There’s nothing to beat the adrenaline-fuelled rush of a new achievement or completing an activity that involves a degree of perceived risk. That’s how I feel anyway. I have a head for heights and think nothing of flying in a small plane, scrambling along an airy knife-edged ridge or even jumping off a bridge with a piece of elastic strapped to my ankles.
Unfortunately my niece Eilidh doesn’t quite see it that way. She valiantly climbed ridiculously steep scree slopes up Beinn Sgritheall, my final munro, when she was clearly not enjoying looking down at the steep drop right down to sea level. So when we both decided to bungee jump off the Garry Bridge at Killiecrankie in 2014 I was impressed. Despite being knee-shakingly scared she did it.
However, she got her own back by buying me a voucher for my birthday to go bungee jumping again, just by myself. This is what she wrote: “Since you enjoyed bungee jumping in the light I figured you should try it in the dark too! This time I definitely don’t want to join you!” My birthday treat was a black-out bungee at Europe’s only night-time bungee jump. Families are so nice.
Killiecrankie is the site of a famous battle between warring Scottish clans during the first Jacobite uprising in 1689. The River Garry has cut a steep gorge down through the rock and so it’s a tricky spot to escape from your enemies. Today though the National Trust Visitor Centre also shares its site with Highland Fling Bungee, who take advantage of the 40 metre drop from the Garry Bridge. They built a purpose-built platform under the bridge in 2010 and have been providing jumps ever since.
Five of us were booked in last Saturday night. It was almost a full moon so we had to wait a while until it was truly dark (no point in cheating, after all …). We climbed up a ladder to access the gantry that spans the bridge and walked along to the platform to get attached to safety harnesses. Safety is the number one concern. Every rope is checked and double-checked. Everyone is carefully weighed (twice) and the correct bungee checked by several people. No room for error.
There’s a real buzz just before a jump. The music’s pumping and your heart’s racing with anticipation as you wait your turn.
But having done it twice before I stayed pretty relaxed. I knew – more or less – what to expect. I rationalised the fear: it’s a safe sport and all the safety checks had been done. I figured there’s no point in pussy-footing about in just falling off the platform so I just went for it. I took a big jump and flew – the “jump of the day” – since you’re less likely to get suddenly jolted by jumping outwards.
I guess with a night jump you have a heightened sense of awareness. I couldn’t see anything below (I wasn’t wearing my glasses for starters) so you’re using all your senses as you’re falling … you hear the rush of the water below … the fall seems to last longer in the dark … and it provides precisely the adrenaline rush that you’re after.
So that was the easy bit.
For someone who gets queasy on any kind of boat I just didn’t enjoy bouncing up and down with my head the wrong way up one little bit. It took the best part of two minutes for someone to grab hold of me, attach a rope to my waist harness and winch me back up to the bridge again. By that time all my blood had flowed to my head I’m afraid the sea-sickness didn’t leave me for the rest of the night. So it was an early night for me!
The next morning I took a wander back down to the bridge to see where we’d been jumping. It’s a pretty impressive sight. The mixed woodland along the Linn of Tummel walk has some tall, tall pine trees which tower over the bridge. The colours were a little washed out on a dull March morning but in Autumn this is one of the most picturesque spots in the country.
In the calm of the morning it was a peaceful spot: birds singing, the soft rush of the water in the distance and walls thick with damp moss. It was quite a contrast with the anticipation and excitement of the night before.
If you ever get a chance to experience the River Garry gorge at Killicrankie – day or night, attached to elastic or not – I’d recommend it.