In an all-action weekend, Andrew Morris speeds down the Tay - aka the Zoom Flume

Brian from accounts refusing to sign-off expenses again? The boss proving that stupidity is a school of management requirement? You have two choices: run round the office like a lunatic pulling out your (and possibly Brian's) hair or pack fleeces and woolly socks and book yourself on an activity break.

Brian from accounts refusing to sign-off expenses again? The boss proving that stupidity is a school of management requirement? You have two choices: run round the office like a lunatic pulling out your (and possibly Brian's) hair or pack fleeces and woolly socks and book yourself on an activity break.

My weekend retreat took me to the Highlands gateway town of Crieff in Perthshire. Just breathing in the air in those heathery patchwork hills with views of distant snowy glens could soothe any troubled brow. But as a procession of quad bikes came screaming past, with drivers whooping with glee as they burned up another hillock, it was clear that serenity was not on the agenda.

Adventure sports breaks are big business for the UK's largest hotel chain, Best Western, which offers jollies ranging from ballooning to blindfold driving at 120 of its properties. My home for the weekend was the three-star Crieff Hydro, a sprawling hotel which has been imploring guests to "haste ye back" for more than 130 years. It once focused on its more sedate hydropathic facilities, but today there is as much chance you will be water-skiing as taking the waters at its Victorian Spa.

I was there in February, and the Perthshire winter curtailed my opportunity to skim gracefully across the lochs - they use powerboats, not icebreakers, it turned out. Instead, I made a quick jaunt by taxi (the most sensible transport option I was offered all weekend) to the small town of Aberfeldy to join 30 still-dry adrenalin junkies in getting well acquainted with the River Tay.

White-water rafting is not an activity you would immediately associate with Scotland, but they don't name the local rapids the "Zoom Flume" and "The Washing Machine" for nothing. "Sign here - it just means were not responsible if you drown or anything," said the instructor with a conspiratorial wink and well-rehearsed chuckle. I laughed along, but after donning myriad layers of buoyancy aid equipment, began to worry about the small print.

Once I and seven other rafters were in the boat, we were given a quick run-down on the dos and don'ts of the two-hour journey downstream. We listened intently as life-saving techniques were explained should the horror of "man overboard" became a reality. When the waters did finally become whiter, the instruction paid off and despite most of the Tay getting into my wetsuit, I managed to keep my bottom firmly attached to rubber raft, not craggy rock.

"Sign here - it just means we're not responsible if we crush you or anything ..." (conspiratorial wink, well-rehearsed chuckle). Sunday morning and it was time to off-road. Sitting beside the infectiously jolly John in one of the Hydro's well-worn Land Rovers, it was off to the old quarry to un-learn everything I thought I knew about driving.

"You know, these beasts can drive along a 45-degree gradient without toppling over," John, with 20 years in the driving seat, informed me. "Off you go then," my co-pilot instructed with a slight giggle. Off I went at what seemed like a gravity-denying angle. "How close was that to 45 degrees, John?" I enquired returning to terra firma. "Oh quite close," he laughed maniacally.

"Sign here, it just means we're not responsible...." "Yes I know, if I smack into a tree head-first or anything...." By this stage, I was becoming blasé about the obvious dangers, and it was time for an even more hazardous activity, quad-biking. I seemed to be swapping the relative safety of a ton of steel chassis and an experienced co-pilot for a gigantic motor on chunky wheels. We were led in procession by the affable and enthusiastic Scott, who revealed that such is his passion for all things on wheels, he once took a 2,000-mile drive just for kicks. After zooming around the quarry, I was relieved it wasn't summer or the next few hours would have been spent removing flies caught in my teeth from a perpetual smile. During my final few hours I enjoyed the hotel's well-fitted gym and adults-only Victorian Spa - and to think I could have been orienteering, riding, footballing, clay shooting, bridge-building - you get the point. Bring on Monday morning.

Andrew Morris flew to Edinburgh courtesy of easyJet (08717 500 100; www.easyjet.com), which flies from Luton, Gatwick and Stansted to Edinburgh from £35.98 return. The Best Western Crieff Hydro (08456 340 559; www.bestwestern.co.uk/activitybreaks) offers b&b from £46 per person per night, based on two sharing a twin or double room for a minimum two-night stay. Cinnamon Adventures booked through Best Western offers white-water rafting at £60 per half day; off-roading at £129 per half day and quad-biking £60 for a one-hour trek. Visit www.active-breaks.co.uk for information about other activity breaks across the country.

Comments