“ Address: Carrbridge / Inverness-shire / PH23 3AJ / Scotland „
I have recently been on a family holiday to Inverness, the age of the people in our party ranged from 2-82 years old so as you can imagine we thought we would find it difficult to find a place to go that would suit everyone. After browsing through the local brochures at the cottage we were holidaying in we stumbled upon Landmark Theme Park located in Carrabridge.
Landmark Theme Park is not a theme park in the traditional sense in that it is not all about big thrilling rollercoasters and rides, it is more about getting active in the forest.
I have to say this is a brilliant day out for all of the family and is great value for money (prices at the end of this review). There is plenty to do for all ages and abilities. The whole park is quite small meaning the activities are close together all of which are supervised by experienced staff who I found were very helpful.
For the little ones.
The youngest member of our party was my niece who is only 2 years old. She had great fun on the mini cars (which do cost an extra £1) and the giant climbing frame Ant City.
For the kids.
In our party were my nephews who are aged 7 and 10. They absolutely loved getting harnessed up for a fun rope adventure in the forests trees known as Tarzan Trail, the climbing wall and sky dive (a platform that you basically jump from after a telegraph pole climb). There are also 3 large water slides in the park which you travel down in a dingy, each of which they went on at least 5 times. There is also a small rollercoaster which is suitable for anyone over the age of 6.
For the adults.
All of the adults in our party had great fun on all of the same activities as the kids although I have to admit we were a little less daring. In addition to this there is also an adult rope trial in the trees which is very challenging but great fun.
My grandad is 82 years old and has difficulty walking so we were concerned he would be confined to watching everyone else have fun. However this was not the case and he had a brilliant time. There is a great maze built on wooden pathways that is easily accessible and looks a lot easier to figure out than it actually is. There is also a walk through the ancient forest, again on wooden pathways. The route has regular information boards about the forest and its celebrity resident the red squirrels. If you do not spot a squirrel on your way through the walk there is a feeding area at the end where there is all manner of birds and the illusive squirrel. The latest addition to Landmark is the brilliant Bamboozeleum. The Bamboozeleum is a museum that is full of optical illusions, heat sensitve cameras and a great photo booth which can transform your image from ape to adulthood.
I have to say this is the only thing that let the park down. There are two places to eat on site and like most theme parks the food prices are extortionate. There is the usual fare of hot dogs and burgers - they were all fine except for my cicken burger which was completely inedible. That said some of our party opted for soup and a bun which was very nice and much cheaper than the other options. There are loads of picnic benches so I would definitely recommend taking a picnic.
I really cannot recommend Landmark Theme Park and their friendly staff highly enough. It is a brilliant day out that is very reasonably priced there are discounts for families and booking a week ticket which I would really recommend as the kids wanted to go back as soon as we left. It was great to drag the kids away from their PSP's and see them really enjoy the great outdoors whilst getting a bit of fresh air and exercise ourselves. There is something for everyone and I also found that despite being their in August at the height of the kids holidays there were very few queues.
Website - http://www.landmarkpark.co.uk/
Adult Child Senior
Nov - Mar 4.10 3.05 2.95
Apr - Oct 12.60 10.50 9.95
Nov - March 10.00am - 5.00pm
Sept - October 10.00am - 5.00pm
April - mid July 10.00am - 5.00 or 6.00pm (see local notice board for time of closing)
Mid July - late August 10.00am - 7.00pm
We first visited Landmark three years ago. It is a forestry-themed adventure park, aimed at the whole family, and can easily take a day to full appreciate. We had enjoyed it so much last time that it was top of the list for our return visit to the area this year, and we decided to opt for a 'weekly membership' this time as we were trying to have a more economical holiday, both to save on multiple admissions, and also diesel as we were staying only 15 minutes drive away!
When we arrived just after opening time, the car park was already relatively full and the queue already reached well back out of the ticket office! Our weekly tickets required us to have our photos taken (by webcam), and they do this between 2 & 4 in the afternoon, so we had to remember to be back there by then! We used our weekly ticket to return the following week, on its expiry date. We weren't sure if would still be valid, so rang to check and it was fine. The ticket office is on stilts over a pond, and the park is accessed down a decked pier.
On entering the park, the first thing that greets you is the fast food and picnic area, and the open air play and activities centre adjacent to it. The food area has a good number of picnic tables, some of which have parasols (also often useful as umbrellas!). More about the fast food venue later.
RIDES AND ACTIVITIES
The open-air activity centre is very full and varied - there is a huge kids climbing 'house' called Ant City, which children can get up to via a scramble net; a tower with a spiral ramp which has a number of slides of various heights coming down from it, the tallest and windiest of which is, I'm told by our two, quite hairy but great fun; there's a shorter, very wide slide which I'm guessing is a multi-abilities slide, but all the kids have a great time on it.
Outside of these tamer play things, there's a sliding scale of scarier things that you can do, including Ropeworx (which we bottled out of) which is an aerial rope walk which you negotiate attached to a harness; the Tarzan Trail which is similar but for younger children; Pinnacle, a climbing tower; and the Skydive, in which you climb up a telegraph pole and then leap from a great height, harnessed up, of course! Further out, there's the Runaway Timber Train rollercoaster, and the Wild Water Coaster with three different water chutes to ride down.
There's plenty here to occupy kids young and old for a fair while - our two were happy to stick with the simple equipment, and we were more than happy to sit & watch with a cuppa!
TREETOP AND WILDLIFE TRAILS
Eventually we managed to drag our youngest away from Ant City to walk around the Treetop Trail. This is a nature trail with a difference, as it consists of a boardwalk which, for at least half of its length, is up in the canopy. It's a gradual ascent, though, and built in such a way that it's friendly to wheelchairs and pushchairs, although due to its width you have to keep your eye on the road a fair bit. My husband was using his powered wheelchair this time, but last time we came he was in his manual one and I pushed him the whole way round. It's my favourite part of the park, as it's usually a lot quieter, and although you don't get to see a great deal of wildlife until you reach the feeding stations, you do get to enjoy the wonderful woodland, and there are information boards (mainly aimed at children) at very regular intervals all the way round.
It's worth knowing that there is another path avoiding the high level route, The Wildlife Trail, which meets the Treetop Trail shortly after it returns to earth. It was at this junction that we found two huge wood ant nests this time around, which were fascinating to watch! The feeding station, which is nearly at the end of the trail, is an area with a 'hide' in the shape of a fence with peep-holes, through & over which you can observe the birds and red squirrels feeding on many different feeders. The predominant bird here is the chaffinch, although there are occasional members of the tit family, greenfinches and siskins. It's pretty much guaranteed that you'll see a beautiful red squirrel or two here though, if you hang around and watch for a while.
From this Trail, you can either return to sit for a rest and another cuppa while your kids go loopy on the play equipment again, or you can carry on round to see some exhibits which display some of the history of the forestry industry in the area.
TIMBER TRAIL AND FIRE TOWER
Wheelchair-wise, this is where you leave the boardwalk for dirt tracks, and the going can get a bit rough at times. I can remember it being a lot more difficult with the manual chair, and this time Ian was able to see a lot more as he had his power chair. There are various huts dotted around the place containing information boards and equipment relating to different subjects, such as felling. The building dedicated to this subject has display boards describing the development of felling methods over the centuries, and also how the equipment has changed, with a display of saws and power tools. Maybe more of interest to men generally, but I've always been interested in machinery and how things work, so I found it all quite fascinating!
There's a steam-powered sawmill, which we reached just as the staff had their lunchbreak, but you can watch wood being cut here as it would have been in Victorian times. You also get to meet Lex the Clydesdale horse here, and (somewhat embarrassingly one of the things that our youngest was particularly looking out for) the man on the loo. Thankfully only a dummy, but kids are fascinated by the chap reading his newspaper in the outhouse....
Moving onwards, and upwards as you can then move towards the Fire Tower, an observation tower to spot forest fires. This takes you way above the tree-tops, and is definitely NOT for anyone with vertigo, or any health condition that would prohibit you from climbing (and descending) a long staircase. There seemed to be more hardy souls this time - I'm sure that we met more people returning early last time saying that it was too high & scary to finish the climb! The view from the top is fantastic on a clear day, as you can see right across to the Cairngorms. There is a telescope up there too for a closer look.
On the way back from the tower by another path, you arrive at a sawing demonstration, where kids can have a go at sawing wood with a two-person saw, one at one end and one at the other. They get to keep the piece that they saw off. On our first visit, our two managed a display of absolute non-co-operation and were both pulling and pushing at the same time.. we were there for a while... This time, however, they made a perfect team and went through the wood in no time!
There's one more major building on the site, which is outside the woodland park. This is the Bamboozeleum (formerly Microworld), with the restaurant and shop housed in the same unit. When I say formerly Microworld, it is actually still partially there, as they have decided to open it during it's transformation. In some ways it's probably unfair to pass comment on it in this state, as it's at a definite half-way stage. Many parts of the former attraction are still there, into which have been worked some very clever visual tricks which do boggle your mind fairly well. Top bits so far - the giant kaleidoscope, which you can look into and see yourself reflected probably infinitely. This may sound off-putting to some! It's actually quite spectacular. There's also a heat detector camera, which you stand in front of, with the results displayed up on a big screen. However, there is a lot of filler - and I suspect that in the quieter seasons this will get replaced by something better. Personally, after a while I found it all a bit much, it got too hot and crowded and I needed to escape for some air.
Which brings us to the main shop, at the exit of the Bamboozeleum. (There is a kiosk selling novelties next to the fast food area). There is a wide variety of quality here, the usual cheap kids' tat through to locally made wines which are extremely lovely. However, on the whole it isn't hugely different from what you'd find at most theme parks or zoos in the UK, and there's disappointingly little that's forestry related. There is a pretty decent book section, with a good number of local history and guide books included.
The restaurant is situated next to the shop. As I've mentioned a few times, the first eatery that you encounter is the fast food and picnic area. It's basic but good, with sandwiches, burgers, chips, snacks, hot & cold drinks, various sweet bars, and a good selection of ice creams in the freezer (Magnums and suchlike). You may also eat your own food, as we did. We did buy a couple of rounds of drinks here though - two teas and two bottles of Oasis coming to just over £6. We promised ice creams to the kids later in the day. This turned out to be in the restaurant, which we dropped into for a drink & snack before we left. The prices, not surprisingly, are higher here, and proportionally are actually much higher as the drinks are smaller. Two small lattes and two small bottled drinks, plus 4 posh pots of ice cream (which were squirrelled away in a small freezer beyond the till, and unpriced as far as I could see) came to just over £14. We had hoped to find the same selection of ice creams here, but alas no, and after nearly six hours I wasn't in any state to argue over the price or availability of ice cream!
There is one block of toilets near to the activities area, and another set between the main restaurant and shop. There is a massive disabled loo , with a separate baby changing room next door. They're were in reasonable condition when we visited, although queues can build up very quickly. Personally, I think that they could do with at least one more block somewhere in the main park, as you can find yourself a very long way away from them in places!
Having visited before and been very impressed, I think that we may have come this time with higher expectations than we should have. The park hasn't really changed much, which in many ways is fine - but it seems to have become a bit of a victim of its own success as during very busy times, the activity & food area bottlenecks very quickly, and can be a very uncomfortable place to be. The boardwalks aren't very wide, and since the main entrance is also the junction for most of the paths it's actually quite difficult at peak times to get through. Everything does feel a bit as though it's on top of each other in this area, and I was very glad to get out to the more open parts of the park. These are literally a breath of fresh air and without them for me it would have been unbearable. The only one who was really seemingly oblivious to the overcrowding was our youngest, who was having a whale of a time, so I think it probably is a lot more suited to kids, and very active parents who will get involved with Ropeworx & Skydive etc. I hope that they can sort out the space issue, as there is a lot of land there, and probably all that needs doing is a widening of the walkways at strategic points to allow for better passing. In the current economic climate, having too many visitors is a great problem to have after all, and it is a fantastic place to visit.
Landmark is situated just outside the village of Carrbridge, "which is 23 miles south of Inverness and 7 miles north of Aviemore, just off the A9", just off the A9 being a little drive down the road towards Grantown-on-Spey after taking the turn off the A9 for Grantown, turning left at the well-signposted junction, and driving for another couple of miles, until you pass the 'Welcome to Carrbridge" signs - Landmark is just on the left, and again their sign is very visible. The free car park is a good size, with disabled parking very near the ticket office. There are bus and train links here too, with there actually still being a train station in Carrbridge itself. There are also cycle racks available to park your bike if you wish.
I'm a little hesitant to go into ticket prices, as they have an individual or a family rate for each category of ticket, which makes my brain ache. Some of them are on the website, along with a host of further info:
Infoline: 0800 7313446
Admin: 01479 841613
Fax: 01479 841384
I remember visiting Landmark as a child myself so it was one of my first choice days out last weekend. It combines learning about nature, where we get our wood from, micro organisms with a whole load of fun.
My son is 5 and very active, getting on with his reading and very interested in science and bugs and doing what a 'typical' boy would do - stuff worms in his pockets, collect twigs and pine cones so this is the perfect place for him to be a kid.
*******Where is it and How do you get there *********
Landmark Forest Adventure Park is in Carbridge (look for the B9153) which is Just of the A9 around 23 miles south of Inverness and 7 miles North or Avimore. Carbridge itself is a small village but the Landmark Park is sign posted well from the A9 in both directions. Cutting through the Cairngorns we managed to get there in 2 and a half hours from Aberdeen but I suspect using the busier roads would take longer.
****** Tickets ******
Day Tickets for adults are around £9.50 and for children £7
Season or weekly tickets are also offered making the rate reduced slightly but for the amount of things there are at the the park the prices are reasonable. It really is a place you can stay at all day and still manage to keep the kids (and the bigger kids) amused.
After buying your tickets your hand will be stamped and you will be provided with a map of the park.
***** Opening Times *****
Between November to March 10.00 - 17.00
April - October 10.00 - 18.00 (19.00 in mid July - August)
The last admission is one hour before the park closes but in my opinion you really wouldnt get to experience the park with only an hour.
For more information see www.landmarkpark.co.uk
***** What is there to do *****
The Landmark Forest Adventure Park is built around the oldest remaining forest in the region.
Tree Top Trail - has been designed to be accessible to all - it is a wooden planked trail suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs which takes you into the forest. You get to walk through the branches of the trees and experience the forest from a new hieght (but not too high). Along the way you might see some of the local brids and squirrels.
Red Squirrel Trail - Again this route is accesible to all but doesnt climb into the branches. It is called the Red Squirrel Trail as at several intervals along the way there are information boards (designed to keep the little ones entertained) that provide educational facts about the age of the forest, the wildlife which uses the forest and information about the dangers the forest poses and succums too. There is a wildlife feeding area where you can identify and watch the native birds and red squirrels feeding while they are undisturbed by the wooden fencing (with small windows) seperating you and them.
Trees to Logs - a building in which you walk around explaining the processes both old and new of logging. Here they have on display a range of saws dating right back to the first mechanical saws and chain saws. There is also an exhibit on safety.
Forest Tower- I have never been up here myself because of mobility issues but my friend took my son and it is apparently well worth the climb. It is the tallest timber fire tower in the country and a free telescope is provided at the top. It would be the perfect place I imagine to get photos of the surrounding area.
Timber Trail- This trail isn't quite so accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs although it is relatively flat and people were managing. I guess it would depend on the weather. This trail once again takes you into the forest where you can see the Cone Kiln- thats where the heat up the pine cones in order to extract the seeds. You can cut your own log (watch out for times on the board) on the activities area, and learn how to count the rings on trees to age them. Also can you tell the difference between your wood by the sight and weight of them? There are also various machines that are used in the forest to look at such as swamp excavators.
Then you can walk along to the working steam powered saw mill and watch them in action, the staff are really friendly and didnt seem to mind a barrage of questions. Here you can also meet Lex, the working Clydesdale and give him a pat.
***** Adventure Land ******
This is the part the kids are probably going to begging to go to, or mine was anyway. Here they have two playparks, one specifically for toddlers which is set back a bit from the excited older children. Then there is Ant City Olay are with scramble nets and slides and things.
The aerial adventures all provide saftey harnesses and experienced staff to help. It just depends if your brave enough to attempt them.
The sky dive is one I can personally say I wouldnt do, but I guess it would be a good cure for vertigo. Kids from about 8+ were climbing up the tower and jumping off, the adults seemes to scream th loudest.
The Pinnacle is a rock climbing wall which can take eight people at a time. My friend was able to go with my son and they both enjoyed it.
Ropeworx is an aerial asault course there are two Ropeworx is designed for adults and is a lot tougher than the Tarzan Trail which is suitable for almost all the family. Attatch your harness to the over head wire and tackle the challenges, varying from tyres to narrow beams. This was great fun and one of my sons favourite parts.
For the kids there are the mini cars and diggers (the cars are included in your ticket think you have to pay for diggers. Race the cars round the track.
The wild Forest Maze is again accesible to all as it is a planked walkway throughout. Watch out for the Frog, Crocodile, Snake and Ant hill though. The maze took us around ten minutes to complete. I let my son be the leader and he got tickled when we got lost.
The Wild Water Coaster was what my son was begging to go on the most. This is the only area of the park where we encountered a queue. There are three slides all of which use a raft. I didn't get more than a little damp on any of them. No children under 3 years are allowed on the watercoaster and onlt two are allowed on a raft at once (or 3 children)
******* Other Facilities *******
The Pinewood Grill and Xplore Store are situated right next to the park. The grill sells what you woiuld expect - burgers, sausages, juice, ice creams etc and the it is as overpriced as you might expect. The Xplore store is right next door and sells souveneirs and toys for the kids such as magnifying glasses and balls etc.
The restaurant however is set back from the adventure area follow the bridge across from the other side of reception and find yourself at the restaurant, shop and Microworld.
We had lunch in the restaurant and I was really impressed with the quality, price and service. All the food is obviously homecooked and there is a wide selection to chose from. Homemade soup, freshly made sandwhiches, burgers with your choice of speciality cheeses and dressings to macaronni cheese and mince. You will be given a number while your food is prepared but our took around 5 minutes to arrive steaming hot.
The toilets are clean and are obviously cleaned at regular intervals.
The restaurant connects on to the shop which sells souveniers, ornaments, books, Jam and shortbread etc and toys.
Microworld is next door I can't say I particularly enjoyed it here but my son was in his element. Looking at bugs down microscopes as well as different types of bacteria and body parts is just his thing. There are interactive areas and displays where you have to push a button or turn a handle. I think most people would enjoy it it just wasn't my cup of tea.
***** Overall ****
If you are in this area I would definately recomend a visit. It was a great day out for all of us and my son hasn't stopped talking about it since. The only thing that might spoil it is the weather but as we all know in Scotland you will just have to take your chances.
Year round theme park with Wildwater Coaster ride, nature trails, steam powered sawmill, and lots more for the entire family!