From go-karting to digger driving, Gayle has a bash at some of the activities on offer at Lochter Activity Centre in Aberdeenshire.
Whizzing round the racetrack in my go-kart, foot hard on the accelerator, I’m on a mission to win.
As I zip round a nasty hairpin bend and hit a pile of soggy grass cuttings, I lose control, spin round and crash into a wall of tyres. Victory, it seems, is out of reach.
I’m at Lochter Activity Centre, just outside Oldmeldrum in Aberdeenshire, spending a morning doing four activities – karting, off-road blindfold driving, a Segway slalom and mini-digger challenge.
Karting, I have to say, is one of THE most exhilarating, high-adrenaline activities I’ve ever tried.
At more than 1km long, the track at Lochter is a replica of the legendary Silverstone and a challenge for any driver.
Karts can reach top speeds of around 38mph while sticking to the tarmac like glue… unless you slide off on some of the more tricky corners!
There had been heavy rain the night before I took to the track and that, combined with the fact that the grass had just been cut, with clippings sprayed on to the asphalt surface, meant I was in for a slidey session.
This only added to the buzz factor – although I didn’t win the race.
Once I’d mopped my sweaty brow, it was time for the next activity – blindfold driving.
“How the heck does that work?” you may well ask, as did I.
Activities instructor Amy Reid is only too happy to show me.
First up, we put on our masks as we’re going to be sitting in the 4×4 – although keeping our distance.
Then, as I’m in the driver’s seat (even stranger because it’s a left-hand drive), Amy hands me a pair of blacked-out goggles. I can’t see a thing – which is the point.
Our mission is to weave between a line of plastic barrels without knocking into them.
Amy has to act as navigator, telling me to go left, right or straight on. It’s fairly mind-boggling and there’s a lot of trust involved.
Luckily, Amy is a brilliant human sat-nav and I complete the course without any incident.
Then it’s my turn to navigate while Amy drives. It turns out I’m rubbish at this.
I panic and have her turn too quickly, knocking over a barrel. Even worse, she almost hits a wall thanks to my shoddy instructions. Ach well. You can’t be good at everything!
After a break for a scone and coffee in Lochter’s restaurant, I head back outside for the Segway slalom.
As anyone who has been on a Segway will know, these bad boys require some serious balancing skills.
To accelerate, you lean forward (which seems risky until you start to trust the machine), and to stop, you lean back. To turn, you simply move the handlebars in the direction you want to go, and to reverse, you lean back even further.
Once I’ve had a quick practice run, Amy sets me off on a course which involves twirling in and out of plastic cones, spinning in circles and raising my hands in the air – scary.
I discover I’m quite rigid – probably because I’m tense and don’t trust myself or the Segway.
Nevertheless, I speed round the course a few times… and then fall flat on my face when I turn too tightly. I’m glad to report that I wasn’t at all hurt.
The grass landing was a blessing; the only evidence of the fall is a patch of mud on my jeans.
My final activity of the day is the mini-digger challenge.
Initially, I’m daunted by the thing. It looks massive, not mini, its bucket looming large over the loch.
The idea, explains activities manager Sandy Duncan, is to fill the digger’s bucket with water and tip it into a barrel.
Operating the machine is trickier than it looks; I’ve a new-found respect for digger drivers.
There are two “joysticks” which control the boom (the angled arm), bucket, and swing the cab around.
Sandy’s instructions are mega-helpful but I seem to develop left-right confusion as I begin manoeuvring the machine around.
The aim is to scoop up and dump the water into the barrel.
With practice, I get a bit better and realise that the smoother I am with my movements, the less chance there is of spilling the water.
It takes a while but I eventually fill the barrel, and as a bonus, scoop up a ball perched on a traffic cone and chuck it in. Sandy and Amy whoop with joy.
There’s loads more to do at Lochter – clay shooting, archery, rifle shooting, target golf, fly-fishing and even sheepdog trials and Highland games.
Alas, my time is up, but I pledge to return again soon.
The next day, I wake up feeling I’ve had a major workout. That’s thanks to the karting.
It raises your heart rate and works your core, forearms and legs, as you’re constantly twisting and turning to manoeuvre the vehicle. The adrenaline rush, meantime, boosts metabolism.
In essence, it’s great physical training – a fantastic excuse to get back out on the track ASAP!
For more details and to book, see lochter.co.uk