Peering over the rock ledge the swirling Water of Tarf stares back far below in unwelcoming iciness. My body says no, but my racing mind is determined. I leap into the air, hoping somehow to clear the rocks and then plummet towards the peat brown waters. I hit the frothing water, seem to descend for an eternity and then bubble back to the surface and emerge with a smile on my face as wide as the Tarf. Welcome to Angus, a corner of Scotland whose flurry of adventure sports is every bit as dramatic as the scenery and its intoxicating history.
Angus, the land beyond Dundee that runs up either side of the A90 between the Cairngorms and the North Sea, markets itself as ‘Scotland’s Birthplace’. It boasts, of course, Arbroath Abbey, where the famous Declaration of Arbroath, much beloved of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and the writers of the US Constitution, was signed. This old port is also home to the famous Arbroath Smokies, a delicacy that is just one of Angus’ myriad culinary treats.
I began my trip at an even grander building than the abbey, Glamis Castle. The childhood home of the Queen Mother boasts one of the most impressive approaches in Scotland, an epic drive that won me over before I got anywhere near the castle. Add what a castle it is. This 600-year-old gem swirls in the ghosts of royal intrigue and Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Exploring its myriad rooms took me right back through the centuries. You could spend a whole day nosing around inside and then rambling around the expansive grounds.
It was time now to get active again. Angus is ideal if you love the great outdoors as on one flank the mighty Angus Glens rise up to meet the Cairngorms and then in the east Angus’ coastline is awash with sweeping sandy beaches and rugged red cliffs.
I ventured off into the Angus Glens. The five Angus Glens – Glen Esk, Glen Prosen, Glen Clova, Glen Doll and Glen Lethnot – offer a rugged escape unknown to many Scots. I chose to explore 18-mile long Glen Clova and then head into Glen Doll. After driving right up to Glen Doll I set out on foot from the Ranger Centre (www.angus.gov.uk/leisure/rangerservice/angusglens). Soon I was in Corrie Fee, one of the most epic mountain landscapes in Scotland. Huge boulder slashed mountains reared up all around as the ice clear waters of the Fee Burn rushed through the foreground, forming a spectacular natural amphitheatre.
I ended my trip on that gorge walking trip in the Tarf Water with Highway 2 Adventure (www.highway2adventure.com). This brilliant local outfit can organise everything from walking and mountain biking, through to the gorge walking and on to canyoning, coasteering,
It took me all my nerve to literally throw myself into Angus and now that I’ve discovered it I will be back for more. In fact I’m already planning on heading to join in the fun of Angus Autumn Adventures. On September 1st and 2nd the glens will echo with the whoops and screams of adventurous souls joining in an innovative new festival that features everything from guided walks and horse riding, right through to coasteering and tank driving.