Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A MINI ADVENTURE; Dispelling the Myth Escorted Tours Are Only for Over-60s, JONATHAN THOMPSON Enjoys a Group Driving Holiday through the Highlands with a Team of Fellow 30-Somethings

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A MINI ADVENTURE; Dispelling the Myth Escorted Tours Are Only for Over-60s, JONATHAN THOMPSON Enjoys a Group Driving Holiday through the Highlands with a Team of Fellow 30-Somethings

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN THOMPSON

THERE'S a funny thing about the Moot Hill at Scone. This ancient ridge - which Scottish kings ascended to be crowned on the Stone of Destiny - isn't natural.

Rather, the stately hillock was created by nobles dropping fistfuls of soil from home, before kneeling in it to bend their will - and their lands - to the new king. As the list of monarchs grew, so did the hill.

As such, Moot Hill - the scene of so many beginnings - feels an apt place to start dishing the dirt on our own Scottish journey.

Like the coronations of old, participants have travelled from far and wide to stand on Moot Hill today. But instead of a knot of muddykneed nobles, they're a group of well-dressed professionals from places like Philadelphia and New Orleans, London and Munich. And in lieu of the dirty business of kingmaking, they're here to bend their will to a decidedly more fun pursuit: Flashpacking.

Best described as group adventure travel for those who've outgrown the grubby trappings of backpacking - but not the intrepid, fun mentality behind it - flashpacking is named after the innovative London travel company driving the trend - the Flash Pack. With more and more people settling down in their 30s and 40s now, they've got a captive - and growing - market.

"I've been looking for a holiday like this for ages," says 35-year-old Andrea from Munich, as we descend Moot Hill towards spectacular Scone Palace. "In my experience, group travel means people in their early twenties too drunk to talk properly, or pensioners too old to walk properly. Where's the middle ground?" That middle ground is precisely where we find ourselves, in the courtyard at Scone Palace, surrounded by a fleet of MINI Countryman cars. This is the Flash Pack's latest holiday: An adventurepacked road trip through the Scottish Highlands, played out over a long weekend.

After becoming acquainted with our fellow flashpackers - there are 12 of us in total - we're shuffled into pairs and threes and helped to programme our sat navs. Then we're off, accelerating into the sumptuous countryside that contributed to Scotland being named the most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guides.

Part of the success of this trip is that the driving itself becomes part of the fun, rather than simply a means to an end. Especially with Top Gear-style walkie-talkies in every glove compartment, ensuring the cars are in constant contact with each other and the Flash Pack's co-founder Lee Thompson, bringing up the rear.

Our first destination is the Bridge of Orchy, spanning a picturesque gorge south of Loch Tulla. But we're not here to admire the view from the bridge - we're here to jump off it.

"Bridge swinging" is basically bungee jumping for beginners. Fully harnessed, we crawl out onto the side of the bridge before letting go and swinging into the 30ft chasm between road and river. …

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