Scotland has some of the finest cycle routes in Europe for mountain bikers but there are dirtier wheel alternatives to be had for the hardcore adrenaline junkie.

I Blo karting

The perfect free wheeler for the speed monster. Sometimes known as wind karting, this relatively new kid on the block takes place on the beach and is a canny cross between go- karting and windsurfing and is easy for the karting beginner to operate. Scotland's beaches pave the way for some of the most exciting karting in the COuntry.

Where can I do it? Another Planet, Edinburgh. 0131 313 1333,>

I Off reading

Forget a nice drive in the country. A 4x4 driven in the hills to its full potential, vehicle bonnet-deep in mud. is high drama. The landscape around Aberfeldy, deep in the heart of Perthshire. is ideal for experiencing the challenge and exhilaration of off-roading. Forge your way along forest tracks. through mountain streams and up heather clad slopes in the reassuring company of an instructor. Where can I do it? Highland Adventure Safaris near Aberfeldy, 01877 820071, www.highland

I Quad biking

Between Ozzy Osbourne's near death experience and Posh'n‘Becks' photo ops. quad biking has been firmly catapulted into the mainstream. A top activity for the truly down'n'dirty, quad-biking is a great way to scramble across rough terrain and navigate the obstacles while taking in the great backdrop Scotland has to offer. Better still, you can test your skills with an expierience instructor either as an individual or with activities tailored to suit a group.

Where can I do it? Howie Irvine Deeside Activity Park, Aboyne. 01339 883536.

‘__ u 5hr u. my?

Paul Dale goes in search of history, peace, tranquillity and the Native American experience in the Trossachs.

knew it was a bad idea to bring her. l)r Joanna Babel

had begged me to let her come along. It is her birthday this weekend so I could hardly say no. l)r

Babel is the visiting professor on Native American

Indian history at Liverpool l'niversity. l have known her

since I was a kid. While I was busy distilling most of my hopes and dreams into an alcoholic tumbler at college. she spent her time living in the yurts. tents and wigwams across the mighty [S of A. We are standing in the reception area of the Strathfillan Wigwams in Auchtertyre just outside 'I’yndrum. A male of dream catchers. frozen venison burgers and other invocations to the spirits of long dead Indian runners litter the place. It is causing my travelling partner some chagrin. She is. however. under strict orders to not upset anyone on our short break. She turns to Mrs Baillie. the lady who is trying to book as in to a wigwam for the night. I know what‘s coming. ‘So can you tell me the difference between a tepee and a wigwam'."

(‘learly used to visiting lecturers .\lrs Baillie offers a lirm reply: "l‘epees are made of canvas and have a hole in the roof to let the smoke of a tire out. We would never be able to do that here because of the weather. The dictionary described a wigwam as "a domed hut" so we tried to stick with that concept.‘ .\'ot entirely satisfied. l)r Babel is about to launch into a tirade about the appropriation of Native American culture when she catches my angry glance.

'l‘be wigwatns themselves turn out to be a pleasant surprise. more wooden hut bothy than spiritual retreat: they boast a fridge and a heater. Ours is called Wandering Spirit and is positioned amongst three others up a hill on the edge of a fenced forest. l)r Babel is nonplussed. After she has made her displeasure known we spend an evening strolling down to the local waterfall. drinking copious amounts of alcohol and eating two days‘ worth of provisions. Later. the rain keeps coming and we can‘t get the hut side lire started so we retire to our beds drtmk. happy and a little wet.

The next day we miss the ferry. We are trying to catch the Sir Walter Scott Steamship (‘ruise at the


'l‘rossachs Pier ('omplex on the beautiful Loch Katrine. but cheap wine and the fresh 'l'rossachs‘ air have conspired against as and we arrive half an hour too late. We try to console ourselves by hitting the ('aptain‘s Rest. the Pier ('omplex‘s only cafe. but are met by an interior that looks like it has been designed by the l)oily clan goblins of Ben Venue. So we stroll by the lake for a few hours and enjoy the excellent guideposts that detail the history of this incredible lake (smugglers’ stories. pixies. militant forces and the mother of all water resource projects it’s all in Loch Katrine’s back story).

During our stroll l)r Babel starts quoting lines from Sir Walter Scott‘s l.(l(/_\' o/‘Ilic Luke at me but she soon downgrades to murmuring lines from William 'l‘opa/ .\lc(}onagall’s dreadfully fruity poem [.Ut‘/l Katrine into the hood of her anorak. I know it is time to find her some luxury.

'l'he (‘reag-Ard House Bth in Milton just outside .’\berfoyle must be one of the 'l‘rossachs‘ best kept secrets. It’s a little gem of a family run business in gold sealed. four star luxury. Set on a slight mound overlooking a small lake. this Victorian property might be slightly off the beaten track but it is well worth seeking out. It's just the remedy the doctor and I needed. llot baths and high tea in our big lake view room are the order of the day before slipping out for dinner. The (‘reag Ard llouse‘s slightly chint/y old world style could be too much for some but it works a treat on these two partially drowned urban rats.

The next day we catch the ferry and spend much of the 100 minute trip watching brightly hued cagoule— wearing Italians clamouring for a look at ‘thy beautiful bay and shrubbcries green’. As the doctor leans over the ship's railings to gaze into Loch Katrine’s crystalline waters in the vague hope ofglimpsing an uruisg ta water demon). she matters something under her breath. "What was that'." I ask. slightly tired of her fractious ways.

'l said «a so much for the city palelace.'

Strathfillan Wigwams, Auchtertyre, Tyndrum, 01838 400251,

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