With thanks to Ian McLaren, PR account manager, Innes Associates
If you go down to the woods on Deeside this weekend you could be in for a big surprise. A pandemonium of parrots has appeared, with the birds taking up residence near some of the valley’s best known attractions.
The arrival of exotic birds is adding a splash of colour to some of the region’s walks before spring starts to bloom.
However, local birdwatchers excited by the arrival of tropical avian visitors to Scottish climes at the tail end of winter will be disappointed. The inflatable parrots are unlikely to take flight.
Perched at locations on Royal Deeside, the parrots will help guide locals and visitors taking part in this weekend’s inaugural Going for Gold pirate-themed geocaching weekend. Organised by local tourism body Visit Royal Deeside, the family-friendly event aims to encourage locals and visitors to explore the area’s scenery and attractions by using the award winning Explore Royal Deeside GeoTour as their guide.
The high-tech treasure hunt stretches along the Dee valley from Drumoak to Braemar and features 20 cache boxes hidden near attractions such as Braemar Castle and The Royal Deeside Railway, and on forest walks. Each cache is tracked down using a series of clues and GPS coordinates that are downloaded onto a mobile phone which has its location settings turned on.
The Going for Gold weekend will feature special traditional treasure hunts, children’s competitions, storytelling and face painting. Experts will also be on hand to provide an introduction to geocaching. Saturday’s events will take place at Deeside Activity Park, while World Horse Welfare’s Belwade Farm is the venue for Sunday’s activities. Events on both days will take place between 10am and 2pm, and fancy dress is optional.
On Friday, The Butterworth Gallery at Ballogie is holding a meet the artist event with hot drinks and home bakes between 3pm and 5pm. The venue is an ideal base from which to hunt caches in near Aboyne. Coinciding with the Going for Gold weekend, many Deeside businesses are running special Mother’s Day events and activities.
Alongside the activities, golden tickets will be hidden in six of the cache boxes, with prizes on offer for the first six people to discover the tickets and register their finds on the Explore Royal Deeside Facebook page.
Supporting the GeoTour is the Deeside passport, which allows geocachers to collect code words and stamps to potentially claim limited edition silver or gold geocoins. Code words can be collected at each of the 20 caches and stamps are available from 27 participating businesses, with one stamp being given for every £10 spent.
To help geocachers complete their passports, for this weekend only, all of the partner businesses are offering two stamps for every £10 spent. Until the end of March, anybody who completes all 40 boxes in their passport will receive a silver geocoin in addition to the gold geocoin.
Moira Gash, Visit Royal Deeside project co-ordinator, said:
“The parrots have certainly received one or two funny looks since they started to pop up. Some of the birds will act as an extra clue for people hunting the caches in what is set to be a fun-filled weekend.
“Going for Gold is designed to inspire locals and visitors to get out and explore Royal Deeside. For those geocachers aiming to claim a gold geocoin, many of the GeoTour’s 27 partner businesses are offering two stamps per £10 spent. This is great incentive to get the Deeside passport filled up.”
Jo Robinson, VisitScotland regional director, said:
“This innovative Royal Deeside-dedicated GeoTour is a great draw for visitors as well as locals, as it’s suitable for all ages. As the only one in Scotland and one of only two in the UK, it fits perfectly into Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, which will shine a spotlight on the country’s achievements in these fields through a wide ranging variety of new and existing activity to boost tourism in every corner of Scotland.
“Geocaching itself is a hugely popular pastime, with over two million active geocachers and 15 million geocaches worldwide. With more than 1,700 caches in a 30-mile radius of Aboyne, this GeoTour offers huge potential to attract visitors who can then go on to explore the region even further, including the outstanding scenery, wildlife, towns and villages, outdoor activities and quality food and drink.
“Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs, sustains communities and provides a shop window for business activity. Without tourism, many remote communities would not be sustainable and business sectors like drinks, retail or construction would be severely impacted.”
Visit Royal Deeside is the destination management organisation established in 2005 to promote Royal Deeside, Donside and the eastern Cairngorms. The organisation works with over 100 locals businesses to enhance the quality and variety of visitor products and services, providing effective training and support where necessary.
It aims to grow tourism in the area for the benefit of locals and ensure visitors have the best possible experience to encourage return visits and recommendations to family and friends. More information is available at www.visitroyaldeeside.com or at www.facebook.com/ExploreRoyalDeeideGeocaching.