Modern life is dominated by technology. We spend hours staring at screens as we catch up with the latest ‘must watch’ box sets, or scroll through an endless stream of content on social media. In moderation those are great ways to unwind, but every now and then it does you good to get off grid and back to nature for a while. I was recently invited to do just that, on a glamping and outdoor adventure weekend at Ace Adventures & Hideaways in Moray.
Would this iPhone addict embrace a technology free lifestyle, or would I end up screaming “I’m a digital junkie, get me out of here”?
Day one – Ace Adventures in Moray
Ace Adventures is nestled in woodland in the picturesque Findhorn Valley. Having passed through the valley many times over the years we were looking forward to finally staying there.
When the day of our trip arrived, we set off early so we could stop for lunch and a walk before heading to Ace Adventures to disappear off grid.
After grabbing a takeaway lunch from The Old Bakery in Carrbridge, we continued our journey north towards Dava Moor.
Local history – Lochindorb Castle
I love the bleak beauty of the moor, so suggested we stop at a small loch there.
Lochindorb has a creepy 13th century castle in the middle of it. The castle was once home to the notorious Wolf of Badenoch (Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan). The townsfolk of Elgin and Forres still haven’t forgiven him for torching their towns in 1390.
Local Walks – Dulsie Bridge
After leaving Lochindorb we stopped at Dulsie Bridge for a short riverside walk. It was to be our first, but not last encounter with the River Findhorn that weekend.
Parking the car, we followed a path that led us to a viewpoint with a scenic view of the river and Dulsie Bridge, which was built in 1755.
After admiring the view we continued on the path, winding our way down through woodland to reach the water’s edge. It was a lovely, secluded spot to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of the riverbank.
Mr G the mountain goat prefers clambering to relaxation, so when the path petered out he stumbled his way over jagged rocks to see what lay beyond the path. I cursed his sense of adventure and cavalier attitude – not for the first time in our relationship.
It was soon time to head to Ace Adventures & Hideaways to check into our off grid accommodation.
Ace Adventures & Hideaways, Moray
We arrived at Ace Adventures & Hideaways and were welcomed by owner Tracey and given a run down of the site and facilities, before being directed to our digs.
There are various accommodation options available at Ace Adventures & Hideaways. You can bring your own tent, stay in a bell tent that sleeps seven, or a romantic shepherd’s hut for two.
Our Ace Adventures accommodation
We were booked to stay in a shepherd’s hut.
Something that immediately struck me about the accommodation at Ace Adventures & Hideaways was the amount of space surrounding each camping/glamping pitch. Living like sardines was not something we’d need to worry about at this site.
Our shepherd’s hut was super cute inside. It was equipped with a double bed, log burning fire (plus logs), a gas camping stove, kitchen utensils and crockery, plus a fold down table and chairs. There was no electricity but we had solar lighting. Towels and bed linen were provided and extras too like tea and coffee.
I loved it and at that moment in time, I had no inclination to check my social media feeds.
Outside there was a clearing with a firepit and logs to sit on. I planned to make good use of the space over the weekend, spending my evenings at one with nature.
But first, it was time for an Ace activity.
Ace Adventures activities — Disc Golf
I hadn’t heard of disc golf until I was invited to visit Ace Adventures. I soon discovered it was played with a Frisbee and chain nets that resemble basketball hoops. Being nifty with a Frisbee in my youth, I was sure I’d give competitive Mr G a run for his money on the Ace Adventures 9 hole course ( a par 27).
It turns out the ability to throw a Frisbee at a target, requires skill and practice. Disc golf is harder than it looks.
When I fell over at the third hole, smacking The Wee White Dug on the snoot as I crashed to the ground, Mr G knew he had the game in the bag. That didn’t stop him from throwing a tantrum and giving himself a dressing down whenever he felt his throw was below par.
We called it a resounding victory for Mr G at the 9th hole. He finished 7 over par (he later got that down to 2 over par after a 6:00 am solo practice session). I finished a cringeworthy 27 over par.
Despite my dismal score I loved disc golf and haven’t laughed so hard in ages. For me it wasn’t about the winning (which is just as well), it was about being outdoors, enjoying fresh air and having fun as a couple. No technology, nothing hi-tech, just good old fashioned fun.
Other activities at Ace Adventures
You can take part in a range of activities at Ace Adventures. Adrenaline junkies will love canyoning, white water rafting, kayaking, cliff jumping and paintball.
It’s not all about high adrenaline adventure though. Those who prefer to live a calmer, more Zen like existence can attend a yoga retreat or learn bushcraft skills.
An evening by the campfire
After popping into Forres for takeaway white pudding suppers for dinner (delicious), we settled by the campfire to relax.
It was a joy to sit outside toasting marshmallows, as the birds serenaded us with their song. No TV or gadgets – just the art of conversation. Mr G hung onto his iPhone like a comfort blanket, but mine remained indoors.
The boy was enjoying himself too. He went into bushcraft mode and made a nest near the fire. After a snooze in his nest, he went foraging and found a bone. Bone confiscated he ate some roots he dug from the ground. Ace Adventures had turned him into a right wee Bear Grylls.
We ended up spending the whole evening outside and only retired to our shepherd’s hut to sleep. I’d discovered hot water bottles in a drawer under the bed so made them up. We fell asleep with toasty toes and slept soundly through the night.
Day two of our Ace Adventures
Day two of our glamping adventure dawned and we woke refreshed and raring to go.
We had a choice of shower facilities. There were rustic wooden cubicles for an authentic outdoor experience, or plush modern showers. We opted for modern – me because I can’t live without a hairdryer. Internet yes, blow dried hair no.
I’d love to tell you we foraged for breakfast, but we didn’t. We drove to Forres for bacon rolls and coffee.
Breakfast eaten, we were ready to explore the beautiful Findhorn Valley.
Local walks – Randolph’s Leap
Randolph’s Leap is a short, scenic walk that loops through woodland and along the rocky banks of the River Findhorn, passing a dramatic gorge.
Randolph was Thomas Randolph Earl of Moray, nephew of King Robert the Bruce. He lived by the riverbank. Randolph and the Cummings family from the other side of the river became embroiled in a feud. The Cummings plotted an attack on Randolph, but he outfoxed them and ambushed his would be attackers. They fled, leaping over the gorge to escape – yet non leaping Randolph has been given the credit.
Neither of us were tempted to recreate the leap, but we did enjoy watching the water thundering through the gorge.
The river was low due to a period of dry weather. In August 1829 it wasn’t quite so low. After a prolonged dry spell was followed by three days of rain, the River Findhorn burst its banks, leading to extensive flooding. At Randolph’s Leap the water level rose by 50 feet. A flood stone marks the height the water reached that summer.
Local walks – Sluie Walk
After leaving Randolph’s Leap, we checked out another local trail. The Sluie Walk on the Moray Estate leads through tall, pine woodland, before emerging high about the banks of the River Findhorn. The path skirts some sharp drops into the river in places, making for a dramatic walk.
On the far side of the river we spotted a series of ladders, ropes and rickety looking staircases zig zagging down a cliff to the water. It looked like some type of adventure activity for adrenaline junkies, but we discovered it was used by fishermen to reach a prime fishing spot. I’d learned something new – the skills of a Sherpa were required to fish on the River Findhorn.
This was our third walk since arriving in the Findhorn Valley and we hadn’t met another soul on any of them. A real treat, given we were in the height of tourist season.
As our walk drew to a close we spotted a couple of birds of prey circling high overhead. Wildlife and scenery – what could be better.
A quick stop for lunch – Logie Steading
After a morning spent walking we enjoyed a local lunch at Logie Steading. The cafe there isn’t dog friendly, but there are tables in a sheltered courtyard, so it’s a good al fresco lunch option. Soup and sandwiches set us up nicely for the afternoon ahead.
Local history – Dallas Dhu Distillery
With some local walks under our belt, we decided to turn our attention to local history.
Moray has a long association with whisky making, so we visited the historic Dallas Dhu distillery to learn about the traditional whisky making process.
The distillery closed in the 1980s, and with so many distilleries going out of business at that time, it was realised there was a need to save one, so the traditional method of whisky making wasn’t lost.
Historic Scotland now manage the distillery. Visitors follow a self-guided audio tour which explains the traditional whisky making process from grain to glass.
The distillery isn’t dog friendly but dogs are welcome in the grounds. We shared an audio guide and took turns to visit each of the distillery buildings. It didn’t hamper our enjoyment of the tour, so I’d definitely recommend popping in if you find yourself in the area with a four-legged friend in tow.
The Dallas Dhu tour ends with a wee dram. As Dallas Dhu is no more, a similar tasting substitute is given. Mr G was driving so he passed, but I partook – strictly for research purposes.
Another relaxing night by the campfire
Our second night at Ace Adventures was spent in the same way as our first – only this time I cooked on the campfire. Nothing fancy, just good old fashioned barbecue food, bought locally.
I’ve cooked many dinners for Mr G over the years but I’ve never known him to wax lyrical about my cooking quite as much as he did that night.
The boy bust some sausage begging moves until his efforts paid off.
Even washing the dishes after dinner felt like an adventure, as it gave us an excuse to use the camp kitchen. The kitchen is based on an Australian camp kitchen. It felt like we were in the TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity get me out of here’ – minus the stomach churning bush tucker trials.
Activities at Ace Adventures – Kayaking
It was almost time for us to say goodbye, but not before the pièce de résistance – kayaking on the River Findhorn. I LOVE kayaking so couldn’t wait to pick up a paddle again. With water levels on the river low, this was to be a specially tailored session. There would be no rapids, just a gentle Sunday morning paddle.
Tracey joined us along with Casper’s new bestie Winston, plus our instructor Johnny who hails from Tasmania.
What followed was a first for me – kayaking with the boy by my side as a talented piper (Johnny) played for us. What an experience.
Even Mr G who’s not a fan of water or kayaking was caught up in the moment and plunged into the river for a dip.
And so ended our weekend of Ace Adventures.
Although our accommodation and activities were provided on a complimentary basis, all opinions are my own.
Until next time……….