side, himself high on the aft as we paddle on into the torrent. The anticipation of the impeding rapids and Marcus's cautionary tales enhance the adrenaline and quicken my senses.

He is full of local knowledge and has a story attached to every turn of the way to keep our minds distracted from the cold seeping up our legs from the fair sized pool of water sloshing around at our feet, but hey, I am enjoying this (and the lifejacket is feeling pretty snug around my pumping heart).

There are some quick manoeuvres to be made through currents and lone boulders that loom towards us but these are apparently nothing in comparison to the last stretch where teamwork and ability to follow orders will keep us safe and together until the last.

Further down-river we pass the souvenir photographer perched upon a fallen tree jutting into the river - he captures the frozen expressions on our bloodless faces as we learn of the nicknames given to the rocks on the last leg. One referred to as Magnetic is to be particularly noted. Marcus's commands become more frequent, forthright and louder to be heard over the increasing din of the approaching maelstrom of white water which comes fast upon us.

"Left hard forward!" "Right hard back!" "All forward!" We are flung this way and that through a storm of spray and crashing noise.

I focus on staying inside the raft and doing exactly what I'm told and before I know it we are past the worst and we gently paddle to the safety of the right bank. I looked back at what we had just come through and I amazed we made it. We clamber, panting, onto the bank, my arms are a bit tender but I am exhilarated and buzzing from the adrenaline rush. I feel alive and it feels good.

Our experience on the Tay has given me an appetite and I'm looking forward to getting to the cabins for some warmth and some good hearty food.

The drive over to Kirkmichael from the A9 is a pleasant one, the road rises above Pitlochry eastward, down through Glen Brerachan and along the River Ardle.

The log-built cabins are nestled on the fringe of the Kindrogan Forest and have a welcoming feel of seclusion and peaceful calm.

The evening restaurant has a simple no-fuss menu, with a perfectly selected array of traditional home produce, good-sized portions, and attention to presentation that I would expect of a more upmarket operation.

The rooms come with modern comforts and are spacious with a more than adequately sized bed that gives a fantastic night's sleep.

Damian Shields was a guest of Nae Limits. The Stay and Play gift experience is £85 per person and includes a one-night stay at the Nae Limits log cabins (based on two sharing) and the choice of white water rafting, canyoning, tubing, quad biking or clay pigeon shooting.

See naelimits.co.uk

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