A Rush Of Adrenalin: 12 Calls To Action
Go diving with sharks, join the firefighters, walk across the treetops...Ian McCurrach rounds up active ways to see out the school holidays
Sunday 20 August 2006
1. A day in the fast lane
Would-be Jenson Buttons can get into Formula One gear at Castle Combe Circuit, a dynamic activity centre that offers driving experiences for all the family. Up for grabs are kart racing, skid control driving and 4x4 off-road driving experiences, all led by fully qualified staff. Junior Karting is suitable for youngsters between 10 and 15 years who must be at least 4ft 8in tall (1.42m).
Where: Drivetech Ltd, Castle Combe Circuit, Chippenham, Wiltshire (01249 783010; itsadventuresouthwest.co.uk). Open Sat and Sun 10am-5pm.
Cost: 200 cc Karting from £35 juniors, £45 adults; 4x4 Off-Road Challenge from £110.
2. Learn the drill and fight fire
For that ultimate backdraft experience, join the fire brigade and go for a ride in a fire engine. The basic fire engine tour and ride offers a 15-20 minute circuit around the popular Lake District resorts of Windermere and Bowness and is suitable for all ages. Over-fives and adults can opt for a more hands-on firefighting experience that involves handling the equipment and participating in two fire drills. After a training brief that includes filling the fire engine with water, dressing in a junior fire kit and practising drill, the participants go on a "shout" - the brigade term for an emergency call-out.
Where: Kidside, Milnthorpe, Cumbria (015395 64242; firefighter experience.com). Open daily 9am-6pm.
Cost: £24 per person for children and adults.
3. Face to face with a shark
Dramatically situated beneath the Forth Road Bridge, Deep Sea World offers people the opportunity to get close to Europe's largest collection of sand tiger sharks. Go for a dive in shark-infested waters and take your friends with you, who watch from the safety of a viewing tunnel within the aquarium. Participants must be 16 years or over and the two-hour visit includes a safety briefing, an introduction to diving and a tour of the Underwater Safari. Booking in advance is advisable.
Where: Deep Sea World, Battery Quarry, North Queensferry, Fife (01383 411880; deepseaworld .com). Open Mon-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat and Sun 10am-6pm.
Cost: £145 each (includes two spectators).
4. Get extremely scared
Fronted by go-getter P-Y Gerbeau, of Disneyland Paris and Millennium Dome fame, Xscape is the UK's ultimate adrenalin-rush activities centre. Try Airkix, an indoor wind tunnel that recreates the sensations of sky diving. Also on offer are an indoor snow slope with real snow, rock climbing, bowling, shopping and a restaurant selection. Booking is essential. There are also Xscapes in Leeds and Glasgow.
Where: Xscape, 602 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks (0871-200 3220; xscape.co.uk). Open daily 9am-11pm.
Cost: cost on application.
5. Go with the flow on the river
Enjoy the best of the Tay valley scenery in Scotland while your raft gently makes its way down the river Tay past rolling hills and undulating forests. Hone your rafting skills under the instruction of highly trained hand-picked guides as your craft floats gently off from the attractive Scottish market town of Aberfeldy. After a couple of miles of meandering, the raft quickly begins to pick up speed as the river drops away sharply between boulders that create some challenging rapids before reaching Glentully, where the trip comes to an end. Watch out for the most difficult rapids known as The Washing Machine and the Zoom Flume.
Where: Splash White Water Rafting, Dunkeld Road, Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland (01887 829706; rafting.co .uk). Open daily 9am-9pm.
Cost: for a half day trip, children (8-16 years) £25, adults £35, family (two adults and two
6. Don't wait for winter to ski
Europe's largest artificial ski complex, Sheffield Ski Village has more than a mile of ski runs of varying standards including a hi-tech fully automated mist lubrication system. Its instructors teach all levels from complete beginners to advanced and snowboarding. The snowboarding school has trained many of the UK's top boarders and skiing and boarding lessons are available for individuals or group sessions.
Where: Sheffield Ski Village, Vale Road, Sheffield (0114-276 9459; sheffield skivillage.co.uk). Open Weds-Fri 10am-10pm, Sat and Sun 10am-7pm.
Cost: lessons for children from £15, adults from £21.
7. Devon from top to bottom
A wide range of outdoor activities is on offer at the Mountain Water Experience in south Devon. Experiences include body boarding, canoeing, coasteering (you wear wetsuits, buoyancy aids and helmets, and jump off rocks and swim around the shoreline), various types of boating, abseiling, archery, canyoning, caving, rock climbing, high rope skills and walking.
Where: Courtlands, Kingsbridge, South Devon (01548 550675; mountainwater experience.com). Open daily 9.30am-4.30pm.
Cost: children (10-16 years) from £18 for a whole day activity, adults from £45 for a whole day activity, but prices vary according to activity and group size.
8. See the world from a tree top
Get a squirrel's eye view of Northamptonshire as you walk in the canopy of Salcey Forest along the Tree Top Way. The walkway can be found by following the Elephant Walk, so called because elephants were used there during the Second World War for timber harvesting. The 15m-high walkway was nominated for one of the 2006 Prime Minister's Better Public Building awards and offers a new perspective on this ancient forest, which was once a medieval royal hunting ground. Don't miss the elephant pond where the elephants used to cool down after their hard work. Look out for the 500-year-old oak trees and wide range of wildlife. Feeling peckish? The Forest Café is open daily from 10am till 5pm, for hot and cold snacks. There is also a play area and many other walking trails to follow.
Where: Salcey Forest, near Hartwell, Northamptonshire (01780 444920; forestry.gov.uk). Open daily 8am-7pm.
9. Sea and snow under one roof
The Calshot Activity Centre in Hampshire is one of the biggest outdoor activity centres in Britain with a vast range of activities on offer to suit all ages and experience levels. Water sports include windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing and power boating. Rock climbing to a minimum height of 13m takes place in massive hangars. Go skiing and snowboarding on Calshot's revolutionary indoor no-hole surface slopes and get back up to the top again by power lifts, and go track cycling on the Calshot Velodrome. All activities are supervised and taught by professionals. Booking in advance is essential. There is a large dining room for meals or packed lunches can be provided for off-site activities.
Where: Calshot Activities Centre, Calshot Spit, Fawley, Southampton, Hampshire (023-8089 2077; calshot.com). Open daily 9.20am-4pm.
Cost: prices vary depending on group size and activity; cost on application.
10. The magic of Narnia
The mighty Mourne Mountains in the south of Co Down, Northern Ireland, are said to be the inspiration behind the landscape of C S Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. There are many walking trails to choose from that wind their way through the Tollymore Forest Park at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. Look out for grottos and caves among the waterfalls, walk the stepping stones across the Shimna River and pass through the Gothic Gateways. There are many picturesque places throughout the forest park to stop for picnics or have a barbecue.
Where: Tollymore Forest Park, Bryansford Road, Newcastle, Co Down, Northern Ireland (028-4372 2428; forest serviceni.gov.uk). Open daily 10am-sunset.
Cost: children 50p, adults £2, car £4.
Further information: visitbritain.com; enjoy england.com/family; visit scotland.com; discover northernireland.com
11. The best for eco-fun: Frolics in the forest
The Greenwood Forest Park in Wales is acclaimed for its ecologically friendly 250m Green Dragon rollercoaster. Other big draws include constructing your own den from the natural materials in the forest, finding your way through the Crocodile Maze and balancing along netted walkways then sliding down tubes in the Treetop Towers.
Greenwood Forest Park, Y Felinheli, Gwynedd, Wales (01248 671493; greenwoodforestpark.co.uk). Open daily.
12. The best for digging it: Can you build it?
Play Bob the Builder at Diggerland, an adventure park packed full of dumpers and JCB diggers. Children and adults alike can drive and ride real construction site diggers and dumpers in a safe environment. Drives are suitable for over fives. Some minimum height restrictions apply of 3ft 4in (one metre).Riverside Industrial Estate, Langley Park, Durham (0870 034 4437; diggerland.com). Open daily during school holidays 10am-5pm.
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