Newest Review: ... 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 h... more
Fun in the treetops!
Landmark Forest Theme Park (Carrbridge)
Member Name: melinda3536
Landmark Forest Theme Park (Carrbridge)
Advantages: Plenty to keep you occupied for hours
Disadvantages: can get very overcrowded in places
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
Summary: A great day out for active kids & parents!
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