If you’re the really adventurous type and are looking for a great day trip from Edinburgh, follow in my footsteps to the Glentrees Forest an hour south of Edinburgh and enjoy the exhilarating treetop rope course at Go Ape Peebles.
I had a chance to try out the zip-line at Go Ape Aberfoyle a couple years ago, but didn’t have time that day to go through the full course. What’s more, I’ve never been down to the Scottish Borders in the three years I’ve been in and out of Edinburgh. Bringing along my friend Luca (a Swiss world traveler now based in Edinburgh too), we drove down and spent the afternoon zip lining through the trees. The last patches of snow from UK’s worst blizzard in 20 years dotted the forest around us. We had planned to go the week before, but the roads were impassible with snowdrifts waist deep and the rope course was uncharacteristically albeit understandably closed.
Go Ape Treetop Adventure Parks
There are currently 31 Go Ape treetop rope courses around the UK, with one more scheduled to open soon, not to mention 16 more across the eastern US. The rope courses consist of a combination of zip-lines and rope challenges between the trees, all with ample safety measures. Many of the locations have unique features, such as the one in Cumbria where there are seven double zip-lines (two people zipping side by side) totaling nearly two miles in total.
Three of the adventure courses are in Scotland: Go Ape Peebles, Aberfoyle (an hour and a half northwest of Edinburgh) and Crathes Castle near Aberdeen. The Aberfoyle course has two of the longest zip-lines in the UK at nearly 1400 feet long, and Peebles has the highest zip-line of the three Scotland courses.
Three Hours of Treetop Adrenaline in the Glentrees Forest
Luca and I arrived at 1:15 p.m. a little after our scheduled slot. As it was the beginning of the season (and very cold) the park only had a few people running the course. A woman with her step-daughter and a friend arrived just before we did. We joined them for the course. The first few minutes were spent signing in, filling out the waver, getting the harness on and basic training in its use. With a history of setting up the rigging for events in Hollywood, I’m no stranger to the harness. Nevertheless, the safety guidelines at Go Ape are high, and I dutifully paid attention.
There are six segments of the rope course and the first is the warm-up. Our guide went over all the safety steps with us, quizzed our knowledge, and then demonstrated the different movements. Each of us then practiced climbing up the rope ladder, walking across a cable from tree to tree, and then flying down our first zip-line, all the while demonstrating that we could keep our harness correctly attached at all times (something I might not have always done while working in Hollywood).
The second stage had a couple more challenging obstacles, followed by our first “Tarzan swing.” This is where you jump off a platform and are pulled through the air into a net that you have to then climb up and onto the next platform. One of the young girls on the course in front of us completely balked at the thought and we were held up for several minutes. My hat is off to our guide who, with superb coaxing, was able to finally get her to take the leap. Literally.
After that, all three of the girls were more willing to attempt the increasingly difficult challenges. When we came to the second and larger Tarzan swing in the fifth stage of the course, not only was there hardly any hesitation from any of the girls before they leaped, they looped back to jump a second time. Some of the other obstacles included rope bridges, bridges with hanging, rotating logs to balance on, nets to crawl across, “barrels” to crawl through and rings you had to slip your feet into.
Each of the stages ended with a zip-line from the trees back down to the forest floor. The exception was the sixth and final stage. Instead of going back to the ground, the zip-line went out through the trees and 1066 feet across the valley. There’s a lake at the bottom which usually provides a beautiful reflection of you going through the air, but for the first time since Go Ape Peebles opened, the lake was frozen over. The zip-line is 157 feet above the ground, making it the highest zip-line of the three Go Ape locations in Scotland.
One of the girls gave up when it came to the final zip-line, and no amount of persuasion from us or the guide could get her to go. The rest of us happily went for it. On the return journey back across the valley, the two remaining girls had overcome their fears enough to happily wave at the camera as they went by.
Overall, the course took us nearly three hours. Much of that was waiting for the girls to build up the courage for various obstacles. I believe Luca and I could have run through the course in under an hour, but we were content to wait for the girls as we shouted various encouragements. Perhaps we were even lucky, as the guide mentioned stories of some people taking as much as five hours to make it all the way through the course.
If you’re on a tight schedule, you could always skip around the slower participants. Three people are allowed on each tree platform at a time, and the slower ones have no problem letting faster people go first. In general, three hours is a good idea to plan for at the rope course.
Booking at Go Ape Peebles
Go Ape Peebles opened up for the season only a few weeks before Luca and I booked our Sunday adventure. The park has 15 staff and can take up to 60 people through the course each day. Walk-ins are accepted, although you might want to book in advance if you want to go on a summer weekend. The full course is over half a mile long and consists of 36 crossings between trees plus 7 zip-lines.
- Location: Falla Brae Car Park Forestry Commission Scotland Glentress Forest, Peebles EH45 8NB, United Kingdom
- Hours: First course is at 10 a.m. and the last course is around 2 or 3, depending on the month.
- The course is open 7 days during the summer and holidays, Friday through Tuesday in the spring and autumn, and weekends in the coldest months. Closed January.
- Price: Adults – £33; children (ages 10-15) – £25
- Parking: 3 hours – £3.5; all day – £5
- Phone: (+44) 0845 094 9508
- Website: Go Ape Peebles
- What to bring: Durable clothing and comfortable hiking boots, a Go Pro if you have one or a camera with a strap case, and midge repellent in the summer.
- Best time of year to visit: I would say May or September for better weather and less-crowded times.
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Activities in Edinburgh
Hopefully you’re planning to spend more than a day in Edinburgh. Here are some other activities to fill your trip.
- Begin Your Journey in Scotland with a Secret Food Tour in Edinburgh
- What the Da Vinci Code Didn’t Show You About Rosslyn Chapel
- There’s a Cat Cafe in Edinburgh!
- Enjoying the Happiest Place in Scotland at Edinburgh’s Chihuahua Cafe
- Camera Obscura in Edinburgh Brings Out the Kid in You
- Experience the Underground Preservation of Mary King’s Close
- Escape Edinburgh: The Most Fun Activity in Edinburgh’s New Town
- Finding the Best Ghost Tours in Edinburgh
- 9 Free Attractions to Visit in Edinburgh
- 10 Activities for The Perfect Day Trip from Edinburgh
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.